when words fail me, which is often, I paint. When words work for me and are available on time, I am surprised.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I am home.
My house seems enormous, beautiful and spacious after spending 7 days in a room the size of my bedroom with 9 women, 1 toilet (which nothing besides bodily fluids will flush-all waste papers in the trash basket), 2 cold only showers, cockroaches, mice with long tails-must I go on-
And I have PTSD from what i witnessed in the DR. I am working day and night to contact all World Health Coalitions on this one.
Oh the nightmares, scarred for life, not kidding.
Here is my letter, I know it is long so read it a little at a time, please, if you are strong enough.
I won't be taking it down.
Boy I missed you-Love _S

My name is Stacy; I am a traditional Midwife in North America. I returned from a 1 week trip to Santo Domingo’s Altagracia Hospital de los Partos. My intention of going there was to attend a few births which I could document for the purpose of receiving certification in the US.
I am still in shock from the horror of the behaviors I witnessed in this countries public hospital.
The standard of care for a laboring woman is this:
Laboring women, labor in one room with sixteen beds and sometimes three women to a bed at a time. There are no clean sheets or chux on these beds, they are in their street clothes, body fluids are expelled on the floor or on the bed, all waste products are released in the bed or on the floor by the side while they labor. The women are not given food or water to drink.
When the doctors find the woman is completely dilated (or not as I witnessed), she is walked down the hall to the delivery room. If she refuses to walk she is placed in a wheelchair soaked in blood and fluids of the women who sat in it before her, no cover.
In the delivery room, less than three minutes from full dilation, the woman is then instructed to climb up on the table with a plastic garbage bag on it and put her legs in the stirrups. The intern then sticks her fingers inside the woman’s vagina and yells for her to push. She gets one push. Even though the baby's heart tones are WNL, and the baby's head is either -3, -2, or +1, or +2 station, the interns and doctors reach for a large needle and inject her with lidocaine and proceed to cut an enormous mediolateral "episiotomy" into the ladies bottom. The scissors they use are dull and they cut and cut and cut. I witnessed the doctor opening the scissors to find they had blood on them from another woman. She called for a nurse and none came; she used them anyway to cut this woman (What is the AIDS rate in this country neighboring Haiti?)
After the large incision is made, the doctor again puts her fingers in the vagina and orders her to push, if the baby does not fly out (which is rare), a nurse or another doctor pushes the baby out from the fundus.
One day I witnessed an intern cut a woman on both sides and a third time into the rectum; the head was not even visible and no one took a heart tone. This woman was left with a gaping hole in her pelvic floor which words cannot describe.
After the baby is forced out of the woman's severely compromised vagina, the doctors immediately clamp and cut the umbilical cord depriving the baby of its blood. The baby is whisked away to another room and the doctor immediately pulls on the cord of the still attached placenta until the woman hemorrhages and the placenta is expelled. Three times in one hour I witnessed projectile expression of copious amounts of blood at this pulling. Not only did I witness this type of bleeding as they pulled on the cord of this one woman's uterus, it was then found that she had two large medio-lateral tears on her cervix and a mediolateral episiotomy which was (and averages) nearly three inches in length. Needless to say the woman lost more blood than one could imagine, I could not begin to estimate. After much suturing in in a non sterile environment, the woman was instructed to sit up, get off of the table and walk back to a post partum room (she could not and the wheelchair was used),where she received little to no post partum care or any pain medication.
The private hospitals in the D.R. supposedly are much safer and saner than the public hospitals. I witnessed the same behaviors on all of these women giving birth in 2 separate public hospitals.
Instead of coming home and filling out my paperwork that I had attended births in another country, I am writing to you as a plea to investigate the situation in the public hospitals in the Dominican Republic. I am at a loss as to what I could do alone. If you are unable to do anything perhaps you could advise me on what could be done and who could possibly teach these doctors and interns how to receive a baby safely. The practices in the DR. not only endanger the health of the babies, but the mothers as well. The cross contamination of blood is rampant, the infection rates must be through the roof, the integrity of the mothers vaginal tissue is severely compromised. What happens in the public hospitals of the Dominican Republic as I am witness is not birth but torture. We as an educated global society should not in good conscience turn a blind eye to these women and children of our world.
Thank you for your time and response.
With all my heart, -Stacy Sheer


Jerri said...

I read as far as I could manage in one sitting, Stacy. Will be back later.

Of course you have nightmares. Of course you're crying.

M@ said...

Wow. Three to a bed. You know, I make sexist comments all of the time but it's relative to middle-class white women I know here and it's meant as fun and games.

I am sorry that families don't get enough to eat in Haiti, that women get raped in Darfur, and that southern Caucasians get bombed in a war zone.

Good post.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I'll forward this to my friend who is a midwife.


ds said...

my God.

Laura said...

Oh God! Could only read a little, with my hand pressed to my mouth. Be back later. God.

Virtual hug to you for having to go through witnessing that!