Meet the woman who cares for the sickest newborns in Australia.

Video by Mamamia

Each year over 600 of Australia’s sickest newborns receive lifesaving treatment from the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Prof Nadia Badawi is the woman in charge of ensuring that over 96% of these babies survive and go home to their families.

Growing up in Egypt, Nadia always knew that she wanted to help children, but she never planned to go into medicine. She loved literature and thought she’d study it at university, but when it came to submitting her preferences, Nadia found herself ticking the box for medicine instead.

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“I grew up with a really feminist father and I think subconsciously he was pushing me towards helping women and children,” she told Mamamia.

“I believe if you help children and educate them, everything else falls into place.”


Badawi has been working at the Centre for 19 years, and in that time she’s helped thousands of babies overcome complex medical conditions, serious cardiac or surgical disorders, and go on to lead full lives.

One of the highlights of her career has been witnessing some of these babies returning to the Centre to complete their Year 10 work experience.

“It’s wonderful to see them grown up and about to enter their adult years.”

australia's sickest newborns
"I believe if you help children and educate them, everything else falls into place." Image supplied.

The newborns come to the Centre from all over Australia and the Pacific Islands, and often their families are scared, overwhelmed, and just holding out hope that their little baby is going to beat the odds.

The team of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals at the Centre have worked hard to create an environment that is welcoming and comforting for new parents who are often facing one of the biggest and most confronting challenges of their life.

In fact, the staff often get together with parents to find out what they can do to improve their services.

Little Kai Goddard was born with a hole in his heart and liver that had grown outside his body. He came to the Centre in 2008 and defied the odds by surviving four operations all before he was one month old.

Kai's rare combination of congenital abnormalities, called Pentalogy of Cantrell, meant he needed a fifth operation to repair his heart at just six months old. But his liver, which was put back in his body, had moved up through a hole in his abdomen, squashing his heart and lungs.

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One hour after that fifth surgery, Kai suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated and placed on an oxygen machine. Over the next couple of weeks doctors advised the family to prepare for the worst and say their goodbyes.

When life support was switched off, Kai surprised everybody when his heart began pumping on its own.

He will need long-term follow-up care, but Kai is one of the many babies who got to go home to his family, thanks to Nadia and the rest of the Grace Centre team.


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