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The day I helped a mother who had given birth by the roadside –Judith Shitabule

Judith Shitabule

Judith Shitabule, 44, is a community health volunteer (CHV) based in the Lindi area of Kibera, Nairobi County. She is well known in her locality, such that people freely approach her when in need, especially regarding their health. You can read more about Judith in this article that I wrote about her.

As a CHV, Judith often comes across incidents that are lifechanging; sometimes a matter of life and death. She narrated to me one such incident that happened recently, where she assisted a mother and her newborn.

Read: Judith Shitabule: Champion of Maternal and Newborn Health in Nairobi

“Last month, I handled a roadside delivery in the dead of the night. While I have handled emergencies before, this one was unique (and scary) because I could see that the mother had a complication and I wasn’t sure how I would handle it. This is what transpired:

Frantic knocks on my door

I live by the roadside, with my house being familiar to residents since my work as a CHV is well known. Because of this, people know they can call on me for help anytime, even in an emergency.

On this particular day, I remember the security guards shouting, calling out my name as they frantically knocked on my door. I dressed hurriedly and when I came out, I found a mother lying down on the dirt road. She had just delivered her baby, who also lay on the dusty ground. Mother and baby had not been separated yet. It was a few minutes after midnight.

The woman’s husband was desperately asking the security guards to help him out. I noted the sigh of relief on all their faces when I arrived.

Cutting the umbilical cord

After assessing the situation, I quickly ran back to my house for a pair of gloves. I also took out a new, unused razor blade which I used to cut the umbilical cord.

After doing so, I realized something odd with the mother. Even though her placenta was out, something else was protruding from her vagina, which I didn’t think was normal. She was also bleeding. Thankfully, she was conscious and talking. I knew we had to rush to hospital as something didn’t seem right with her. I also needed to get the baby checked by a medic, to ensure all was well.

Also read: How health workers in Kibera are assessing sick children using a new digital health tool

Ambulance unavailable

I called for an ambulance but they told me that while the vehicle was available, it didn’t have fuel. It was a county government ambulance. I felt bad because it was an emergency. We didn’t have money to hire a private ambulance. What to do next?

Thankfully, the tuktuks parked next to my house became the lifesaver. The security guards agreed that they would use it to rush the mother and baby to hospital, and would later explain to the owner what had informed this decision.

One of the security guards took the wheel as we wrapped both mother and baby up with some lesso’s from my house, and off we went. Our destination was the Kibera Community Health Center (AMREF). By the time we arrived, the mother looked pale and weak, as she drifted in and out of consciousness. I quickly handed her over to the medical team. We kept vigil at the reception area, nervous, but hopeful for good news.

Childbirth complication

Finally, the doctor came out and shook my hand saying “thank you for saving this mother’s life”. The doctor informed us that the mother had experienced a complication and thankfully, we had brought her to the hospital in the nick of time. The protrusion that I had seen, which seemed unusual to me, was her uterus, in what the doctor informed was referred to as a uterine prolapse.

Mother and baby stayed at the hospital and were released the following day. I often see them when I make my household rounds in the community – they are both healthy and doing well. Even though it has its challenges, I find my work as a CHV quite fulfilling.”

Also Read: Sodomy: a Kenyan Mother Recounts her Son’s Path to Justice

Do you have feedback on this article? Comment down below or email me at wawerumw@gmail.com

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Maryanne W. Waweru is a Kenyan mum raising her two sons in Nairobi. A journalist, Maryanne is passionate about telling stories and hopes that through her writing, her readers learn something new, feel encouraged, inspired, and appreciative of what they have in their lives. Maryanne's writing focuses on motherhood, women and lifestyle. "Telling stories is the only thing I know how to do," she says.


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