Today we had the unexpected treat of touring the maternity ward of an Ethiopian hospital.
We finished our meeting with Dr. Henok, and he happily agreed to show us around the hospital.
This is a government hospital so delivery here is supposedly free. But in reality the women must bring a list of supplies with them, and if she needs any extra interventions such IV fluids, antibiotics or a cesarean section, the woman must pay. This economic reality deters many from coming and has resulted in the birth of our “DHI Medical Emergency Fund“, which will ensure that none of the women in our care will ever be denied necessary medical treatment.
Pregnant women are also told to bring one or two healthy adults with them at time of delivery, for if they hemorrhage they must have someone capable of donating blood on their behalf. Dr. Henok explains that often times he himself must offer up his own blood for the woman because if she comes alone or without a suitable donor, she will be denied the lifesaving blood that her hemorrhaging body needs. Most likely, she will die.
I think of all the women in the slum of Korah where we will soon begin working, the widows or those who have been abandoned by their husbands. They go alone and the risk is high.
We enter the ward through a long hallway with “recovery rooms” on each side. We call this a “hallway”, they call it “the Waiting Room”.
We had been told that the women “labor” in the “waiting room” and are then called back to the Delivery Room at stage 2, when they are ready to actually give birth. We, in our western mindset, envisioned, well, a “Waiting Room”… But this, this is a hallway.
Thankfully the laboring women can walk freely around the hospital compound and are not confined to this one area. However, the lack of space for sleeping or relaxing still makes me sad. How is she to have enough energy for the whole process of labor, birth, and recovery, if she can’t lie down to rest.
And then… only then…after hours, possibly days of exhausting physical labor, she finally lies down for 3-6 hours of “recovery” (ahhh… that foolish word again). And just as she settles in and is about to fall asleep, she is discharged and sent on her way.
I begin to understand more and more why hemorrhaging is such a huge risk… Exhaustion, fatigue, dehydration, malnutrition… they all increase a woman’s risk of hemorrhaging. This is why women in Africa say “good bye” to their children when they leave to birth a child. They likely may never come home.
Amazingly, the recovery rooms are packed with women and their babies. It must have been a busy day.
I smell the blood of life, of birth, or of death. It is still fresh.
I look around at red drops on the floor, at buckets brimming with red, and find evidence that my senses are accurate. This is what blood smells like.
At the time of delivery when the woman enters the delivery room the doors are shut and she delivers alone, with only the midwife (or doctor or nurse). No support person is allowed. (Are we bold in stating that we hope to change this;)
After delivery she is immediately moved to the “recovery room”, where her body has what must feel like just a few moments to rest.
And then just a few short hours after birth, mother and baby are sent on their way.
There is no plan for follow up care. They are now on their own left to survive the dangerous postpartum period that claims so many lives.
We meet the other doctors, the midwives, and the Dean of the Hospital. Dr. Henok explains our program to them. They are kind, they are excited. They want us here.
When we first landed in Ethiopia just days before we were alone in our ambitions. However, we trusted the Lord to bring us allies. We begin to meet our comrades and we feel surprisingly encouraged. We never expected to find an alliance here, in this hospital. We feel blessed.
We end our time at the hospital exchanging contact information and committing to our newly formed partnership.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”
Thank you for reading about our vision and program.
Our mission is to bring hope, healing and compassion to those most vulnerable in our world. Compelled by Christ’s love, we improve maternal, newborn and child health, and promote family preservation and the prevention of orphans.
With His Hope,
Kameron and the DHI Team