Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visiting Heartline

After almost a year of hoping to go, I finally got to visit Heartline! Heartline is a fantastic ministry serving Haitian women through a birthing clinic (staffed with top-notch midwives), prenatal classes and meals, new baby classes and meals, a sewing program where ladies create and sell purses to support their families, and, soon, a teen mom home for young mothers and their babies.

I visited about two weeks ago on a Tuesday when we did not have school due to a Haitian holiday. Tuesdays are the day of the new mom class. To begin, each new baby is weighed and mom's blood pressure is checked. Mom gets a big bowl of nutrient-fortified rice along with fish. There is a nutrient-rich milk drink, which might be for mom, but I saw some moms feeding it to baby also. After the meal, they all attend class together. When I came, the class was taught by an American midwife and translated into Kreyol. The subject was HIV/AIDS and how to prevent its transmission.

Kreyol words learned at heartline:
mete/itilize kapot = wear/use a condom
tete = breast
piki planning = birth control shot
Ha! What a vocabulary!

This is a poster on the wall of one of the exam rooms, helping to educate ladies on the different positions of a baby in the womb before delivery. 

After the class, prizes were awarded to all the moms who had perfect attendance the month before. Then the ladies could see either a nurse or a breastfeeding specialist if they were having issues. The nurse was none other than our dear buddy John Ackerman! He runs a clinic about an hour from Port-au-Prince, but comes to Heartline on Tuesdsays. I sat in the room with him while he visited with several moms. One had a baby with a "water eye", which turned out to be allergies. One was treated for malaria.

The breastfeeding specialist was my friend Heather, who volunteers regularly at Heartline (this is the family from Texas who just moved to Quisqueya/Haiti in August with their 4 little boys. Hubby Aaron is our Bible teacher). The most hilarious part is that they call her "Madam Tete", or "Mrs. Boob". John says that the two main causes of infant death in Haiti are tetanus (from cutting the cord with a dirty instrument) and diseases related to lack of breastfeeding. It's just not commonly done here. Heather words hard to help the ladies figure out how to breastfeed. On the day I visited, one young mom was discovered to have a lump/cyst in her breast- a sad and serious situation in a population where medical care is largely unavailable.

On the day I visited, another tragedy: A tiny newborn was barely breathing. The mom had not known how serious it was, but as soon as the baby arrived at Heartline the leaders knew the baby was potentially near death. Heather and Beth McHoul jumped in their truck and drove to a nearby hospital. I don't entirely understand this, but they had to let the lady out a few blocks from the entrance, because she would not have been seen by the hospital if they knew she came with white people. The baby stopped breathing several times in the truck on the way there. You can read Heather's account of this here.  I have not heard whether the baby lived.

You can visit Heartline's website here. And just in time for Christmas, you can even buy a Heartline purse, supporting a Haitian mom. They're cute- my on-campus girlfriends got me one for my birthday and I love it.This month Heartline is also celebrating the end of a fundraising drive- $50,000 was raised to build a hospital to further serve the people in their community. A great day of visiting, and a great ministry.


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