Thursday, 23 April 2009


I am just not going to apologize any more for writing so infrequently. I really don’t find the time as my work here continues to diversify. From catching babies on labour ward, to teaching both in and out of the classroom, co-ordinating for the set up and running of the new maternity unit and a mountain of others areas in which I seem to have become involved, writing my blog seems to have dropped very low on my list of priorities. I know it is the only way that some of you manage to keep in touch so I will continue as often as I can. I do think of you all often even though you don’t hear from me.
Wednesday was a particularly busy day on labour ward. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find a day when I can spend my whole time on the ward without the interruptions of my other responsibilities. I do enjoy it very much and am therefore reminded where my true love lies. It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go normally. I attended more obstetric pathology in that day then many would see in a month or more! I continue to be reminded of the awful situations that women are facing daily through lack of money, education and resources. At one point in the afternoon we had 4 women queuing up for their emergency c/section. There was great debate as to who should go first. The woman who had arrived with us in such a critical state we just didn’t know how we could save her life. Her 30 week fetus had been dead for some time. She had started to labour a few days ago in her village. The labour became obstructed and her uterus ruptured spilling out the infected necrotic matter into her abdominal cavity .The only answer was surgery to remove the baby and the uterus, but her condition was so critical it would be dangerous to operate. We had no choice, so she went to theatre. As I prepared her, pumping her full of antibiotics, I talked to her and caressed her poor distended semi conscious body hoping she would at least understand the tone of my voice or the touch of my hands if not the words that I spoke. It still amazes me that women can reach such a severe state before finding their way to our doors. Another mother had arrived at the same time. Her labour had been obstructed for many hours. She was exhausted and the baby was severely distressed, but it was she went first!
My priority on labour ward at this time is the clinical teaching of our midwifery students. There are many students and few trained staff. It is difficult to ensure that they are always supervised and mistakes occur due to their inexperience. I spend my time passing from bed to bed watching over them, asking questions, giving explanations, teaching, showing, guiding, repeating the same things over and over again, but I never tire as I see them respond and improve and learn. This particular woman had been labouring all day. About the same time as the 2 emergencies arrived she was showing signs that she may not be able to deliver vaginally. We had been watching the baby carefully and were starting to think of sending her for a c/section. This was now out of the question. She would have to wait her turn which as things were looking could be more than 3 hours. I waited as long as I could but the baby’s condition continued to deteriorate. I decided to try a vacuum extraction. Thanks to my years in Acuario where I had truly been learning the ‘art’ of midwifery and learnt to develop and trust my instincts as a midwife, I had become able to judge whether a baby could be born vaginally even in some of the most difficult circumstances. (There are still times when one never can be sure so would therefore opt for a c/section, just in case) But I had no choice. It really wasn’t easy and there were moments when I felt like giving up but that would be condemning the baby to certain death, so I slowly, very slowly continued. I should also say that our equipment is not the best. Parts are missing and pumps don’t work. It’s all manual no machines and no modern stuff. ( Do you realize the amount of second rate, out of date, what no one else wants things we’s not good enough for the rich but it’s OK for Africa stuff!) Eventually the little one was born. My colleague resuscitated the baby and I took him to nursery. This morning he was off oxygen and suckling at his mother’s breast! Amazing! Yes it feels good, but no, it’s not good. They should have had the possibility of a c/section.
The director of The Rose Project will arrive in Malawi on Monday. Discussions will take place to finalize the details for the handing over of the new unit to the District Health Authority. The buildings are nearly ready and the equipment and furniture is starting to arrive. These are exciting but scary times. Staffing, or lack of, is still a problem. Adapting to the new environment is going to be a huge challenge. I am spending much time confronting these issues on all levels and in all aspects.
Lucas returned to school after his Easter break. He was happy to be back. This term his after school activities include athletics, chess, cross-country running and kick-ball (whatever that is?)When we arrived last year he found it difficult to express himself in English. Now there’s no stopping him! We have a deal whereby at least 2 days a week we only speak Spanish and of course Aragorn, Legolas and Gimmle only speak Spanish!