Miraculous rescue of newborn dumped in pit latrine

2010-05-07 00:00

A NEWBORN baby, who was dumped in a pit latrine toilet and left to die, has been hailed as a “miracle” by emergency workers who found her floating in faeces.

She was rescued during a joint operation with Netcare911 paramedics, EMRS paramedics and KwaDukuza fire fighters who were alerted by the community when they heard her cries.

With time against them, the team worked feverishly to dismantle the wooden and concrete toilet to gain access to the child.

Fire fighters had to wear special protective gear, including masks, gloves and suits, before they entered the toilet. After an hour, the baby was rescued and handed to paramedics.

Netcare paramedic Shaun Paul said that when the baby was placed in his arms, her movement was limited and her body was extremely cold.

“She was covered in faeces and toilet paper. I thought she was dead until I noticed her shallow breathing,” he said.

Paul said the baby’s umbilical cord had been cut really close to her body and there were concerns that she would contract an infection from the faeces.

“We washed the baby and cleared the mouth and airways which were clogged with faeces. The baby was in great distress by this stage,” he said.

Paul said he was “blown away” by the infant’s survival.

“We expected the worst. She is more than a miracle considering the conditions we found her in. She is a little fighter. I’m sure she will live a healthy life,” he said.

Troy Allison of the SA Police Force Search and Rescue Unit said that infants abandoned in pit toilets have become a common occurrence, especially in rural areas.

He said that in most cases they are called out to perform a body recovery rather than a rescue.

“We have had babies whom we managed to resuscitate, but most of the time we just recover the dead baby. Pit latrines are the most popular places where babies are dumped,” he said.

He would not confirm that “pit latrine baby” incidents have increased, but said even one case is far too many.

“It is very tragic for all our members. Some are parents and really feel for these babies. However, we are trained to get on with the job,” he said.

Allison said that all members of his team are medically trained to stabilise the babies and clear their airways, which are usually clogged with faecal matter.

“Once the baby is stabilised, we rush it to the nearest hospital. Those who survive are miracles as all the odds are against them.”

Even though Allison has conducted many pit latrine rescues, each one is an emotional experience. “We are extremely excited if we rescue a baby and resuscitate it. Ideally, we would not wish for any baby to be dumped, but it happens and it’s our job to help them,” he said.

Dave Steyn, a search and rescue team member, said that the disregard for human life always shocked him, especially when he has to remove “a tiny body from a pit”.

“It’s very sad when we pull the body out. How do people dump a helpless baby like that?” said Steyn.

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