Edmonde walked five miles nearly every month for eight months to get to St. Boniface Hospital for her prenatal visits. The 38-year-old mother of seven-going-on-eight passed goats and shepherds on her two-hour journey. Crossing the mountain range that separates her home in La Balaine from St. Boniface Hospital is no easy task—especially at eight months pregnant. But Edmonde knew it was worth it to protect her health, and the health of her baby. Prenatal care is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who attend at least four prenatal appointments have a lower risk of complications and are less likely to have underweight babies. Edmonde has delivered all of her children at St. Boniface, and she knows and trusts the care she recieves here. So, she walks. And walks. And walks.
Edmonde walked to St. Boniface Hospital because her family was unable to afford the 500 gourdes (about $5 USD) for a moto-taxi. Her husband was injured in a moto accident and could not work. Edmonde's pregnancy also complicated her own ability to generate income. “Normally we make charcoal to get money,” she says. Making charcoal is a highly labor-intensive process that requires the collection and burning of wood. It’s also an unreliable source of income for Haiti’s poorest populations because of its changing market value and dependence on Haiti’s dwindling trees. “Sometimes [the charcoal] doesn’t bring money and I have to walk to the hospital,” Edmonde says.
In mid-January, Edmonde got a headache that wouldn’t go away. This headache soon led to nausea, and her legs began to swell. “It was difficult to manage and it became pretty painful,” she said. Edmonde recognized these symptoms as signs of hypertension, a complication she dealt with in previous pregnancies. Hypertension is common among pregnant women in Haiti. In fact, one in seven women in Haiti experience hypertension during pregnancy. Despite feeling unwell, Edmonde walked all the way to St. Boniface Hospital and was immediately admitted to the emergency room once she arrived. She was given medication to lower her blood pressure, and her condition quickly stabilized. Out of an abundance of caution, the ER doctors kept her under observation for four days to make sure she and her baby remained healthy. We also paid for a moto to take her back home.
The incident worried Edmonde even after she returned to La Balaine. A week before her baby was due to arrive, she decided to stay with a friend who lives near St. Boniface Hospital so she could quickly receive care once her labor pains began. Edmonde was glad she made that choice when she went into labor on February 12th. She was able to get to the hospital in minutes, and little Cyntia Delea was delivered safely in our maternity center.
Edmonde and Cyntia spent the night in the Maternal Health Center. The next day, Cyntia got a full checkup with a pediatrician. The newborn’s vision, reflexes, and blood pressure were checked to ensure that she is healthy and ready to go home. Next, mom and baby went to the community health office, where Cyntia received vaccinations for polio and tuberculosis. Edmond was given a Vitamin A supplement, an important postnatal vitamin to support her recovery. Once the doctors determined that the Edmonde and Cyntia were healthy and strong, the pair was ready to go home.
Edmonde is proud of her family and is overjoyed with her new baby girl. “I always take care of my family,” she tells us. “I cook for them, I take care of them, all of my kids are healthy.” For now, her feet can rest.