Wednesday, July 21, 2010

By Beth McHoul


Women are vulnerable when they are in labor.  They can get exhausted if they labor for hours and those that care for them can get weary as well.  We are incredibly proud of our beautiful maternity center and we respect and love the women in our program.  Each woman receives quality care, lovely surroundings, sweet new baby clothes, fresh clothes for herself, a bathroom to herself, and two midwives at her service.  This is her reward for faithful attendance to our program throughout her pregnancy.  Our goal is to have a healthy mom and baby happily breast feeding within a reasonable amount of time.
Occasionally complications come our way and we have to look for others to help.  We have back up medical professionals an email and phone call away.  People with our same passion and commitment to these women and their health.
Over the weekend we had two laboring gals.  One has had high blood pressure over the last several weeks.  The other had her water break and needed to deliver within a certain amount of time.  Labor and delivery can be like a game of chess - working each move with skill, thinking through all the possible outcomes and working with what we have available to us here in Haiti.
The decision came after two days to transport to a hospital for both ladies for different reasons.   This rarely happens but when it does it is a disappointment and a concern that a woman receive higher quality care then what we can give.
Our weekend had been consumed with these ladies.  On Sunday night we headed out to find a hospital to take our gal.  For various reasons our choices are limited.  Of course it was raining, and we headed our with our little family, food and their grocery sacks of supplies loaded on their laps.  We ended up at a government hospital that has joined up with an international organization.   Rain, mud, finding parking, twists and turns  in the dark  we finally found ourselves at a very old and run down building.
The Haitian resident doctor  was kind, accommodating, and helpful.  Yes, he knew of our mom we sent for high blood pressure this morning.  We took her BP every 15- 30 minutes.  They had not taken it in 12 hours.  He grabbed a BP cuff to take it, oh, the cuff was broken.
He discussed our two cases with us,  he satisfied us with his responses for right choices and we gave over our ladies to join hundreds of other moaning, laboring, walking, sitting ladies. All vulnerable, probably all afraid, all wanting to make it out alive.
We hadn't slept in many hours, it was night, but the conditions of this hospital sent my head spinning.  I saw two doctors and one nurse for many, many laboring women.  The plight of Haiti - understaffed and overworked.  Broken equipment, no sheets, no supplies, bare, dirty, rooms, no clean up crew rushing over for every spill of vomit and blood.  Joanna spoke as an expert midwife to the doctor giving over the dossier  while I stood there, looking around, trying to keep back the flood of emotions.  I so wanted to grab our ladies and head back to our clean, sterile maternity center.  But they have what we don't.  An operating room for a possible c-section.  We know our limits, we know when care is beyond our skills.
I envisioned our ladies grabbing our bodies and hanging on as we headed our the door.  They didn't.  The hugged and kissed us with promises to call when babies were born.  They accepted this.  They are poor, Haitian and this is what hospital means to them.  They were not appalled as we were.  They were not fighting back tears.  They were not thinking human beings should not birth in places like this.  They understood.
I don't understand.  And as a person with power I have to advocate and fight for them.  We can be a voice for them.  Hospitals should have equipment, clean sheets and women should be treated with dignity.
Our prenatal program services 20 pregnant women at a time.  We lavish them with good care, dignity, love and respect.  All women should have this.  We feel ownership once a woman joins our program and we have a commitment to see her through till that child is six months old and flourishing.
Sometimes pregnancy means complications especially with an impoverished population.  We can only go so far when dealing with these complications.  I want a better transport option.  I want quality care in decent surroundings.  This should not be a luxury for the wealthy only.  All laboring women should be guaranteed good care in a clean environment.
If we can't find it here then we have to take action.  We either need more money to send our ladies to the hospitals that only the rich and powerful can afford to go to or we expand and provide a hospital ourselves.  Let's do it.  A small hospital with clean sheets, equipment that works, a caring staff and patients that come out whole in body and spirit.  Our field hospital showed us that this is a possibly. We can do it and we can do it well.

Beth McHoul

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