Baby Blanca visits on her first birthday
Oliveros, Guatemala – When she first visited Oliveros last year, 29-year-old Allison Hardin did not anticipate leaving such a treasure behind.
On Sunday, January 19, 2014 — a year to the day later — she had a tearful, joyful reminder.
Blanca Natalie Rivas came to Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Aldea Oliveros, the local school, on her first birthday to visit Allison at the Guatemala Medical Resources Partnership clinic. Soon everyone was celebrating.
Allison, originally of Madison and now living in North Chicago, was a student at Rosalind Franklin University in her last year of practicum rotation as a physician’s assistant. One of her professors, Dr. Rea Katz had visited Guatemala on a previous GMRP trip, sponsored by several Wisconsin Rotary clubs, and encouraged students to do an international medical rotation there.
Allison joined the team in January 2013. International travel was not unknown to her. She spent a year in Chile and is fluent in Spanish.
“They really just throw you in, and it was great,” she said of her initial GMRP experience, a weeklong clinic the group sets up in a school.
“I did a lot of women’s health there,” where the patients were modest, even with the female practitioners who served them, she said.
“It was a Saturday night around 6:30 pm. I slung my backpack on and walked out of general medical, when a kid on a motorcycle drove up and yelled, ‘We need help!'”
Dr. Estuardo Herrera, a regional obstetrician, had joined the medical team for the day. He said, “Grab your things and let’s go!” Allison recalled.
“In hindsight, we didn’t grab many tools. We did not have scissors, towels, anesthetic, or syringes. We simply got into Dr. Herrera’s car and followed the kid on the motorcycle,” she said. “We went 20 minutes out of town and he brought us to a little hut. Outside is a wood fire. Inside, is a dirt floor, a mosquito net and three beds for the three families that live there.”
“Thank God they had electricity,” Allison said. “There was a little hot plate in the middle of the room, and there on the bed was a 17-year-old woman pushing in delivery. She had no prenatal care at all. A midwife was attending to her and said the delivery had not made progress for hours.”
“The mom, Janeth Rivas, was getting so tired. She could push no longer. We took old towels that they had and sterilized them over the outside fire,” said Allison. “Dr. Herrera gave her an episiotomy without anesthesia and still no progress.”
“She was bleeding a lot and we decided to do it again at the risk of having her bleed out. We pushed on her abdomen and finally saw the head crowning,” she said.
But they were horrified when they saw that the baby girl was blue and the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. She was covered in meconium and was not making a sound,” Allison said.
“We started hitting her feet and massaging her chest,” she continued. “We warmed more towels by the fire, wrapped them around the baby and waited. All of a sudden, we heard a loud gasp. The baby started to cry and breathe.”
Allison said she remembered marveling earlier in the week that she had forgotten that she had a needle driver used to suture surgery patients in her backpack that had bypassed security at the airport. She had forgotten to remove it, but it was so necessary at that moment. Allison sutured the mother.
The emergency team drove the dad, Hector, and the baby to the GMRP clinic to be checked. Everything was fine.
Earlier, as they awaited the infant’s arrival, Janeth joked that she would name the baby after the doctor if it were a boy and after Allison if it were a girl. Then, she asked Allison’s name and sighed. It wasn’t a name ever used in Guatemala.
“My mother died just three years ago, and I asked her if Natalie was a name used in this country,” Allison said.
Blanca Natalie Rivas, partly named after Allison’s mother, made her appearance again at the clinic on her first birthday, when her parents asked Allison to be her Godmother.
“I will never forget this,” said Allison, now a practicing physician’s assistant in North Chicago.