At sunrise Tuesday, an 18-year-old Syrian refugee walked into Taanayel Hospital in Lebanon, pregnant with twins and ready to give birth — two months early.
The fate of Ahed Hussein and her babies, already grim, has become even more uncertain in a country where three years of civil strife have decimated Syria's medical system, leaving pregnant women and children with little or no care. Not far away in the hospital, another child is suspected to be Lebanon’s first case of polio.
Refugees like Hussein have been pouring across the Syrian border into Lebanon, flooding medical facilities like this one, where doctors quickly realized that her case was dire. What started as a routine cesarean section quickly becomes a hurried, vaginal birth without pain medication. And with two babies, the risks only multiply, according to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News' Chief Medical Correspondent.
The first infant, a girl, was born weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces.
The second baby, also a girl, dubbed Baby B, wasn't breathing and clearly had severe birth defects.
Doctors kept the news from the young mother all morning, but in the early afternoon, they could delay no longer.
The second baby died, they say. But in the inexplicable lottery of this war-torn land, the first child lived.
Hussein was taken to the pediatric ward to see her surviving daughter, but was discharged soon after.
Baby A, not yet named, stayed behind in an incubator in the neonatal ICU, receiving oxygen. Her fate — and her mother's — remained uncertain in a land where death and new life spring from the same source.