By Jessica Siekmeier, working visitor, HCJB Global
Early Sunday, Oct. 4, a 19-year-old woman gave birth to the first set of triplets known to be delivered at Hospital Vozandes-Shell. Tania Caiga arrived at the hospital at full term, expecting to give birth to twins.
She had learned by an ultrasound at 30 weeks that she was expecting twins, but after delivering two babies early Sunday morning, it was clear there was still another baby on the way! One girl and two boys were born between 2:55 and 3:05 a.m.
Drs. Mark Nelson and Becky Brice delivered the triplets and were as shocked as the parents to discover there was a third baby. Brice was the first to suspect something was awry when she felt Caiga’s abdomen after the second baby was born.
“I looked at the mom and said, ‘Are there three babies?’ And sure enough there was another head,” Brice recounted. The third triplet had to be resuscitated, but like his siblings weighed almost 5 pounds and recuperated quickly. Caiga was treated for high blood pressure after the delivery and spent a day in intensive care, but by Wednesday the mom and all three babies were ready to go home.
Triplets are normally delivered by Caesarean section because of the high risk of complication if delivered naturally. Because the doctors thought they were delivering twins and because Caiga came in ready to give birth, they proceeded with a natural birth. Despite the high risk, all three babies were born head first and without complication.
Nelson estimates that one set of twins is delivered each year at the hospital, but this is the first known set of triplets. The hospital was dedicated in 1958 as Epp Memorial Hospital.
“I could be in the U.S. filling out insurance forms in triplicate. Instead, I am getting to deliver babies in triplicate, and that’s tons more rewarding!” said Nelson. He then cited a statement by Dr. Paul Brand, a longtime missionary surgeon in India and pioneer in leprosy treatment. Brand once said missionary doctors are often asked if it’s worth the “sacrifice” to be a missionary doctor when the reality is that most missionary doctors are having the time of their lives.
Brice had jumped at the opportunity to help Nelson, and eventually took over with Tania and the triplets when Nelson responded to another emergency case at the small hospital
Two other moms were in labor at the time of the triple birth. One walked the halls to induce labor; another’s C-section was postponed without problems. “So all three of the families were all ‘watching’ the delivery and sort of participating as you might expect here in Ecuador. It was sort of a group scene.”
“Everybody was asking, ‘Is it triplets?’,” he said.
It certainly was, according to Nelson, who also cited former HCJB Global Hands physician Dr. Steve Manock as having own phrase for the medical ministry at Shell—“wonderfully exasperating!”