AL AIN // With hands clenched into tiny fists and a shock of black hair poking out from underneath his white blanket, Hassan Al Omeri has a rather unassuming demeanour given his timely achievement of being the 100,000th baby born at Oasis Hospital.
Although Hassan, who was born weighing 3.4 kilos at 9.52am on January 14, nine days before his due date, will remain unaware of the importance of his birth for some time, it is a mark of how far the hospital has come from its humble beginnings as a mud brick building 52 years ago.
One of the oldest hospitals in the UAE, when Oasis first started operating, the mortality rate for mothers and infants in Al Ain was estimated to be 40 per cent.
“When we started, two in five, maybe, mothers and infants would die and so we have drastically, dramatically changed that,” said Jeffrey Newman, the chief operating officer of Cure International, the US-based parent organisation of Oasis.
“It was so much so that the population in Al Ain was stagnated. We were able to change that by providing good post-op care, post-partum care and prenatal care.”
The hospital was like an oasis to the community who required it, said Mr Newman.
“When we started this, there was nothing here. When Dr Kennedy [the founder] came to Al Ain, there was nothing. To be able to do this in 50 years is a milestone.
“There are some big, major hospitals that can do this in 20 years, in the States, but ... for us to do this as a small hospital, in Al Ain – and it is not the biggest hospital, not a Government hospital, but the place where the people from Al Ain feel like they are most comfortable – is really a milestone.”
Despite being separated by a border, there was no other place to deliver their child than Oasis, said first-time parents Ahmed Al Omeri, 31, and 25-year-old Salma Hassan, from Sohar, Oman.
The hospital of choice for both their families, going back several generations, the young couple were unaware of Hassan’s numerically importance until Mrs Hassan had been given ample time to rest. However, it is believed that Hassan’s grandmother suspected something after seeing armfuls of balloons in his room.
And with about 240 deliveries at the hospital every month, the countdown for the 200,000th baby has already begun.
In comparison, by the end of 1960, when the hospital had been operating for two months, there were just two deliveries. Over the course of the following year, there were 67.
Seeing the faith his parents and siblings had in the hospital created a sense of belonging, said Hassan’s father, who works for his family’s trading business.
“All our family came through Oasis Hospital,” said Mr Al Omeri. “So, we have this feeling that our family is here, our people are here [at the hospital].”
Holding his son in front of the crowd of guests and hospital staff, many of whom took pictures of the sleeping baby on their phones, the birth, and subsequent attention lavished upon Hassan, has been “wonderful,” the father added.
In celebration, the hospital presented Hassan’s parents with several gifts, including a car seat.
Within the hospital grounds, an old man sells newspapers and brightly coloured toys; just outside the main entrance, women chat loudly while surrounded by traditional scarves for sale.
More than 50 years since its inception, Oasis Hospital has created a small community within its corridors, one which has gained a loyal following.
It is this following that has created strong ties between Hassan’s family and Oasis, and there will be more, said Dr Brenda McLaughlin, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist who helped with the birth.
“Because the hospital has been so well respected in the area and because we were the first hospital in the region, many of the locals and Omanis still travel the distance to come and see us,” she said.
“People come back and tell us how they are doing and their children have children here and their grandchildren [also come to the hospital to give birth] – it’s a continual relationship that we have.”