New doctor's baptism of fire: Emergency delivery at the backseat of a car

MANILA, Philippines - It was a lazy Saturday morning for Mikko Manalastas. And he, like every med student who had just passed the board exams, was feeling chill.  

Little did the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health graduate know at that time that something special was about to happen. 

In a Facebook post put up on Satuday evening, October 1, Mikko, 27, recalled the moment a couple stepped into his building’s elevator in a rush. 

As I was going down the elevator, 2 people hurriedly went in – a very anxious father, and a mother crying hard into labor.”

After a brief moment of panic, all of Mikko’s med school training kicked his brain and body into high gear. 

“I froze for a moment. Then immediately pressed the alarm button in the elevator to inform them that there was a mother in labor and that we needed assistance. I dropped my bags and went up to them and introduced myself. What luck because I wore my Ateneo Medicine shirt today (patay haha). Before i could finish my introduction, they realized that I was a doctor – only 2 days from actually getting my license number and a week from passing the boards.” 

Despite being the youngest in the elevator, Mikko took charge of the situation. He instructed the father to get his car ready while he stayed with the wife.

Outwardly, he was calm and composed. Inside, however, he was praying that the mother wouldn’t go into full labor then and there. 

“Not yet. Please,” he said to himself as he and the husband carried the mother to the waiting car. 

Just when he thought he had done his part as a good samaritan, Mikko took one last look at the mom and his eyes shot wide open. He saw that the baby’s head was crowning. 

I asked the mother to refrain from pushing but she couldn't help it because the pain was too much, and the contractions were getting stronger and longer.” 

Med school taught him that it would be risky to try and prolong the delivery. So, instead of having them risk getting stuck in Manila’s notorious traffic, Mikko made what is probably the most bad-ass call a newly-minted doctor can make: he needed to perform an emergency delivery now. 

He asked the couple to trust him. The father was at first hesitant but eventually told him, "just do everything you can to save the baby."

After getting both parents' consent, Mikko immediately came across another problem: he was going to deliver in the backseat of a car and he didn't have the proper medical supplies. 

Fortunately, Mikko is the MacGyver of medicine. 

I didn't have the proper materials but I needed to improvise. I grabbed my bag and took out my bath towel (clean and unused) and placed it over the mother's abdomen. I used wet wipes to clean the area and used the wet wipes as makeshift gloves and waited for the baby's head to come out.”

But credit, of course, also goes to the mother, whom Mikko said was “strong and very brave.” 

She listened very carefully to my instructions and I asked her to trust me. And with just a few good pushes, the baby's head popped out. I grabbed her head and maneuvered to deliver the rest of her body.” 

The rest of the story is too good not to directly quote what happened: “She immediately cried and I gave a sigh of relief. I dried her up and kept her warm over her mother's chest. At this time, the condo personnel arrived with the first aid kit. I had to cut the cord and deliver the placenta. Luckily they had sterile gloves and bandage scissors but there was no clip. I improvised and used the mother's (sturdy metal) hair clip - the one that bends to close. I used 2 clips to clamp the cord and cut it, and then I delivered the placenta.”

In an interview with Rappler, Mikko said that he breathed a sigh of relief the moment he heard the baby cry and saw her turn pink. "The mother and the father were also crying tears of joy," he added. 

After the delivery, Mikko told the parents to bring their newly-born baby girl to the hospital. The parents later sent Mikko a long thank you message and a picture of the new baby which he will cherish for life. 

“You are beautiful Baby Gabriela Ann! It was an honor to deliver such a precious gift from God,” he wrote on Facebook. 

He considers himself blessed for being able to help bring new life into the world.

Real struggle

Medical students spend long hours burning the midnight oil in the hopes of one day healing people and saving lives. 

For Mikko, who spent extra long hours pursuing a degree in medicine and a masters in business, it was a real struggle. 

“Ako'y nawasak at nadurog upang maging buo ulit. Kinailangan kong pagdaanan ang proseso na ito - na mapuyat at magutom sa walang tigil na trabaho sa ospital, na madama ang hinagpis ng may sakit na pamilya, na maisailalim ang sarili sa marahas at 'di makatarungang sistema ng lipunan,” he wrote in a separate Facebook post.

(I was ruined and destroyed only to be made whole again. I needed to go through this process - to starve and spend long days and nights working in the hospital, to feel the pain of families with sick loved ones, to experience first hand the injustice in our society.)

But, he added, it was necessary for him and for other med students to go through the hardship that is med school. 

“Bago ako makapagbibigay ilaw sa iba, kinakailangan ko munang mainitan at magalit sa pagkamulat, mapaso sa paghawak at pagkilala, at masunog sa karanasan upang maging buo at ganap ang liwanag na ibabahagi sa iba.”

(Before I could even help others, I needed to first feel the heat of my rage, be scalded by my surroundings, and consumed by my experience so I could be a true bearer of light to others.) 

All those years of hard work, sacrifice, and studying paid off in an instant.  

And at that same moment, more than any diploma or exam could signify, he became a doctor. - Rappler.com 

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