Life weighing 900 g – the story of the little Corteza
The prematurely born girl has already started to catch up to her peers thanks to the care of the home visiting nurse working under the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project.
The little Corteza was born prematurely, in the sixth month. She took her first breath at the hospital in Sliven but due to her extremely low body weight, the baby girl was admitted to the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children in the city of Stara Zagora.
“When I woke up, I didn’t know whether she was dead or alive, what was happening to her. I hadn’t seen her since the moment she was born. The feeling was absolutely terrible...,” Corteza’s mother, Nathalie Amy Miln, says.
In these challenging times for the family, the home visiting nurse Kalina Tasheva came to the rescue. She works at the Centre for Maternal and Child Health at the Multiprofile Hospital for Active Treatment “Dr Ivan Seliminski” in Sliven. For the last two years, its activities have been supported under the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project, which is funded by the European Commission and is implemented by UNICEF Bulgaria.
Kalina has been visiting the family also during Nathalie’s pregnancy. She helped her book Ob-Gyn control appointments, advised her on the necessary tests during pregnancy and guided her preparations for the happy event. During one of the planned periodic visits to Nathalie’s home, Kalina was surprised to find out that the baby had already been born and the mother wasn’t feeling well.
“I went to see what I expected to be a pregnant woman, but I discovered a woman who had recently given birth and was helpless. She was lying in bed, troubled by severe leg pain,” Kalina recalls.
“I had sunk into depression,”
- Nathalie explains.
The home visiting nurse warned the young mother that her leg pain could result in complications and that she needed to go to the hospital immediately. She informed Nathalie that she was entitled to free control examinations after the birth. Three days later, the young woman was admitted to a hospital and a treatment for venous thromboembolisms was prescribed. Nathalie underwent a surgery and the health problem was taken care of.
The mother recovered; meanwhile, the little Corteza had gained enough weight, so that after two months she could finally go home.
“She was terribly small. We didn’t even know how to hold her,”
- the mother recalls.
With time, Nathalie feels more and more confident caring for the little one. Kalina is always beside her, ready to advise and to help.
During one of her visits, Nathalie explained that the baby had had a few seizures. The home visiting nurse and the team at the Centre for Maternal and Child Health in Sliven referred Nathalie to a neurologist. The specialist recommended that tests should be done at the Children’s Neurology Clinic in Plovdiv. The team at the Centre for Maternal and Child Health supported the child and the mother and covered the travel expenses from Plovdiv to Sliven. At the hospital, Corteza underwent the necessary tests. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and a treatment was prescribed.
Corteza’s condition has improved; this was also confirmed during her next control visit to her paediatrician, Zdravko Zlatanov, MD. Despite being born underweight, Corteza’s body weight is now in the standard margin for her age.
Today, Nathalie shares:
“If it hadn’t been for Kalina, it would have been very difficult for me”.
Lilka Koleva, Head of the Centre for Maternal and Child Health – Sliven, follows closely Nathalie and Corteza’s case: “Without a visiting nurse, the complications that the mother experienced after the birth could have been lethal. The child wouldn’t have been diagnosed correctly and a treatment wouldn’t have been prescribed”.
During the last two years, the team of 12 home visiting nurses, supported under the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project in the Sliven Region, have visited over 3,500 families and have helped over 4,500 children.
“The activities carried out by the Centre for Maternal and Child Health are extremely important for our region. The birth rate, 11.9%, is the highest in the country. Meanwhile, the child mortality rate is also the highest – 14.8%; for comparison, the average rate for Bulgaria is 5.6%. Thus, I believe this is one of the reasons why we should insist that this project continues,” Antoniy Andonov, Deputy Governor of Sliven Region, explains.
Despite all the past difficulties, now Nathalie feels at peace because she and Corteza have Kalina’s support.
“Each and every mother needs a home visiting nurse. She is simply a gift to me!”.
And Kalina’s sense of fulfillment comes from each new day of helping families: “When you see that you are useful to others, this makes you feel a strange way – the tiredness goes away and I am ready to welcome the next day and visit more homes”.
The job of a home visiting nurse is to visit the homes of pregnant women and children – from newborns up until the age of 3 years. The aim is to make as many mothers as possible feel supported and confident regarding their care for and the development of their children. Since the start of the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project in the Sliven Region, over 48% of the children below the age of 3 have been covered. 1,143 women have received prenatal care and 740 children have been referred to specialists.