Dispatch

‘My mission was to save her life’

9 May 2016
As a midwife, you have to sometimes make difficult decisions, as Catherine Agibo explained. © UNFPA / Umar Weswala

KATAKWI, Uganda – Catherine Agibo’s mother was a traditional birth attendant. She grew up watching her help women give birth, including some deliveries that did not end happily. Here, she narrates the story of a defining moment in her career as a midwife.

“Whenever I saw a pregnant woman being brought (to the house), I rushed to call my mother. I wanted them to deliver so that I could hold the babies, because they were so cute,” says Catherine. She admired her mother so much that as she was growing up, she dreamed of becoming a midwife.

Thanks to UNFPA's midwifery sponsorship programme, which is supported by the Government of Sweden through the Swedish Embassy in Uganda, Catherine received an opportunity to study midwifery. Today, she works as a midwife, saving the lives of mothers and newborns at Katakwi General Hospital in North-Eastern Uganda.

'This was an emergency'

“In 2012, when I had just started active service at Katakwi General Hospital, I happened to be the only one on duty one night when a man came rushing in to say that his wife had delivered at a place two kilometres from the hospital and needed help. From the look on his face, it was clear to me that this was an emergency. There was no ambulance available but I knew I had to get to the scene as quickly as possible.

The bicycle could not transport me, the baby and the bleeding mother all at once, so I made a decision to save the newborn’s life first and asked God to take care of the mother. – Catherine Agibo, midwife

"I asked one of the security guards at the gate to take the husband and I to the scene of the delivery by bicycle. The road was terrible and I was praying that the bicycle would not break down on the way. By God’s mercy, I made it to the scene. What I saw made me feel sad. The mother and baby were alone at a gate, out in the open. This was at night. The baby was battling to breathe and the mother was bleeding severely. Their lives were now in danger, and in my hands. At that moment, I was not only a midwife but the only medical practitioner around.

'The mother was very weak'

"But the bicycle could not transport me, the baby and the bleeding mother all at once, so I made a decision to save the newborn’s life first and I asked God to take care of the mother. On reaching the hospital, I ordered the Askari to rush back to the scene and fetch the mother. I resuscitated the newborn and put it on oxygen. When the mother arrived, she was very weak from losing a lot of blood.

"I was scared and asked the Askari to call a doctor or anyone who could help, but my efforts were in vain. I was the only medical practitioner available at that moment. According to the mother's medical card, she was HIV-positive. You can imagine how I felt because her blood was all over me; but at that moment my mission was to save her life and that of her baby. God would take care of me. Indeed, he saved my life, the baby’s and the mother’s.

"I immediately gave the mother a blood transfusion," she said. Two days later, she and her baby had recovered and one and a half weeks later they were discharged. Both were healthy and happy.

Watch Catherine's story