As a medical student at the University of Miami, Dr. Elizabeth Greig volunteered with Project Medishare in Haiti. She now serves on the Board of Directors, and is part of the Executive Committee.
In 2011, Dr. Greig’s family generously donated the funds necessary to construct our maternal health center in Marmont. The center provides safe delivery services for more than 500 women each year, and provides thousands more with family planning and other services.
Here, Dr. Grieg shares her own near-death experience following childbirth, and her commitment to fighting maternal mortality in Haiti.
By Dr. Elizabeth Greig
We were ecstatic when we found out I was pregnant and having a girl in 2014. After we had our initial routine prenatal care and testing, and I knew everything was okay with the baby, I didn’t lose too much sleep over the pregnancy. Doctor’s appointments became so routine; I forgot what a luxury they really are. I worried about car seats and colleges. As a doctor, your life is forever colored by knowing what could go wrong, but I was confident I was getting the right care and could access anyone I needed, any time of day.
My due date came and went. At 41 weeks, I was still working and realized I was too miserable to sit at my desk any longer. I went home to wait it out on my couch. Already, going past the due date put me at higher risk for the baby dying in utero, so my OB had me closely scrutinized, and eventually I was induced to protect the baby. I arrived at the hospital, camera in tow, meticulously selected car seat in place. I made it through about one and a half contractions before I was requesting an epidural. I had baby Jane at 9:45pm on February 12th. We took a few pictures and called our elated moms. The delivery was as routine as the pregnancy, and I had a beautiful baby girl.
An hour later, after all the excitement had died down, I was not feeling well. I couldn’t sit up without feeling like I was going to pass out. I was freezing. My heart was beating out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe. When the clock struck midnight on Friday the 13th, I turned around to look at the monitor to which I was hooked up and saw my blood pressure dangerously low, and my pulse through the roof – what I know to be signs of shock. Until I saw the smiles wiped off the doctor’s faces, it had never occurred to me that something could go wrong with me in this scenario. I was hemorrhaging internally. I lost a lot of blood and required a lot of intervention to stop it. Had I not been in a hospital when I delivered, I would have undoubtedly died. Instead, after a scary few hours, I was fine and went home with my newborn a day later.
The OB on call that night had spent the early part of her career delivering babies in rural Zambia and still worked there. We talked about how many women are not as lucky as I was at that moment, both there and in Haiti. It’s a conversation I’m used to having – just not while on the operating room table myself. I thought about those moms in Haiti, and the terror of what a routine complication would bring in what is supposed to be a moment of joy.
My mom is a mother of three herself, and was moved to establish the maternal health center many years ago now after learning about what women in Haiti have to endure in pregnancy and childbirth, and how that alone sets Haiti’s progress back as a nation. Ninety-eight percent of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth are preventable, and those deaths in particular have devastating consequences for families. The thought is unimaginable to me as a daughter and a mother.
Baby Jane since then has shaved a few years off my life I’m sure in different ways, but I will be forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved my life that night as part of another routine shift. I’ll also be forever grateful to my parents for giving that same opportunity to so many women in Haiti.
Throughout the month of May, Project Medishare is celebrating moms in honor of Mother’s Day in the US (May 8) and Haiti (May 29). With your support, we can double the number of women in rural Haiti who have access to quality care.