Magdalena Jola Pedi’s one month old baby boy, Joseph, nurses peacefully as she describes the frightening situation surrounding his birth. Although prepared to deliver at the nearby health clinic, Joseph came into the world “with almost no warning.” Thus, 26 year old Magdalena ended up giving birth to her first child on the floor of the bamboo house that she lives in with her husband and in laws. The village midwife arrived just after the birth, and both mother and baby seemed fine.
|Magdalena, her husband Beni, and their one month old baby sitting on their front porch.Magdalena received a blood transfusion when hemorrhaging after delivery, one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in NTT.|
Over the next four days, though, Magdalena began to feel incredibly weak and developed an intolerable headache and swollen legs. She also continued to bleed.
“I realized something was really wrong when things were getting worse day by day“ Magdalena said.
“When I almost fainted, my husband took me straight to the district hospital,” she said.
At the Ekapata Hospital in Sumba Barat’s capital, Waikabubak, Magdalena was quickly diagnosed with post partum bleeding and underwent a blood transfusion which probably saved her life. After a week of bed rest in the hospital, she was sent home healthy and ready to resume caring for Joseph.
Unfortunately, many other women in Nusa Tenggara Timur province (NTT), Indonesia are not so lucky. Hemorrhaging is one of the leading causes of maternal death in NTT. And many hospitals simply do not have the necessary stock of blood on hand in case of emergencies.
For this reason, the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health (AIPMNH) is working with hospitals, communities and local leaders to raise awareness on the need for blood donors to save mothers’ lives in NTT.
One of these leaders is Konstantinus Nggajo, known to his community as Father Nus and the priest of a Catholic Church in Waikabubak. In June 2011, Father Nus attended a seminar on building a cross sectoral blood network sponsored by AIPMNH at the Ekapata Hospital, led by AIPMNH and hospital staff trained through the AIPMNH program.
What he learned there shocked him. “I had no idea the rates of maternal death were so high in our district,” Father Nus explained. “And I thought if one drop of my blood could save a mother or baby, then maybe there was something I could do,” he said. “In fact, I felt I had to do something.”
This thought was the genesis of Father Nus’ newly established Love Mothers and Children movement in essence, his own public awareness campaign on donating blood to save women and babies.
|Father Nus, who started a Love Mothers and Children movement at his church to increase blood donations to help pregnant women in Waikabubak, Sumba Barat, NTT.|
The Sunday following this meeting at the hospital, Father Nus declared to his congregation of 500 that he would donate his own blood and urged them to do the same. He also raised the issue to the city’s other parish priests at their weekly meeting to garner support for his movement and help spread the word throughout their congregations. Later that month, he invited the hospital staff to hold a free blood group test in his parish hall. More than 100 people attended, and 30 donated blood on that very day.
Since AIPMNH sponsored the seminar just three months ago, the hospital has reported a significant increase in registered blood donors. While in June, the hospital had only 31 registered in their blood bank, in July, the number went up to 119, in August to 218 and to 172 in September.
It was, in fact, one of these very donor’s blood that saved Magdalena’s life. With more than 8,000 people attending church in this highly religious Catholic community of Sumba Barat, Father Nus envisions reaching thousands more potential blood donors.
On Sundays, like many other priests, he usually sends a text message to members of his church with a greeting and a line from the Bible. Now, he adds a message about donating blood, which he says generates many further inquiries. Through these responses, Father Nus has begun to build his own network of potential blood donors.
So far, he has submitted a list to the hospital of about 20 people with their specific blood type, which he claims the hospital has called upon during emergencies.
AIPMNH recognizes that the only way to help communities in NTT is to enlist them in the fight against maternal and neonatal deaths. And with leaders like Father Nus motivated to help, more women like Magdalena can survive and raise healthy babies.