There is a grove of Eucalyptus trees that line the road on the last part of the journey that we take from the axes back to Kitchanga. I experience a great sense of peace as we drive past these trees. It is a combination of knowing that I will soon see Claudio soon, as well as a sense of having done something meaningful somewhere up in the mountains.
Our journey back to Kitchanga was difficult. On the morning of our departure, we received a 17 year old girl, Nina, at our health center in Kivuye. Nina was pregnant and her contractions had started the night before. Like many women in remote villager, she had started her labour at home with a traditional birth attendant. Unfortunately, the baby’s head was in an occipito-transverse position and the labour was failing to progress. This means that the baby’s head was stuck in the pelvis. Nina was very brave and continued to push despite exhaustion. The road conditions were bad. Every bump along the way was painful and Nina muffled her groans. Our midwife, Josee, tried to make Nina’s journey as comfortable as possible. Radio contact was difficult but we managed to convey our sense of urgency and Mweso Hospital alerted their obstetric and theatre staff for our arrival.
We finally arrived after a 3 hour drive. We were received by one of obstetricians, Dr Marie-Josee. Nina was swiftly wheeled into the delivery room. The baby’s head was just visible. The ventouse was tried three times without success. Just before we decided to go for a caesarean section, Nina pushed for the final time. A (rather large) midwife quickly clambered onto some steps and applied fundal pressure, pressing hard as Nina grunted and cried out. All of a sudden, a little baby girl popped out. She was blue and the cord was around her neck. After brief but intense stimulation, we heard the welcome sound of a baby’s cry.
Nina is now doing ok but both mother and baby are still in hospital. She is actually one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, a few weeks back, we had received a pregnant lady whose labour was long and difficult. She had failed to deliver and the fetus died inside her. She had been carried by stretcher by community members from an inaccessible village to our health post in Kitchanga. The fetus had started to decompose. Both mother and baby died. I often feel frustrated by the sense that we have such limited resources for such a great need. Happy stories like Nina give us just enough hope to smile and square up to another day.