The pregnant women jumps up from her seat so quickly I fear I may have caused the start of a premature birth. I nervously dart my eyes to see if Drs. Roserline or Sejuste are present, and then look to see if indeed I have caused any prenatal beings to go natal. But the woman’s pink chiffon halter top has started to settle around her belly, and all is calm.
We’re starting a monthly segment called “Why I Choose St. Damien’s,” and I’ve just asked Edna Geraldine Alexis, the administrator for St Luc’s Klinik Manitame (St. Luc’s Prenatal Clinic) to see if there are any patients who would like to be interviewed. Thus the lady in pink, who sits down to introduce herself. She is Cadet Louila, of the Haitian Police Force.
“I love St. Damien’s,” she tells me instantly, before I can even get out the first question. “My baby last year, she was born premature, and I came to St. Damien’s. The hospital I delivered at, they couldn’t do anything, and so one of my friends, a doctor, suggested I come down to Tabarre (where St. Damien’s is located). Because of them she survived.” She takes a pause and continues. “My brother, he came here too. A truck hit his motor cycle, and Father Rick and Conan helped him.” She shakes her head. “The other hospital, they wanted 1,000 dollars. A day.”
Even I raise my eyebrows at the figure, and she nods to confirm. I remember hearing about her brother, who was treated at St. Luc Field Hospital. We talk some more, and I find out that Louila is 36, and has a 13 year old child as well as her 1 year old. She is expecting her 3rd baby in November, and has made the 5 hour bus ride from her home in Miragoane to Klinik Manitame for her 6thmonth check-up. “Five hours each way?” I clarify, and she nods.
“Why?” I ask. It’s a question I could answer myself- according to the United Nations Population Fund, “1 in 44 women di[e] in pregnancy or childbirth,” making Haiti “the most dangerous place to give birth in the Western Hemisphere.” By going to Klinik Manitame for regular check-ups and prental care, Cadet Louila is dramtically increasing her chances of not becoming the 1 in that 44.
But I want to know her reasoning, and she’s happy to give it. “
“At St. Damien’s,” she smiles, stating her response as if it’s the most obvious answer in the world. “Even if you’re poor, they don’t let you die.”