another student (serena) and I first headed out to Dona Ana’s house on wednesday. the journey to and from is a big part of the adventure. here were our written directions:
1. walk down to the corner of 19th avenue and 7th street, zona 1 (side note 1: xela has three zones with all the same streets, just to make things confusing), and wait under the san sebastian bread shop on the corner.
2. flag down a camioneta thats headed for san juan ostuncalco (side note 2: ‘camionetas’ are old american school buses that have been painted in crazy colors and racing stripes, christened with names like ‘maria jesus’ o ‘la gloriana’, and then packed full of people clown-car style. they are awesome and will happily run you over if you dont get out of the way)
3. ride through a couple of other towns, then get off in the central park of san juan
5. past the texaco is a microbus station. (side note 3: microbuses, the even sketchier mode of transport available in guatemala, are super junky 12-passenger vans filled with 25+ people. favorite activities: prolonged honking, careening around corners with all the doors open and people hanging out the sides, bottoming out on speedbumps). catch a microbus towards aldea buena vista, but jump out just past km marker 217. just tell the driver you’re going to dona ana’s house, he’ll know where to stop.
6. walk down the dirt road for a bit until you see the big blue and yellow house, then you’re there!
once we made it to dona ana’s, we hung out for awhile and waited for patients to show up. we needed to leave by dark, so we were worried we wouldnt have time to see much, but all the sudden lots of ladies rolled up to dona ana’s house/clinic. most of the patients were pregnant women with a few other medical issues mixed in, and most spoke a mix of about 20% super-fast spanish and 80% Mam, a mayan language. dona ana would translate intermittently.
our very first patient was a young woman who was pregnant- she looked to me like only beginning of her third trimester, but dona ana said she was 34 weeks- more evidence of the poor nutritional situation for women around here. after feeling her uterus, dona ana called me over, guided my hands to where hers had just been, and said a word in Mam that i couldnt pronounce or remember but that clearly meant ‘breech.’
seconds later, dona ana moved me out of the way and began pushing on the young woman’s uterus much harder than before, moving the fetus’ head down and to the left, smoothly but firmly. the patient sucked air through her teeth but didnt scream, and then- it was done, el bebe volteado. something i’d never seen before- she made it look so easy!
we had to skedaddle before it got dark but made plans to return the next day and stay overnight in hopes of catching a birth. then we had the surreal experience of riding back to Xela on a camioneta, looking out at the beautiful sunset over the mountains while a dubbed version of Thor: the Dark World played on a jerry-rigged tv. a great day!