Birth at the hospital in Thomonde
By Julie Megler
Thomonde, HAITI–Tonight officially marks the closure of our trip. Tomorrow will be our last day in the field. Today brought yet another highlight for all of us. A little more than a year ago, Zami Lasante (Partner’s in Health), opened an umbrella hospital in Thomonde. The hospital was miraculous; it was the first well constructed building other than the Project Medishare home we’ve seen since Port-au-Prince. The hospital had seventeen beds, several rooms for consultation, a maternity unit, and a small room for emergency care.
Dr. Mario, a young Haitian man educated in Port-au-Prince, took us under his wing for the day. The majority of the patients appeared to be pregnant women, either in for their prenatal visits or to deliver. For most of us we spent our day massaging bellies checking for the babies’ presentation, measuring uterine height, and listening for fetal heart rates. The hospital scene in rural Haiti is a tad different than the typical experience in Jackson Memorial, to say the least. Maternity women were standing over buckets as their membranes ruptured, IV fluids were administered by drip factor rather than pump, and the whole family unit took on the nursing role. A breeze of warm air rang through the rooms and hallways, adding harmony to the occasional hum of a prayer being sung for the men and women residing in the hospital for the day.
It was fascinating to see that a hospital could be fully functional without all the technology we rely on to achieve the simplest tasks in an American hospital. This held true especially for the climactic moment of our day. Earlier there was a young woman we had seen dilated at four centimeters. Shortly after lunch, a beautiful little baby’s head was cresting. For many of us, it wasn’t until we traveled to Haiti that we got to see a completely natural vaginal delivery.
Valerie was ready for the part, as soon as Julie shouted out that the woman was about to deliver, she was there to help and comfort. Valerie grasped the baby from the doctor’s hand in a towel, elegantly cleaning the new girl. As soon as the baby rested safely in Sarah’s hands Valerie returned to the woman, massaging her fundus and delivered the placenta as if she had done it before in the past. The midwife sewed the new mother’s episiotomy, as we tended to her comfort. The grandmother appeared shortly after the baby’s first cries holding up two outfits, one pink and the other blue. We pointed to the pink one, and dressed the child in her first dress. As the mother relaxed, Valerie asked her what she would name the child, she responded saying that she did not yet have a name but wanted us to name her. Valerie excitedly shouted over, “what are your favorite names? We get to name the child!” Sarah said, “Eva” and Valerie, “Isadora.” Moments later the mother moved to a bed, resting with Isadora Eva by her side.
The end of the day brought closure, as we observed the crude nature of the life cycle. In the same room we had shared the joy of birth, we were presented with an elderly woman who had just suffered a stroke. After days of seeing ailments foreign to the U.S., such as GI parasites, AIDS and TB, we were hit with what we had previously thought of as a disease of a developed nation. The woman laid their, pupils unreactive, the left side of her body paralyzed. Her blood pressure had been 240/160. She had lost consciousness as she was riding a motorbike, leaving her feet bloody as they had dragged on the road.
It made us all sad inside, but it made us reflect on life. Her daughters, husband, and neighbors were there. Something also foreign to us back in the U.S., we love our families but we all live separate lives from them. Here in Haiti, families are intertwined, they find strength together, and here in Haiti we discovered the beauty in that power.