Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yolette's victory

The women in our maternity program are all special and unique in their own ways. Some ladies we accept in into the program because of their age, some it's because of connections they have to us, and others we accept because of their stories.
Yolette is a woman we accepted because of her story. Yolette is vivacious full of energy. Her smile is contagious, and her personality is larger then life.
When we initially met with her to talk about her childbearing history, I was taken back by her story. She was pregnant one previous time. Seven months into her pregnancy she started bleeding. She ended up loosing the baby and almost dying herself. I can't imagine what it would be like to loose a baby like that then be pregnant again. She stated her story as a matter of fact and was excited to be pregnant again.
I have a soft spot in my heart for women in this situation. Women who have lost a first child then are faced with pregnancy and birth for a second time. These ladies have a unique vulnerability cause of their situation. Because of the trust we build with each woman, their birth can be a place of love and healing.
Yolette called late afternoon saying that she was in labor. Beth and I jumped in the truck and headed on down to the maternity center to be with her. Yolette labored well. She was centered and confident. She wanted to be upright and work with her body. She was ready to push shortly after we got there. She sat on our birth stool and I sat beside her. She was content being with Beth and I. Slowly with each contraction the baby started coming down. As the birth came closer we suspected that the baby's shoulder was stuck behind his mother's pubic bone. Yolette moved onto her hands and knees which allowed the baby's shoulder to pass under the pubic bone and come out.
The baby boy went straight into his mother's arms. We all rejoiced when he let out a big lusty cry. Yolette's sisters on the porch were singing praises and came to the window to see the new baby.
Yolette grabbed and hugged Beth and I with her baby on her lap and thanked us. In that moment I thought how amazing and special it was for this baby to be born surrounded by such love. Yesterday Yolette wrote a beautiful new chapter in her story.
I can honestly say I do not think I have seen such a healthy baby born here in Haiti. He weighed 8 lbs, 4 0z. at birth.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Guerda is one of the lovely ladies in our Maternity Program. This is Guerda's second time in our program. She went through the program 2 years ago when she was pregnant with her first baby. Guerda had a relatively normal pregnancy until she reached her seventh month. In her 33rd week of pregnancy, she developed high blood pressure and started to pass protein in her urine. These are the classic signs of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is still a mystery disease. There are theories about the origin of preeclampsia, but we still do not have the full picture. We know specific groups of women who are higher risk of getting it. Once a woman is diagnosed with preeclampsia we know how to help control her symptoms and we know that birth is the cure to the disease. Women can first have symptoms of preeclampsia starting in their 20th week, but most of the time symptoms start after the beginning of the third trimester or 32 weeks. This was the case with Geurda. We diagnosed her with preeclampsia when she was 33 weeks pregnant. From that point on we've seen her on a daily basis. For the past 2 1/2 weeks she has come faithfully every day to the maternity center. We'd feed her, monitor her blood pressure and urine, give her medicine, and let her rest for a couple hours. Guerda never complained, she understood how serious her situation was and made a way to come every day.
In Haiti, preeclampsia/eclampsia kills more women then any other pregnancy/birth related issue. Women in Haiti know what preeclampsia is and what it can do. When I told Geurda she had preeclampsia, I asked her if she knew what that was. She said it could kill her baby.
Prenatal care is so important for pregnant women. With routine prenatal care, a practitioner will be able to diagnose problems like preeclampsia and treat them accordingly. According to UNICEF statistics, only 54% of Haitian women get routine prenatal care(4 or more check ups) during pregnancy. That means that nearly half of pregnant women in Haiti are not getting the care they need. These women are left in a vulnerable position. If they develop a complication like preeclampsia, they may not get to help they need before their situation becomes life threatening. Help late may be too late. UNICEF reports that the maternal mortality rate in Haiti is 670 out of 100,000. Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere. Sixty women in Haiti die to every 1 woman in the US from complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Looking at statistics like these show how important healthcare and education is here in Haiti.
When a woman develops preeclampsia, decisions for her care are based on what is best for mother and baby.
If a woman's symptoms are not severe, it's better for the baby to continue the pregnancy till 37 weeks. At 37 weeks gestation, a baby is fully developed and shouldn't have issues related to prematurity. But if preeclampsia becomes severe before 37 weeks, delivering the baby is necessary. We were hoping Geurda would make it to 37 weeks but her condition worsened in her 35th week.
Sunday evening we had to make the decision to induce. Geurda came in Monday morning calm and peaceful. She knew what was ahead of her and approached labor with a calm strength. With the help of Dr Jen and a consulting OB in the states, we were able to safely provide the care she needed for the labor and delivery. Five hours after we started her induction, she delivered a baby girl. Her baby was born healthy and a good size for her age.
We will keep Guerda at the maternity center for a few more days and monitor her closely.

We are all so thankful and blessed for such a great outcome. Beth and I have talked a few times about what might of happened to Guerda if she wasn't receiving prenatal care. Would she have known she was in danger? Most pregnant women wouldn't know there is something wrong if they weren't receiving care. Would she have seized in her home? Would she and her baby be alive? It is hard to know. We do know that there are women in Haiti who are not getting prenatal care who have preeclampsia. What happens to them? It breaks my heart to think of it.
Please join us in prayer for Guerda as she continues to heal. Lets also pray for the women of Haiti who are in need prenatal care and a safe place to birth their babies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Water and Vitamins

Yesterday Beth taught an amazing class on water and vitamins to the ladies in our childhood development class. Most Haitians are chronically dehydrated. They do not have an abundance of clean water readily available. They have to put forth effort to get clean water. In the video below you will see some of the tactics Beth used to get the message across about how important staying hydrated is to our health.

Click on the link below to view the video

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grace's Miracle

Friday morning I got a call saying that Ruth was on her way to the Maternity Center in labor. My head was flooded with different thoughts and emotions. Ruth had been in our program for 4 months. Over that time we had gotten to know more about her. Ruth was pregnant with her first child. She lives alone and works selling home brewed liquor. She is soft spoken but exudes independence and self reliance. You can tell the heaviness of life weighs down on her. This isn't something I have seen much in first time moms in our program. I think part of the weight comes with her age. Ruth is older then most girls are, having their first baby in our program. Ruth's birth was something I had great anticipation for. I was excited to get to support her through her birthing experience.
When Ruth got to the Maternity Center she seemed excited that her baby was finally coming. She labored very well. Her quiet, calm spirit worked to in her advantage in labor. She would calmly breathe through contractions, wanting her back rubbed from time to time. She labored quietly into the evening and night. Most women in labor you can tell by how they act and what noises they make how far they are into their labor. With Ruth because she was so calm we really couldn't tell. She never seemed scared of the pain. Both her and the baby responded well with labor all the way through until she began to push.
It is normal for a baby's heart rate to fluctuate some in at the end of labor as the baby is making it's way out. As Ruth began to push, her baby's heartbeat dropped some but returned to normal after the contraction was over. We continued monitoring the baby's heartbeat closely. After a few more pushes the baby's heart rate started dropping and instead of recovering it kept dropping. We were all alarmed by what we heard. We knew that this was a serious situation. With out dramatic improvement this baby could die. We quickly flipped her over on her hands and knees from her side hoping that with a big positional change the baby would recover. Once she was on her hands and knees we started listening to the heartbeat. The baby's heartbeat went from being in the 50's to 150 within seconds. I felt like God had done a miracle. Twenty minutes later she delivered an crying baby girl. We were all so relieved that the baby was okay. Because of the way that the heartbeat dropped, we presume that as the baby was being pushed down, it compressed the umbilical cord in such a way that the pressure did not release after the contraction. We praise God that we were listening right when the heartbeat dropped so dramatically. If we listened only a couple minutes later it might of been too late. If she delivered most anywhere else the chance of this baby's survival would be very low. Without monitoring the heartbeat you wouldn't know about a situation like this. Turning her over on her hands and knees was enough movement to release the pressure on the cord. I believe God has very special plans for this baby's life. Ruth's birth shows me once again just how precious and fragile life is.

Ruth named her daughter Grace. It is not common for Haitians to give their babies a name at birth. Partly this is due to so many babies here dying. The last few women we have delivered have already picked out names before they deliver. This shows us that they are expecting to have a live baby. It is very special to be a place of life and hope.
We have seen Ruth a couple times since she delivered. She is adjusting to a whole new life. Please be praying that God would encourage her and give her much grace and patience in being a new mother.

"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fractures, amputations, and a baby too!

Last night was another one of those memories that will not fade any time soon. I was at Troy and Tara's house for the night getting ready to go to bed when Troy got a phone call from Beth saying that were was a girl in labor needing a place to deliver. She had fell of her belly during the earthquake and had been bleeding since she started labor. We decided that we would take care of her. With our team of doctors we have an OB/GYN with us right now. He is great. He has done some work in Kenya and other parts of the world and is used to doing obstetrics in more dire situations. When we got to the clinic and initially assess her we discovered that the baby was not doing okay. He was in severe distress. She still had hours of laboring to do before she was ready to deliver. Chris (our OB doc) decided he would do a c-section. We brought her downstairs to our trauma area and called the Steve the anesthesiologist, Jenn our pediatric doc, and Tara to come help. I was trying to figure out how to start the generator while Chris was pulling supplies off the table and creating a sterile field on the desk. I finally got the generator started and got the flood lights working. Chris and I quickly got our sterile gowns on, Steve gave anesthesia through the IV and we were ready to go and got the baby out within 90 seconds of the first incision. When the baby came out he was blueish-white and unresponsive. I clamped and cut the cord and handed him off to Jen who started working on him and resuscitating him. When we opened the uterus to deliver him the placenta had already abrupted. I assisted Chris in closing back up the uterus and abdomen. The little boy came around after a few minutes and pinked up. As of now both mother and baby are okay. That was the first c-section I have ever seen in person or assisted with. I am honored to have been a part of it. If she wasn't able to get a c-section the baby for sure would of died, and the mom would of been at high risk of bleeding to death. I praise God that didn't happen. In the middle of all this devastation it is refreshing to bring new life into the world

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Week Ago Today

Tonight I read one of my friend's blog who lived through the earthquake here in Haiti. Reading it gave me courage to share my story with you.
I arrived back in Haiti five days before the earthquake struck. I had commited to stay in Haiti through the end of July. My first few days back were great. I got to see friends I hadn't seen in a long time. I even made a new friend named Joanna Thiele. She is an OB nurse who came down to Haiti about a week after I left in November. She was helping out at the women's program during my time away. We decided it would be fun for her to stay at the clinic with me Monday through Friday. Monday night was great getting to know her better. We both have a passion for caring for and serving women. Last Tuesday we had our childhood development class for our haitian ladies. It was great getting to see all the ladies and babies. Later in the afternoon Joanna and I were alone at the clinic chilling and preparing pizza for dinner. Pizza is one of my favorite things to make. I made the dough and was letting it rise till about 5pm. A little before 5 I headed down to the kitchen to chat with Cherline, our house helper. As I was walking down the stairs I could feel them starting to shake. I immediately looked at Cherline and smiled and asked her if she could feel it. It started out little at first and then it got more violent. My smile immediately turned into panic. I ran to the kitchen door and pinned Cherline to the door frame. The water jugs started falling off the counters and the fridge opened and started emptying on us. I was trying the best I could not to fall to the ground. I kept looking up at the ceiling watching for cracks, wondering if the ceiling was going to fall down on top of us. Soon Billy, Cherline's brother, came running through the kitchen, slipping and falling on the puddle of water and food on the floor. He yelled at us to get out of the house. We opened the kitchen door and all 3 of us ran outside, jumping over fallen cement blocks on the way to the gate. Once outside the earthquake started to fade off. I started yelling for Joanna who was still upstairs. I didn't hear a response. Once the quake stopped I ran back inside yelling for her. She answered just as worried about me as I was about her. She was also yelling for me inside and she couldn't hear me. She came down stairs and asked what happened. I said there was an earthquake. She knew it was but was in shock. As we were talking my hands were trembling from the high levels of adrenaline in my body. We all went out into the street. The whole city was screaming. I have never heard anything like that before, and hopefully will never again. There was a lot of people on the move on the main street. I kept calling people and couldn't get through to anyone but Sara Wallace in Jacmel. She said she was okay. The haitians living on my street all were freaking out. A few of them thought Jesus was coming. After a little while John McHoul arrived on his bike. He reported everyone else was okay. After a couple of hours we headed down to his house for the night to sleep. It was scary walking down the street at night in the dark with hundreds of terrified people passing by. About 12am Troy stopped by the house to tell John that he went down town to check on an orphange. He stopped by some other missionaries named Bill and Suzette who had started started seeing wounded people outside their house. He said they needed supplies and help. Joanna and I jumped on that. We went to the clinic to get supplies then headed across town to help out. Driving there was my first glimpse of the city. I could see a few buildings down in the headlights, but what made the biggest impression on me was the thousands of people who were camped out in the median of the street, terrified to get near any buildings. When we arrived at Bill and Suzettes I was put right to work cleaning wounds and suturing. It was exciting to get to help out and do something instead of feeling helpless. The reality of what I saw that night was hard. The type of wounds these people had were really unpleasent. Wounds created mostly by flying cement blocks during the quake. The reality of thousands of people still trapped in buildings was hard to even think about. Because the earthquake happened right before dusk nobody really knew how bad it was. Darkness fell before we could see the extent of the damage. In the morning when the sun started coming up I was fearful of what it would show. I didn't want to face the reality of what happened. With dawn arriving their was no escaping the devastation. A helicopter flew over the residence and I knew the world was going to see how bad it was. We kept working hard at the clinic. As the sun rose people started flowing in with extensive injuries, some people covered in cement dust from being trapped under rubble. The 3 main injuries I saw the first couple days was lacerations, broken bones, and compartment syndrome. It was overwhelming to see how badly people were injured. I kept questioning why I ended up so lucky. Any of these people could of been me. It is unbelieveable how one minute can change everything. In one minute Haiti was physically broken. Thousands of people died, and thousands more yet to die. By midafternoon I had sutured five head lacerations and an elbow. I took a break and headed to the guest house. I layed down and started bawling. The reality of what happened was overwhelming. A couple ladies held me and prayed for me. It was so nice to have that comfort. Not too long later Troy came back to pick us up. I was exhausted to the core but didn't want to leave. So many people needed help. Joanna and I left and went back to John's to sleep a couple hours then headed back to the clinic later in the evening. We stayed again through the next afternoon helping take care of the wounded. By the second day we had 4 or 5 haitian doctors from the neighborhood helping. It seemed like the longer I was there the wost the injuries I saw. We headed back to Heartline territory thursday afternoon. By this time we realized their was a gas shortage and we wouldn't be able to get back over to the clinic. I was privledged to get to help out and sobered by all that I saw. Driving back to our house we saw quite a few bodies on the sides of the street. Many buildings were destroyed. Like I said, it is unbelievable how so much can change in just one minute. On friday morning I was up early talking with John. He mentioned the idea on doing a medical outreach at the women's center and having doctors come down from the states to help. I was so excited about the idea. My heart is to take care of the sick and suffering. Later that morning all the heartline people in Haiti met and talked about the idea and decided to go ahead and do it. The idea was to have medical people show up by Sunday and start seeing the wounded on Monday. That gave us a couple days to try to prepare. On Sunday we had our intial team come in. It was such a relief to have more help. Monday we opened our doors and started seeing the wounded. It is incredible knowing that these people have been suffering for a week now without getting good or any care. I am relieved that we are able to physically help people who would otherwise not get help. There are SO many people wounded in Haiti. The hospitals that are still standing are incredibly overwhelmed. There is just not enough medical care for the need right now, and people are dying cause they are not receiving help. Our doors are open to the wounded. We have no idea at this point how long this will last. Is could be a couple weeks or longer. There are many people in haiti who have received amputations this last week, and many more who will need them. This is leaving potentially thousands of haitians disabled. It is overwhelming to think about what these people are up against now. Haiti was bad enough before. One thing I know though is that haitians are tough people. It is unbelievable the pain and suffering so many are going through right now due to their injuries and lose of family and friends. Please continue to pray with me for Haiti.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Last night we had a rather shocking delivery. Mirlande delivered on the street waiting for a ride to the clinic. She said that she was sitting then stood up and the baby fell out of her. Not too long after the birth, a man in a truck picked Mirlande and her family up and brought them to the clinic. Stephanie and I went out to the gate to see what was going on and to our surprise, Mirlande was in the front of the truck with her baby covered in dirt in her arms. We quickly cut the cord and delivered the placenta and got Mirlande and her baby into the clinic. I Primarily took care of the baby. Besides being covered in dirt from his peculiar birth, He seemed to be doing okay. I gave him a bath right away to clean him off, then weighed and clothed him. While I was taking care of the baby, Stephanie took care of Mirlande. Soon after that Beth and Paige arrived. I praise God that Mirlande had a normal birth besides the birth location. She did not lose a lot of blood, and the baby is doing okay. It could have been a lot different. This was Mirlande's third pregnancy. Her second baby died a month after birth.

After Mirlande and the baby were clean I gave the baby to her to breastfeed. With her baby in her arms she smiled and laughed. Then her laughing turned into crying. I think she is such a courageous women having experienced a birth like that. Please pray for Mirlande and her baby that they will recover well and he won’t develop any infections from being born in the dirt.