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11-hour relay race to save life of infant in China's Xinjiang

Xinhua| Updated: July 8, 2022

At the request of the mother of a critically ill infant calling for urgent medical assistance, people from two areas of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region completed an 11-hour "relay race" to come to her aid.

The infant, who was seven days old and weighed 3.56 kilograms on June 30, was being treated in a hospital in Hami city as he had suffered a gastrointestinal perforation, which could cause septic shock, a potentially life-threatening condition.

After comprehensive evaluation by doctors, it was determined that the boy was in desperate need of more complex medical procedures at another hospital in the regional capital Urumqi, some 539 km from Hami.

The infant's parents and his doctors contacted the Urumqi Children's Hospital and thereafter boarded a bullet train to Urumqi with the help of railway authorities.

Following an emergency surgery conducted by medical workers, the child pulled through. "The boy is currently recovering in the hospital. He is out of danger and his vital signs are stabilizing," said Yang Yuexia, who is in charge of the neonatology department at the Urumqi Children's Hospital.

"Knowing that my baby was severely ill, I felt like the sky was falling," Mukaram Yusup recalled, the infant's mother.

Faced with their situation, the parents and doctors made a phone call to Urumqi Children's Hospital at about 5:30 pm on June 30, saying they needed an urgent intercity hospital transfer for the infant.

Upon receiving the notice, the Urumqi Children's Hospital established a three-person team and prepared the medical equipment the boy would require, including oxygen inhalers, fearing that the baby would develop respiratory difficulties and other emergency conditions during his long trip.

The doctors in Hami had also brought him some medicine that could be used in the case of further emergency before his departure.

The hospital preparations were all set. However, a new problem emerged: How could they transport the patient timely to Urumqi, about 539 km away from Hami, without exacerbating his condition?

There are no direct flights between the two locations, and it would take at least eight hours for an ambulance to travel by road. On that day, temperatures in some areas along the route exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, which would pose a risk to the infant. And the long-distance transfer could come as a double blow, according to doctors.

They then turned to Xinjiang's railway authorities for help and boarded an Urumqi-bound bullet train together with the Hami doctors at around 8:20 p.m.

Upon receiving notice, railway authorities activated an emergency response mechanism.

"To take better care of them during the trip, we brought the feeble mother a blanket and asked a mechanic aboard to adjust the temperature of their carriage to keep them warm," said Wang Juan from China Railway Urumqi Group Co Ltd.

Wang said that they also reassured the mother by sharing with her the real-time locations of the train. "We asked her many times, 'What can we do for you and your baby?' But she didn't ask for a lot for fear of putting us through too much trouble."

At 11:10 pm, the train arrived at the Urumqi station, where an ambulance was already waiting at the platform. With the coordination of local traffic police and traffic radio, the vehicle delivered them to the hospital as quickly as it could.

"When the patient was transferred to the hospital at about 11:40 pm, he was in serious condition -- his breathing was short and his heart rate was higher than normal, said Yang, who picked him up at the station. They gave the infant treatment sessions while organizing multi-disciplinary consultations.

Following the operation performed by approximately nine medical workers, which continued from 2:30 am to 4:20 am the following day, the infant finally pulled through and was sent to the neonatal intensive care unit.

The mother said that the attending doctor would share with them daily information on the boy's recovery through the messaging app WeChat. "According to the recent feedback, our baby is recovering well, his ventilator has been removed, and he will be able to drink breast milk in a few days."

The life-saving relay race lasted for some 11 hours, and the joint efforts of various departments have been met with gratitude.

"I couldn't imagine how I would have survived this difficult time without the support and coordination from railway and hospital authorities in both Hami and Urumqi," Mukaram Yusup said.

The mother added that, although she can't remember the names of many people who had helped her, they are remembered in her heart. "I would like to say thank you to them in person if I could see them."

According to Yang, the infant is recovering and a second surgery will be planned depending on his condition.