The Medical Gap

As pretty much the entire universe knows, our youngest daughter gave birth to the most perfect baby girl on Wednesday. But it hasn’t been without its dramas.

Hannah has had gestational diabetes throughout her pregnancy. That means she has had to cut out sugar, reduce her carbs and test her insulin levels 5 times a day. There’s extra scans and monitoring baby growth closer.

Baby had been super active in the womb and it was all looking good that the doctors had decided to let Hannah go right up to the 40 week mark, where originally they were going to induce her at 38 weeks.

And then baby stopped moving.

This was one of those events that stops your heartbeat. I suggested to Hannah to call the midwife whose care she was under, who said we should immediately go to the hospital. Luke (Hannah’s husband) drove pretty determinedly but there was this heavy silence in the car. No waiting, they saw us straight away. The relief experienced when we heard the heartbeat was huge. They decided to keep her in anyway.

Although baby’s heartbeat was good, the doctors had decided to induce baby on the Tuesday night. Not sure why they chose nighttime as the morning seemed a much better idea to me.

babe

I was really impressed with the staff, the quality of care but mostly the concern for baby and mother. The resources and technology are amazing, way better than when I had my kids 25 years ago.

Of course, it all got me thinking about the huge gap between what is available here and that in developing countries. I’ve friends in Kenya who have had babies and it’s a whole different world there.

 

  1. The God Factor

I call it this, because there tends to be a thinking in East Africa from people in certain positions – medical staff, police, teachers – which says ‘Don’t you know who I am, I must be obeyed without questions at all times’.

Kenya: You would never dare question what the doctor says and you simply don’t ask.

NZ: They give you informed options and don’t flinch if you question them ‘why’ or ‘could we try this’.

hospital 2

  1. The Price

Kenya: While there is a policy of free maternity care, practically it’s not so. You need to pay for services like scans. I’ve close friends who didn’t have the $30 for a scan and had a breach baby who died 20 minutes after birth because of complications. The emergency cesarean section would’ve saved his life but that was around $800. They only earn $200 a month. You need to take everything in with you to hospital.

NZ: Every single thing is free. Food, personal bathrooms, sanitary products, scans, hospital stay, sheets, pillows and even free wifi.

tray

We met a young 18 year old who had been raped and become pregnant. We arrived on the day she gave birth to her son. She was not allowed to leave hospital because her family did not have the funds for payment. Every day she stayed the debt was accruing. No doubt the family had to borrow money to get the girl home.

 

  1. Rooms

Kenya: Don’t be surprised if you are sharing a room with 8 other women. Imagine a metre between your bed and the next. Babies are often kept in a nursery, except for feeding.

NZ: While there’s the odd room that will have 4 beds in it, most are single or doubles. Baby is in your sight at all times, in a plastic bassinet beside you.

hospital 1

  1. The Birth

Kenya: I’ve yet to meet a Kenyan man who has been in the birthing room. It’s just not done any other way. In rural areas it’s older women who assist.

NZ: At the hospital our daughter went to, you could have as many support people as possible. In the birthing unit you could have two.

Nairobi has a few really good hospitals, so if you can afford to go to them you do. One is notorious for bad after birth care, but people go there because it’s free.

Our close friends whose baby died not long after a breach birth were forced to go to one such hospital. She should’ve had a c-section but the staff said to her that the lines to the theatre were long and ‘she carried small so she should deliver okay’. Of course, as in Kenyan culture, the dad went home (by public transport) but was called back because something was wrong. When he got there he was told his son had died. He never got to hold him because there was ‘confusion’ to the whereabouts of his sons’ body. He was told it was in the morgue, went there and they said to him he was on the ward. Went to the ward and was told he was in the morgue. What the attendants really wanted was bribe money. A terrible experience to an unnecessary tragedy.

Of course, if you have money, nothing is a worry. I’ve friends who’ve been in birthing centres in Nairobi and loved it. I’ve also known people who travel for half an hour on a motorbike to a rural clinic to give birth, all by themselves.

I applaud the work of Kenya’s First Lady – Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta in creating Beyond Zero which aims to improve maternal health. She is using her position to bring about awareness and change in a much needed area.

Me, one of my goals to is ensure that remote medical clinics have access to water, latrines and hand washing facilities. It’s high on our 3 year goal.

bed

Every life is precious no matter where they are born. For me, I’m getting to enjoy my short time with Isabella Rose and find inspiration every time I look at her to help other children across East Africa have a great start in life.

drugs

 

 

 

 

The Curse of Poverty

At the moment I’m reading two books. One is for prepping to go to Kenya, the other one is just for pleasure.
‘When Helping Hurts’ (Steve Corbett) is about how not to do missions. It’s aimed at the American Church, as if they’re the only ones doing something. It’s taken me about half way through the book before I didn’t want to throw it away.

If you’ve seen The Blindside then you should read ‘I beat the Odds’ (Michael Oher). The Blindside is on my top 10 movies to watch but the book gets inside the life of Michael which isn’t portrayed in the movie.

The thing about both of these books is that they look into poverty and how we think we should ‘fix it’. I’m not going to discuss that as much as what the curse of poverty does.
While we all go through times of not generating enough money, abstract poverty is way more than that.

Here’s some of my thoughts on it, and I look forward to your comments.

1. Poverty gives you no options.

Probably one of the few options it does give you is which child will go to school. Beyond that there isn’t much else to tell. Even though you know that fruit is better for your children, you can’t afford it so you buy something full of sugar. Coke is cheaper than water in Kenya. The quality of what you can buy is low, which actually means you spend more on replacing them. You are forced to work two jobs, leave your children unattended, and can’t ensure they’re actually going to school or doing their homework. If there is one meal a day, regardless of how hungry you are, there will be no more food.

2. Poverty does not allow you to create a future.

When you are stuck in the cycle of poverty, you cannot foresee a future because all you are worried about is surviving today. The thought of going to university or some form of training that will increase your chances of earning more are not even thought of. Your next meal or the next rent payment is all that can consume you.

3. Poverty is a cycle that goes around and around.

Just when you think you might get a break, something else happens to steal away an opportunity. When you’re in this cycle there is no option for saving for a rainy day, the present consumes all resources. For those whose income is derived from agriculture all it takes is for the rains not to come or be delayed for months. This may go on for years. A sick child may take all the money you have, and because in places like East Africa you must pay all before they are discharged, you have to borrow the money from other family members.

4. Poverty steals your dreams.

While you may want to follow a certain profession, the reality is you will never get there. Not an if, but or maybe, just a never. That’s because the education system culls students who don’t make the grade, or your parents have to pay a bribe to the teach to let you through. Even if you get qualified there aren’t enough positions. There are many taxi drivers across Africa who are qualified engineers. Unemployment rate in such countries is often 50% or more.

5. Poverty is a curse.

There is nothing good to come from poverty, there’s no upside to it. It keeps children from attending school, is a cause of death for unborn babies, creates an environment that encourages corruption and makes people desperate enough to do things that are morally wrong. There are desperate parents who watch their family members die off because they don’t have a way to get to the hospital nor the money for medication.

I am so looking forward to getting my hands into training young people to help them get themselves out of poverty. As Michael Oher states in his book, the odds even though they may be stacked against you, can be beaten.