In faraway places like Patikul, mothers die
This is a first person account of Abdul Ibno as told to this author. Ibno is a 29-year-old tricycle driver and mason who lost his wife who was giving birth.
PATIKUL, SULU, Philippines - Before noon of August 29, 2011, my wife, Catherine, 23, started having abdominal pains.
"I think the baby will come out now so better look for a panday (locally known as hilot” or local midwife), she said. I did as she told me, and at 1:00 pm the panday had arrived.
She ordered my wife to walk around. After about 30 minutes, she told Catherine to lie down and rest. Then the panday pressed gently on her abdomen. Momentarily, Catherine expressed fear about “buelo” or when the really strong contractions would begin. Within less than one hour of massaging, the contractions began.
I knelt behind her, and she clung to my forearms as she pushed. The baby came out. I thought it looked purplish. But the panday held the baby by her feet and hoisted her. She patted the butt and the baby began to cry. The panday busied herself with wiping and cleaning the baby. But Catherine was hyperventilating. So I and my mother-in-law helped the panday clean the baby and hurriedly gave her to Catherine to breastfeed.
Shortly after, the panday shortly ordered me to get some amoxicillin. "May sugat siya sa loob (She has internal bleeding)," What could she mean by that? Was something damaged inside when Catherine pushed so hard? Was it for her torn opening when the baby came out so fast? I really didn’t know and maybe I should have asked, but I went to buy amoxicillin anyway.
When I returned, I saw that Catherine had taken a turn for the worse. Her color was so much darker and she was having a hard time breathing. “She’s getting weaker!” I told the panday, “so now I must go and look for a jeep to bring her to hospital!”. For half an hour I roamed the entire barangay in search of any kind of transport. Finally, someone led me to a jeep for which they charged me P150.
The hospital was about 11 kilometers away. In 20 minutes we reached it. The doctor saw us right there in the lobby. He ordered the staff to put an intravenous drip on Catherine, and oxygen too. My wife was not awakened in spite of everything that was going on. Her color was not alright. But Doc was quite busy with other patients.
Doc told me to buy medicines and that I had to buy it in the drugstore that he owns. Not in the pharmacy of the hospital, he said, since only medical social service patients could buy there. So I rushed outside and I had to leave my wife with my cousin.
The medicines were worth P2,000. I had not even packed up all my purchases when my cousin came to the drugstore, saying “Return those medicines now. Your wife’s gone!” I didn’t do as told and ran back to my wife.
Catherine lay there, lifeless. The staff said they would be bringing her up to the Operating Room and do more exams. “May sakit siya galing sa loob,” was all the Doctor said.
My wife is dead. Should I try to figure out what “galing sa loob” meant? So I hastily said, “No, what's the point?” I was resolute. She was already dead, so I had to bring her home already. I said “Lets go!" and the Doctor just moved on to the next patient.
I buried her before dusk as our custom dictates and I gave “sadakan” to the panday, P1500 each. The Sadakan custom means to part with the earthly possessions of the dead. It is heartily given to the “magliligo,” those who give the final cleansing and bathing of the dead before they lay her down on the ground.
Abdul Ibno heard that NGOs like LIKHAAN and Pinay, Kilos! were gathering stories about birthing complications. He traveled all the way from Patikul, Jolo, Sulu to share his story. He said this is the first time he can describe his own feelings to anyone about what had happened to his wife.
After the burial, Abdul sold his tricycle to pay for all the other expenses. Now he drives another operator’s tricycle part-time and does some masonry on the side.
This widower is still overcome with emotion, haunted by “what if’s.”
“As a husband, you can only know so much.” Abdul says he was the one insisting that they go to the hospital for the delivery but Catherine would brush him off. “Sometimes your wife will say, "kaya ko pa ito" (I can handle this.) and your tendency is to let her have her way. Maybe I should have asked, not only a casual ”kumusta” but to really probe: “What are you really feeling?" and ask her to describe it in detail.”
Lastly, Abdul appealed to health authorities to make Mobile Clinics available for emergencies and pregnancy complications.
“Who says there are no mothers dying from childbirth? In faraway places like Patikul, it does happen. Here, the transportation can be hard to find and the vehicle rental is steep. What’s even tougher is when you finally get to the hospital, the staff is still too laid back, like it wasn't an emergency and things could wait. “
Just months before, his friend's wife died after giving birth to their firstborn. Until that terrible day in August 2011, Abdul Ibno didn’t know he would encounter the same tragedy. " I still can't believe it happened, even if my daughter is now almost 10 months.”
Abdul took a long breath and said haltingly: This …is... hard. After a long pause, Abdul struggled with his words: “My wife was alive and well, and [was] hoping that we could be a family. It really hurts.” - Rappler.com