Posted by: OCI | November 7, 2008

A Part in His Work

Melissa Sissons, at a GMI Ministry in Guyana, shares the story of her recent early morning adventure as a mission nurse:

Melissa rejoices over healthy baby Jael.

Melissa rejoices over healthy baby Jael.

A 5:00 am phone call awoke me from my early morning slumber.  Cell reception in the jungle can be tricky as we have to hang our phone in one precise spot on our kitchen window.  But praise God the signal was working this morning as the anxious voice of the village health worker met me on the other end of the line.  Her concerned words pierced through my sleepy brain, “Come! Patsy* is in labor!”

I ran to my front porch and called for Liz, using our characteristic intonation that carries sound nicely across our jungle campus. “Leeizzz” I called.  She answered with a simple “wooo”.  A high pitched call that means “what’s up” or “yes”.

Liz Shires is a nurse who has joined our BMMC team as a teacher for this year.  I told her to put on her scrubs as we were headed to deliver a baby.  She was thrilled.  Both of us have worked as Emergency Room nurses and have not forgotten the excitement of a good medical drama.  Little did we know what was awaiting us on the other end.

We jumped into our Mule, a 4×4 vehicle, and sped down the sandy, tree-lined trail.

As the thick forest whizzed by, I tried to fill Liz in on the details of Patsy’s complicated situation.  She is a teenage mother, her first child born at age 15 ½.  Now at 17 years, she found herself pregnant again, but this time she never mentioned it to her family or friends.  In fact, she even denied it to most who questioned her.  Therefore, her family attributed her growing figure to eating well and inherited genes from her overweight grandmother.

We were told later that it was only upon the morning of her delivery, the pains first being blamed on Naro (wind or gas), that her parents realized the emergent situation.  As she became doubled over in labor, unable to walk or move, her mother ran to the clinic to call the health worker who called me.  Her father asked her, “Are you getting baby?”, as she lay on the hard floor of the home.

As Patsy nodded yes in response, her father simply picked up her other child and walked out the front door to pace in the yard.  She then had to crawl into the bedroom and prepare to deliver her own child.  Unaware of the stage of her labor, we arrived at a very quiet home.  It was about 5:30 am.  We went up the steps, removed our shoes, and announced our arrival with a call of “inside!” which means,

“can I come in?”  We heard a quiet answer so we entered the quaint home.  The three-room home seemed very empty, and I called again to Patsy thru a crack in the bedroom door.  A village lady now answered me and told us to simply “come”.

Upon opening the door, all I could say was “Shucks Patsy!!” (a local term for disbelief).  She lay on the bare, wooden floor with her skirt pulled up to her waist.  A half delivered placenta lay between her legs and a bloody infant close beside her feet.  The still infant was half wrapped in an old towel, still attached to the cord.  Both Patsy and the woman seemed oblivious to the potential life threatening situation.  All I remember the woman saying, as she pointed to the baby, “so, that is it then.”

Liz and I sprang into action, fumbling with our gloves, looking for our bulb syringe to suction the baby, all the while dodging the growing pools of blood that seeped across the floor and dripped thru the wide cracks to the sandy ground below.  I wished I had not allowed the engrained local custom of removing my shoes to catch me this time.  But this was no moment to think about shoes!

Liz assessed the little baby girl while I gently pulled on the placenta to encourage it’s final delivery.

The health worker arrived by the time we were cutting the cord and all of our eyes lit up with relief as the baby began to cry and fuss with all the new attention.  After making sure Patsy was not hemorrhaging, I scooped the placenta into a bowl and carried it outside.  I found a flat board in the yard, chased away the ravenous dog, and lay out the placenta for inspection.  I did not want any parts of it left inside of her due to the chance of infection or severe bleeding.  The father then got a shovel and buried it in the bushes.

By the time I returned inside, the baby was being bathed and I cleaned up the mother and mopped away the blood with old clothes.  We assisted the new pair into the family hammock and put the baby to her mother’s breast.  The baby’s eyes opened and she latched on immediately, perfectly nursing for over 30 minutes.

We all joined hands and gave a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His protection, then we bid farewell.  The Mule ride home was quiet, except for Liz and I occasionally glancing at each other, shaking our heads in disbelief at what we had just encountered.  We both knew how differently it all could have ended.  We were thankful that God had allowed us to play a small part in His work as mission nurses.
*The patient’s name has been changed for privacy



  1. Hello, it’s me and I’m glad to read stories from my ex-teacher. I was also amused by the Guyanese terms.

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