I have been with Troy for 18 years, almost 16 of those years we have been married. This means date night is kind of a been-there done-that regular event. Many years of trying to squeeze in a date means many years of quick meals, often close to home. Date night can even be running an errand and trying to be back to tuck the kids in to bed. Sometimes it is romantic and sweet. Other times date night can be kind of hot and sizzly. Most often, it is just your average nice time to talk without any interruptions. Less phone/internet/four second conversations and more real/lengthy ones.
Well, tonight date night was not romantic or sizzly. It was however, insanely unusual.
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Hospitals in this country are not good at communication. That is me being my absolute very nicest. I so wish I could expound without burning the badly damaged bridges. We try hard to be patient and considerate while they don’t communicate with us. We share records and information; they don’t. We know our women by name; they don’t seem to. We desire to be excellent in our communication and co-care. This seems to be an extremely one-sided desire.
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7 days ago …
Tuesday of last week (the 9th of September) we had one very sad day. One lady (named Sandra) needed to go to a local hospital due to a failed induction and severe pre-eclampsia. Another lady (named K) needed to go to a hospital outside the city due to preterm labor and a baby showing signs of stress. (K has a history of preterm labor and loss.) Two transports, one day. None of us like this.
3 days ago …
On this day we hear that our patient at the local hospital thinks she has Cholera and we hear that our patient at the distant hospital is hanging out being observed. It seems that nobody has had a baby yet, or at least nobody says they have.
1 day ago …
Nirva, the nurse that brought Sandra to the hospital, stopped by the hospital to check on her. The hospital told Nirva they have no record of her being there. We never know if this is a game, a power trip, or if we should maybe not assume conspiracy, when incompetence explains everything. We feel frustrated that we don’t know where the woman is that we brought there for care.
8 hours ago …
As we all sat down to start our day at the Maternity Center today, word came from a friend of Sandra, the patient at the local hospital. The friend said that the hospital we had dropped the woman off with had brought her to another hospital. We were incredulous. Why would the specialty hospital do that? The friend went on to say that there had been a C-Section and a seizure (eclampsia) after the surgery and that for some reason she was at a different hospital than we dropped her off at one week earlier.
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Tonight Troy and I set off on a pseudo date. Neither of us expected hot and sizzly or romantic, but we figured we could grab a quick visit with friends up the hill or maybe stop for a sandwich or something.
Our date night plan was to bring Sherly, a mother who delivered at the Maternity Center last Friday, to her home about 10 miles away and on our way home we’d pass by some options for a speed date, plus we would get the drive time together without kids.
While Troy was picking up the Mom and new baby and KJ, who had agreed to come to our house to be with the kids, we learned that the patient (Sandra) at the local hospital (the second local one according to the intel we had been given by the friend) had been discharged and needed a ride. We decided we could go get her after dropping Sherly.
Date night began at about 6:45 pm as we pulled out of our neighborhood with the new Mama. She explained where she lived to Troy. We climbed up the hills toward her area of town and she asked to pull over to use the bathroom in God’s great big toilet (the city of Port au Prince has been called worse).
I got to hold baby Zola while that was taken care of and we continued on our way. As we discussed the hard day it had been and how frustrating all the crappy care of humans can be, I said to Troy, “I need to remember this baby has nothing to do with this, when I am frustrated and want to give up I need to remember that Zola deserves kindness and a chance.”
Rain started to fall in the fashion in which it usually falls in Haiti. That is to say, it began to intensely pour down rain. We sat in traffic jam after traffic jam. Just when we thought we were all clear to reach a record-setting speed of 35 MPH, boom, another log jam. Troy continued on toward our destination. At 8pm we arrived in Sherly’s neighborhood, approximately 8 miles from where we began. We parked the ambulance on a steep slope with rushing water all around us. We sat for a moment wondering if we would all rather wait for the rain to pass. Together we agreed that was not likely to happen anytime soon. I wrapped Zola tight, cursed myself for wearing wobbly heels (HELLO?!?! – DATE NIGHT calls for heels) and we followed Sherly down a lightless tight corridor with uneven ground and ankle spraining opportunities at every step.
Troy decided it smelled like urine and wished he had closed toe shoes. I thought, “at least your open toes shoes aren’t two inch high heels, Mister.” We walked to the dark home of Sherly. City power was out for that zone, therefore a quick prayer in the pitch dark was said and we went back out to the uneven, urine scented, narrow passageway.
We knew by this time that stopping in to visit friends or sitting down for a meal would mean that the lady waiting on us would wait too long. We ran into a grocery store and bought two sodas, cheese, chips, and hummus. They charged us the wrong price for the cheese and my Dutch heritage grabbed hold of me tightly and I had a little fit. The credit card had already been swiped with the cheese that was apparently worth its weight in gold. Troy looked at me as if to say, “Do we need to do this?” I declared defeat and walked outside to wait for him to sign the slip. While I was walking to the car complaining about the crappy customer service and my frustration at the cashier’s refusal to give a damn, Troy said he was thinking, “You need to remember when you are mad and frustrated that baby Zola has nothing to do with this and deserves kindness and a chance.”
Fine. Expensive cheese is a small problem. I hear that...Probably not a reason to throw in the towel. (If only we had a towel on this date.)
We ate Chips and Hummus and tried not to shiver in our wet clothes and shoes and headed toward the hospital to find Sandra.
At the hospital we spoke to a receptionist, a doctor, a guy with a job that we couldn’t discern, and we were led room to room (a few of which smelled like urine too, but that could have been Troy’s shoes) asking every nurse in every room full of people for Sandra. We most certainly walked in at least two complete circles and found little to no response or aid in our quest.
After twenty minutes of looking room to room we called the Maternity Center and asked the family member waiting there if they would tell Sandra by telephone that we could not locate her and to please come to the front of the hospital. Fifteen minutes later I said to Troy, “You know we could be here another hour waiting for her to come out.” He said “Yes, I know. Now we wait. The trick is to wait well.” Troy called the Maternity Center and asked for a phone number for Sandra. Upon calling the number Troy learned from a relative that they were waiting outside but did not see us so they went back in. Troy explained that we had been waiting inside, but now were looking outside, and still did not see them. He eventually asked, “What hospital are you outside of?” As it turns out they were back at the original hospital we had dropped her off at a week earlier. We headed there.
Upon arrival we learned that Sandra’s family member refers to hospital #1 (and maybe all hospitals) by the same name and therefore when we were told she was at hospital #2, it was really just one family member not knowing the name of hospital #1. Our heads were spinning by this point (hours later) but we were very relieved to find the waiting new mother and baby.
As we headed back to the Maternity Center, I looked at my phone and found a message that said, “K's husband says that the hospital wants them to leave tomorrow (tonight if possible).” The hospital she needs to be picked up from is at least ninety minutes outside of the city.
Sadly, or fortunately, date night was over. 10pm, we pulled into the Maternity Center with Sandra and decided K would need to wait until tomorrow.
Looking forward to a new day - another opportunity for rain, urine, dinner in an ambulance, and time with Troy and Haiti’s new mothers, babies, and families. I can’t wait!