Matt Heaps is a senior product manager for LDS Welfare Services. He was able to visit Sierra Leone after a devastating civil war and see the aftermath of love and service provided by several volunteers there.
I looked at the cords, tubes, and bandages attached to my youngest daughter as she lay motionless in the hospital bed. I felt sorry for her, for myself, for my wife, and for our other children. A moment of self-pity washed over me because of the challenges we would now be facing. Little did I know that in a few short years my perspective would dramatically change. I started working for the Church’s Humanitarian Services Division and traveled to many countries around the world.
On my trips, I got to know many parents who would share a story about one of their children who had passed away or was left disabled after a disease. As I listened to them, I knew that if they were in a country with greater medical care, they most likely would be sharing a very different story. My story.
How could I ever complain about “needing” to take my child to the hospital? Wasn’t it a great enough blessing to just have a hospital? How could I complain about challenging medical care, when that medical care could provide my child an opportunity to live?
Not only do I get to count my blessings and enjoy precious time with my daughter, but every day as I come to work, I get to see the hand of the Lord providing these blessings around the world.
LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, has a maternal and newborn care program that provides lifesaving training and equipment for birth attendants to help resuscitate babies at birth, support the care of newborns, and improve maternal survival following birth. The training and equipment are basic so that they can be perpetuated through an entire community of medical professionals.
In Bo, Sierra Leone, I met Abie Turray, who was trained at one of our maternal and newborn care projects. As we sat in her medical clinic that has no electricity and no running water, she proudly showed me the hand-operated resuscitator she had received at the training.
She told me about an experience not long after she returned from the resuscitation training, when she delivered a baby that wasn’t breathing. She quickly grabbed the hand-operated resuscitator, applied what she had learned during the training, and the baby took its first breath.
I asked Abie how many times she had saved a baby with her resuscitator and new skills. “So many,” was her reply, “I don’t know the exact number.”
Abie has trained other midwives, and the program’s impact continues to grow. LDS Charities works with local organizations to provide a train-the-trainer program for doctors, nurses, and midwives. Each person who attends a course is instructed and given resources to train at least eight other medical professionals. In addition to the necessary skills taught, delivery rooms and midwives are provided the equipment necessary to practice and implement the techniques they have learned. In 2014, the program was taught in 42 countries and served an estimated 30,000 people.
Because of my own personal experience, I know what those blessings look like. I know firsthand that our training equates to thousands of parents around the world who are now getting a goodnight kiss, big hugs around the neck, the sound of laughter in their homes, and smiles from their son or daughter, like we are with ours.
If you missed the first part of Abie's story, click here.