„Things that money can’t buy yet that still make you rich”

by Mareen Posselt/ RBU,  2009/10/26

After a flight that lasted several hours and a 26 hour train ride, Mareen Posselt arrived in Raxaul (India) at the beginning of September. For a period of 6 months, the young woman from Dresden is going to support the local skilled staff as a midwife. The first things she had to learn in the new country were patience and perseverance. Meanwhile, she has handled numerous difficult situations.

Difficulties that fortunately occur very rarely in Germany are a sad reality in Raxaul. Many pregnant women don’t see neither a doctor nor a midwife during their pregnancy and only come to the hospital when it is already too late for the mother or the child or – in the worst case – for both of them.

The entrance of Duncan Hospital where Mareen Posselt is going to work for the next six months. Photo: humedica/ Mareen Posselt

At Duncan hospital, between 5000 and 5300 children are born each year and the number is rising. Unfortunately, life-threatening complications arise in many cases. The maternal and infant death rate of 20% is alarmingly high.

Very often, Mareen Posselt had to treat eclamptic seizures during which the pregnant women suffer from cramps and their breathing stops temporarily. When the cramps are over, the women often enter a comatose state that lasts for hours or days and – in the worst case – results in the death of the unborn child. In Germany, these convulsions are very rare, in India they are almost part of every day working life.

The working conditions at the Indian hospital took getting used to for the midwife from Dresden. Many medical devices that are taken for granted in a German hospital, do not exist at Duncan Hospital. “I often admire the ingenuity of my Indian colleagues, yet of course it is no substitute for the lacking medical equipment.”

In the delivery room, there is no CTG (cardiotocograph that records the fetal heartbeat and the mother’s uterine contractions) which would make it possible to record the heartbeat and monitor the state of health of the unborn infant continuously.

Newborn babies at Duncan Hospital in Raxaul/ India. Photo: humedica

The delivery room contains nine beds that are not even separated by means of a curtain. There is no privacy, each pregnant woman witnesses the treatment of the other ones. Family members – including the father-to-be – are not allowed access to the delivery room – they are only given the child after it was born.

“At the beginning, the atmosphere in the delivery room was very unfamiliar and strange to me. It didn’t feel like actually being in a delivery room, for in Germany pregnancy, birth and childbed are considered as special and precious moments. Here, it is just considered part of a woman’s life and nothing absolutely special”, Mareen writes in an email.

Meanwhile, she has delivered 23 children, which was not always easy. Most women don’t speak English and the midwife does not speak much Hindi. This doesn’t discourage her…far from it! “Every day I learn some new words – much to the pleasure of my colleagues.”

There are many things that make the young woman sad and are incomprehensible for her as a European. One example is that boys are still considered more valuable than girls. Sometimes they even have to negotiate with family members until they accept that this time it is “just” a girl.

In spite of all difficulties and circumstances that take getting used to, Mareen Posselt is happy to work in India with humedica. “In spite of everything, I am very happy to be here, for there are things that money cannot buy and that nevertheless make you rich.”

The local medical staff and Mareen Posselt work together as colleagues. Photo: humedica

It is the little things that make my time here at Duncan Hospital special and that make me forget the daily grind. For example, when my Indian colleagues teach me how to eat with your fingers in a proper manner or when, suddenly, a jar of nutella appears. Every day I explore and understand a new piece of the Indian culture and I am looking forward to the weeks that are to come.”

On November 4th 2009, Duncan Hospital will receive further support from Germany: Silvia Klefenz, a nurse from Augsburg is also going to work in Raxaul until the 25th of January 2010.

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