Much of our success improving health in rural Guatemala depends on our patients.
We offer information, health care, resources, and support, but ultimately our patients create the conditions for lasting change.
Doña María is an inspiring example of how this transformation happens. At the time of her fourth pregnancy at age 31, Doña María, a field worker from a village outside Tecpán, was living in fear of her husband. Several years earlier, she had put her first child, whom she had with a former partner, under the care of a relative out of concern for the child’s safety.
Because Doña María had a Cesarean delivery with her last child just over a year earlier, workers at the local health post advised her to seek medical care to address potential risks. She was reluctant to do so, fearing that it would provoke her husband, who did not like her to leave home. Working through a midwife, our care navigators reached out repeatedly until Doña María’s husband agreed to allow her to receive our calls. Eventually, working with our team, she was able to see a doctor and schedule a Cesarean delivery.
Further along in the pregnancy, she developed pain in one of her legs and signs of premature labor. For several hours, our team attempted to convince Doña María’s husband to allow her to seek care at a hospital, but he resisted. Early the next morning, Doña María, who continued to experience pain, secretly left her house and met one of our navigators at the hospital. Communicating through the navigator, who translated from Spanish to Doña María’s language of Kaqchiquel, the gynecologist indicated that Doña María should be admitted to stop the labor since she was just 27 weeks into the pregnancy. She feared her husband would not agree to the treatment.
After several failed attempts to contact her husband, our navigator reached out to Doña María’s mother-in-law, who approved the hospitalization, and agreed to speak with her son. Doña María reported that the situation with her husband had improved when she returned home.
A couple months later, Doña María went into labor before her scheduled delivery. Thanks to her earlier experiences, she understood that it was important to get help regardless of how her husband might respond. When a doctor suggested that she be admitted for treatment of an infection, Doña María again worried about her husband’s reaction. But this time, he said he supported the treatment and agreed to care for the children at home while she was gone. Crying tears of relief, she agreed to stay.
Three weeks later, Doña María gave birth by Cesarean delivery to a 6-pound 4-ounce boy. Today, she is enormously grateful for her healthy new baby and for the support and care she now receives from her husband. She credits her work with our team for teaching her the value of her own life.