By Dr. Baker Henson, written on July 19, 2017
As medical providers, we strive to both increase the quality and extend the lives of our patients. Recently, we had a clear reminder of the fine line between life and death. We were reminded that this fine line is much more delicate in Malawi than what we are accustomed to in the United States.
Yesterday, a pregnant mother of two, who had presented to the health care center the night before in labor, was brought into the operating theatre for an emergency cesarean section. Right away it was apparent that something was wrong based on her vital signs and clinical presentation. Upon initial examination, we noticed the baby’s head appeared to be protruding from her upper abdomen where it shouldn’t have been. We suspected a uterine rupture. The c-section commenced and we quickly discovered that her uterus had ruptured and the baby had died. There was a large amount of blood in her abdomen and the woman would not have survived much longer had the team not been there to intervene. After the procedure was completed, the mother was wheeled to the women’s ward to recover and grieve the loss of her child.
To say that this experience left many of us shaken is a tremendous understatement. In Malawi, we are constantly reminded of the fragility of life. If this mother had access to better health care throughout her pregnancy, perhaps things would have turned out differently.
Thankfully, the next day we had a pleasant surprise. We assisted in another emergency c-section, and this time a young first-time mother delivered a full term, healthy baby boy. She named him Chisomo, the Chichewa translation for Grace.
Repeatedly we are reminded that we are not here to transform the healthcare system in Malawi into our own, and yet even in a short time we can provide services that help and change lives. While it is impossible to help everyone, we are steadfast in our commitment to make a difference in the lives of those we can reach.