|Decent Heather Tusabege|
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the miscarriage rate for pregnant women with malaria may be as high as 60%.
There I stood in the pitch black African night, holding a flashlight while a young mother fought for the life of herself and her tiny baby, in utero. Amid my tears, I had a strange feeling -- an intuition.
The baby would be OK. Somehow. And we would never be able to forget her.
Sometimes, in the line of humanitarian work, things happen that don't have logical, left-brained explanations. These are the things that keep us pushing forward when the work gets grueling. These are the miracles.
In May 2011, we opened a health care center in Uganda: the Think Humanity Community Health Centre.
The THCHC is where the most disadvantaged (refugees and underdeveloped rural communities) can receive good, quality health care for free. We treat malaria, typhoid and many other diseases/illnesses common in this part of East Africa. These people would otherwise have nowhere to go. Many of them would die, forgotten.
I was in Uganda two months after we opened the clinic's doors. In the middle of one night, we received an emergency call, and I decided to go along with the doctor to the THCHC. What I would witness shook my heart to pieces.
A young pregnant woman was suffering terribly with malaria. She had an excruciatingly high fever and was crying out for her baby to live. The doctor tried to assure her, but the woman knew that all too many times, malaria during pregnancy leads to miscarriage.
It was pitch dark. No power. The only light was a tiny flashlight I clutched with my shaking hands. The doctor squinted into the thin beam as he inserted an IV into the back of this young woman's hand.
I looked around the room and felt tears rush to my eyes. First, out of gratitude; I felt thankful that this woman had somewhere to go, that we opened the clinic just months before. This was a place for help, a place where hope lives. But I also felt tears of fear, for this woman and her baby's life. I hoped that we were not too late, and that somehow this one doctor with a small needle and me and my flashlight would be enough. It had to be. I could not accept any other outcome -- but life.
The woman's name was Jane.
Six months passed, and I returned to Uganda for more work. Several days into the trip, I saw Jane. She was round and joyful with pregnancy, and she introduced me to her husband Stuart. She patted her stomach and told me this was their firstborn.
"When is the baby due?" I asked.
She told me mid-February, and I laughed. Half joking, I said the baby would be born on my birthday, February 19th.
Uganda is 10 hours ahead of Colorado. It was late on the night of February 18 that I received a message from Stuart.
"Hi Mum & Dad! Today the 19th Feb 2012, God has made Stuart & Jane parents of Decent Heather Tusabege. Thanks for your prayer & everything. Happy BD to my daughter Decent & Mum. You are wonderful fore-teller!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I do believe that things happen for a reason. To share a birthday with this baby girl would never allow me to forget that scary night in the clinic -- and how I witnessed our doctor save this child's life. Now on my birthday, I celebrate my life along with Baby Heather's new life, and I am reminded to never give up. Baby Heather is a reminder that we must continue with our mission to save lives and provide hope, because without that hope -- even as small as a shaking beam of light in the darkness -- she would not be here today.
I find myself in tears again, this time out of celebration. I want to shout across the world: We have made a difference. We have saved a precious life. And it brings me to my knees to know that more lives will be saved in the future.
Beauty lies in the strength, courage, joy and hope of every day,
even when faced with the fear of hopelessness and sadness.
There is an indescribable joy.
There is always hope.
"To help save lives and provide hope for refugees and underdeveloped communities in Africa by improving provisions for healthcare, clean water, education and socio-economic development."
*Editing credits to Aimee Heckel Markwardt who brought the story to life.
"My worst experience for 2011 was that night when I saw Jane swallowing drips (IV) in tears but willingly in the name of saving my daughters life. Today I stand head up with my Daughter Heather. Thank you Think Humanity." Stuart Tusabege