Grief and Hope

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 |

“I have never seen so many sick and dying patients in my life.”

“Of the last 10 c-sections I performed, there were only 2 live babies.”

“None of the patients I admitted this week have made it.”

“Almost every morning when I get to the hospital to see the kids I admitted the day before, I find an empty bed.”

A mama and her baby(ies?) at the hospital. From the hospital website: Galmi.org

There are good doctors here.  These doctors work tirelessly, many of them having left their home countries to make a small dent in the medical field of an extremely poor country with very few doctors.  But the pain, diseases and suffering that they see here is orders of magnitude beyond what these doctors have previously experienced.  By the time patients arrive at the hospital, they are already critically ill with multiple diseases and complications.  The most-experienced physicians and the best-equipped hospitals couldn’t be expected to halt the cascade of debilitating cause-and-effects.

Children and women are the most vulnerable.  The doctors treat babies born with malaria, HIV, sepsis, or all of the above — and those are the live ones.  Pregnant women come in after being in hard labor for a week, or with a baby that hasn’t moved for several days.  I’ve learned that this year the hospital has seen an inordinately high number of pregnant women with a ruptured uterus, the dead baby floating in the mother’s abdomen.  Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, with over 7 1/2 babies born for each woman.  Most women that I’ve met here have around 9 kids, though that number doesn’t indicate the actual number of pregnancies.  Pregnancies are complicated by the young age of many of the mothers, lack of adequate nutrition and consistent prenatal care, and the hard manual work that is demanded of women.

"A third of obstructed births in Ethiopia result in the mother's death. Many who don't die wish they had." ~ from A Walk to Beautiful

The other day I saw the film, A Walk to Beautiful, a documentary about treating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.  A fistula is an “unnatural opening”, and in the case of obstetric fistula, it refers to a hole created between the birth canal and the bladder and/or rectum.  This happens when labor is obstructed and the baby’s head is continually pushed against the bones of the pelvis, cutting off blood supply to the tissue of the mother that is trapped between her pelvic bones and the baby.  The tissue dies because of the lack of blood, and a hole forms.  As if a long, obstructed labor and probable dead baby weren’t enough, the creation of the fistula means that the woman now continually leaks urine or feces or both.  She is ostracized from her community, hated and shunned even by her family.

The film highlights a fistula hospital in Ethiopia where women can get treatment and their lives back.  If they know about it and if they can get there.  For one of the women in the film it was a 6-hour walk to the nearest road and then a 17-hour bus ride to the capital city where the hospital is located.  Watching the film sparked a peculiar mix of emotions: outrage, sorrow, hope, joy.  But mostly I was thinking throughout the movie, These are my sisters.

Grateful for new life! (This image is also from the film, A Walk to Beautiful)

Fistula patients are treated at the hospital here, but several weeks back we were able to attend the opening ceremonies of a fistula hospital in Danja, another small town in Niger that’s a 7-hour, very bumpy drive from here.  I’m so grateful that women in the country (as opposed to just in the capital city) have access to such a life-restoring service.

***

Speaking of sisters…

It’s been a few days since I have been able to work on writing this post.  Today, I found out that the mother of the woman who helps me in the house has died.  I don’t know any details but Jeremy and Eva and I will visit the family tomorrow morning to spend some time with them while they grieve.

Mama A frequently carries Eva on her back. With 10 children (including one who died as a young child), Mama A has lots of babywearing experience!

Please pray for our time with them, that we would be a source of encouragement and comfort for their family.

Papa M and 6 of his 7 boys (boy #6 is taking the photo)

1 Comment to Grief and Hope

Yesenia
April 4, 2012

I LOVE your stories. Thank you!

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