Midwifery Advice Telephone Service

I take a short break from describing our visit to PNG last month to tell the story of events that happened this morning.

Just after 6am today, 13th August 2013, Beverley gave birth to a healthy baby. She survived and so did the baby. I believe it was an answer to prayer.

I could hear my mobile ringing and vibrating on the kitchen bench on the other side of the house and thought it must be Vivien trying to call me at midnight again. I rolled over trying to get back to sleep. I don’t have a bedside clock so didn’t know what time it was. Phone went again. “I really should get up and answer it as she may be in labour herself and wanting some advice” I thought. It stopped. Then it started again and I heard my younger son get up and answer it. “Mum, Mum, wake up, it’s Vivien” he said shaking me gently. I looked at the time on the phone and it was 5.13am. “Sara, can you call me please” and the phone went dead.

Yesterday morning when I woke up there were 3 messages from Vivien and a text message asking me to call her. I had tried to call, but kept being put through to message bank. I even tried last night, but same again.

I called the number and it went through to her husband Isaac, “Please call Vivien as she is having pains and she wants to talk to you”. My first thought was, “Oh no, please not another death. I can’t deal with someone I know dying in childbirth”. I scribbled down the number as he read it out to me and dialled.

“Hello, Sara!” It was good to hear Vivien’s voice. You see, I haven’t told you this yet, but I didn’t get to see Vivien while in PNG last month. I was terribly disappointed. While shopping in Wewak for groceries we bumped into her husband and he said they’d be there in Bunam on the Monday. But Monday came and went, so did Tuesday, so did Wednesday and still no Vivien. On our way back we left some birthing kits and other things for the boat skipper to drop off for Vivien in Kambarumba. Nobody knows why they didn’t get to Bunam for Health training. There’ll be an explanation and it will probably be related to fuel and boats not getting out to collect them.

Vivien began telling me what the situation was. Initially I thought she was talking about herself and kept thinking she sounded quite good for someone who’d been in labour for a couple of days now! But then I tweaked that she was talking about a woman she was helping. She said the woman had been in labour for over a day now and the baby was stuck. “What must I do Sara?”. A million thoughts raced through my head. I prayed and asked God to help me think clearly and communicate simply with Vivien. I knew I needed to find out whether the head was down – if it was a shoulder presenting then that would definitely cause an obstruction. “Is the head coming first?” I asked. “Yes, I can feel head down and heart beat on left side”. I was amazed. So Vivien had taken on board what we’d taught last year about abdominal assessment and listening to the fetal sounds. I’d left a pinnard stethoscope for her too and wondered if it would be used. I asked her if the heart beat was strong and she said it was strong but it was now very slow.

Oh dear, not a good sign. This baby is getting tired and heading for death. She said the woman had been trying to push since yesterday and the baby would not come out. I had a picture in my head of an exhausted mother, on the floor of the haus, dehydrated and in need of some desperate help. And here I was sitting pretty in my comfy bed, on the other side of the world compared to her.

I told Vivien to give the woman some water to drink and some food (kai kai) for energy. To get her upright – squatting, kneeling, any position where she was up and had gravity helping her. She said she hadn’t done that at all and was lying flat on the ground. I also told her to get the men to get a boat ready to transfer her to the nearest Health Centre which was in Angoram. Vivien then told me that the Angoram Health Centre is closed and so they’d have to go to Wewak. I know that road to Wewak. I also know what the vehicle looks like that transports the sick to Wewak Hospital. I had a picture now of a half dead woman, with a dead fetus, bumping along in the back of a vehicle on the road to Wewak. “It’s no good,” I thought, “this situation is going to need a miracle for there to be a good outcome”.

Vivien then got to work and I sat bolt upright in my bed, searching my head for answers to this dilemma. “What can I do, Lord? I’m in Perth. Miles and miles away from where this woman is giving birth and where Vivien needs some help”. I remembered the name of the airline service in Wewak which is really trying to expand and provide emergency transport for women and babies in the East Sepik Province (another story still to tell). Samaritan Airlines…no, Samaritan Aviation. If only I knew their phone number I could give them a call and get them to try and rescue the woman. The village is not far from the Sepik River so they should be able to land their seaplane. I googled the name and came up with their facebook page, but no contact telephone number. I sent a facebook message: “This is a long shot, but I’ve just heard from Vivien, a VBA in the village of Kambaramba and she has a woman in obstructed labour. Any chance you could give her a call and give some assistance? I’m in Perth, Western Australia. Her number is…..” I pressed send and then prayed hard.

I said to God that I knew He was all knowing and all seeing, so he didn’t need me telling him what to do, but that I really hoped he’d be with Vivien and this woman. I prayed that She would have clear thinking and be able to remember all the positions we had demonstrated last year at training. I prayed that God would send his angels to minister to the woman, give her the strength she needed to push the baby out, and that the baby would be strong and be born alive.

The phone rang again. No one there. I rang Vivien’s number again and she answered: “The baby will be here in 3 minutes. What must I do?” I was so excited. I said, “God is answering our prayers Vivien.” Then I reminded her that she must watch for heavy bleeding because the labour had been long and the birth difficult. I reminded her to rub up the top of the uterus to keep it firm. To not pull on the placenta. Put the baby to the breast (if it’s alive, I thought). In the background I could then hear the sounds a woman makes when the head is crowning. “I have to go” she said. “I’m praying for you Vivien. What’s the woman’s name?” I asked. “Beverley”, she answered quickly and then the phone went dead.

I felt overcome with emotion. The baby was coming. “Lord, you have answered our prayers”. I turned to my side where my bible was laying open and my eyes fell on these verses in Psalm 34: My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor [woman] called, and the Lord heard [her]; he saved [her] out of all [her] troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and he delivers them.

About 20 minutes later I rang again and Vivien told me the baby was born alive, the placenta came away immediately and there was little blood loss. The baby was suckling at the breast as we spoke. She was so thankful for the prayers.

This is a story of answered prayer.

Later this morning there was a message from Samaritan Aviation saying they’d give her a call. I messaged back telling the good news of the birth and a request for the phone number for future. So now, I have the phone number of the pilot and President of the Samaritan Airlines! I wonder what will happen next…


8 thoughts on “Midwifery Advice Telephone Service

  1. Deborah says:

    Oh Sara that bought tears to my eyes… that is just wonderful . COngratulations to both you and Vivien – and to Steve for getting us in touch with Samaritan Air … it is for a very good reason we met him ! We wish Beverley all the very best with her beautiful newborn

  2. Laura says:

    oh ! I am overcome!!!! You have some powerful angels at work – even on standby and through FB! what delightful news! That Vivien is a gem, and thank the angels that rehydration and repositioning worked!

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