Mernielyn: Downpayment for her baby’s life

Rochit I. Tañedo
Did Mernielyn Garcia lose her baby because she could not afford a downpayment for the hospital?

Exactly one year ago, on Dec 21, 2012, the Reproduction Health Bill was signed into law, providing universal access to reproductive health care services and information with priority given to poorer households. Rappler will be publishing actual stories of women that show birthing complications and maternal deaths remain a tragic reality in the country. This is the 1st of 3 stories. The 2nd is titled, ‘In faraway Patikul, mothers die.’ The 3rd is titled, ‘A loaf of bread for Rosanna’s woes.’

MANILA, Philippines – Mernielyn Garcia, a pretty 21-year-old student from Basilan dreamed of marrying a man of means. Tired of being put down by more well-to-do relatives and hoping to  rescue her mother from lowly-paid work in a carinderia, she thought her boyfriend, a 22-year-old Muslim and classmate at her college fit the bill.

He was well-off and good-looking. He said they would get married someday, but when Mernielyn told him she was pregnant, he said: “Here is  P300. Make sure you get an abortion.” 

But for Mernielyn, an abortion was unthinkable. She called her closest friends and treated her friends with the money she was given. It was her way of getting back at him.

She dropped out of school and continued to take care of her aunt’s young kids.

On her 9th month of pregnancy, after an upsurge of abdominal pains, she took the tricycle to Basilan General Hospital, covered in a thick blanket as she was chilling.

After an ultrasound, doctors assured her that everything was normal. At 8:20 pm they gave her oxygen as she was having a hard time breathing. This was followed by an intravenous injection, and medication for the fever.

The staff phoned the doctor, Dr Ramiel Mon.

“I will be there by 9 pm,” he replied. But the clock struck midnight and there was still no sign of him. 

When they rang the doctor again he said he couldn’t make it. Mernielyn must immediately check out, he said, and be transferred to the private Basilan Community Hospital, a 30-minute ride away.

Since there was no ambulance driver available, Mernielyn’s family went looking for transport which was not easy at that time of night.

Her distraught mother kept crying, “Where would we get the money if this turns out to be a Caesarean?” 

By then, Mernielyn’s contractions were waves of wracking pain that would come and go.

“Since I didn’t want a CS (Caesarean section) done on me, I kept pushing hard while inside the tricycle.”


Once at Basilan Community Hospital, the staff demanded a downpayment. They called Dr Mon again but he said he would not be coming until the downpayment was paid.

“See, this is a private hospital. Do you own a tricycle? You have some property? You have to give us some guarantee that you will pay us,” the admissions clerk told Mernielyn’s mother.

At around 2 am, after an internal examination, the nurse assured Mernielyn that the baby was fine but the CS would have to be done soon.

Mrs Garcia cried on the phone and begged the doctor to save the baby. In 30 minutes, Dr Mon finally arrived but first demanded the downpayment.

“At this time of night Doc, we don’t have that amount yet,” cried Mrs Garcia. “We will give you half and the other half tomorrow but please do what you will and we will give it to you in the morning.”

He replied: “There is nothing I can do because I don’t own the hospital.”  

The doctor reeked of alcohol, and it showed in his blood-shot eyes. Apparently he had come from a party. 

Mernielyn started to vomit  greenish bile. The nurse said it was meconium since the baby inside her had pooped.

By 5 am, the Garcia family had P8,000, and pleaded with the doctor again.

“Sign a promissory note and make sure you bring the P2,000 this morning,” said the admissions clerk.

Extreme pain

Finally, Dr Mon proceeded with the CS in the Operating Room. After a blood transfusion, Mernielyn was all set and given anesthesia. But apparently, she was not quite sedated for she began howling in pain.

Through the pain, she said she heard Dr Mon casually say, “50-50 na ito (This is 50-50), we’ll just try to save the mother.”

“When they finally cut me up, I was screaming like it was the end of me,” Mernielyn recalled. And she could tell they panicked. They gave her more anesthesia and after two hours, she was asleep. After another hour she awoke.

It was only on the 4th day that she learned she lost the baby.  

“Mama tried to hide it from me, giving all sorts of alibis that they couldn’t bring the baby to me since I had taken too many medicines.”

Mernielyn wound up staying in Basilan Community Hospital for the next 8 days.

As expected , they would not release her until all the bills were paid. 

The health worker of Mernielyn’s village later said, “Unfortunately I couldn’t be with Mernielyn when the move to a private hospital happened. All I could say is that I had another client, a similar case to Mernielyn’s, but the difference was that she had the downpayment and the baby was saved.” –