Emergency Down the Mountain – Guatemala
Posted: August 4, 2017
This story is from a collection of true stories experienced by the Mayan people living in the highlands of Guatemala circa 1994. This collection was put together by Dr. Mario, the Project Director of Curamericas Guatemala, and his team to reflect on the life and health of these families and a search to find for solutions to these problems.
It’s a Matter of Life or Death
In 1994, Dr. Mario and the clinic staff were invited to the inaugural ceremony of the area’s very first radio station. The town in Guatemala had agreed to allow the clinic to use the station to broadcast health education messaging. About halfway through the ceremony, a man from a nearby town came running up to Dr. Mario. Exhausted from his journey but stricken with panic, the man informed the doctor that his daughter-in-law was in labor, and had been for hours.
“Run faster! She is going to die!”
Dr. Mario and a few members of the clinic staff grabbed their emergency kits and took off running with the woman’s father-in-law. The house was a two-hour walk away, though luckily for the doctor and his team, it was almost completely downhill. They sprinted the whole way down the mountain. Every now and then the father-in-law would cry “Run faster! She is going to die!” and everyone would speed up.
When they finally arrived, the man led them to a small shack with no light. It was just one room, big enough for only about ten people. The patient was lying on the dirt floor the middle of room, with relatives crowded around her.
The doctors immediately got to work. Their initial examination told them that the baby’s heartbeat was dangerously slow. Try as they might, the baby would not come. The delivery took hours, leaving the woman and clinic staff exhausted. When the baby finally came out, everyone’s worst fears were confirmed. There was no pulse.
Decisions to be Made
Immediately after the delivery, the woman began hemorrhaging heavily. The doctors began trying all sorts of maneuvers to try to stabilize her. However, the doctors knew that if she did not stabilize quickly, they would be out of resources. They had already used most of what they had in their emergency kits for the long delivery. Against all odds, the doctors stopped the hemorrhaging and the mother was no longer in danger. The family grieved the loss of the baby, but praised the doctors for arriving in time to save the woman.
One of the greatest challenges in these rural communities is convincing the families of the importance of going to a birthing center instead of giving birth at home. Through Curamericas Global’s community-based programs, we have been working to address these barriers in a culturally appropriate way.
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