Pregnancy should never be a death sentence. Every day around the world, more than 800 women die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Virtually all of these deaths — 99 percent — occur in developing countries.
We cannot sit by and watch this happen. We cannot abandon women like Ojaswini.
Ojaswini is a primary school teacher and mother of two young boys in rural India, a country with the highest number of maternal deaths in the world.
This is the reality Ojaswini faces as her labor pains begin.
During her delivery, Ojaswini experiences complications and needs a cesarean section. At the rural district hospital, while she recovers with her newborn son sleeping in her arms, she begins to bleed.
SOMETHING IS WRONG
At first she thinks the bleeding is normal. Soon her sari is filled with blood.
“I feel dizzy…” she alerts the nurse. “Very weak…I can’t move.”
This is postpartum hemorrhage — the leading cause of maternal death in low-income countries.
Through tears, Ojaswini watches as doctors try to save her life. They give her IV fluids and a drug — oxytocin — to control her bleeding.
“Please…” she cries. “Don’t let me die.”
Then her eyes close and she loses consciousness.
Doctors lift Ojaswini, wrapping her tightly in a neoprene fabric from her ankles to her abdomen. This first-aid device is called a non-pneumatic anti-shock garment or NASG — and its job is critical. It helps push her remaining blood to her brain, heart, and lungs, and slows her bleeding, buying her time until she can reach a higher-level facility capable of treating such severe hemorrhage.
Without it, Ojaswini could be dead in less than two hours.
EVERY SECOND COUNTS
For 1.5 hours, speeding toward Kanpur Medical College, Ojaswini’s body jostles in the back of an ambulance. Her husband, Vikas, is close by. He is terrified. An EMT wraps Ojaswini in a sheet for warmth. When she finally reaches the hospital, she appears lifeless.
As she is rushed through the doors of the crowded hospital, Vikas overhears an exchange between two nurses. “Critical,” says one. “Unconscious for too long,” says the other. “Unlikely she’ll survive.”
Behind curtains in the medical college’s maternity ward, surrounded by expectant mothers, doctors examine Ojaswini. They pull back the blood-soaked sheet and see it — the anti-shock garment.
Knowing that the NASG may have effectively supported her vital organs during her transfer, they go from preparing for death to fighting for life. This sends them into a flurry of action, scheduling her surgery and urging Vikas and the rest of his family to donate blood immediately.
Ojaswini now has a chance.
GIVING WOMEN A CHANCE
The government of India is committed to preventing the death of mothers like Ojaswini, and Pathfinder is doing its part to make it happen.
In 2007, we dedicated ourselves to eliminating preventable maternal death from postpartum hemorrhage when we launched Pathfinder’s Clinical and Community Action Model to prevent, recognize, and manage life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage. Today our model, which includes the use of the NASG, is saving lives in Burundi, India, Nigeria, Peru, and Tanzania.
Together, with our local partners, we are having a global impact.
We improved the quality of care at private and public health facilities and established strong referral systems — to expand women’s access to life-saving care in extremely underserved districts where there were not enough services. We brought lifesaving technology to underserved, rural communities.
Through our Matrika project in Uttar Pradesh, rural district-level hospitals use the anti-shock garment to help save the lives of hemorrhaging women.
“His name is ‘Lucky.’”
It’s been over a year since Ojaswini nearly died giving birth. Lucky just celebrated his birthday.
“I recently went back to the hospital to give all the doctors sweets,” she says. “To thank them for what they did for me…” She gestures towards her family members — eight of them — crowded into the small bedroom to show their support as she shares her difficult story. “And for them.”
Vikas sits closest to his wife. “If the anti-shock garment had not been there…” his voice trails off. “If the doctors did not know what to do…”
Ojaswini nods. “I wore that garment for three days. It was my partner. It kept me alive.” She rests her hand on Lucky’s head.
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