By Kum Kim, Assistant Nursing Manager, NICU, Scottish Rite
In my 25 years of working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s, I have seen thousands of babies come through our doors. There have been so many happy moments and so many sad moments through the years.
I never thought one of those happy moments would take place among zebras, giraffes and elephants. Earlier this year, I was proud to be on a team that helped deliver and take care of a baby orangutan at Zoo Atlanta.
The baby, Pongo, was delivered by cesarean section (C-section) in January and required around-the-clock care for the first few months of his life. The zoo needed help, and my team was happy to lend our neonatal expertise. Along with some members of my team, I took shifts holding Pongo, feeding him and changing his diaper. For the first 48 hours, we had to hold him upright continuously to make sure he could breathe on his own.
During the next couple of months, I went once a week to see Pongo and help take care of the young primate. It was rewarding to be a part of something so special as Pongo was only the third orangutan ever born by C-section, and the first one that wasn’t performed in an emergency situation.
Watching him grow up was exciting because it was just like holding a baby. At first he wouldn’t move, and I just held him. Eventually, he looked more awake and began checking out the room, which was decorated with mobiles and had a bed made especially for him.
Despite some initial fear that she might reject her son because they had not been together early on, Blaze is now taking care of Pongo on her own. Now, zookeepers are trying to introduce the baby to his dad, Benny.
This was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to go visit Pongo again soon!