LiveBeyond
Mar 05, 2020 . 5 months ago

Mother’s Day Highlight – The Maternal Health Program

Podcast Transcript: Interview with Dr. Vanderpool about LiveBeyond’s Maternal Health Program – 5/9/2019


In Episode 11, Jacklyn spoke with Dr. David Vanderpool about the Maternal Health program – how and why it was started, who it helps, and stories of women who were and were not part of the Maternal Health program.

Listen to the podcast episode through our website here. Or find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Play.


[0:00] JVB:
Hello, everybody. And welcome back to another LiveBeyond podcast. My name is Jacklyn Vanderpool Barnett, and today we want to take the time to wish everybody a happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and to all the soon-to-be moms. We are so grateful for you and the sacrifice that you’ve made to raise your children. And so, today, we want to honor you in this podcast. And we are going to be talking about motherhood in Haiti and what that looks like, and how it is drastically different from motherhood here in the United States. So, I have invited Dr. David Vanderpool to join me today to talk about Moms. So, hi, Dad.

[0:42] DMV: Hey, how you doing?

[0:43] JVB: I’m doing pretty good. Happy to be talking to my dad about motherhood, so I think it works.

[0:48] DMV: Me too. This is great.

[0:50] JVB: Well, I want us to just go ahead and jump right in. So, as some people may or may not know, LiveBeyond was founded in 2005 as a disaster relief organization. But after the earthquake in 2010 that happened in Haiti, we started working there about forty-eight hours after the earthquake. And then, throughout those years of working there in 2012, we bought land in Thomazeau, which is actually where we currently work. So, we have been in Thomazeau since 2012. But one of the things that I remember, you know, I want you to talk about this a little bit, Dad, is that immediately we started the maternal health program. It was held in a garage for a year, and I just remember kind of looking around and being like “There are a lot of things that Haiti needs, but a maternal health program? Like, that’s going to be the first thing that you choose to help?” I remember just kind of, you know, being a little confused about that. So why was that the first program that we started? Because clearly you saw a need. But what was that need and why was it so urgent that it had to be the first one?

The Origin of the Maternal Health Project

[2:03] DMV: You know, that’s a great question, and you know, it’s so fascinating that moms (the life and death of moms) are just pivotal in the community. And of all the people, they are the most crucial in the life of a, of a village. And so, if moms are sick, if moms are having difficulty in birth, if their babies are dying, or if the mom’s themselves are dying, it’s incredibly disruptive for the community. You can imagine what that would do to a family in America. The problem is, in Haiti, the maternal death rate is so high, it’s one of the highest in the world. And so, this is something that happens over and over every single day, and it’s entirely preventable. It’s something that we can take care of. You know, so, so closely linked to maternal health is also child health, and Haiti has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. And so, when you look at those two different statistics, if you want to improve a community, if you want to transform a community, it’s got to start with the moms.

[3:27] JVB: Absolutely, absolutely. So, what are some of those transformations that you’ve seen since the program started in 2012?

Transformations through Maternal Health

[3:35] DMV: You know, we’ve seen so many, it’s, it’s almost too, too numerous to count, you know, it’s just fantastic. One of the things that we focused on is looking at breaking down the problem of why do moms get sick, why do moms die in Haiti? And it really breaks down to just a very few things that need to be addressed, and then the problem goes away. And so, we looked at the problem from a couple of different viewpoints, one of which was nutrition. We found early on that these moms were very malnourished, and that was going into pregnancy. In fact, most of the mothers who were entering pregnancy that we saw early on had a body mass index of 14, which is barely survivable. And in Haiti, the moms typically will lose weight in pregnancy. So, it’s a, it’s a terrible thing, but that leads to other problems. And so, if there, if the mom is malnourished, then she may not have adequate nutrition to support the baby growing inside of her, and the baby may spontaneously die within her. And so just providing good nutritious food, balanced nutrition, providing prenatal vitamins that have iron and other essential elements, that right there takes care of such a huge part of why moms suffer and die in the low-tier countries such as Haiti. You know a second element that moms really struggle with in these low-tier countries such as Haiti are several different medical problems. And so, in Haiti, we see a high incidence of high blood pressure in pregnancy, it’s called preeclampsia. And this is one of the things that will kill moms in a low-tier country over and over and over. And so, addressing these, being very proactive in measuring all their blood pressures and then treating the blood pressure quickly so that this terrible disease doesn’t take hold and destroy both the mom’s life and the baby’s life is just a fantastic way to go. It’s not difficult, very straightforward, and it’s very, very effective. So, the nutritional part, the medical part and then, a lesser but still very important part, is the education aspects. And so particularly in Haiti, with voodoo culture that is so prevalent there, there are a lot of things that the voodoo priests advocate for moms to do either in pregnancy or after their babies have been delivered that are very detrimental to the health of the mom and the baby that we need to then combat these errors and thinking, these cultural elements that are harmful to both of these lives, and through education. And so, for instance, the voodoo priest will tell the moms that their milk has spoiled and that they should not breastfeed. Well, this is a very terrible thing because, of course, breast milk is the best, the most nutritious, allows the baby to fight infections, things like that. And so, if we then combat that, that terrible idea with the truth, with the facts that breast milk is superior, then we could save a lot of moms and a lot of babies. The voodoo priest also will tell moms to tie a ribbon or a rope around the baby’s neck or around their arms or legs very tightly. And obviously, this is a terrible thing to do for a baby. And actually, we’ve seen several babies die because of this practice, and so education is a, is a great thing to do for everybody. It raises the water level, and it also saves lives. Lastly, you know, if we can prevent infection and bleeding during birth, we’ve done a great thing. And so those are the two big killers in childbirth in Haiti, and so, they’re both very, very simple to address. And so, if we can come in and we can provide medication at the appropriate time, we could really do a lot for the death rate in the delivery time. So, these are things that are extremely important, nutrition, proper medical care, education, and then what we would call the perinatal period, the infection and bleeding prevention is all it is crucial.

[8:42] JVB: With these things that you’ve been putting into practice, how has that affected the statistics that you’ve seen since 2012?

Changing the Statistics of Maternal Health in Haiti

[8:51] DMV: Well, that’s a great question, and we do, we measure everything that we do. We want all of our programs to be effective. And so, we measure the outputs of our programs, you know, very rigorously and much like we do in medicine in the United States, we do the same thing in Haiti. And so, when you look at the statistics for, for maternal death rates in Haiti, it’s about 350/100,000, some of the highest in the world and so, certainly the highest in the Western Hemisphere. So, we’ve reduced that by about 60% over these past six or seven years that we’ve been running the program. And we’re very proud of that and that, that’s something that we’ve got to continue. The next reduction is going to be a lot more rigorous. That’s going to take a lot more work, a lot more money, because the simple things we’ve taken care of, now we have to take care of the hard things such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, things like that. That will require a lot more attention to detail and medications to take care of. But we’re very excited about our statistics. We want these to spread throughout Haiti, and, and then also take them to other low-tier countries in the world, because we feel like this is something that will radically transform an entire society: if we can allow women to have equal access to healthcare as the men do.

[10:34] JVB: I love that. Well, we’ve been talking a lot about maternal health program, but we haven’t talked about what it realistically looks like, and so kind of walk us through as if you were pregnant mom in Haiti. What would that look like for you to come in and be seen, and everything like that, kind of give us an overview of that?

Day-to-Day Schedule of Maternal Health Program

[10:53] DMV: Well, it’s a, it’s really a wonderful program. And it’s so, it’s so remarkable because the women are so happy. You know, pregnancy in Haiti is a real struggle, and women are often very sad that they become pregnant because they realize that so many children die. And so, in Haiti, there will usually be around sixteen pregnancies, about half of those children will, will die before their fifth birthday. And so, the women know these things. They’re not, you know, immune from that knowledge. And so, usually pregnancy is something that they get very sad about. But in our program, the women come together, we see them five days a week. We provide nourishing food for them, actually every day as well as for their families at home. And so, they are very excited to get nourishing meals. One of the things that I love about it and I think it’s so neat, you know, women in most low-tier countries are not respected. They typically are, are put down, they’re typically beaten. They have a tough life, and they’re not considered at all equal to the men, and so without maternal health program, we provide hot, nutritious meals for them every day, and we actually serve them. And so we have plates, we have knives and forks and spoons and napkins that we lay out, and I know that doesn’t sound like much to Americans. But in Haiti, typically these women eat standing up, scooping the food out with their hands. They don’t even use utensils. And so, we have them sitting down at tables and we actually serve them. And one of my favorite things to do is to be part of that serving team and to go in and serve these ladies as they’re sitting down. Of course, they just laugh that, you know, the American doctor is coming in and serving them. They just think that’s so funny and it’s great, I mean it’s absolutely fantastic. But what it says to them is, we value you. We are, we’re giving you a value that’s very high. Not only do we want to take care of your physical needs, but we also want to make you feel important, and it’s just a fantastic way to, to boost their mood. It also gives them more self-worth, and it makes them realize that at least there’s a small group of people who think that they’re very important, and they’re important enough that we would, we would feed them. And so that cheers the women up. So, they come, in, they’re singing, they have these songs that they sing. They are just so much fun, and now these women are making relationships with each other, and so they may previously have been from different villages and not known each other. So, they’ve got new friends. We’re taking their blood pressure, we’re giving the same type medical care that we would give American woman. We’re using the same standards. They get ultrasounds, they get their blood checked for different diseases, and so, they feel important. We think that giving them that dignity is so important, especially in these these low-tier countries. But so, they come in, they eat a meal, we’re giving them vitamins. We give them an educational lesson each time they come in that’s talking about ways to raise your child better, maternal-fetal type things, and they just love it. They love that knowledge. Many of them can’t read, they’re illiterate, so we’re helping him with that as well. And so, it’s just boosting every aspect of their life. We give them food to take home because they have other children at home. They may have a boyfriend or a husband at home who’s going to be hungry, too. And so, it’s just a win all the way around. So, this is a fun, fun time. They typically will bring their babies in on Friday, and Friday is my favorite day because there’ll be a hundred, hundred twenty women there, there will be just scores of babies, big, fat, healthy babies that’re smiling and we’re taking care of the babies as well and weighing and measuring them. And so, and the women are so proud of their children, you know, they’re so, they’re so proud of them and they want to show them to me, you know, have me smile and tell them, every, every woman wants somebody to say it’s a beautiful baby. And so, this is the kind of thing that they don’t often hear, and so it boosts their morale on makes them really happy. So it’s, it’s a wonderful program. It’s a lot of fun just to be around because there’s so much good going on.

Entering the Maternal Health Program

[16:06] JVB: Absolutely. And how many women are in this program? When does it start, and when does it end? For the mother specifically in the program?

[16:16] DMV: That’s a great question. We have about three hundred women in the program right now. We want every pregnant woman in our area, so the population of our area is about two hundred thousand. And so, we don’t think we’re getting every, every pregnant woman, but they’re all invited. We want them to come and they stay for at least twenty-one months. And so, if they come in soon after becoming pregnant than we keep them throughout their entire pregnancy, and then they stay in for another twelve months on top of that. The research has shown that if you can feed, and, you know, they can gain good nutritional habits over the, the year after they deliver, they could get good prenatal vitamins, their health, health issues could be treated that it prolongs their life significantly. And so, we are really trying to do our best to not just take care of them while they’re pregnant, but due to the lack of birth control, they’re going to be pregnant again pretty soon. And so, this is a real challenge, and we want to set them up for success in the pregnancy that’s upcoming.

[17:31] JVB: I love that. I love that so much. Well, you mentioned this a couple minutes ago. And this, it just blows my mind that women in Haiti generally will be pregnant sixteen times and that half of their children will die before the age of five, sixteen times.

16 Pregnancies

[17:57] DMV: Isn’t that amazing?

[17:58] JVB: So, when I was in Haiti, I had the incredible honor of teaching our women’s Bible class during lunch and it was favorite part of the day. I absolutely loved it. I was the youngest one there. I think they taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them. But I can’t even remember what we were studying at the time. But I was asking the women, you know, “How many times have you been pregnant?” and, and you know, these, these ladies would tell me, and that was accurate. I mean, sixteen times. And then I would ask them, you know, have, “Have any of you all had a miscarriage?” Every single woman raised their hand. Every single woman in my class of probably 20 women raised their hand. And then I asked them, “How many of your children that survived pregnancy have died?” So I said, “If you’ve had one, raise your hand,” – all of them raised their hands. One of them got up to six babies had died postpartum. It just, I believe you were talking about mourning, and that, you know, Jesus gives us joy through our mourning and everything. And it just broke my heart, because there’s so many things that we could do to help them, you know, with having proper nutrition and with having, you know, good education and medical equipment readily available, and medicine and things like that. And to see these women that I loved so much, you know, just that’s a hard reality. And these are the strongest, most loving, joyful women I have ever met in my entire life, and just to see that that is the reality for them. And so that’s really what I want to talk about right now, is that disparity between what it is like to, to be a mom here in the United States and what that health care is like, because I’m not a mom, so you know, I don’t, I haven’t gone through that. But, compared to the reality of what it’s like for women in Haiti to be moms, and the age that they start getting pregnant and all of that, you know, I just I want to hear that from you.

Difficulties of Giving Birth in Haiti

[21:21] DMV: Well, you know, it’s really difficult to describe because it couldn’t be more different in Haiti to be a mom than in United States. You know, in the United States, typically – now there are exceptions. But typically, moms find out they’re pregnant, it’s a joyous time. They’re able to get great medical care from top notch doctors who follow the proper protocols, you know, throughout their pregnancy, any disease is picked up and managed. They get ultrasounds, there’s so many high-tech things that could be done for pregnancy nowadays in the United States, that just almost ensure healthy babies, just absolutely amazing. When they deliver the baby, they have options of being in a clean, brightly lit, warm, pleasant environment of a hospital with trained staff who are trained in the latest techniques and have the highest level of education, and it’s just so rare that there are any complications in delivering a baby in the United States typically. So, when the time comes from the baby to come into the world, it’s a joyous, happy occasion, even if there are problems. C sections can be done, so many things that could be done that will ensure a happy and healthy baby and mom. And so, they go home, they’d have a wonderful nursery prepared, they have friends gather around. The baby is clean and he’s fed. They have ample of amounts of everything that the baby could ever need. They’re able to stimulate the baby, they sing to the baby. They do everything in their power to give the baby every opportunity to be successful in this world, send them to the best schools, surround them with the best friends, have their families surround the baby, educate the baby. From a spiritual standpoint, they have the opportunity of going to life-giving churches surrounding by people who love, love the child. Couldn’t be more different in Haiti. In our area, we live in a rural area, and almost no mother goes to a hospital to deliver their babies. These people live in mud huts or perhaps a tin hut. They’re very small. They’re maybe five or six hundred square feet, extremely hot. There’s no electricity. There’s no there’s no air conditioning there, no lights. And so, the mother will labor through twelve, fifteen, eighteen, twenty hours of labor in this tin hut that might be one hundred ten degrees inside, all by herself. The culture is that, no, she doesn’t want her mother there. She doesn’t want her sisters there, she doesn’t want a doctor, midwife, anything there. And so, the typical mother in our area delivers a baby all by herself in the extreme heat of a windowless hut and brings her baby into the world that way. The mother’s in, in Haiti, squat when they deliver babies. And so, the first thing the baby encounters when he enters this world is a mud floor. And so, gone are the thoughts of a clean, brightly lit, comfortable hospital environment, and the rude awakening of impacting a dirt floor when you come into this world is the norm, and that’s just the way that they do it. And so typically these mothers don’t have any access to health care if they had high blood pressure, if they had diabetes, it was not treated. If they had HIV, it wasn’t treated. Typically, these mothers don’t have enough to eat themselves, so they may not have the ability to make enough milk for the baby to survive. That’s the typical. That’s the norm in Haiti. And so, everything that we have in the United States, even at the lowest levels of poverty in the United States, is so infinitely better than Haiti, it’s just almost, it’s almost difficult to describe. So, it’s, there’s always a reason why the mortality rate is so high in Haiti there’s always a reason why the kids get sick and die. There’s always a reason why the mothers, you know, are just malnourished and have a difficult time getting through pregnancy and many of them die. And the reasons are all very plain, very evident when you start taking a look at these. And so, pregnancy, another baby, talking about another mouth to feed, these are all things that are heavy burdens for women in Haiti.

[26:03] JVB: Well, and the fact that, you know, when they cut the umbilical cord, that’s with a rock, and so tetanus is prevalent, and just the complete and total disparity between the two.

[26:20] DMV: That’s so true. It’s just amazing to think that these women deliver their own babies. And you know, it’s, it’s not uncommon at all that a woman will walk up to our hospital, and have a baby that is newborn with the umbilical cord still attached both to the baby and to her. And so, she’s just asking that somebody cut the cord and deliver the placenta. It is just, it still just startles me how inhumane that is, that in the twenty-first century we have women walking several miles to the hospital just to get the umbilical cord cut, just to have the placenta delivered. It’s just amazing that this is a country an hour and a half off the border of the United States, which that would never happen, you know, so it’s a very much of a struggle. It’s very, very much of a dark time for these ladies, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be like this, and that’s, that’s why we’re so blessed to be there to try to make a difference in their life.

The Opportunity to Thrive

[27:35] JVB: Well, you know, it makes me think of the story. And I’m trying to remember what year it was, it had to have been, I don’t know, 2013 maybe, when that woman came to the clinic with her mom and we had the clinic on the church, we hadn’t even built our actual clinic, clinic yet. It was on the pavilion, and she was having a miscarriage. And she was, she rode up to the base, and for all of you who have been to LiveBeyond before, you know how bumpy that Thomazeau road is. She rode on the Thomazeau road on a motorcycle while having a miscarriage and showed up, and I just remember thinking I have never seen blood like this before. It just blew my mind. And so, I’m gonna give the story over to you and let you finish it because you were the one who actually drove her to the hospital. But, but what that process was like.

[28:38] DMV: Yeah, well, and this is not uncommon. She was bleeding to death and rode up on a motorcycle. There’s no ambulance system or anything like that, and so we were able to save her. We were not able to save the baby’s life, but we were able to save her life. She had not been in our maternal health program, and so we put her in her maternal health program and she was able to get well nourished, she was able to build up her iron stores and her blood counts, and she’s had at least two babies since then, and has done extremely well, so it’s been amazing to see the turnaround from her just from getting the basics, the basic things that she needs from our maternal health program to allow both her and her babies to not just survive but to thrive. And I think that’s just a very, very important that people have the opportunity in life to thrive, just barely getting by, that’s just not enough. That’s not why Jesus came. Jesus said, He came to give life and give life abundantly, and so the life that Jesus gives is a thriving life, and that’s what we want to share with people as well.

[29:56] JVB: And this was this story happened before you and mom moved down there full time, so y’all were going down there every month, and the next time y’all went down, this woman, the woman who had the miscarriage, her mother was sitting on the steps of the building that we used to work in, and for the first time ever, she said, I have been waiting for you to come back, and I want to say thank you for saving my daughter. And I just remember, like, that absolutely floored all of us and just to, you know, because I think to me, I went home with a heavy heart, thinking, you know, we couldn’t save that baby, you know. And that was weighing on me. But that that mother, that grandmother, you know, that mother was just so grateful that y’all dropped everything to take care of this girl, and it’s actually Kenson and Kenlove’s grandmother. It was their aunt who had that. So, whenever we go visit them, you know, it’s just there’s she’s, she’s such a joyful and joyous woman. And, I just remember it floored me because I was so devastated, you know, it was with a heavy heart that I had that experience, but to see the joy that the grandmother was, was able to find, because that would have been a lot more devastating for her and traumatic for her than it ever could have been for us. And there’s one story that I want to share. I got to live in Haiti for two years, and I loved every single day of living there. Not a single day was easy. Not a single day was easy, but I loved every single day of it. And without a doubt, the hardest day that I ever experienced down there was a couple months before I moved. This woman was in our maternal health program and she lived way up in the mountains. I’m pretty sure way past Kay Elie, I think, almost even closer to Cornelion. And she was far away, and she went into labor, like, from what I remember, several months early. And went to Port au Prince, her husband took her to Port Au Prince and none of the hospitals would take her. I think she went to three different hospitals, and all of them said, there’s nothing we can do. Your baby’s going to die. Just deliver the baby and get over it, pretty much is what they were saying. So, she went back to her home, delivered the baby on her own, and then the next day came into our clinic and had this absolutely tiny premature baby with her. And we did everything that we could do to take care of that baby. And I remember I was talking with the mother and father and I was asking them questions and telling them how much Jesus loved them. And they said, “Oh, we have no doubt that Jesus loves us. We love Jesus, and we trust Jesus with our baby.” And even after everything that we did that that we could do to help them, it just it just wasn’t enough. I mean, even in the States, that would have been a hard situation because the baby was so premature. And so, I sat in the room with the mother and father until the baby died. And I just remember that was a hard day. That was a really, really hard day. And they hadn’t named the baby yet, and I’m pretty sure Mom actually named her, Baby Grace. Because even with how hard of a situation that was, the parents talked about how they could see the grace of Jesus and all of it. And I just remember, I was just floored of the love that those parents had for one another, and they had for Jesus and they had for their baby. And, you know, watching a baby take one breath every minute, I had never, never seen anything like that before, and it just absolutely broke my heart. I realized there is so much we need to do. There’s so much we have done, by the grace of God, there is so much that we have accomplished and it’s all Jesus. But that there still so much more, you know, for all the babies that are born prematurely, like there’s a lot that we can do to help in situations like that. You know, to, you know not, you know, the hospitals in Port au Prince, the three different hospitals that all turned this mother away. You know, instead to have doors that are always wide open and say, like, you know, “We will do everything we can to save your baby.” And so that was just such a hard moment, but such a good learning moment because when I first started going to Haiti, I think, like, and this is almost me revealing a really bad part of my heart, but I didn’t believe they loved their babies as much as people in the United States did, which I hate hearing myself say those words out loud. But I mean, when I realized, “Oh, my goodness, these mothers love their children and they will do anything for them,” it honestly hit me like a ton of bricks, bricks to say, like there is nothing that these moms wouldn’t do for their kids, and was ashamed that that’s how I thought, you know, that I had to have that realization in the first place. And to see that there’s no length that these moms won’t go to in order to provide for their children.

The Love of a Mother

[36:02] DMV: Absolutely. And you know, that’s a very common thing, too. I felt the same way. I remember thinking that there’s no way that these, these ladies can lose half of their children and love them the way we did, it would just be too devastating. But it’s not correct, and that’s just a defense mechanism that we, as Americans put up to keep ourselves from being so devastated by the plight of these poor people in Haiti. And so, I think a lot of us might not admit that we think that. But really, beneath the surface we do. But these ladies love their children just as much as American ladies do, they want the best for their children, just as much as Americans do, they want to do things that will give their children the greatest opportunity in life possible. And it’s just amazing, we see this all the time, and that’s in stark contrast to the reality of losing half of your children. You know, it’s just so, so difficult, but we see it all the time. You know, we see you know, women flocking to our maternal health program. They’re doing it for their babies, that they want to have healthy babies, they don’t want to have unhealthy babies. And so, you know, it’s just amazing that they will walk six miles, nine months pregnant to come to our maternal health program. I mean, that’s amazing to think of that, and they do it and they’re cheerful about it, and they’re singing when they come through the gates and, and it’s for their babies. And so, the sacrifices that these mothers make is just it’s beyond measure that they make for these babies. We see it in our school, too. We have a fantastic school on the LiveBeyond base. It’s all taught by college educated teachers. It, we have a lot of it in English. At some point, it will be all in English, which will be fantastic. These kids are getting a great education. We have one of the best schools in the nation Skype in each week, and they help the students learn, they teach classes, they help them with homework. It’s just amazing the resources that that we’re able to put in this school. Well, the mothers in our area see that, and they all want their children in our school, and it’s just amazing. They’d do the same things that American women will do to get their kids in the right school. They just don’t have the resources to do it. And I wish we could take every child in our area in our school. Unfortunately, it’s just not big enough, but the hundred who are in our school, just are really turning the corner. We’re seeing amazing learning take place and the pride in their parents is just like it would be for Americans. And so it’s just, it’s very, very interesting that there is no difference. People are the same worldwide. I have been to many countries, most of which were low tier, and everybody loves their children the same way we do. Doesn’t matter what their background is, doesn’t matter what the poverty level is, their culture, their education. It’s just an innate thing. I remember thinking that there’s no way that these, these ladies can lose half of their children and love them the way we did, it would just be too devastating. But it’s not correct, and that’s just a defense mechanism that we, as Americans put up to keep ourselves from being so devastated by the plight of these poor people in Haiti. – David Vanderpool, MD

[39:40] JVB: Well, and we can’t talk about the maternal health program and not talk about Gertrude, because this is this is honestly one of my favorite stories. So, I’m going to go ahead and let you tell it, but I just think that it shows the impact and the love of the mother that we were talking about. And so, anyway, I’ll let you tell it because it’s so good.

The Impact of One Woman on the Maternal Health Program

[40:03] DMV: That’s a great story. This is probably seven or eight years ago, and we were holding a clinic in the village of Thomazeau, and were seeing just hundreds and hundreds of patients, one of whom came in with a newborn, and this lady brought her baby and it was very obvious just by looking at the baby that this baby was really struggling to stay alive. And so, we examined the baby, found that it had a very bad problem, a genetic defect, that was causing the breathing tube to collapse each time the baby breathed. And so we obviously were not prepared for this kind of emergency. We did everything that we could. The baby had pneumonia, so we we treated the pneumonia, nursed the baby back to health, actually took the baby back to the house where we were staying and provided twenty-four-hour care for the baby for three or four days. Well, just amazingly really feel like this was the hand of God that that really moved. And God smiled on, on this little baby. The baby survived, and Machina was is the baby’s name. Machina now is about eight years old, and, uh, the mom of Machina, Gertrude, came to us about when Machine was, was weaned. She was probably about a year old. And Gertrude came to us and said, “I saw what maternal health would do for my baby, I saw what healthcare would do. You saved my baby’s life. I want to work for Live Beyond and I want to work in the maternal health program.” So, Gertrude was not medically trained, and so we, we trained her up, and she’s the director of the maternal health program. She sees how important maternal health is, because every day she wakes up and she sees her little Machina smiling back at her as she goes to school. And so, she is so committed and she’s excellent. She’s just absolutely outstanding. We’re so blessed to have Gertrude on our staff and she’s been there for, I guess, seven or eight years now. She really has been there a long time, so we’re very excited about it. It just shows what with a little bit of effort, you know, what a big improvement you can make in the lives of people.

Post-Deliver Home Visits

[42:41] JVB: Well, and what I love so much, we didn’t really touch on this earlier, that, and a part of our maternal health program, is that we go and do at home visits. And so, 48 to 72 hours after our moms give birth we go check on the baby, make sure that the woman and baby are healthy, everything like that. And as you were mentioning earlier, there are several cultural things that are deeply embedded about the maternal aspect of you know, everything pregnancy, raising children, all that stuff that comes from voodoo. And so, you know, you mentioned having the red cord tightly around the wrist, ankles or neck on how that could affect not breastfeeding and things like that. But another one is, for whatever reason, they tell him put as many clothes as possible on the baby and on yourself, so, as you mentioned earlier these are tin or mud huts and it can get to hellacious levels of heat inside of them. And I love going on our maternal health visits. And so I would go inside and, you know, I’d be in a thin shirt or dress or something like that, and I would be sweating so hard and I would look over, and these moms would have several layers of pants on several layers of long sleeve shirts and like four hats on and then their baby would have all the baby clothes and wrapped up in a blanket with several hats and everything like that. And what I love is that Gertrude will go in, and she is a no-nonsense woman. We have talked about this for the last nine months, you don’t do this, and so should be taking all the clothes off the baby and making sure that you know they’re getting enough air not being too hot. But she, like you were saying, has seen the difference that it makes. She gets it. And you know, I think what is so important is that, you know, they could hear from Americans all day long. Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. Don’t put red cords on your baby and choke them, you know, don’t put so much clothing on them. They probably don’t want to hear it. We don’t understand their culture fully. I mean, you’ve lived there for five plus years. You understand the culture a lot, but I’m going to say you probably don’t understand it fully, but Gertrude does. She gets it. You know, she’s had children after Machina, she knows what that’s like. And so, I love that they that they get to look to our Haitian nurses because Gertrude is not our only one who’s in our maternal health program, so they get to look at them and say: You’ve done this before. You’ve seen the pros and cons of what has happened. You’ve seen the difference between the two. And I trust her and they want to listen to her. And so I just think it’s so cool, you know, I think for so, for so many people when you go down, you could kind of think, “I’m going to save the day. You know? I’m gonna have a spotlight and I’m going to get to say: don’t do this and everybody is going to listen and world peace would happen.” It doesn’t. What is truly amazing is when you get to take a step back and look to the Haitians or the natives of wherever you are and see them take ownership of it and say, this is what’s going to bring you life, just it, it is one of the best fuel things in the world to get to see, you know that they get it and they’re wanting to share that knowledge with other people. It’s just absolutely beautiful.

[46:30] DMV: It really is, and the maternal health program is fully sustainable. It runs every day with our nurses and Gertrude running it, whether I’m there or not. And it’s just fantastic to see that they have bought into the program so heavily that they wouldn’t stop this no matter what, you know. And it’s just amazing. Our, you know, our challenges are we need to get more ladies involved in this program. We need to grow the program because there, there are women out there who don’t know that this exists. And so, getting the message out, getting the women, to the LiveBeyond based to be treated is so important.

How Can You Help Mothers in Haiti?

[47:15] JVB: And that was actually my next question for you was, what can we do to help support the Haitian moms? You know, because I think, you know, you mentioned this earlier. There is no gender equality in Haiti at all. In any form of anything, there’s, you know, whether that’s in school or housework or being a mother, you know, there’s just a complete and total imbalance. And so, for me, what I love so much about Mother’s Day coming up is that not only can we honor our mothers or our mother figures here in the United States, but as women or as children of a mother, because that’s how we all came about, we can also honor women in Haiti who have absolutely zero honor otherwise, no hope, no honor, no respect or anything. And so how can we really take that upon ourselves to say, you know, we want to, we want to impact and raise that water level of respect and honor and equality for the women in Haiti?

[48:26] DMV: Well, that’s a great question. And you know, there’s so much that can be done. And it’s so amazing when you look at the disparities between United States and in Haiti, you know, United States, the wealthiest nation that the Earth has ever seen, never been a wealthier nation than that exists presently than the States. And then you look at Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one of the poorest in the entire world, so they’re just antithetical. And so, one of the things that is so important is that people, the United States will see that their donations are being effective. And I couldn’t emphasize this more. It only costs about fifty dollars a month to supply everything that a pregnant woman needs all through her pregnancy and delivery. That’s not a lot of money and that what it produces so far with, with our efforts as we’ve, we’ve dropped the death rate among pregnant ladies by 60%. Well that’s enormous. I mean, it’s just enormous that for that little amount of money, you can have that many more mothers having their babies, watching their babies grow, taking their babies to school, clothing their babies. It’s just absolutely stunning. And so, people need to understand that when you give money to LiveBeyond and into the maternal health program, you’re going to see a dramatic improvement in the lives of these ladies and their babies. So, donation is one of the things that you could can do that will really help. This is Mother’s Day coming up, and so people are honoring their mothers, and every mother deserves lots of honor. Think about what you’re spending on your own mom and think about that amount of money given to your mom. What I would like to challenge everybody to do is to take that amount and donate that to the LiveBeyond maternal health program. That money is honoring your mother in the United States that that money in Haiti is going to, allow these women to not just survive but to thrive. And you’re going to give life and life abundantly to a mother of five or six children, which is just an enormous gift. So, donation and is something that we, we definitely would encourage. Secondly, though, we encourage everybody to pray for these moms. These moms are, are so dear to us of course, we work with them every day. We know their names. We know their babies’ names, we’re taking care of them we are, you know, are very hands on. And so, you know, for us, it’s, it’s sort of personal because these are our friends, these are our neighbors that we’re taking care of. But if you will pray for these ladies and pray that they will not only just survive, but they will thrive and that their babies will thrive, it will transform their community. And that’s what we’re all about at LiveBeyond is taking a community that is really struggling and transforming it into a community that is thriving – thriving physically, thriving, emotionally and thriving in the love of Jesus Christ. And those are the things that absolutely will give everybody this, a sense of having a wonderful life that everybody deserves and from no fault of their own. The Haitian mothers are not receiving that.

[52:21] JVB: Well, I mean, that’s a charge that I need to hear. You know, I think it’s so easy for me to think of, you know, the comparison of my five-dollar Starbucks drink, and that if it’s just fifty dollars a month that that’s just ten times that I probably very easily surpass in a month of going to Starbucks, there’s one about, I don’t know, half a mile from my apartment. So, you know, just thinking there’s so many sacrifices that would be so easy to make that could actually give life to someone. You know, we talk about John 10:10 so much about Jesus came to give life, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s not you’re just barely scratching by you’re kind of limping down the road, but you’re alive, it’s but life abundantly, and, and, so, you know, it would be so, it’s just, it’s crazy for me to think that you can give to a program like this and know that more babies are going to be alive, that they’re going to be healthy, that moms are going to be thriving and respected and honored and alive because of the work that’s been, been going on in this program. And so, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for talking about this, for talking about the incredible work that the Lord is doing in Haiti and just what an honor it is to get to be a part of that work that’s going on. So, everybody, thank you so much for joining us for another LiveBeyond podcast. To all the mothers, or soon to be mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day. If you want to learn a little bit more about LiveBeyond, you can go online to livebeyond.org, where we have our donate page. You can set up a one time or a re-occurring donation, and you can actually specify the maternal health program that you want to donate to. We also have all of our 2019 and 2020 [mission trip] dates listed on our website, that is livebeyond.org. So please go check that out. But everybody, thank you so much for listening and don’t forget, go out and LiveBeyond.

Maternal Health Resources

Learn more about the Maternal Health program here.

Read Mita’s story about how the Maternal Health program impacted her here.

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