A question of life

Posted: on December 17, 2013

by Paul Beck

The bleeding was sufficient to conclude that the baby had died, but could the woman carrying the unborn child still be saved?

With this brief assessment, a group of villagers in rural Madagascar knew they had not only reached the limit of their medical knowledge, but also their ability to positively alter the tragic situation caused by violent cattle thieves. Given the distances and terrain involved in bringing the woman to hospital, it was time to contact the only people who could help –

30977_a_question_of_lifeAt sunrise the next morning, the earliest possible moment for departure, an MAF plane took off from Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo bound for Beroroha. Only traversable by 4×4, this was a trip that would take 2 days by road. The MAF plane did it in under 2 hours.

On board the flight were General practitioner Dr. Fernand and surgeon Dr. Faustin, two local
health professionals who the MAF team know well. They both had experience of the limited
medical facilities available to communities in rural Madagascar, and had therefore come as
prepared as possible.

As soon as they were on the ground, Pilot Josh Plett and the two doctors rushed to help the lady. Witnessing her anguish brought alive the factual details they had been briefed with before. The patient now had a face and, as they learned then, a name – Dorothee Razafindramiarina.

30978_a_question_of_lifeTo make an immediate assessment, Dr. Fernand reached for the one piece of equipment he had brought with him that he was certain wouldn’t have been available in the remote location; a portable ultrasound device. That produced an immediate and startling discovery… the baby was still alive.

The news was sufficient to give Dorothee the energy to walk to the plane herself. She was still severely dehydrated though and as the plane turned round for the return flight to Antananarivo, so extensive was Dorothee’s bleeding, Dr. Faustin remained in doubt as to whether the baby would survive.

Having made it possible for this mother-to-be to receive the care which only a hospital in the country’s capital could provide, Josh and the MAF team stepped back from the situation. They had done all they could do, except remain in prayer.

Those prayers were answered late the next day when news came through that Dorothee had given birth to a daughter she named Faustine, after one of the doctors who had come to her rescue, and that both mum and baby were doing well.

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