This was a blog I wrote in 2010 about an experience with one of our artisans who is STILL working today, raising her kids with dignity. It is a sobering reminder of how much Haiti needs good maternal healthcare, safe deliveries and an understanding of the psychology of childbirth.
This is what happened one evening more than five years ago… ( and every day since).
Last night almost crushed me.
Let me start at about 5pm. I was just finishing up a nice day at the Apparent Project studio, working with some ladies on beading when Rodney, one of our “street boys” approached me and said his mom was really sick… again.. and would I come to their tent. They live in a tent city of 5000 people. I had the privilege of camping next to them for five days about a month ago and have gotten to know their family ( of seven children in one small tent) pretty well. Rose (Rodney’s mom) also works as a jewelry artisan for the Apparent Project. She has had ongoing health issues including chronic migraines forever, so I am used to hearing that she is sick.
Still I took the opportunity to go to their tent to find out what was going on. I arrived at about 5:30pm and she was no where to be found. Apparently she had passed out and been taken to a hospital nearby. Her husband had just come home from work and was also in a daze wondering what had happened to his wife. It’s not easy to locate people in Haiti in the maze of tent cities and broken down building, but we decided to go try to find what hospital they had taken her to. Two hospitals later, we found what we were pretty sure was the “tent hospital” that she had been taken to. After arguing with the guards for 15 minutes about gaining admittance to look for her, I walked into a maze of connected tents like a humongous living room play fortress from when I was five years old. Only this was a hospital. We walked from tent to tent in the pouring rain trying to find Rose. We were told time and time and again that nobody by her name had been admitted. We knew that she had to be there though, so we persisted. Finally, we open a tent, and saw this crazy mess of hair sticking out from behind a partial wall for privacy and a grim face showing us that something was seriously wrong. They were hooking Rose up to an IV and things did not look good. They suspected an ectopic pregnancy. Rose was shocked by the positive pregnancy test as she thought she had had her tubes tied when she gave birth to Lori via C-section just last year. Rose is anemic and not strong enough to carry a baby. Not hardly strong enough to go through another surgery, but that’s what they started telling us she needed.
They said that they didn’t have the equipment they needed or the surgeons to perform the emergency surgery that Rose needed right now or she would probably die. They said that the hospital that could help her was near Cite Soleil- the most dangerous part of Haiti and that if they waited for an ambulance, it would probably be tomorrow before she got there. We quickly turned my hobbling 4runner into a makeshift ambulance and headed down to Cite Soleil in the pouring rain, flooded streets, after dark.
The maternity hospital that we were to take her to was nothing I could have prepared myself for. Even outside, the cries were loud and heart wrenching. Every woman I saw was by herself, crying in the dark in the rain as the pains of childbirth ravaged her. Every woman was without a hand to hold, without a calm voice to reassure, every woman was… alone. It only got worse as I entered the labor and delivery room. There were no less that 50 woman in labor, on the floor, in the hallways, screaming, bleeding, by themselves. No family was allowed to enter. Five valiant doctors were running around doing their best to handle birth after birth, but it was obvious that they had become numb to the pain around them. I looked over at a lady on a dirty plastic covered piece of cardboard for a bed. She was hemorrhaging. Two babies would die that night.
So this is hell I thought.
Rose started to cry as she realized she was about to have to have surgery again. She looked at me and said, “Shelley, Map mouri”. Shelley, I’m going to die. I pleaded with her not to think that way. You can do this Rose, I said. You can do this for your children and your family. You’re going to be ok, Rose.
So why was I there with her? Because I’m white. I had the privilege of being able to stand beside Rose for at least a little while and massage her feet and stroke her head and explain what an ectopic pregnancy was and let her know exactly what to expect. None of the other woman in the room had any idea what was happening to their bodies physically and no one was there to give them an once of comfort. It absolutely broke my heart.
Since when was the miracle of childbirth reduced to something out of a horror film? This is life for the ladies in the developing world of Haiti. No education, no rights, no choice, no one to advocate for them.
Rose is ok. She was whisked away to surgery that night- largely because of my big white face in the crowd. Today I checked up on her and they told me that she would die if she didn’t have a blood transfusion- translation: they gave her blood, so could we please donate our blood to restock the supply- ok then, I’ll work on that this week.
On my way out of the hospital a lady in labor grabbed my arm and started yelling at me in Creole. She thought I might be able to help her. She has been in labor for four days now. Her baby is dead in her womb and no doctor will help her. Neither could I.