How this PGH nurse saved 35 newborn babies in weekend fire 2
Photo of the Philippine General Hospital courtesy of the Heart Response Team via ABS-CBN News

How this PGH nurse saved 35 newborn babies in weekend fire

All 35 babies were saved, says PGH’s neonatal intensive care unit nurse Kathrina Bianca Macababbad
RHIA GRANA | May 17 2021

May 15, Saturday, started out like any regular night duty for Kathrina Bianca Macababbad, a nurse at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). She was immensely enjoying giving her newborn patients—she refers to them as “baby loves”—their bath time. But this moment had to be cut short right around midnight when someone opened the NICU door. A fire broke out in their building and she was to prepare for evacuation. 

The NICU nurse wasted no time and immediately prepared the babies as well as the medical equipment and other needs. “Ventilator dependent ang lima sa anim na patients ko, isa lang ang naka room air,” she wrote on her Facebook post. “Nakakaiyak na habang bitbit ko yung mga kayang huminga mag isa, maiiwan yung mga naka intubate at ventilator.”

After reaching the open area at the lobby, Kathrina and her colleague Jomar Mallari mustered the courage to go back to the 4th floor NICU to save the babies who were on ventilator. “Nag ambu bag while carrying the baby ang scenario,” she wrote in her post, describing the situation.

Nurse Kathrina was able to gather other emergency equipment as well—“pang intubate, ambu bag, ETs, oxygen cannula, emergency meds, pang swaddle ng baby, IV fluids, syringes—pinagkasya ko lahat sa ecobag na bitbit ko.”

On their fifth time to race to the 4th floor, the electricity shut down so they also brought down the intubated patients. “Thank you Lord for the unwavering strength and courage!!! Di ko alam kung saan nanggaling iyon pero wala akong naramdamang takot sa dibdib ko,” she shared.

All the NICU babies—35 of them—including critical and intubated, were saved, said Nurse Kathrina. “We made sure na lahat ng babies ay may baby tags. Pati crib tag dinikit namin sa diapers nila to avoid baby switching,” she added.

Reports from the Public Information Office of Manila indicated the fire started at 12:41AM. Fire Senior Insp. Hector Agadulin, chief of operations of the Manila Fire Department, said the fire was first spotted at the operating room sanitization area on the third floor of the eight-story PGH central block building. The fire razed the storage area where the flammable linens are kept. 

About 80 to 90 percent of the patients had to be evacuated according to the Bureau of Fire Protection. These included the 35 babies from the NICU, which was located at the fourth floor of the building.

The fire reached the second alarm before it was put under control around 2:46AM.

The hospital’s medical director Dr. Grace Padilla said 12 premature babies were transferred to Sta. Ana Hospital following the fire. The newborns were fed with pasteurized milk from the city’s milk bank at the Jose Abad Santos Hospital. The PGH chapel served as a temporary shelter for the other newborn babies.

Meanwhile, nurse Kath’s post has gone viral, with many netizens expressing their admiration for the brave nurse.