Kitty told us that ideally at-risk pregnant women come to Casa Materna about a week before they are due. The Provincial government health clinics send the women to Casa Materna in order to reduce the Mom and baby's risk of dying. Many of the women live far out of town and can't wait until they are in labor to think about going to the hospital. The hospital will not take them in, unless they are at least three centimeters dilated. The Casa gets them to the hospital when they are ready to deliver their babies. The hospital is 5 to 10 minutes away depending on how fast they drive the ambulance.
The women are also invited to return to the Casa for a short stay after they leave the hospital, before they begin the long trek home. The Casa also has adolescent and midwife outreach programs, offering education and support. About 260 mid-wives are trained throughout the Province to identify who should come to the Casa Materna.
The Casa's efforts have helped bring the maternal deaths in Nicaragua down from 190 per 100,000, to 86 per 100,000. Since the Casa began, they have only had two maternal deaths out of 16,600 Mothers; one had a bleeding disorder and the other was 43 years old and it was her 19th child. The Casa's maternal death rate is 12/100,000 which is better than in the U.S. Kitty considers this to be miraculous, considering that they serve between 800 - 1,000 high-risk pregnant women each year. The Casa's capacity at any one time, is 25 Mothers, but they have had as many as 35 with 15 more in the hospital. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of this, they have 3 nurses and 3 drivers on staff to cover the different shifts. Twenty-five percent of their Moms are less than 20 years old and have been as young as thirteen. Twenty-five percent are over 35 years old. They helped one Mom, who was 50, deliver her 19th child.
Kitty was asked if any of the Mothers, given their poverty, offer their babies up for adoption. She said they've never had a Mom want to give up their baby. The extended family is strong and a good support. Though the culture is macho with a lot of alcoholism, the people care for one another. They have a joy, faith, and inner strength that is attractive to those missioners who serve them.
All the work of the Casa is accomplished for under $150,000 a year. The patients, whose average stay is 11 days, are asked to pay about $2.50 toward electricity and water costs, if they can. Some of them also bring some food with them. The Casa also runs a small bed and breakfast located across the street where visitors can stay. That brings in some income. However, most of their funding is from donations. They have a Mother's Day program where people can give a donation to Casa Materna in honor of their own mother. The web site is www.casamaterna.org if you want more information.
Kitty told us that they appreciate any donations and noted that the Casa will soon need a new ambulance. Their current ambulance has served them for 14 years and is nearing the end of its run. The ambulance is vitally important in transporting the women quickly and safely to the Regional Hospital.
Kitty also stressed to us that she hopes we will pray for the Casa. She believes that this is God's work and, as her mother always said, "God will provide what is needed."
Kitty's sharing really brought to life the good that she has done and continues to do in Matagalpa, supported by many people in the U.S. and other countries. We all enjoyed meeting Kitty and hearing of her great work. Our understanding of the world grew because of her willingness to tell her story.