The Healing Light of the Firefly

The days after giving birth are both magical and trying times for a new mother, filled with love, wonder, and sleepless nights. After a brief recovery in the hospital, most mothers are able to bring home their new bundles of joy and vexation, and start their lives together.

But for some women this is a time of unexpected turmoil. Just three days after giving birth, Doan Thi Thu took her new baby boy for a routine checkup at the health center in her village in Northern Vietnam. To Thu’s surprise, Khanh was diagnosed with infant jaundice. Like most of us, Thu had no idea how common infant jaundice is: 60% of newborns experience it and 1 in 10 of those require treatment to prevent serious complications, which can include brain damage.

Thu took Khanh back to the small rural hospital where she had given birth. The doctors began the standard treatment for jaundice: a course of phototherapy. But Khanh’s condition worsened; his jaundice was so severe that the hospital’s phototherapy machine proved ineffective. Thu recalls that “Khanh was weak and too sleepy to nurse.” She felt helpless. Her son, so new to the world, was now in danger of leaving it.

With Khanh’s condition deteriorating, the doctors transferred him to Saint Paul Hospital in Hanoi. Thanks to Thrive Networks’ Newborn Health Program, the hospital has reliable medical equipment and doctors and nurses trained in advanced clinical newborn care.

Khanh was placed in the Firefly–an intensive phototherapy device provided by the program–that administers just the right amount of light from bulbs placed both above and below the infant. In just a few days, Khanh went from a very sick newborn to a healthy, hungry baby.

Khanh joins the ranks of over 400,000 newborns at more than 350 hospitals who have been treated with appropriate medical equipment thanks to our Newborn Health Program. A smiling Thu recalls, “I could finally bring my baby home, healthy and growing.”