How do you celebrate Mothers Day in the country with the worst maternal mortality in the world? One way is by celebrating the miraculous work of God as He brings hope and healing to the women and children of South Sudan. This story will help you join in, with tears and joy, as God works to transform His people and His world.
It was 4am, one Saturday morning in April, when four men carried a woman into the labour ward. We were still cleaning up from another difficult delivery as they entered the room. Over the next few hours, in a mixture of broken Arabic (mine) and broken English (theirs), we discovered the full tragic story – ….and became a part of it ourselves.
This lady (Rose) had given birth seven hours earlier, at home, alone. A neighbor heard the baby crying and found Rose in her bush hut – in pain, and bleeding. She called for help, some men were gathered, and calls were made in a desperate search to find a means of transport. As there was no vehicle in the village, the four men volunteered to carry her, and her newborn baby, on a stretcher to His House of Hope. It was a journey of several hours.
In a country where ultrasound is rarely available, a woman does not usually know she is carrying twins. With heavy hearts, we informed Rose that there was another baby in her womb but that this one had died during the journey from her home. Twins should be double the joy – but this is not always the case, here in South Sudan. Rose had already lost a lot of blood, she had a retained placenta, her first baby had not been fed in 7 hours, and she still had a baby that needed delivery. We were facing the prospect of three dead patients.
It is impossible to respond to these situations with ‘pure’ emotions. Mixed with compassion, there is often frustration, even anger – sometimes directed towards patients or families; sometimes just at the situation. Why did they not come earlier? Why did they not know about the twin? Why should a woman suffer like this? Why should access to health care be so unfairly distributed across the world?
For a while, I was angry with her husband – where was he, whilst she lay bleeding, approaching death? Family members informed me later, that he had been shot in the legs a month before, and was still unable to walk because both his thigh bones were broken. My frustration was re-directed again – back to the Eden we destroyed, back to the evil one we chose to listen to – we live in a broken world and we suffer the consequences of our sin.
With some difficulty, we were able to deliver Rose’s son, stillborn. Her daughter received her first feed at eight hours of age. Rose’s haemoglobin was extremely low (4mg/dl – normal 11-16) and she was able to receive a life-saving blood transfusion from our blood bank (our lab techs are proud of their ‘bank’ – the first in South Sudan).
And a few days later, Rose went home – alive, with a healthy baby daughter, grieving the death of an unexpected baby boy, and returning to a husband with two broken legs.
This month she will ‘celebrate’ her Mother’s Day in Africa. We are glad she is alive to enjoy it with her baby daughter. We are sad her joy was not doubled and that she must also grieve the death of her son.