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How Two Nurses Saved 35 Babies From PGH Fire

35 newborn babies including those critical and intubated.
by Ara Eugenio
May 17, 2021
Photo/s: Facebook/Kathrina Bianca Macababbad
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Nurse Katrina Macababbad bathed her newborn patients on what seemed like a regular late night shift at the Philippine General Hospital on Saturday. A few moments later, a fire will test her mettle as a medical frontliner.

Macababbad and a colleague saved 35 babies in what she called the "longest night shift duty" of her career. Her account of the heroic feat is viral on Facebook, shared 133,000 times as of late Monday.

"Enjoy na enjoy pa ako nagpapaligo ng mga baby loves (patients) ko nang biglang may nagbukas ng pinto ko at sabi ay magprepare ng mag evacuate dahil may sunog," Macababbad wrote.

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse said five of her assigned six patients were ventilator-dependent. She couldn't waste time and had to prioritize first babies that could breathe on their own for easy evacuation. 

"Nakakaiyak na habang bitbit ko yung mga kayang huminga mag isa, maiiwan yung mga naka intubate at ventilator," she said.

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Upon reaching PGH's open area, where evacuated patients crowded for safety, Macababbad and colleague Jomar Mallari made the difficult decision of going back to save babies that were on ventilator.

"Ewan ko kung ano sumapi sa amin," she said, recalling their life-threatening ordeal that had them manually squeezing ambu bags attached to their patients as they struggled to bring them down from the fourth floor.

They also managed to collect emergency equipment such as materials for intubation, ambubags, oxygen cannula, emergency meds, newborn blankets, IV fluids, and syringes--all stored to fit in one ecobag.

On their fifth rescue run to the NICU, Macababbad said electricity had gone out, which left them having to evacuate even their intubated patients. By the end of it, all 35 NICU babies, including critical and intubated ones, were saved. 

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Throughout the rescue, the two NICU nurses made sure all the babies had tags for identification to avoid mix-ups. "Pati crib tag dinikit namin sa diapers nila to avoid baby switching," she said.

"Thank you Lord for the unwavering strength and courage!!! Di ko alam kung saan nanggaling iyon pero wala akong naramdamang takot sa dibdib ko," the nurse said, thanking the hospital staff and all rescuers who tended to the emergency.

By 5:41 a.m, fire out was declared and twelve premature babies were moved to the Sta. Ana Hospital.

No casualty or injury was reported by authorities, but the fire razed the PGH's third floor where the nursery and operating rooms are located.

The blaze was concentrated in the OR's sterilization area, prompting a suspension in operations including temporary closure of their emergency room that reopened again on Monday. 

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