San Moe Hlaing smiles as she cradles her two-week-old son, Thi Ha, who is sleeping peacefully in her arms. A Red Cross community health worker stands nearby, ready to take the baby should it get too much for the new mother. Having only returned from hospital one week ago, San Moe Hlaing is still recovering from the emergency surgery that saved her son’s life.
Like many people from De Lone Bo village in central Myanmar, 26-year-old San Moe Hlaing worked as a labourer, grinding stones for the construction of roads. She says: “I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was working outside but I kept feeling dizzy and tired, and couldn’t keep up. I was exhausted and couldn’t get out of bed or eat anything.”
It was her neighbour, who is now a Red Cross community health worker, who noticed something was wrong and immediately called the public health midwife. San Moe Hlaing says: “The midwife came here to the village to examine me and told me I was two months pregnant. She gave me folic acid and told me I needed to take it easy. I had to go back to work, but I changed my job and cooked for the labourers – I just couldn’t do the heavy work anymore.”
‘I was so afraid’
Despite these changes, San Moe Hlaing’s health again began to deteriorate a few months later. She went back to her Red Cross community health worker, who once more called the midwife. San Moe Hlaing says: “The midwife said the baby wasn’t in the normal position. I was so afraid when I heard those words. I just wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible”.
With the support of her Red Cross community health worker, San Moe Hlaing and her family were able to rent a car to take them to the hospital. There, it quickly became clear that San Moe Hlaing would need immediate treatment.
San Moe Hlaing says: “The doctor told me I would need to have an operation to deliver my baby. I didn’t want to, but the doctor said it was essential and so we agreed. When I was in the hospital I was very worried because of cash. The Red Cross community health worker came with me to the hospital and they have provided money to help pay my medical bills.”
Looking down at her son, San Moe Hlaing smiles. She says: “I came home one week ago and now all my worries have gone away. Now everything is ok”.
Help close to home
With the public health midwife based over 35km away, it is vital that people within De Lone Bo village are able to make quick, potentially life-saving decisions. Thanks to the Red Cross, three people from the community have completed their month-long training to become community health workers.
Read more about our programme in Myanmar