Dona Ana, part 2

i want to follow up on the last post about Dona Ana to tell a little more about her patients and to convey a sense of how incredible this woman’s life has been. we returned to her house the next afternoon with plans to spend the night there. when we got there she showed us an upstairs room in the sprawling open-air house that we could sleep in. there were two beds, one of which had 3 tiny, 1-week old kittens in a little pile in the middle. ‘you girls can share this bed,’ she said, pointing to the one unoccpied by adorable animals, ‘because that other one is for the kittens’. this was not a joke. (we actually apprecaited sharing a bed later when it got super cold!)

we headed back downstairs to shadow her with more of her afternoon patients- a guy with stomach pain and a BP of 160/80, to whom she gave essentially DASH diet recs, a course of flagyl and albendazole, and an appt for a blood glucose check the next morning; a couple of ladies there for their routine prenatal care, including BP checks, and lastly, a young woman who spoke almost exclusively Mam and came in already seeming pretty upset. she spoke almost without breathing for a few minutes and stared tearing up when Dona Ana told her to lay down. As soon as Dona Ana felt her stomach, she looked at us and said simply ‘un aborto,’ i.e. a miscarriage. The woman sat back up and pulled out of the pocket of her large, traditional dress a plastic baggie with a folded up piece of notebook paper inside. she handed it to dona ana, who put on a glove and unfolded it, then showed us the contents- el feto. Dona Ana then left for a few minutes to get the antibiotics the woman needed for her UTI, and the woman looked at us and said the only words she spoke in Spanish the whole visit- Perdi mi bebe. i lost my baby.

later over dinner we asked dona ana how she came to be a midwife.

‘My mother was a midwife, and so my first experiences were very young. she had a book that described a lot of medical procedures including labor and delivery, giving injections, and all of that. so i read the book and liked it, but never went with my mother to any of the deliveries. then one day when i was 11 years old, my mother was sick, and a woman came to us and said that her friend was in labor in a pine forest near there, under the trees. my moher said that she couldnt go, but that she would send me. I said I couldn’t, I didn’t know how, but she just explained to me what the steps were, how i should massage the uterus after the placenta came out, and all of that. so i went, and did as she said. and that was my first birth.’

Dona Ana is about 33 years old and has delivered 12,000 babies- as she says, ‘un pueblo.’ she ended up going to nursing school when she was 18, but it was mostly to reinforce what she already knew from years of experience. now she is already delivering the babies of women that she delivered when she was a teenager.

there weren’t any births the night we stayed over, unfortunately, but she said she would call us the next week to let us know when to come. we spent the night listening to the kittens crying, the neighborhood dogs barking, and finally the silence of the country asleep.



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