MedShare has recently been given the exciting opportunity to partner together with Kimberly-Clark Healthcare to make a strategic investment in improving child and maternal health in Latin America. This week, myself and Amanda Paniagua, MedShare’s Shipments Manager, are visiting several potential recipient hospitals and clinics in Guatemala and Bolivia to identify a few great partners who are doing innovative work in addressing this crucial need in maternal health.
Today, we visited the Hospital Nacional Santa Elena in Santa Cruz del Quiche. Located in the Highlands of Guatemala, where most Mayans value their strong cultural traditions, the hospital serves more than one million people annually. We were both pleasantly surprised to see the hospital was equipped with a fair amount of modern technology and biomedical equipment. People were being treated for various illnesses, traumas, and babies were being born and both mother and child were surviving. The hospital certainly needs more supplies, space, beds, and equipment, but I walked away feeling that Dr. Patti, the sub-director who graciously gave Amanda and I a tour, was being a good steward of their limited resources.
I also listened to Duane, our pilot who flew us over the mountainous terrain to Santa Cruz, relay heartbreaking stories of too many emergency flights of soon to be mothers in very bad health. He flies them to the same landing strip where we were taken, where he then prays they can be driven to the hospital in time. And, he made sure we understand these are the ones that have a chance at being saved, slim as it is. Many more sadly do not survive labor due to lack of medical care available.
Duane’s stories are echoed by Sally, a Puerto Rican born woman who lived in Michigan for 20+ years until she and her husband moved to Guatemala 4 years ago. She “re-trains” the indigenous woman in midwifery. Most can not read or write, don’t know CPR, and often times, their care could be much more impactful. However, in a place where culture dictates women having their babies at home rather than in a hospital, midwives are one of the only ways that culture and modern medicine will be able to work together and sustain life.
Today I had to take the bitter with the sweet. We look forward to sharing more with you!