Saturday, March 13, 2010

It Could Have Been Me, or You

Many of you are aware that I'm reading Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, both winners of the Pulitzer Prize; I can see why. Their mission is to make the masses aware of and educate about the lack of human rights around the world, so we can do something about it. In the midst of reading, I started crying the other night, again. The situation of maternal mortality struck my heart because it could have been me, and ya know what? It probably could have been you.
One woman dies from complications in childbirth every MINUTE. As you are drinking your coffee or checking your facebook, a woman dies because she did not have the medical attention she needed to most likely save her life and the life of her baby. It wasn't until I read this chapter, did I realize that this could have easily been me.
When I was in the hospital delivering Alex, I was an unaware 28 year old more than happy to receive an epidural, watch Oprah and soap operas all day, and eat ice pops while my body went through the birthing process. My goal for delivering Alex was to be as pain free as possible, and thank God, that's exactly what I got. They induced me early in the morning on October 29, 2002, and I chilled out all day. At 7 pm, the nurses informed me that I reached the magic number of 10 centimeters, and it was time to push. Dutifully, I pushed with all my might for three hours while my crazy mother anxiously cursed out my doctor from the hallway (I kicked her out of the room when the first F Bomb flew). I pushed when they told me to push, I breathed when they told me to breathe, and threw up on Steve in between all the activity (I guess eating a whole box of ice pops defeated the purpose). After three hours of this, they finally informed that her heartbeat was increasing...I had obstructed labor; it was time to do a C-section and quickly. The ignorant fool I was didn't even register the gravity of the situation. I lay there as they pumped me with anesthetics (which happened in about two seconds, duh!) and rolled me so fast out of the room that wind flew through my curls (another duh) into an operating room. They strapped my arms down like Jesus on the cross and proceeded to do their amazing job. Alex was born at 11:51 pm that night healthy and beautiful. I was fine thanks to the awesome medical care that I was blessed to have (all because I live in the United States), despite my mother's cussing through the entire process.
Woman all over the world go into labor, but here's the difference: there are no epidurals, no hospitals, no ice pops, no tv, no doctors. Here's what could have happened if I lived in Ethiopia (for instance): it would have been time for me to push in a hut without trained medical staff, without sterile medical instruments. I would have pushed and pushed and not been able to push Alex out. The local midwife, who never had any formal training, would have given up on me and allowed me to sit there writhing in pain while Alex's heartbeat rose until she had a heart attach and died in the birth canal. I would continue to lay there for days in pain with my tragedy causing an infection and go unconscious. In turn, I would develop something called a fistula because of the rotting away of my uterus. A fistula doesn't allow women to have control of their bladder or bowels due to the nerve damage from the infection. My family would barely have a nickel to spare to get me to a hospital, and I would lay there in my own urine and feces unable to walk or move. I would smell beyond awful because of this, and they would move me to a hut all by myself on the edge of town to starve and urinate all over myself until I died.
You can't tell me that you would choose choice B over choice A. This hit me right between the eyes when I read this. This could have been me; this could have been you if you experienced obstructed labor.
Thankfully, there is a fistula hospital run by an angel, Catherine Hamlin, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She and her husband moved to Addis Ababa when they experienced first hand what these women experienced on a daily basis. They gave up the Cush dream of having a comfortable practice in their home country of Australia and opened this amazing hospital to love on and care for these women. I'm not saying that every ob/gyn should move to a developing country and do this, but perhaps they can consider devoting a week or two or three of their time and donate their time and expertise to help out these women.
When a woman dies, a mother dies, and in most cases children are left behind without a mom. In developing countries, this means that a father, who works, must leave his children to fend for himself and schools are few and far between. Could you imagine leaving your toddlers, infants, and school children to fend for themselves everyday without an adult, maybe a neighbor is around, because you have to go to work or your children will literally starve.
This could be situation of TJ's mom, and how he will come to us. I don't want to just take TJ out of his country, but I want to give back. I want to do something to help these women and families to be ok. I know that no one likes being a victim. I believe in the dignity of every person, no matter where they live. We share the human experience, and that's a fact.
I'm tired of Americans only caring about their house, cars, etc. There's a whole freaking world out there that is suffering atrocities, and it could have been you. So, open your eyes, stop complaining about our things and minor dramas. Turn your attention to something worthy; you might save a life, a family, a village. The ripple effect is waiting for you to throw your stone in the water. This is my charge to you if you're not already involved in doing something about something, anything outside of the comforts of what makes your life more comfortable.
Ask yourself a few questions: Can I take my house and car with me if I died tomorrow? Are my minor dramas really worth my time and energy, especially when people are dying and suffering due to a lack of basic human rights? If I give of my time, resources, talents, or attention, will my life become more meaningful?
I think you can answer those for yourself.

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