Thursday, September 15, 2005

First Hospital Visit

September 13, 2005

I followed my host mother’s directions to el hospital Maternidad Señora de la Altagracia. I walked there in the heat that only Dominicans know, pass men who shout pick-up lines, or piropos, to every women passer-by.

I knew that I had arrived at where I was supposed to be when I saw armies of pregnant women outside the building’s entrances. I entered the hospital and was greeted by more armies of pregnant women who stood in the corridor. It was complete chaos, pregnant women packed into all crevices of the hospital, confused about where they were to go, and annoyed about how long they had been waiting.

I asked a guard for directions to the Department of Adolescent Mothers. I felt like a mouse in a maze, trying to find my destination. Finally, I had arrived. Forty or more eyes stared in my direction when I walked into the small waiting room, all the eyes belonging to young mothers-to-be.

Consuelo Matos Ramirez, the psychologist with whom I will be working, suggested that I sit with the nurses who were meeting with the girls to complete their medical histories. The room was small; two nurses shared one desk, and teenage mothers sat at either end, answering questions.

“How old are you?” “Fourteen,” a pregnant child answered, her mother at her side. This girl was one of the only girls whose mother was with her. She responded to the questions shyly. She looked embarrassed, and the expression on her face told me that she was scared, nervous, annoyed, and confused. I wondered if she had been raped, but that was not any of my business.

While the nurse was talking to this fourteen year old patient, she explained to me that the doctors are unable to serve all of the girls that come to the hospital. She continued by telling me that the service they provide to the girls is not great because there are too many girls to see and not enough resources, doctors, or space. I was surprised that she had said this in front of patients, but I gathered that this is an understanding among the Dominicans, who do not have the resources to go to a private hospital. They come to el Hospital Maternidad anyway, not expecting the best service, but thinking that any service is better than no service at all. I saw two more girls after the fourteen year old—one 16, the other 17. One was single; the other unmarried, but with the father of her child.

All three girls that I had seen were put on the list of girls who had to meet with the psychologist because all girls under 17 have to meet with one. In general, I was surprised about how the nurses discussed personal information so openly. Nurses told patients their HIV results, had psychological consultation, and discussed personal information out in the open. There is literally no space for privacy, for anything at the hospital.

After spending some time with the nurses, I had to go talk to the director to ask for permission to do my research at his hospital. He said that he agreed with my work but that I must provide him with a proposal. I understood, as any and every one should not be able to do whatever research they want in the hospital. I am currently working on the proposal and am planning to go there on Wednesday to present it to him. I will let you know what the board at the hospital decides.


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