Photo Credit: Cheryl Hanna Truscott
“I have been in Haiti for nearly 2 years with MFH and recently I have been reflecting on what I am doing here and the impact that we have in this hectic, unpredictable place.
Many of you know some of the stress and heartache this job can throw at you and over the past 22 months I have faced some of the most difficult times of my life. Too many women and babies have suffered and died, too many times there has been too little, too late.
I am about half way through my second class and there have been many times that I have wondered if what we are giving our students is enough to prepare them for the challenges they will face. I fear them feeling helpless, I fear them not knowing what to do and I fear them carrying the burden of guilt that comes with those situations. They are intelligent, resourceful and brave but they are only human and the weight of holding the lives of so many in their hands (and for many they will carry that responsibility alone) is immense. They will care for women in their communities, they may lose women they love, family members, friends and neighbours. How can you possibly prepare anybody for that?
So, I worry and I wonder, especially after the last couple of months when everything has started to seem a bit desperate again (things seem to eb and flow so that one month may feel like every moment holds a new disaster and the next will fool you into thinking you finally have a handle on the situation).
Recently though I had a couple of ‘moments’ that reminded me why we are here. The first happened early on a monday morning as the students, the preceptors and I prepared to start work in the hospital. A pickup truck pulled up outside maternity carrying an unconscious woman with a retained placenta and a serious, ongoing PPH. She was obviously in shock and as we maneuvered her from the truck on a filthy mattress and rushed her into L&D, I felt the familiar tightness I always feel when we have a patient that I’m afraid may need more than we have to give. She was quickly transferred to a table and Miss Guerlie set about manually removing the placenta as students and preceptors worked together to provide fluids, empty her bladder, give her the essential drugs that she needed, make blood requests and put on the anti-shock garment that would help us to stabilise her. All this was achieved in minutes and with an efficiency and confidence that made me stop and take stock. No emergency buzzer was pressed – we don’t have one, no multidisciplinary team of experienced professionals rushed in – we don’t have one, It is just them. It was just our preceptors, graduates and students working to save the life of a woman in grave danger, and they did – and they do – every single day.
The other thing that happened is our first bi-annual continuing education. Previously we did them every 2 months, here in Hinche, but we decided earlier in the year that a more formal 2 day obstetric emergency refresher with additional lectures would be more professional and would give employers some confidence that the graduates were up to date.
We decided that we would deliver the training using a combination of our preceptors, our teacher and Haitian medical professionals to give lectures on PPH and multiple pregnancy with practical sessions on obstetric emergency drills.
Of course I was a little nervous as, although we had been planning for ages, you never really know how a change will be received.
I should never have worried! Everybody was fantastic!!!
The preceptors were professional and competent, the Lecturers were engaging and relevant and the venue was good.
The most impressive thing of all though, was the graduates. They were so completely and breathtakingly brilliant! They sang, they laughed, they shared experiences but most of all, they absolutely nailed it. They asked insightful questions, they took notes and references and they KNEW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT! Every question was answered, examples were provided and as the days went on I felt more and more proud and less and less scared.
I now realise that the education that they received from us and the subsequent experiences that they have had, have made them the saviours of countless mothers and babies. They are competent and compassionate and when people come to them for help, putting their trust in these graduates’ hearts and hands, they do so wisely.
There will always be tragedy, there will always be times where there is too little, too late but I know that they will do their best to save the lives that can be saved and learn from those that aren’t.
So I think I can say that we are doing a good job. We are not always perfect but this work really is doing what it says on the packet and so I want to say thank you. Thank you to every person who has ever helped us to do this good work. For every dollar and pound from your pocket, for every hour of your lives given as a volunteer and for every time you liked or shared a story so that other people might know what we are trying to do. We are all really, truly grateful.”
Written by Perrine Stock, Clinical Director at Midwives For Haiti
Photo Credits: Perrine Stock