Fit Pregnancy Goes To Peru with CARE | Fit Pregnancy

Fit Pregnancy Goes To Peru with CARE

Day Three—My Biggest Day Ever

Day Three, Part TwoUmdash;Working Hard<br><br>

Bascilia, a midwife from Ayacucho’s Regional Hospital, escorted us on her day off (with her 8-year-old son in tow) to the tiny hospital in Vilcashuaman.  Having spent Monday talking about the FEMME program on a grand scale, I wanted my focus at Vilcasuaman’s teeny-tiny health center to be on midwives’ working experiences and patients’ birth experiences.  Sarah and Bascilia explained to Dr. Ricardo Gutierriez Hinojosa, (the doctor who runs the place and has transformed obstetric care in this village), what I wanted to achieve with my visit.<br><br>

With ultimate humility and kindness he explained he’ d prepared a presentation but would condense it to 15 minutes so as not to take up too much of my time.  OK, lesson learned:  Don’t hold too tightly to your own agenda because surprises offer better opportunities.   My original plan to shortcut the “official presentation” and get busy with patients would have been lame.  Dr. Ricardo rocked.  I am humbled. <br><br>

Just to back up a few steps, when we arrived in Vilcashuaman, I was carsick, exhausted and suddenly anxious; realizing just how far from home I was, in such a remote place.  Ayacucho was remote enough, with plenty of poverty.  I wondered if  this story really required my traveling so far out into the middle of nowhere to a place where Ayacucho looked like Beverly Hills in comparison.  Sarah and Bascilia slathered me with kindness and on we went to the hospital, a small collection of blue cement and wood buildings, snuggled next to gardens and fields.  It was beautiful though more rural and primitive than any hospital I’ve ever seen.  Dogs ran around the gardens and a hand-lettered sign indicated prices for services.  A small crowd of Quechua and Vilcashuaman villagers sat on the ground waiting their turns.  There were a dozen children playing and when we entered the hospital gates, every eye was on us.  We were the aliens.<br><br>

Ricardo introduced us to another doctor, Felix Hinostraza, and Sofia, the chief midwife who led us into a small office in the brilliant blue hospital building.  Chairs were set up around a small table and as we sat down, Ricardo set up his computer.  “I’ve prepared a PowerPoint presentation for you.  Con permiso, (with your permission), I’d like to show it to you,” Ricardo said.  “Huh?” I thought,  “PowerPoint?  Here?  For real?” <br><br>  

The first slide blew me away, “WELCOME FIT PREGNANCY, JEANNE FAULKNER.”  I had no idea my visit was such a big deal.  He thanked me profusely and said I was only the second American visitor to come to their clinic.  He was grateful for the attention and publicity because he was so proud of what they’d accomplished with the FEMME project model, CARE and his community and it was his urgent wish to sustain their efforts.  I almost cried.  Honestly, I’d been on the verge of tears (OK, I squeaked out a couple) since we entered the village. Ricardo’s gratitude and the work he’d put in, just for me, was IT.  I employed every speck of professionalism I had not to break down sobbing. <br><br>

There is so much kindness in the world, so much humility, gratitude and dedication.  I was floored.  We sat with Sofia, Bascilia and the doctors as they clicked through their presentation.  We talked about each slide, photos of vertical births, both at homes and in the hospital.  Human rights and dignity knit together with respect for the local culture was the cornerstone of their success.  People here believe in animism; that the mountains, trees, air and plants are all alive and birth is completely dependent on respect of their customs.  Ricardo, Sofia and their team have created a system of modern, state-of-the-art, yet scaled down, obstetrical care that incorporates and honors their culture. <br><br>

We talked about how hard they work, the hours, and physical stress and strain. Sofia and the other midwives described their job requirements.  They’re paid for two days of work per week, (12-24 hour shifts) but are required to volunteer another 4 days per week. <i>Required. </i> There’s nobody else with their skills to do the job if they don’t put in the hours.  They receive no compensation, gratitude or any other perk.  They do it for their community. Sofia said, “we sacrifice our lives for the other mothers.  We can’t even raise our own children because of the hours we have to work.” Without them, mothers would die. I’m not sure what they’re paid but Bascilia, who works in the larger hospital of Ayacucho, earns approximately $350/month. <br><br>

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