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Forging bonds and saving lives: U.S. Army, Senegalese doctors work together in joint exercise

U.S. Army and Senegalese medical personnel deliver a high-risk newborn via cesearean section, during MEDRETE 18-1, at the Hospital De Militaire Ouakam, Dakar, Senegal, Feb. 8, 2018. MEDRETE is a combined effort between the Senegalese government, U.S. Army Africa, and the Vermont National Guard. MEDRETE 18-1 is the first in a series of medical readiness training exercises that U.S. Army Africa is scheduled to facilitate within various countries in Africa, and serves as an opportunity for the partnered militaries to hone and strengthen their general surgery and trauma skills while reinforcing the partnership between the countries. The mutually beneficial exercise brings together Senegalese military and U.S. Army medical professionals to foster cooperation while conducting medical specific tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Micah Merrill)

Story by Sgt. Micah Merrill

14th Public Affairs Detachment

DAKAR, Senegal – Senegalese military and U.S. Army medical professionals deliver a rare, full term, abdominal pregnancy during joint medical readiness training exercise.

At the time Veronique Sagne, 33, was several weeks along and her pregnancy had been fairly normal.

The soon-to-be-mom started feeling unusual movements and kicks from her unborn baby.
“I felt the baby moving very strong every time,” Veronique said while being interviewed. “I just knew everything wasn’t normal.”

She went to Hopital Militaire De Ouakam obstetrics department to make sure the fetus was doing well and that’s when ultrasound results revealed Veronique’s child was likely developing outside the uterus.

Veronique had a condition called abdominal pregnancy, which could cause death for both the mother and unborn child if left untreated. “They told me this is somewhat rare,” said Veronique speaking thru an interpreter to U.S. Army medical personnel present for MEDRETE 18-1–a medical readiness training exercise. “Is it true what they told me?”

MEDRETE 18-1, the first in a series of medical readiness training exercises that U.S. Army Africa is scheduled to facilitate within various countries in Africa, serves as an opportunity for the partnered militaries to hone and strengthen their general surgery and trauma skills while reinforcing the partnership between the countries. Partnerships like these deliver more than solutions; they cultivate relationships, encourage cooperation and interoperability, and build trust and cohesion.

Veronique’s unborn child was floating in her mother’s abdominal wall. According to medical journals like the National Library of Medicine, ectopic pregnancy represents about 1–2% of all pregnancies; with abdominal pregnancies representing just about 1% of those ectopic pregnancies.

“I have hope for both of us,” said Veronique. Despite the overwhelming medical odds, Veronique and her baby would make the life-threatening journey together that would ultimately lead to a full term. Stopping work only two days before the delivery, strength is a trait that both the mother and unborn child each share in their own unique ways.

As the mother and child completed their journey to a full term, U.S. Army Maj. Kathryn Berryman was simultaneously completing the transatlantic journey to Senegal. Berryman, an Ohio State University obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, was heading to join other U.S. Army medical personnel as part of MEDRETE 18-1. Neither one aware of the other or what was ahead.

Then on February 8, 2018 a team of U.S. Army and Senegalese medical personnel performed a cesarean section.

Hospital staff filled the small operating room shortly after noon leaving it feeling like a standing-room-only concert. A delivery operation that brought cheers and applause to the room.
“That’s a career moment,” said Berryman of the rare opportunity. “I doubt I will ever see that again.”

The newborn was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at a nearby hospital to receive care after she was born. For all the best efforts of medical personnel, the infant would only survive a little more than 38 hours.

Despite already delivering hundreds of babies in her career, “I will always remember that mother and her baby,” Berryman said.

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