It’s Harvest Season
Maria felt the first few drips of fluid at dawn, waves of unbearable pain followed. Her picking hands were slowed, her back hunched. The gathering light gone, she finally collapsed at dusk.
The intern reached under the sheet and felt a tiny still foot and a pulseless umbilical cord.
“Why did they wait?” The naive young doctor turned to the interpreter making no attempt to veil her accusation.
“It’s harvest season,” he shrugged, as if that explained everything.
“Dos babies!”, Maria groaned infusing the solemn room with renewed chaos and purpose.
The second premature twin was lifted from her womb ten minutes later, mewling.
This is a true story from my days as an intern at a county hospital. Maria was a fifteen year old migrant worker and she was one of many indigent women who taught me to set aside my personal judgments, because in the moment it doesn’t matter why the patient didn’t come sooner or make better decisions. My job was not to judge but to listen and to act. In this case she and her lost twin were victims of poverty. The field foreman wouldn’t bring her to the hospital until he became afraid that Maria, a child herself, might actually die on his watch. I was young and my judgment, of course, was misplaced. Poor Maria was powerless over her circumstances.
Her baby weighed about two pounds and stayed in the hospital for another two months. Maria had no choice but to return to the field a week after her cesarean despite my warnings of infection and wound rupture. I was powerless too. I had saved her second twin but I could not save Maria or her daughter from a life of poverty.
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