A Harrowing Birth Still A Bright Spot For Care Team



Photos: In A Haitian Field Hospital, A Baby Is Born

Dr. Anna Kathryn Goodman kneels at the base of a cot in a make-shift medical center — a stuffy vinyl hospital tent set up in a school's courtyard. She's part of one of the six health care teams from the U.S. government in place in Port-au-Prince, staffed by doctors and nurses who leave their own practices to help those injured in the earthquake. In her stateside job, Goodman is a surgeon in Boston who specializes in gynecology, obstetrics, and oncology.

She's attending to Veda Brazile, who's been in labor all day long.

"Saw her the minute she walked into the tent, a beautiful young woman, very short with a very big tummy, clearly tired," says Goodman. "I thought to myself, uh-oh, one baby, teeny little short woman," says Goodman. "And is this going to be a big baby?"

Goodman even does an ultrasound check to make sure she was not dealing with twins. She becomes concerned that the labor isn't progressing:

"Three hours later, she was still eight centimeters and the baby wasn't down. Once I noticed that she hadn't changed, I didn't leave the tent," she says.

"Her cervix was swelling, because even though we were trying to coach her not to push, she was still pushing. At that point, I was thinking we might have to go a different route."

Goodman says that she's performed C-sections in the field before, and she could have done one here. But in the end, surgery wasn't necessary.

Routine Aftershocks

For the last five days, all Goodman has seen is a school courtyard, which is smaller than a football field. It's full of medical tents, people and equipment and patients suffering from crush wounds and dehydration and broken bones.

On the soccer field next door, several thousand people are living outside because their houses were destroyed. Those who still have houses are afraid to go inside because of all the aftershocks.

Sure enough, as Goodman fulfills another of her duties on the medical team — sweeping the courtyard — things begin shaking again.

"It's shaking. I'm just trying to, like, sweep. It's so annoying."

Goodman stops what she's doing and scrambles around to make sure she could find all her team members. And she finds them all — no one's hurt. She then yells out their status to other groups of doctors and nurses, something they always do to make sure everyone's accounted for.

Life, Amid Destruction

Meanwhile, Brazile is about to bring some joy to the people working on other quake survivors in this courtyard.

After eight hours of labor and an hour of very active coaching by Goodman, Brazile succeeds. She delivers a very much wanted seven-pound three-ounce baby boy.

"Look at that baby," Goodman says. "It's really wonderful to see some wonderful, normal births. It's nice to see little smiles on people's faces." A sign of hope in a badly bruised country.

The new father has a baby hat ready — actually two: one blue and one pink. He was really prepared until the earthquake leveled their lives. Now, his family will have to return to tent life in the soccer field. Goodman is worried about them, but optimistic too.

Haitians have gotten through some tough times before. She's praying they'll get through this one as well.

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