Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Newborns and Dominican Hospitals"

"Newborns and Dominican Hospitals"
Elder Darrel L. Hammon
Los Snow and their family with Elder y Hermana Saint Hilaire
Now if you haven’t been to a Dominican hospital before, then entering the walls of the hospital may startle you. We went to two hospitals this week, one each Sunday: one in Boca Chica, a small hospital in a very poor part of town and one here in Santo Domingo, Centro Maternal Infantil San Lorenzo de Los Minas, located in the Los Minas part of town. Both hospitals have a maternity ward. We went with Elder and Sister Snow. Sister Snow’s almost 89-year-old mother made all of the kits. Sister Upia, a member and a former resident of Boca Chica, went with us.

The Boca Chica hospital was very humbling to us. The rooms were austere, and the young mothers were lying on their beds with their babies. A thin sheet covered the hospital beds. While the room was humble, the young mothers seemed happy with their new little infants. They were so adorable. I stopped to think about their futures, and the futures of their mothers. It saddened me to think that they were born poor but will they be able to rise from their poverty, go to school, get good grades, go to college, earn a college degree in some field that will allow them to earn a good living, which, in turn, might help them rise from their poverty? All these are questions yet to be answered.
Hermana Saint Hilaire with a young mother
We drove to the Centro Maternal Infantil San Lorenzo de Los Minas and parked in the parking lot, which was no more than a piece of grass mixed with dirt and rocks. We pulled the various suit cases the Snows had brought with them from the trunk of the car. Sister Snow’s mother had made about 170 of these kits. The Snows had been out to the Central Maternal before with the Saint-Hilaire, another missionary couple from the DR who are serving in the temple. Sister Saint Hilaire accompanies us this a.m.
               We began to trundle to the door to enter the hospital. Many eyes were on the missionaries in white shirts and ties and the sisters wearing skirts on a hot, humid day. Waiting for us was Danilo, one of the hospital workers. He had his cart and quickly loaded the two suitcases in the car and off we went. The mothers’ rooms were stark: three beds with a plastic-top mattress with no sheets unless you brought your own. María, the young woman who was taking us around, walked into the rooms to check on who was in the rooms and determined whether the baby was a boy or girl. Then she beckoned us in. As we walked in, we usually saw three mothers, lying on their beds, an IV in their arm, and their little tiny baby lying on a blanket on the bed next to her. Some of the babies had been born the night before; the others the day before.
Young mothers
We met four little mothers in the hallway who were ready to go home. It was hard to believe because their babies were so small. One of the young women had an especially small baby. When I asked her how much her baby weighed, she told me a little over four pounds. A little over four pounds! I suspect it should have been in an incubator. Whether there was one of those in the hospital, I do not know. The little mother with the small baby had it tucked inside of her shirt so she and the baby could share the warmth.
One mother had lost her baby. Fortunately, the Snows had brought along a hygiene kit we could give her so she didn’t feel left out. Oh, what sadness she wore on her face; and oh, what sadness we felt, knowing her baby was gone while others lived. When the Snows had visited this hospital before, they encountered more than one mother who had lost their babies. The mortality rate is high.
One of the mothers didn’t speak Spanish or English. She was a Haitian who had given birth the night before. We tried to communicate with her the best we could. We gave her a newborn kit and then waved. She waved back, a huge grin on her face. The other mothers were so appreciative. A couple of the mothers had their own mothers with them.
Sweet Angel
Sweet Angel 2

I reached out and gently touched one of the babies, placed my big index finger inside of her tiny little hand. For a moment, I thought she squeezed it. She won my heart immediately. So soft. So cherubic. So tiny. So incredibly beautiful. So serene. So, so innocent.
Sweet Angel 3