A Cool Drink

Photo: Paolo Patruno

It is difficult to illustrate the lack of descent, safe, respectful maternity care for women in much of the developing world. To help show the realities that many women face in such low resource countries, we have included an excerpt from an article written by Vicki Penwell, founder of Mercy In Action, entitled Down Mercy Road; A Cool Drink[1]. DHI sees Doulas as being the hands and feet of Christ,  physically, emotionally and spiritually caring for and serving some of the world’s most vulnerable women.

A COOL DRINK

“Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 14:31 (NIV)

In the provincial hospital where I worked in the Philippines, I saw the poor abused every day. Terrible things were done to them. Sometimes they died from their illnesses and sometimes from the rough treatment. Babies were delivered around the clock, at the rate of about one every hour. In an eight-hour shift I would rarely see the doctors wash their hands. I saw women lifted onto delivery tables that were still smeared with the blood of the last patient. Women in labor were berated for being dirty and ignorant. I saw cruelty, neglect, and verbal and physical abuse.

One day a very poor woman from the provinces was brought to the hospital, in labor with her eighth baby. It was dead inside of her, and a poisonous infection had spread throughout her system. A lifetime of suffering and grief were etched on her face. Though only 28 years old, she was missing her front teeth, and her whole body appeared worn and spent. The doctor angrily told her she was stupid to have so many children, and it was all her fault that now she might die, too. She was burning up with fever, and had no money to buy antibiotics. Hospitals in poor countries don’t provide any drugs or supplies; you must buy your own, and if you can’t, you receive no treatment.

She was put on a bed in the far corner to labor alone. After the doctor left, I went over to her and offered her a cup of water, gently lifting her shoulders to help her take a sip. As long as I live I will never forget the look on her face. To me it was just a small kindness, a drink of water! But her response utterly broke my heart. It was as if I had done something wonderful and unbelievable. Her gratitude was totally out of proportion to the deed. I realized then that she had spent a lifetime deprived of kindness.

Hours later, the poor little dead baby was finally dragged from her body, and she lay close to death herself. For three days she clung to life by a thread, delirious with fever from the infection that raged unchecked. I went to see her every day, and though she wasn’t coherent, I prayed for her. On the fourth day, to my amazement, she was sitting up in bed when I came, and with smiles and tears asked me to pray with her to receive Jesus as her Lord. She told me He had come to her in her delirium as I was praying the day before. She knew it was He who had healed her.

Can the church give up her mandate to care for the poor? Can we assume they will be taken care of somewhere else if we don’t, or won’t? Where is the mercy, the compassion that has to accompany physical healing? Without it, people will not be made whole, even with the very best medical care.