"I’ve been a qualified nurse for five years, but it’s been in my heart for a long time. When I was a girl my cousin had epilepsy. He had a terrible fall during a fit and had to go to the hospital. When he returned I was asked to take care of him. I dressed his wounds and looked after him for weeks. That was the start of it.
Before Masumbwe Health Centre was upgraded, women and babies were dying who we could have been saved, given the facilities. The staff knew it and I think the women knew it too. One night a woman came who was deep in labour. It wasn’t going well - there were too many complications for us to handle. We simply didn’t have the equipment and training. So the doctors agreed we should refer her to the district hospital. It felt like a death sentence for her and she seemed to know.
When I told her she had to transfer she kept crying and saying “don’t send me there, I will die.” It was a long journey and they were so busy when she arrived that it took them more than six hours to take her to theatre. Then she bled to death on the table. Now when I see her husband I feel terrible. I wish we could have saved her. If she had come to us today she wouldn’t have died. It’s hard to live with but I can’t change it. Now I focus on preventing that happening again.
With the additional training from the Amref project I’m now a specialist anaesthetic nurse, which I juggle with being a single mother. Last week I was attending to a woman having a caesarean and training a student in the procedure. A junior nurse came to tell me that a woman had arrived with a stillborn breech baby. It’s sometimes hard to know where to go, how to split yourself between the people who need you.
Even though I had to make difficult decisions that night I’m proud of how I handled it. I was able to leave my student with the doctors in the caesarean. I went to the labouring woman and confirmed that her baby had died. It’s never easy to tell people terrible truths but I was able to spend some time with her giving comfort. Then I helped her birth her dead baby and stopped her haemorrhaging. I was able to return to supervise a difficult part of the caesarean. We saved two women and a baby in very complex circumstances in the space of minutes that night. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it."