Saturday, February 20, 2010

Prenatal Care

The reason I have been in love with the work that I have been blessed to be a small part of is that every week or two I get to see a fresh new expression of God's love when a baby is born to one of the ladies in our program.

I am not a midwife, or a nurse, but I am able to offer administrative support to some pretty amazing people who are. Heartline was delivering babies before the earthquake and will continue to do so for years to come. The article below talks about the reality for pregnant women in Haiti. We can only serve a tiny percent of the population, but we are focused on doing that really well with the goal of sharing His love with each Mom and baby we serve.

If you're interested in learning about the core programs at Heartline, please ask! Beth and Laura are working hard to get the regular programs back up and running now that the clinic needs have diminished a little bit.

(Miami Herald, February 18, 2010)

Haiti struggles to keep up with births


Gina Pierre laid on her back in the dusty tent, crying out in pain and clenching her older sister's hand.

She was about to give birth to triplets.

Two days earlier, the concrete walls of Pierre's home had collapsed around her. Now, there was no place to deliver her babies -- only the tent made from scrap metal and bed linens where she and her family were sleeping.

``Please, God,'' she prayed. ``Let my babies live.''

Pierre is among the hundreds of Haitian women who have gone into labor following the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Many, like Pierre, are giving birth in the tent cities that have come to dominate the Port-au-Prince landscape. The women have almost no privacy, and doctors and midwives are scarce. Garbage and human waste are everywhere.

Other pregnant women are crowding the hospitals and medical clinics that were established by the international aid community. It's putting a strain on the relief organizations, many of which did not bring obstetricians or the proper equipment for delivering babies.

Earlier this month, the University of Miami field hospital had to turn away pregnant women. There weren't enough doctors or supplies.

``We came here with earthquake specialists -- orthopedics and surgeons,'' said Cristian Morales of the World Health Organization. ``In an emergency, they can deliver babies. But we need to replace adequate facilities for obstetrics and gynecology. . . . If we don't act, we are foreseeing an increase in the already obscene maternal mortality rate.''

Maternal mortality has long been a pressing issue in Haiti. Roughly 670 of 100,000 mothers die in childbirth -- compared with 150 in the neighboring Dominican Republic and 11 in the United States, according to the most recent figures from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

There are new concerns for the 63,000 pregnant women now living in Port-au-Prince.

More than 7,000 are expected to give birth this month.

``People here are giving birth under the absolute worst conditions,'' said Dr. Jonathan Evans, a pediatric gastroenterologist volunteering at the University of Miami field hospital. ``They can't find access to midwives. Little problems become big problems.''

In the sprawling camp at the city center of Champs de Mars, where the fruit flies are unrelenting and the stench of human waste inescapable, Antoine Toussaint worries about the health of her unborn child.

Toussaint, 27, is nine months into her pregnancy. She lost her last baby, a son, in childbirth two years ago. This time, Toussaint will have only the help of her family if complications arise.

``This is where I am, this is where I am going to give birth,'' she said, sitting outside the cream-colored tent that houses the seven members of her family. ``It's not going to be good for the baby. It's cold at night. It's not an appropriate place to give birth.''

Before the quake, most Haitian women gave birth at home. About one in five delivered in the hospital -- and often only when there were complications, said Dr. Jean-Edouard Viala, the chief of staff in obstetrics at the Port-au-Prince General Hospital.

In the month since the quake, the general hospital has delivered more than 100 babies in its maternity tent, Viala said. The surgeons have performed more than 27 Cesarean sections.

Joanne D├ęsir, 26, rushed to the hospital in a rented red pickup truck when her water broke in a nearby tent city. She gave birth to a baby girl in the truck bed, just outside the hospital.

``I'm glad I came [to the hospital],'' she said, lying on a cot inside the maternity tent with her baby in her arms. ``I want the doctors to look at her.''

Still, doctors say even the hospitals and clinics are far from ideal for delivering babies.

At the University of Miami field hospital near the Port-au-Prnce airport, doctors didn't have access to a baby incubator.

They were able to deliver one preemie by emergency Cesarean section. But when the baby's temperature dropped -- a potentially life-threatening condition -- there was no way to warm her.

Thinking quickly, the doctors used ready-to-eat meals to raise the child's body temperature. She was later transferred to a hospital in Haiti with an available incubator.

Marjorie Michel, the Haitian minister in charge of women's affairs, said her office is working to address some of the concerns. She said the government will set up special tents where pregnant women can give birth in sanitary conditions. Her office is also trying to provide pregnant women with nutritious food, and new mothers with diapers, sheets and blankets.

Additionally, the World Health Organization is sending more obstetricians into Haiti, a spokesman said.

But even despite the challenges, there is a silver lining: These women are bringing life into a city where death has ruled since Jan. 12.

Miriam Seguie, 23, went into labor in the street two days after the quake. Her aunt, her only female relative to survive the disaster, dragged a tattered gray carpet and a fraying blue-and-white blanket into the street and assisted with the delivery.

Still, Seguie said she felt blessed.

``I did not die,'' she said. ``I made life.''

Gina Pierre gave birth to triplets Carline, Carlheinz and Carly in a makeshift tent two days after the quake. The mother swaddled her 8-pound babies in stained bath towels, and kept them warm by pressing them against her chest.

Five days later, the newborns stopped taking fluids. They looked weak, and their cries were labored. Pierre took the babies in her arms and walked a mile to the UM field hospital, where doctors nursed the babies to health.

The afternoon before the babies were discharged, Pierre rocked the smallest of the three in her arms. Her older sister Guerbine Pierre cooed over the other two, who wore tiny hats and rested quietly in baby blankets and bath towels.

``They're miracle babies from the earthquake,'' said Nicole Kalinowski, a pediatric nurse from New Jersey volunteering at the field hospital.

Said Guerbine: ``It's God's work.''


Pray for the pregnant women of Haiti; their babies will be born into a struggling and recovering land. Pray that they might grow up in a Haiti that is growing stronger and always healing. Pray they bring their families HOPE and JOY and PROMISE.