by Sarah Jeyaprakash
Department: Recien Nacido
Mission: To fix at least ONE of the incubators in the hospital
We were defeated by two incubators do to circuit problems that alas seemed to complicated for us to solve. Then, suddenly, a ray of hope shone an old transport incubator and our spirits were lifted. The story of how we got this incubator to recovery however, is not a simple one.
ATTEMPT #1: The maintenance department most likely had given up on this machine as it looked at least 20 years old. We soon worked out, with the help of Billy, the coordinator in Honduras who had visited us that day, that the incubator had a broken ‘Jones’ plug. A Jones plug allows for the machine to draw power from both a AC power supply and DC battery supply. However, since the hospital had no working incubator whatsoever we thought the sacrifice of not being able to us it on a DC source we were willing to make. We changed the power cord, gave the machine a good clean, replaced the broken doors and hey presto the machine actually turned on!! In excitement we gave the machine to Recien Nacido straight away and told them they finally had a working incubator. We returned the next day to find out that the though the machine turned on and was heating, none of the hot air was circulating. Back to the drawing board. Sigh.
ATTEMPT #2: Something Lillian and I have learnt from this experience is that sometimes thinking simple can dramatically solve your problem. The idea of simply wiring a small fan into the compartment seemed to be perfect, so that’s what we did. We decided it was best not be too hasty about giving the incubator back this time as we didn’t want to create more false hope. We allowed the machine to heat for an hour and yes, the hot air had circulated!! A red light even turned on when the temperature was getting to high! This old incubator was proving to be quite a gem. We gave it back to the department telling them the problem was now fixed and that it was heating and for them to use it. We returned after a weekend and it was sitting outside the ward having not been used at all. When asked what the problem was, they said it was not heating. How is that possible?!
ATTEMPT #3: Unfortunately we could not test whether it was not heating that day because their was a power outage to add the our frustrations. We came back the next to find that the switch had been selected on the DC voltage option and the fan had magically been turned the wrong way. This meant that the hot air was being blown out of the incubator rather than in. At this point we realised that user error would definitely be an issue with this machine. We then labeled everything we possibly could on the machine, telling the user what they are allowed to change, what they should not touch and other general instructions. In Spanish, of course. No more problems then?
ATTEMPT #4: A few days later we returned again to find the machine still not being used!! This was when we realised that if you fix something and teach people how to use it, the most important person to inform really is the head of department because otherwise the message will just not be passed! We then talked to the head of the department explained everything to her. She seems eager to finally use it, and when a baby needs it, I think it will be used. FINALLY SUCCESS!