Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Mbamoussa Dilemma

As I mentioned in my last post, a couple days before Tabaski, Mbamoussa had not given birth yet.  She was lying on the floor of Fily’s room all day and didn’t look good.  I called Leah to ask her if she thought it might be better for Mbamoussa to stay with her in Saraya so she would be closer to medical care since both Sarr and Madame Diop were gone for Tabaski.  We talked about it and agreed that would be best if I could convince Mbamoussa to leave the village and figure out transportation.  Getting anywhere from my village is always a challenge, since the Niokolo only comes once a week.

I walked out to the area where the French doctors were camping and explained the severity of the situation.  They agreed with me that it was not safe for Mbamoussa to stay in Nafadji since delivering twins can be complicated.  2 of the doctors were heading to Saraya in a car and told me they were leaving in an hour.  So I had an hour to convince Mbamoussa to leave her family 2 days before Tabaski, the biggest holiday of the year.  I felt incredibly stressed out.

I raced back to the compound and hurriedly explained in a mixture of French and Malinke that I was concerned about her safety and the lives of her babies.  I told her that I thought she needed to leave because she would be in danger if there were any complications during the birth.  She seemed hesitant to leave her family, but she agreed to go.  I think she knew I wouldn’t have said anything unless I was very concerned.  She quickly packed a bag and I gave her money for any medical care she may need.  One of the female elders in the village, Aissata Damba (my namesake), showed up with a bag and was prepared to travel with Mbamoussa so she wouldn’t have to be alone.

The French doctors dropped the two ladies off at the Saraya hospital, and the doctors there took one look at her and started talking about sending her to Kedougou.  Saraya had medical staff but did not have the capacity to do a C-section.  Kedougou has the only hospital in the region that can do a C-Section, and that is 90k away from my village.  In Saraya, the doctors noticed that Mbamoussa had a fever.  After doing the test, it turned out she had malaria!  This is her second case of malaria this season.

Leah went with Mbamoussa in the ambulance car to Kedougou, where Mbamoussa was treated for malaria and monitored closely.  Leah stayed with Mbamoussa on Tabaski so she wouldn’t have to be alone, and around noon on Tabaski, I got a text message that Mbamoussa’s water had just broken.  She gave birth to 2 healthy baby girls without any complications.  I arrived in Kedougou the following day to visit Mbamoussa and meet her twins.  They are adorable! 

Aissata stayed with Mbamoussa up until she returned to Nafadji after Tabaski.  Seeing this elderly woman stay so close to Mbamoussa’s side showed me how tight the bonds of the village are.  They don’t leave each other alone in times of need.  Aissata missed celebrating Tabaski in the village to be a companion for Mbamoussa.  It was heartwarming to see that she would go so out of her way to support a fellow villager.

Mbamoussa now has 9 children and is only 30 years old.  The doctor told Leah that if Mbamoussa gets pregnant again, she could die.  I plan to talk to her about birth control and possibly mention this to her husband as well.  He cares about his wife and would not want to put her life in danger. 

The day that I forced Mbamoussa to go to Saraya, I was very unsure about whether or not I was doing the right thing.  Taking a pregnant woman away from her family for the holiday seemed so extreme.  It made me wonder what my role was supposed to be as a volunteer in this situation.  I never want to boss people around, but no one in the family seemed to be thinking about the future.  They didn’t seem to care that both the nurse and midwife were gone and that Mbamoussa was overdue to give birth.  My gut was telling me that she needed to go, but I kept second guessing myself.  Working with Leah on this was amazing, and she gave up celebrating Tabaski with her Saraya family to be with her namesake, Mbamoussa, in the hospital.  It’s lucky that Mbamoussa did go to Saraya, because otherwise we never would have realized she had malaria.  In Kedougou, she was able to get the care she needed to safely deliver her babies.

Everything worked out in the end, and all 4 babies are safe at home.  What a relief!


  1. Good call Marielle. Thank goodness you acted on your instincts and insisted Mbamoussa get proper help. I'm extremely proud of you and the impact you're having every day.

  2. wow Marielle, what an incredible testimony to a very situation!!!!!! Both nana Sue and I are very proud of your decision making!! it showed alot of poise, determination and resolve in caring for Mbamoussa and her babies. See you at Christmas!
    love always, Uncle Don and Sue

  3. Marielle---Simply, you saved 1, 2 or 3 lives....not to mention the impact anything happening to Mbamoussa would surely have had on her other 7 children, husband and extended family. Well done, you! xox/Kevin