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When Time Is Running Out, Who Can Help?

Peter and Doris had already lost two pregnancies. Would they ever be parents?

Peter knew his wife needed help—and fast.

It was a hot, sunny Sunday morning in Mabirikani. Peter’s wife, Doris, was pregnant and past her due date. She had been feeling pains on and off for a week.

Today, the pain had become too much.

Doris had been pregnant twice before, but both labors had ended in stillbirths. Steeling herself for the journey to the hospital, Doris wondered, “Am I going to lose this baby, too?

A tuk-tuk—a three-wheeled scooter taxi—carried them down the narrow streets of their neighborhood, past children playing in the shade of palm trees. Peter spoke words of encouragement to his wife. They both desperately wanted to be parents, and Peter’s friends had told him the problem was with Doris.

They said he would never be a father if he stayed with her—that the stillbirths were her fault. Even his own family had told him to leave Doris and find a wife who could give him a child that lived.

But Peter loved his wife, and he wouldn’t even consider leaving her. Now, he wanted to do everything he could to have a healthy baby.

He knew they were taking their chances with the trip to the hospital. The day before, they’d gone to the hospital—the only place capable of handling a high-risk delivery like Doris’s. But there were no doctors available. They’d been told to go home and wait.

What if today there weren’t any doctors, either?

A DOCTOR WITH A MISSION

For eight hours, Dr. Janet Omyonga had been on call at Kilifi County Referral Hospital. Janet is a technical advisor for Pathfinder and no longer works as a physician, but due to the shortage of doctors, she had stepped in to help.

She knew that without proper medical help, mothers facing difficult deliveries could lose their babies or face death themselves. She refused to let that happen.

A call came in. Janet was already assisting three deliveries, but a fourth woman had just arrived—and she needed help right away. It was Doris.

“It’s a very bad case,” the nurse explained. “Come quickly.”

Janet knew time was running out.

“She needs a C-section,” Janet told her colleagues. “Right away.”

MAKING A CHOICE

The thought of a C-section scared Doris, but she and Peter trusted Dr. Janet. If anyone could help, she could.

“I want to do it,” Doris said.

Janet began the procedure, and Peter waited nervously outside of the operating room. Peter’s thoughts raced as he remembered the pain he and Doris had faced twice before.

What if it was already too late?

A CHILD AT LAST

“This is baby Esther,” says Doris proudly.

It’s been two months since Doris gave birth. Today, she cradles her daughter, who sleeps peacefully, wrapped in a bright blanket.

“We wished for so long to have a child,” says Peter. “It was our dream. We are so happy now that we have our daughter.”

The C-section helped save Esther’s life. During the procedure, Janet found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Esther’s neck twice. The same problem had occurred in Doris’s other pregnancies. Labor had pulled the cord tight. And because Doris had given birth at home, alone, there was no doctor to help.

“My husband and I have a child because of Janet,” says Doris.  “And now that we have Esther, we want to get another child, maybe after two years.” Doris is hopeful—with Janet’s help, she knows it’s possible to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

HELPING MILLIONS OF WOMEN LIKE DORIS

Janet shares the family’s story with health care workers around the region.

“We want people to see how important it is to have help in a difficult labor,” she says. “No woman should be told that a stillbirth is her fault. No pregnancy should be lost because there isn’t a doctor to help. We are working to make sure health workers in Kenya recognize the signs of high-risk pregnancies so they can help women like Doris.”

Peter has a question for Janet: “If I see a fellow man go through the same problem, that his wife has lost a baby, what should I tell him?”

Janet speaks firmly. “Tell him to come to the hospital, because if his wife gives birth in the hospital, she can be helped easily.”

When Doris and Peter are ready to have another child, they plan to visit the clinic for antenatal visits and go to the hospital for Doris’s delivery.

Today, in this moment, they are content to hold baby Esther in their arms—and they’re happy that Janet is here to share their joy.

“Janet’s heart for giving and helping women is good,” says Peter. “She has her own work, but she looks for time to volunteer at the hospital to help others.”

Doris smiles. “We are thankful.”

***

A MESSAGE FROM JANET to Pathfinder supporters and partners around the globe.

Every girl deserves the same choice.

Your gift can make a world of difference in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights for women, men, and young people around the world.

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Get involved in changing a life.

Join Pathfinder in advocating for women and girls everywhere.

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