Parents of Premature Baby Save His Life by Keeping Him in Icebox-Turned-Incubator

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 20, 2014   |   5:34PM   |   Washington, DC

The parents of a premature baby in India were able to save the child’s life by using an inventive ice-box-turned-incubator.

Mithilesh Chauhan was born to Aruna and Ramseh Chauhan in October at Alliance Hospital in Mumbai. But the little baby was born two months premature, weighing only 3 pounds 3 ounces and prone to infections.

incubator2But the parents could not keep up with the daily payments of $130 to keep their son in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. So one of the doctors suggested an inexpensive alternative.

“One doctor told us that if we couldn’t afford to keep our baby in hospital we should try a Thermocol icebox with holes for ventilation and a 60-watt bulb to provide the right amount of warmth,” Aruna Chauhan, 34, told the Cover Asia Press newspaper. “He advised it was better than nothing and might save our baby. My husband bought the box from a nearby fish market and cut holes in it.”

Ramesh makes $160 a month working as a shop assistant. Aruna and her husband were initially able to pay for their son’s hospital stay by borrowing money from relatives.

“But in the end there was no one else left to ask.” Aruna told the Cover Asia Press.

incubatorAfter 20 days they had no choice but to discharge their sick son. The parents reached out to other government-run hospitals, but the ICU waiting lists were too long and they were turned away. Their only solution was the icebox. Every two hours Aruna and Ramesh removed their son from the box to take his temperature.

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Aruna remembered: “It was awful. We had no idea if it was the right thing to do but we had to try something. We were terrified if we did nothing he’d die but we were also aware that what we were doing wasn’t exactly safe either. It was a very distressing time.”

Wadia Hospital for Children, in Parel, Mumbai, admitted the family and are now providing medical aid for Mithilesh.

Dr Minnie Bhodanwal, Chief Executive Officer of Wadia Hospital for Children, said: “This is an extremely sorry condition that a baby has to be kept in a Thermocol ice box in an era of advanced medicine. It was a practical solution considering their circumstances but it could have been life threatening if the baby’s temperature had fallen out of control.”