Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Silveira's struggle: Helping families in rural Guatemala

    by User Not Found | Feb 17, 2016

    Silveira could not figure out what was wrong. She was weak and exhausted all the time. Her children depended on her to survive- especially her youngest infant- but everything felt impossibly difficult. She and her husband made the journey from their rural Guatemalan community of San José El Soch to the town of Chicaman 22 kilometers away. At the health center in Chicaman, Silveira was diagnosed with severe anemia. Her body was not making enough red blood cells to keep her healthy. 

    Jaime_Silveira_helping_mother_child_health_GuatemalaWhen Silveira learned of her anemia, her youngest son was almost one-year-old. The constant fatigue that comes with anemia prevented her from giving young Jaime enough breast milk. Her son was so tiny. Why wasn’t he growing like the other children? Amidst her own suffering, the determined mother brought Jaime to the health clinic hoping to find an answer.

    Jaime was weighed and measured. He was underweight. Silveira was so afraid when she heard that her precious baby was diagnosed with malnutrition. How could she protect her tiny child from the weakness that had invaded her body? Thankfully, you were there to make sure Silveira got the support she needed to overcome the barriers her condition presented. 

    Thanks to you, we were already at work in Silveira's community, training local Mother Counselors in Guatemala to provide health education and outreach to other mothers in their communities. These passionate Mother Counselors worked with Silveira as she attended classes on how to properly feed Jaime and help him recover from his malnutrition. Jaime’s mother learned about healthy food, clean food preparation, hand washing, and hygiene.

    Thanks to you, Silveira gained the knowledge and tools to give her children bright, healthy futures.

    Silveira thanks God for Medical Teams International staff and the Mother Counselors. They empowered her to better take care of her most beloved treasures: her children. In March, Jaime weighed 11 pounds. By May, her sweet baby weighed almost 14 pounds. What an incredible miracle! Jaime’s health is constantly improving, and Silveira feels so happy.

    Without the generosity and support of people like you, Jaime’s story might have had a different, more tragic ending. We are so grateful for your partnership, as we work together toward better maternal and infant health in Guatemala.

  • From the Field: Your support kept Marcela safe.

    by Emily Crowe | Feb 12, 2016

    One of our volunteers, Tom Berridge, just returned from serving in the field in Guatemala. He came back with this amazing story of your impact on one woman- and how it's now helping her entire community:

    Because the births of her first three children had been easy, Marcela expected no difficulty delivering her fourth baby. Accompanied by a midwife in a small, indigenous village Guatemala, she gave birth to a healthy boy, Elias. The birth had been normal... but her placenta still had not been expelled.

    Marcella is a mother counselor herself and had attended MTI trainings. She knew that, after 30 minutes, placenta trapped inside the uterus can lead to dangerous complications: internal bleeding, infection... even death. 

    But she lives two hours up a bumpy road from the nearest hospital. When she called her husband, who was on his way from his job in Guatemala City, he told her to wait at home until he arrived. So she waited.

    Marcela and Elias seven months after the frightening night that could have taken this mother's life.

    Marcela’s husband arrived four hours after the birth. The placenta still hadn't expelled, and she had developed a headache and abdominal pain-- warning signs. She and her husband called the MTI staffer for the village. Luckily, an MTI medical team that included doctors from Faith and Practice was working in a community a half hour away, so an MTI staffer was able to get there quickly in a pickup.

    After hearing the problem, the staffer called an ambulance, put her in the truck, and took her to the doctors on the MTI team in the community down the hill. The doctors didn’t have the equipment to treat her, but the ambulance soon arrived and took her to the clinic in Chicamán, where she was told that they also did not have the necessary equipment, so she continued to Uspantán. She later said that as she rode in the ambulance, she was thinking, “If I die, who will take care of my children? Nobody is going to treat them as well as I treat them.”

    When she arrived at the hospital, she was suffering from shock, and the doctor immediately removed the placenta. Her back and stomach hurt. She was kept in the hospital for two more days to be sure she did not have an infection. Thankfully, her pain soon subsided and she could go home to her family and new baby. Finally, she felt good.

    Now my children are so healthy that other women come and ask me questions so their children can be as healthy as mine.

    Marcela is spreading the word in her community. She has shared her experience with the four other mother counselors in her community, and she is using her story to teach other mothers the importance of seeking immediate help if a placenta has not been expelled after 30 minutes. She encourages other mothers to have their babies at the hospital, and some mothers are taking her advice.

    “Now my children are so healthy that other women come and ask me questions so their children can be as healthy as mine,” she said. “I am sorry I didn’t listen before, but I am telling others to listen to MTI because the things they tell us help with our well-being,” she said.

    “I would like to thank Medical Teams for having people with big hearts who help us,” she told Tom. “We called them and they were here right away to pick me up. People who work for MTI help with all of their heart. Even though the nurses knew I had done wrong by waiting, they were not angry with me but told me to have faith that I would be OK.” She also said she wanted to thank MTI for coming and offering workshops on nutrition and hygiene, where she listens carefully.

    Thanks to you, this mom was able to survive her complicated birth-- and is helping others do the same.

  • Tecla: No time to wait

    by Tyler Graf | Feb 10, 2016

    Guatemala, Tecla Senahu, Jan. 2016

    Mother-to-be Tecla is rushed down a bumpy dirt road to the nearest hospital, more than two hours away.

    One week: What a difference it can make. 

    In Tecla’s case, it meant all the difference in the world. She had waited long enough.

    The 27-year-old Guatemalan woman was pregnant for the fourth time and a week past her due date. As she waited she worried. From experience, she knew that the longer she waited for the onset of labor, the more likely it became for serious conditions to develop. 

    During each of her past pregnancies, she suffered bouts of convulsions and dangerously high blood pressure. The condition is known as preeclampsia, and it can lead to organ failure – even death. She suffered from the condition during her most recent pregnancy, too. A doctor had told Tecla that the longer she waited, the more likely it would be for her preeclampsia to worsen. 

    The only cure is to deliver the baby. 

    Tecla was scared. She’d lost one of her four babies during a previous pregnancy. She knew the severity of her condition was real. 

    And so is her seclusion. 

    She lives in a small indigenous village outside the town of Senahu, two hours from the nearest hospital. The only way down to the hospital is over a bumpy, narrow dirt road that snakes around the hill country of Central Guatemala. The problem was, neither Tecla nor her family had access to a vehicle.  

    But villagers knew that health coordinators from Medical Teams International were in the area, visiting a nearby community. As the coordinators were hiking down the hillside back to their vehicle, the villagers confronted them.

    They explained about Tecla and her condition. They spoke with urgency: Tecla needs to see a doctor. She can feel her blood pressure rising, the onset of preeclampsia.

    The coordinators contemplated calling an ambulance. But that would take too long – a four-hour two-way trip. That wouldn’t work, not if Tecla’s condition worsened. Instead, their vehicle would have to act as the ambulance.

    The coordinators put Tecla in the back seat of the truck and called ahead to the hospital. As the sun began descending, the truck took off. Slowly, over a choppy road, with fog limiting visibility, a health coordinator drove Tecla to the hospital.

    At the hospital, a doctor induced labor, and Tecla gave birth at midnight to a healthy, 5-pound baby.

    Because of Medical Teams' regular presence in Tecla’s community, both the young mother and her baby are alive and healthy. Their good health is a blessing and a testament to the generosity of MTI’s donors and the dedication of the field staff, whose fast thinking saves lives.

  • Brutally attacked, you're helping Sabasore heal

    by User Not Found | Feb 04, 2016

    Sabasore will never forget that day. He was terrified. He could feel the armed fighters breaking his bones. He had done nothing to provoke their attack—but had no way to make them stop.

    Would he survive this horrific attack?

    Sabasore is 27-years-old and lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In his community, armed skirmishes often leave innocent bystanders dead or seriously hurt. Sabasore was trapped in the middle of one of these dangerous conflicts. The armed fighters broke two bones in one of the young man’s legs. The terrible pain overwhelmed Sabasore, but there was nothing he could to do make them stop. What did these armed fighters want from him? Would he survive this horrific attack?


    Donated medical supplies are sent around the world in our Distribution Centers-- helping people like Sabasore when they desperately need it.

    By God’s grace, Sabasore survived. He hobbled to a clinic called HEAL Africa, one of Medical Team International’s partners. His leg throbbed in agony. The doctors knew he needed surgery.

    Following surgery, his leg was stiff and he couldn’t move it. It’s possible he may never be able to move it properly again. It was crucial that he get the supplies he needed to stay mobile and rehabilitate from the attack—otherwise, this injury could disintegrate his ability to live and work.

    But, a shipment of medical supplies had just arrived at the hospital—supplies you sent. After his surgery, Sabasore received a Velcro leg splint, a comfortable set of crutches, and tools to help recover his strength.

    He may never be able to move his leg properly, but these generous gifts were transformational for this young man who’d survived a harrowing attack that left him permanently injured. For the first time since the attack, Sabasore was overjoyed: “This donation is the best of my life.”

    For the first time since the attack, Sabasore was overjoyed.

    Every year, Medical Teams International receives millions of dollars’ worth of lifesaving medical supplies and medicine from kindhearted donors. These gifts save lives across the globe of people just like Sabasore. Supporters who pray, donate, and volunteer allow for stories of hope in the midst of unthinkable suffering.

    We would be honored to have you join our team. Share this story with family and friends on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Take a moment to pray for those living in areas of violent conflict. Consider donating to provide care and supplies that one day could save a life. Together, we can create a brighter future for all.

  • Three generations touched: The midwife, the mother and the baby

    by Tyler Graf | Feb 01, 2016

    Haiti, Altanise, April 2015

    From left, Jaqueline and Altinise, mother and daughter, hold the baby Altinise birthed during a complicated pregnancy that nearly cost the young woman her life.

    Altinise knew something was wrong.

    The bleeding began following the birth of her daughter, near the rural Haiti community of Crochu.

    For the 23-year-old new mother, the bleeding continued unabated. Altinise began shivering and felt dizzy. She continued to lose blood, and it was evident that something bad was happening, that she was possibly suffering from postpartum hemorrhaging.

    For too many women in Haiti, this is a death sentence.

    But hope was nearby. Watching over Altinise was a birth attendant, someone Medical Teams International trained. Birth attendants in places like Haiti ensure quality maternity care. They save lives in the process. In developing countries, the risks associated with pregnancy and child birth are real. In 2010, more than 287,000 women died during pregnancy or child birth. Another 1.3 million newborns died during the neonatal period.

    In Altinise’s case, her birth attendant wasn’t simply someone from the community – it was her mother, Jaqueline. 

    As Altinise lay dizzy, shivering and bleeding, her mother and birth attendant intervened. Eight months of extensive birth attendant training from the trained staff of Medical Teams International had prepared her for a complication such as this one. She knew that Altinise was exhibiting signs of hemorrhaging and that she was losing an excessive amount of blood.

    Slowly, Jaqueline began massaging Altinise’s abdomen, just above where the uterus is located. This tactic is intended to stunt the flow of blood. Gently, Jaqueline massaged, and she monitored. She also told Altinise to start breastfeeding. Both tactics are intended to prompt a woman’s body to release a hormone that helps keep the uterus intact and stabilizes bleeding.

    These were tactics that Jaqueline learned during her training, and they likely saved her daughter’s life. Soon the bleeding eased, the dizziness disappeared, and the shivering subsided. Altinise’s condition improved.

    Jaqueline shared her story with MTI’s Haiti staff and said just how thankful she was that her daughter and granddaughter were OK. Indeed, three generations of the same family – grandmother, mother and granddaughter – all have you to thank for your amazing support. Without it, Altinise's life would have been left to chance.