Israelis Save Nepalese Newborns, With a Little Help From WhatsApp

After fresh quake, IsraAID rescue team only found out about preemies who had to be evacuated from their damaged neonatal ward from a radio staffer back in Israel.

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Yotam Polizer, IsraAID's head of mission, assessing the situation with the police and armed police in Kathmandu right after the 2nd earthquake struck. Photo courtesy of IsraAID.
Yotam Polizer, IsraAID's head of mission, assessing the situation with the police and armed police in Kathmandu right after the 2nd earthquake struck. Photo courtesy of IsraAID.

An Israeli rescue team saved seven newborn babies on Tuesday after the country was hit by another devastating earthquake, the aid NGO's program director told Haaretz.

Yotam Polizer, IsraAID's head of mission, only knew about the preemies because he was contacted by Eran Cicurel of Israeli radio's Reshet Bet, through WhatsApp. The entire cellphone network had collapsed in the wake of the earthquake, he explained, so no one trying to reach him from Nepal could do so.

"We were preparing to send a delegation to the area that was affected and we were really about to go when we got your call," Polizer told Cicurel on Tuesday.

He said technology had played a significant role in rescue efforts. "Yesterday, we succeeded with the help of a satellite phone and WhatsApp messages to get a helicopter to go to an area 10 days away by foot and save a three-month-old baby, who suffered a serious case of meningitis," noted Polizer. "He simply would not have survived the night had we along with one of our doctors not been able to bring him to a hospital in Kathmandu."

"Upon discovering that the main hospital in Kathmandu was overwhelmed and the machines knocked over by the quake, the team quickly built a temporary neonatal nursery in Kathmandu to help babies survive," said Navonel Glick, the director of IsraAID.

One of the rescued preemies being held by an IsraAID worker, May 12, 2015.Credit: Courtesy of IsraAID

Some of the newborns babies were born to Israeli couples with surrogate mothers in Nepal.

Polizer told Cicurel, Reshet Bet's foreign news editor, the newborns were fine as far as their health was concerned. "The issue is that the hospital where they were in the incubator was damaged in the earthquake, and they had to be evacuated along with the staff."

The Grande Hospital, where the newborns were, had cracked walls so everyone had to evacuate and therefore the babies were stuck in a vehicle without an incubator, said Glick.

"Dr. David Shacham, an internal medicine doctor with experience in neonatal wards, and Dr. Asher Moser, a pediatrician, rushed to the scene with a tent and set up an improvised neonatal ward, as well as calmed down the terrified parents," he told Haaretz.

"The preemies are very young, some a week old, so being out of incubator is a dangerous situation," according to Polizer. "What we're doing now is bringing the tent that the aid and rescue team used, and building an improvised preemie ward. We brought the incubators from the hospital, and together with the parents and local doctors are constructing the neonatal ward to create optimal conditions for them."

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