In Uganda, malaria is the main cause of maternal mortality and miscarriage; a sad statistic that came very close to include 17-year-old Faridah. Seven months into her pregnancy, Faridah was infected with the potentially fatal parasite and went to her local health centre for treatment. “I felt very sick,” she says. “I was shivering and had bad pains in my stomach, and I was scared because Iknew malaria can be dangerous for pregnant women. At the health centre they gave me Luartem and told me to take four tablets straight away, and another four in the evening, which I did.”
Luartem, however, is not suitable for treating pregnant women—a shocking error which all too common, especially in rural clinics where there is a lack of skilled medical professionals. Later that night, Faridah’s abdominal pain increased and she started bleeding. At 5am, with no signs of improvement, Faridah and her mother went to their local Community Health Worker, Joyce, who took them to Katende Health Centre, a better equipped facility in town, and a Living Goods partner clinic.
Faridah was admitted and put on a drip to dilute the effects of the wrongly prescribed drug, after which she received the proper medication. “I immediately felt better,” says Faridah. “The pain, shivering, and bleeding stopped and I could feel the baby moving again. I felt safe at the clinic, I am very grateful that Joyce took me there.” After one week Faridah was discharged, relieved to be back home, the baby still safe in her womb. The relief, though, was short-lived. After just three weeks, now almost full term, Faridah felt contractions and started bleeding again. “The bleeding was too much, so I went to see Joyce, who got a midwife from another village to come and examine me.”
The midwife advised them to go to Kampala to one of the main hospitals as the complications were serious and she might need surgery. By 8pm Joyce, Faridah, and her mother arrived at Rubaga Hospital, where she was once again admitted and put on a drip to stop the bleeding. When the doctor examined her in the morning, he immediately performed an emergency C-section and the baby was rushed to intensive care. Mother and baby stayed in the hospital for 10 days, during which time Joyce stayed in touch with them via telephone. “She came to see us as soon as we were back home, and still comes to check up on us and monitor the baby. Thank God for Joyce, without her I fear I wouldn’t have gotten the help I needed.”