I think I am the only midwife I know who did gyn exams today on a massage table while chickens wandered through the exam room. At least, I hope I am, as it’s a great claim to fame (if "fame" is the right word for any of this..?!). Today I took another trip out with the pink Jeep to a mobile prenatal clinic in Rhode. This is an especially nice location, as one of our midwives hosts the clinic in the front room of her house, out in the rural village of Rhode II. Magdala is one of our most experienced midwives, and lives there with her husband, Pastor Jude, 4 biological children, and 10 orphans that they have adopted. While we rode out, Philomene told us that the lady we brought to the hospital in yesterday with severe pre-eclampsia had delivered safely, and she and her baby were both doing ok. 2 Lives saved in One Day!
I am so happy with our Mobile Clinic staff during this trip. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting things to be tidy, better organized, and essentially, “more American”, but I’m getting to where I can see past the dust to the heart of the matter. Yes, we do this clinic out of 4 beat-up, dusty, suitcases, portable massage table, a tank of drinking water for ourselves and for the women to take their worm medicine with. Sometimes I find some expired meds in the bottom of the suitcases, and a couple chickens did walk through the room where we were working today…. BUT, oh, we got some things done that matter:
We noted a kind of gonorrhea outbreak in that village—I don’t know how many tests were positive today, but a lot. We treated the infected women with injections and oral antibiotics, and sent home medicine to treat the partners. I diagnosed and treated a kid with ringworm, and sent home medicine for him. I had a really bright midwifery student working with me, and we practiced how to determine baby position, finding fetal heartbeat with a Doppler, and measuring fetal growth in centimeters. Soon she was working successfully on her own, and speaking to the women with kindness and respect. I’ve seen such growth in the academic ability and natural skill of the students over the years Midwives for Haiti has been developing this program. (And how is it she could do this entire morning looking fresh and with all her hair in place, while I was the frizzy lady in the sweaty scrubs? I don’t get it!)
While volunteer Nurse Tina took blood pressures, weights, and taught a bit about breastfeeding, the Haitian midwives collected and performed lab tests, took histories and charted, and organized the suitcases, tossing old tests or medicines, sorting the zillion supplies and medicines in different bags. They know what medicines to give for what illnesses, and best of all, they care for these women with kindness and good humor. When all the ladies were seen and no one else was waiting on the benches on the porch, we packed it all back in the Jeep and headed “home” to Lakay Nou, our lovely compound.
Sometimes Haiti can discourage us. It is a complex culture with oh, so many problems. Progress is hard, malnutrition, material poverty (and apparently STI’s) are rampant, and the heat, dust, and roads can eat our equipment alive. But I see progress! I see bright and motivated students, competent and kind midwives, and even the suitcases are a little better organized. Midwives for Haiti has grabbed my heart, and I keep coming back to work with them, because it really, really, does help the moms and babies of Haiti live, and have a chance at a better life.