'Fearful' Moms Are Giving Birth to Babies in Smoky Delivery Rooms as Wildfires Ravage Australia
As wildfires continue to rage across Australia, doctors are delivering babies in smoky hospitals with deteriorating air quality.
Dr. Steve Robson had to drive through a “smoky hell” on New Year’s Day to deliver a baby at a Canberra hospital in New South Wales, according to Buzzfeed News. The brushfires there have intensified and killed at least 19 people, NPR reported.
“I had the little spotlight that you use to look at things and it went through the smoke and we all realized that in this birth suite, this baby was born into bushfire smoke,” Robson told BuzzFeed.
Australian officials have declared a state of emergency as the death toll has climbed to 25 — including two firefighters, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer. Many others remain unaccounted for amid the blazes, which have forced hundreds from their homes and left thousands stranded.
Fueled by record-breaking heat, drought and strong winds, the fires have been burning for about five months, BBC News reported.
As thick clouds of smoke surrounded his hospital on Friday morning, Robson performed a Caesarean on an anxious mother-to-be.
“The mum could smell the smoke,” he told the outlet. “She said, ‘I don’t feel so good about all of this,’ and I said, ‘To be honest I don’t feel that good either.'”
Studies show that air pollution is linked to premature births, lower birth weights, asthma, heart disease and several other diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health. Given the alarm and potential side effects, Robson said his antenatal appointments with expecting parents have been tense.
“Particularly this morning [Thursday, Jan. 2], after these unbelievable images with kids in gas masks in boats escaping this apocalyptic wall of fire,” he told BuzzFeed.
One of his patients had learned her parents’ home on the NSW South Coast had been “wiped out” by the fires there, along with hundreds of others.
“Every single mother-to-be and every single dad-to-be I’ve seen today has expressed to me anxiety about what the future holds for the child they’re carrying,” he said.
Responding to the nightmare via Twitter on Thursday, Robson wrote in part, “The dawn of a new decade. Normally a time for optimism and hope. Today, every single parent-to-be tells me they are fearful for their child’s climate future.”