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Published: August 8th 2014
Reality of where we are working and living hit. This is Africa. A mom came in today in labor. They think she had a UTI or Malaria, both of which often cause miscarriages here. This mom was four and a half months along with triplets. The babies started coming and there was nothing anyone could do. They all came out alive. Two died shortly after birth. They were so tiny. The little fingers were the circumference of a Q-tip stick. The third was still alive and crying even around two hours after they were born. I was so excited that one looked like he could make it. I wanted to see how they did neonatal care. What I found out next traumatized me. They have no neonatal care. Ngora is too small and pretty much the only place that has an incubator and lung stuff or anything for that small of a baby is in Kampala which is minimum five hours away. In the US, that would have been a life flight to Seattle Children's in Seattle. It was super sad. Instead they wrapped up the dead babies with the live baby in a towel a couple of times and laid
it on the bed beside her. To basically suffocate beside her. She said she couldn't afford to get to Kampala and didn't have any family there. It's a huge cost thing. To people that make an average of $2000/year, there is no way she is able to afford it. I left so the mother wouldn't see me crying. It was so sad. I couldn't handle it.
Afterwards, I talked to Dr Stephen about it and he said he thought they could have survived in under normal conditions. When he saw I had been crying he said that in med school they are taught "empathy" not "sympathy". Can you imagine? Now I know that sounds harsh but that was not how Dr Stephen meant it. They just see it all the time. It's so common to have miscarriages here. Many times when we are taking women's histories in clinic they will say they had four babies and two miscarriages or ten children and four miscarriages. I think most women and doctors expect it.
I went back towards the end of the day to talk to the mother. I wanted to express care for her and her situation.
When I came back the babies were still wrapped beside her (5ish hours later). They had wrapped them for her to bury. No crying.
I introduced myself and said, "I'm sorry." She turned around and said "I'm Anna." She had thought I was introducing myself to her. After she started asking me where I was from, what I was doing here, etc. Here is a woman who just lost three children and she was more concerned with who I was and what I was all about. I really think that is the reality of Uganda. They almost expect a miscarriage to take place during the course of having children. I have seen this in other people too. Dr. Julius said, when I asked about his family, that he had four brothers but two have died and there are only two left. It was very matter of fact. Death happens - kinda situation. The average lifespan of a person here is 55 years. I talked to the mom further and she ended by saying, "Thank you for being here and helping us. I saw you run out earier. Thank you for praying for me." Women of Uganda are strong, I think stronger than in the US.
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