Mid-morning today, I had my hands on a Haitian woman's belly, inside a steamy-hot wooden shack under a mango tree where we had our mobile maternity clinic for the day. A gecko was skittering through the pile of medicines and I had almost tripped over some little kids underfoot. As I worried over the baby's position (not head-down) and whether I should advise her to deliver at the hospital, my doppler picked up a nice loud baby's heart beat, and my Haitian cell hone burst into a musical chime of a call coming in. Definitely a a "What now!?" moment...could we get any more hot and chaotic right now? Maybe a stampede of oxen or a hailstorm? But it was just a call from the nurses & midwives we had dropped off at the hospital, checking on our plans for the afternoon's class on Neonatal Resuscitation that Chuck Marting, the NNP volunteer, is teaching for our students and all the hospital staff.
Today at BonaBite, we had 4 midwives: 2 Haitian(trained by M4H), and 2 American, 2 bags of meds and equipment,and a 10'x10' shack with banana-leaf roof, but we managed to initiate prenatal care and examine 26 pregnant women. The sickest one with high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), we loaded in the back of the truck with us and took to the hospital on our way home. Our "clinic" so hot and sweaty that eventually, you don't even notice it or the body odor of the 6-8 people crammed in there. A thin boy wearing a worn out, dirty scrub top as his only garment reminded me that this represents the poorest of the poor. Folks don't get much poorer than this and stay alive for long...we know the line between life and death here involves a few meals, good water or bad water, help or no help. We try to be some of the help.
Back at the hospital,in the afternoon, Chuck taught his Neonatal class, very well-attended by the hospital staff and our student midwives. Meanwhile, the only maternity nurse left on duty sent a laboring woman "out to walk" the outdoor area near the delivery room, and she gave birth on the concrete walkway outside; helped by our midwives who just came around the corner as she hollered and started to push.
My cold shower at the end of the day was probably the most welcome and desperately needed one I think I've ever had... between the dust and the sweat and the scooping up a wet baby off the sidewalk, I just don't know if I ever was in greater need.
There is a building here, on the grounds of the hospital, that could be a perfect headquarters for our work-- big enough for Midwives for Haiti to teach our students, run our own prenatal clinic, and deliver babies in a clean and safe environment, without running out of soap, Clorox, or hand sanitizer. We could even have paper towels...the ultimate symbol for me, now, of luxury and cleanliness, and something I never see here. I set up a meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss it next Tuesday.
Back at the orphanage, about 40 girls were singing really loud and dancing and drumming. Fried Plantains, hot dogs, and cabbage salad for dinner-- I threw in some rum and cokes! Quite a party. Life goes on here, in big way. Earthquake or not--People suffer, they struggle, get sick, get help, give birth, dance, and celebrate. Haiti goes on, and gives me life, too.