Sister Intisar’s Story
Sister Intisar Ahmed Saleh has trouble sleeping.
“Late at night I call the wards to check up on my patients,” she admitted. “I can’t go to bed knowing that they are at risk. Sometimes I phone so much the nurses tell me to just come in and see for myself. I live close to the hospital, so I usually do!”
Intisar was inspired to pursue nursing when her grandmother became ill. “I studied hard and decided to do nursing because all in all, it’s the patients that I wanted to serve”.
While in nursing school at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, Intisar witnessed her first delivery: “When I went home that night I cried to my mother “I’m so sorry for everything that happened!” meaning that I made her give birth! The woman looked like she was in so much pain! I wanted to change that, so from that point on I knew I would be a midwife”.
After graduation Intisar was recruited to join CCBRT’s Maternal and Newborn Health Capacity Building Programme (MHCBP) Team, which trains staff in 23 partner sites throughout Dar es Salaam.
Since joining the team, Intisar’s skills and overall outlook have improved. “At first I didn’t know how to do vacuum deliveries, but now I am very comfortable with them”. Working with Capacity Building has deeply ingrained the standards in her everyday work. During the yearly external Standards Based Measurement and Recognition (SBMR) assessment, Intisar received an astounding 100 percent in “assisting normal labor”. CCBRT MHCP midwife trainer Dorcas Jiyadi also noted, “Intisar is a champion of delivery and resuscitating newborns”.
A case that stood out for Intisar was a woman who had previously miscarried and developed obstetric fistula. After receiving treatment at CCBRT, she became pregnant again. The mother kept asking her, “Will I get my baby? Will I get my baby?”. At 38 weeks she went into labor at Temeke Hospital where Intisar and Dr. Daniel – one of CCBRT’s maternal health doctors – did everything they could and eventually performed a C-section. “We got a lovely baby boy” she reported, smiling.
When coaching mothers during labor Sister Intisar cheers them on yelling “Push push push!”. “When I get a healthy baby I always clap and cheer, I just can’t help myself!” She reflected, “I want all mothers to have safe respectful care. I want every mother to enjoy giving birth – not regard it as a punishment“. The evidence shows that she is doing a great job – indeed, twice patients have named babies after her.
On the cases where babies do not make it, Intisar is still there for the mothers. A few months ago she delivered a baby that did not cry and was sent to the neonatal ward. “Every day I went to check on that baby. When I came in one morning I found it had died. I had been with the mother since the beginning, and I was the only one who knew her well. We cried together”.
Intisar is taking action to prevent neonatal mortality. Noticing that primes (women who are pregnant for the first time) are at highest risk for losing their babies, Intisar instituted the Prime Board. “We record every prime who comes into the ward and monitor them all the way from admission to delivery. Having the visual reminder to check on them prevents us from missing anything”. Soon after implementing the Prime Board, newborn outcomes improved.
When asked about her dreams for maternal and newborn health in Tanzania, Intisar quietly declared, “Seriously, I want zero deaths”.
By working together with passionate and dedicated individuals like Sister Intisar, CCBRT’s maternal and newborn health work is making a difference in Dar es Salaam Region.