Emergency Evacuation Ramp

The other night I helped as an assistant doula to a lovely indigenous woman of the Mixe people group from the mountains of Oaxaca. We were at Casa Compasiva, and Catarina (not her real name) was doing a beautiful job working with her husband, cooperating with her body, and progressing well in her labour.

Unfortunately, her blood pressure started to climb at an alarming rate as she approached the moment in which she could start to push. Her body began swelling up until she could no longer feel her fingers. After trying unsuccessfully to bring her BP down with medication and IV fluids, our wonderfully responsible staff doctor and midwife decided that the safest option for Catarina was to transport her to a nearby hospital. Catarina and her husband agreed, and everyone flew into action getting her ready to transport.

Now here is where it gets interesting...Catarina had been labouring in our upstairs birth room because another mama had just given birth in the downstairs room that morning and she and her family were still there. So the trick is: how to get a fully-dilated mama on IV fluids who can barely move down the very high, steep, and narrow staircase leading from the kitchen down to the patio where the transport car is parked.

This is no easy feat, believe me! Because of my health challenges, I have not been attending births in the last three years, and so I had forgotten how difficult it is to get a non-ambulatory labouring mama down those stairs. I was actually shocked when I again saw the process of loading her up in a wheelchair and bumping her down the stairs backwards. It is not only difficult, but stressful and terrifying for the woman, and dangerous for those carrying her down. None of our doulas or midwives are ever eager to move someone in this way, having all suffered back and hip strain in the process. And it is even harder if we are trying to transport a woman on a stretcher, rather than in a wheelchair. The stairs are so steep that the woman is in danger of sliding right off the stretcher!

Thanks be to God, we managed to get Catarina down the stairs, into the transport vehicle, and safely to a near-by hospital. There we were met by our favourite Ob-gyn who arrived to help monitor the situation in case of continuing complications. We were able to get her BP down to normal range, her swelling went back to normal, and we continued to manage her birth until finally at 2:55 am her beautiful little boy made his grand debut in this world!
So why am I telling you about all this? Because Catarina’s experience highlights our critical need for an evacuation ramp. That whole wheelchair-down-the steep-stairs manoeuvre is simply not acceptable! Somebody sometime is going to get really hurt. But not on my watch, if I can help it! It is time to build an evacuation ramp for transport of wheelchairs or stretchers, but also for evacuation in case of earthquake, fire, or other emergency. Last September’s devastating earthquakes drove home to us the need to be able to quickly evacuate a room full of pregnant women in a pre-natal class, for example. It is now very clear that this is non-optional; a ramp must be built-- and must be built soon!

We estimate approximately $6,000-$7,000 US for the ramp to be built, of which we already have $1,200 US ear-marked for the project. Would you pray about giving towards this need? Our staff members wants to continue to serve the Oaxacan women in their pregnancies and births, but they need to be able to do so without high expectation of injury. And the women in labour shouldn’t be traumatized by a scary descent in the event that they need to transport! If you are interested in giving towards this cause (or to the general operating costs of Casa Compasiva), please go to the DONATE NOW link. Please help Casa Compasiva to give the very best and the very safest possible care to the beautiful mamas and babies of Oaxaca.

Thank you!

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