Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It was the 19th of October, a Tuesday morning, and I was about to leave my house to teach Lydia for the morning when I get a phone call from Hellen (really it’s just a flash and I have to call her back, but I’ll explain flashing another day). So I call her back. Hellen is my house helper, but she’s currently on maternity leave so a flash from Hellen, makes me pray that my call goes through right away, as usually the call is going through only 10% of the time. By the grace of God it rings and Hellen answers and says, “Rebecca, I’m going to have the baby today.” This is somewhat concerning to me as Jennifer, the nurse, is out of town for the next week, and Hellen’s last baby was delivered at home because she lives in the village and by the time she was ready to go she didn’t have time to get to the hospital. I asked her if she wanted me to come and pick her up, she said, “it’s ok” (which here means yes) so I said I would come and get her. I quickly postponed teaching for the morning and headed off the 13km in the car to go and pick her up. I couldn’t imagine her riding on the back of a bicycle those 13km while having labor pains, but I think that would have been her other option, or have another kid at home (which as we soon discover probably would have been a better option…but anyway…) I think the best way to describe the rest is a sort of time table, it’s almost a month later now, so I hope I can remember everything, but I have to document before I forget anything else.
8:45am, pick up Hellen from near her home
8:55am, discover we need to pick up a few things from my house (a basin for washing, a matt for sleeping on, some tea, and some sterile gloves, etc…)
9:00am arrive at home, pick up things we need, make tea and head for the hospital (should have delayed longer at home)
10:00am arrive at hospital, notice a man digging a small hole in the driveway, don’t think twice about it, park just outside the maternity ward. Yes, I think Hellen is the only one to have arrived by personal motorcar.
11:00am Hellen is seen by the doctor who tells her to get put on an IV, she’s dilated to 4. Dr’s supposed to check back on her again in 4hrs. The nurse gives me a list of 4 items needed from the pharmacy in order to start the IV. Gives Hellena black plastic sheet and her file.
11:15am, attempt to drive to the pharmacy, only to find out my vehicle is now stuck in the maternity ward as the man who was digging a small hole, was actually working on a ditch across the whole driveway.
11:16am, decide to walk to the pharmacy, good thing it is very, very, near.
11:45am, return with the IV stuff, syringe, more gloves, tubing, and one other thing…
12:00pm the old lady has arrived, this is the mother-in-law of Hellen’s, she is affectionately and respectfully called amongjong by Hellen, which means, old lady. This means I am no longer the sole caretaker of Hellen. At the hospital you have to bring someone who will cook for you, who will help you bathe, who will go and get everything you need from the pharmacy, who will advocate for you, who will talk with you, etc…I had told Hellen since early in the pregnancy that I would be her care taker, however, we both knew I wasn’t caretaker material, as my cooking of Ugandan foods left something to be desired, and I’m white so I’d get too main responses from people: laughter (from those who would watch me try to cook over a sigiri) or extortion (from the nurses who would charge us extra for everything since I should have more money) all that to say, I’m glad the old lady showed up and lifted some of the burden (she’s a good cook).
12:30pm Hellen appears to be in good hands with amongjong, so I decide to try to go teach Lydia for a couple hours, my car still being stuck in the maternity ward, and the ditch continues getting deeper and deeper. I pay a quarter and ride home on the back of a boda boda (which is basically just riding on the back of a bicycle) I make it home and quick eat a sandwich and go and teach.
1pm-3pm Teach Lydia
3:30pm Go back to the hospital to check on Hellen. Hellen’s IV is finished so she’s kicked off the bed she is on and there’s no room to wait inside, so she comes outside to sit and then she wants to bathe (again, glad the old lady is there for giving that assistance). Hellen wants me to go pick up some fish for supper and get my sigiri (little charcoal stove) and a knife and a few other things for supper.
4pm I walk over to the ever-increasing ditch and converse with the tired digger. He asks me if I want him to fill it back in so I can drive the car over, as much as that would be nice, I feel bad for the guy who’s been digging all day, only to have to fill it back in, though he could have mentioned when I was first driving by that he was not just fixing a pothole, but rather digging a large ditch across the only access point by vehicle to the maternity ward….anyway, I’m over it, so I think I can go up over a curb, on to the grass, around the septic tank, onto a sidewalk, over another curb and then back onto the driveway, it will be tight, but after talking to the “supervisor” of the digging, we think this is the best option. He doesn’t think this white girl could manage to maneuver the vehicle through such an obstacle course, but I’m determined and go for it anyway. Needless to say, I made it and I think my audience was pleased, although they were probably wishing in their hearts that I would struggle a bit more, at least it would have brought more entertainment to that depressing place…
4:15pm I drove home, got the things I needed from there, then drove to the market to buy some fresh fish and vegetables.
5pm Back to the hospital, I’ve found a new parking spot. This one’s not as close to the door, but at least I should be able to leave again when I want to. I deliver the fish to the amongjong and greet Hellen. We sit outside and then it begins to sprinkle some rain, we would move inside, but there’s not really much room to sit from in, so we head over to the edge of the building where the roof hangs over enough to at least offer some bit of protection. At this point let me go back just for a minute. When Hellen was on the IV she had a bed in the labor room (three beds were there), the girl next to her was only maybe a month along in her pregnancy and kept throwing up, but I digress, so anyway, whenever I wanted to see Hellen there I would walk through the birthing room (three beds were there with a curtain between each) I would see something new. One time I walked out of Hellen’s labor room to see a head breaking forth from the womb, another time I saw two new borns laying together in an incubator, they weren’t twins, they just only have one incubator. So babies are being born throughout the day with a constant rotation of mothers on the birthing beds.
Sometime between 5-8pm we move inside to the benches while the old lady cooks, enough of the women have had their babies that there’s some clearing on the benches. Finally the food is ready and we go and eat just outside the entrance to the ward, on the ground. The fish and posho is good.
Something like 10pm comes around and I decide to leave. I want to stay for this baby, but maybe it won’t come until morning and there’s literally no place to sleep. Every bed has at least one woman on it and every inch of cement floor is covered with patients and with their helpers and with their luggage and anything else. Everyone seems content, except one lady who is pacing and groaning outside, her time is very near. I tell Hellen I’ll see her in the morning and I head off. Leaving her in the “good” hands of the TWO night nurses. So many women, only two nurses.
10:30pm I go home, have a quick shower and go to bed. I just close my eyes and I think even literally that second my phone rings,
11pm it’s hellen. “Rebecca, there are no more IV bottles in the hospital.” Me, silently, “WHAT!?! You have to be kidding, a hospital with no more saline drip, how do you just run out of that???” Me, out loud: “So you want me to bring you some?” of course the answer was yes. Thankfully I live with nurse Jennifer and she just happened to have the stuff I needed and I didn’t have to try to find a 24hr clinic. Praise the Lord for that! So I get dressed again and drive over to the hospital with the goods. This time I park in the driveway to the maternity ward, stopping just before the ditch. I run in and deliver the Saline drip.
11:30pm The guard comes and requests that I move my car because if there is an emergency and an ambulance needs to get through I would be in the way. I try to explain that even if I move my car there is still a giant ditch across the road that would hinder any ambulance from reaching the front doors anyway, but I soon gave up and just moved the car. (somethings you just can’t understand)
12am Hellen moves into the Birthing room so she can be on her IV. Another woman has an IV hooked up while she sits on the floor, so I’m glad that Hellen gets a bed. As I visit Hellen in the birthing room, I realize her contractions are pretty close and I begin to time them, they’re less than 5 minutes a part from what I can tell from her grimacing and noises, etc… She’s now on I think her 4th or 5th Saline drip of the day, and I’m still not sure why, she says to help the baby come quicker, but I don’t understand. Much of the rest is a blur.
I remember the nurse came in just as I was debating whether I should go out or stay with her, and then the nurse told me to help Hellen take her clothes off because she was going to begin pushing. I figured that meant I was going to stay and assist. This was further confirmed when the old lady walks in and then walks out saying something in iteso which translates roughly to “I can’t do this, let me go get my friend to come and help.”
1:15am Hellen begins pushing. The nurse puts on Hellen’s last two pairs of gloves and says she better push because those are the last two pair of gloves and if she has to take them off before the baby is out there will be no other gloves to put on. (no pressure hellen.) Hellen begins pushing and pushing and pushing. I remember the nurse was of no help. She slapped Hellen once and kept saying super encouraging things like, “you’re not even trying to push” and things like that.
2:15am Hellen is still pushing and this nurse has now given up. She says she’s tired and Hellen’s not really pushing. So she takes the gloves off and goes to the office to get some shuteye. At least there is one other nurse. This one is also somehow not super helpful, but at least she’s awake. She says her strategy is to just not put the gloves on until the head is coming out that way she doesn’t waste the gloves. This nurse is in and out, walking around and then she goes to converse with the other nurse in the office. Hellen’s telling me that she can’t do this, it’s just too hard. I txted my mother at that point after remembering that she had helped others to push correctly. The time difference in America was good cuz it was just early evening for her and she replied quickly with some instructions. I tried to pass the word on to Hellen as best I could but she was about giving up. I told her she was a very strong woman, carrying 4 jerry cans even on her bicycle. She still said she couldn’t do it, but then all the sudden she was doing it. Of course the nurse was out of the birthing room down in the office when the head starts coming out. I certainly didn’t know what to do once the baby started coming, so I called her from down the hallway. She came and when she saw the head she put her gloves on and started pulling the baby out.
2:40am I’m pretty sure that you don’t just pull the baby out, and I wondered how the poor kid’s neck was holding up, but he survived and came out and was set on top of Hellen. He didn’t cry much just a little whimper. Once the nurse cut the cord she took the baby to clean the stuff out of its mouth and nose. She slapped the feet a few times and the baby started crying. Oh yeah, it was a boy! Praise the Lord he was out and alive. Placenta, etc…were then delivered and the nurse was super mad because the black plastic sheet that Hellen was laying on had got moved a bit in the pushing and didn’t catch all the “stuff” and it got on her floor. So then the baby is sitting in the incubator thing, and hellen’s laying on the birthing bed and the nurse has got me and the friend of the old lady and the old lady cleaning the floor and the bed and everything else.
3:15am everything is cleaned up, I want to hold the baby, but the nurse says it’s too tired. I can imagine, but it’s not like I was going to make him run or anything. So he just lays there next to another baby who was born several hours before who was also “tired” and super petite (I found out the next morning that that baby did not make it.) Hellen is about to finish up her 6th Saline drip and I’m wondering where she’s going to go from there. All the beds are full in the “post birth” room and even the floor is full.
3:30am the nurse tells another lady who had delivered earlier in the night to move to another person’s spot and had that person move to another spot. Hellen now has a space cleared for her on the floor.
3:40am Hellen moves to her newly cleared spot on the floor just one hour after giving birth. No one else is close to having a baby yet so the second nurse also heads for the office for some shut eye leaving 50 or so patients unattended. The baby that is Hellen’s keeps crying. I try holding him and so does the old lady, and Hellen is exhausted, we can quiet him for a short time, but then he begins crying again, everyone else in this crowded ward is trying to sleep and our little baby is refusing to sleep. Hellen tries to feed him, but he won’t.
5:00 Finally she sits up with him and just starts praying thanking God and praying for her new baby. By the end of the prayer the baby had stopped crying and was resting peacefully. Hellen and the baby slept side by side on a thin matt on the cement floor as I sat on a bench somewhere watching the small rats run from place to place. Wow, what a day!
5:30am I’m now exhausted also and Hellen and the baby seem to be doing well and there’s no place for me to lay my head, so I decide to go home and sleep for a few hours.
6am-9am I sleep
10:00am I go back to the hospital and find Hellen sitting outside with the old lady and her auntie who has come to visit and bring tea. There was no place inside to be.
I had brought a skirt for her to wear since her other two now had blood on them and I called our guard to bring water b/c they were out at the hospital. Hellen went inside and got the health card and birth card and the baby got one shot and a few drips of some immunizations. She told me that I would be the one to name the Christian name and the old lady would name the other name.
12pm It’s time to go home. I go and get my car and we head for home. I told her I wanted to call the baby Nathan. She said it was ok. She nor the baby ever saw a doctor from several hours before birth up until she left. (I found out later that when she had first arrived the Dr. slapped her for having a white person with her).
1pm Arrive at home and give the baby a bath.
Still a lot of crying and not yet drinking anything. Hellen begins feeding with sugar water. Hellen’s husband the father of this baby, who decided not to come to the hospital at all was not at home when we arrived. When he did arrive he didn’t even greet the baby or ask Hellen how she was or anything, this culture is so different from what I’m used to. I told him, congratulations he had a boy. He left to go get water from the borehole. When 2pm I left I was a bit concerned about this baby, but I continued to pray because there was nothing else I could do. The next day Hellen called me and said the baby was still not eating kept crying, I didn’t know what she wanted me to do about it, then she says, “You pray.” So I hung up and that’s what I did. This whole experience made me realize just how dependant on our heavenly Father many of my Ugandan friends have to be. There’s no other option. And so they are blessed somehow through this fellowship of suffering with the Father a blessing in the states that we so often miss out on. The end.