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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Natalee Johnson to join midwives in Haiti

<iti Relief - Carleton has been a strong presence on campus, hosting events and speakers to raise not only money for the devastated country, but also awareness. One specific Carleton staff member to take note of, though, is Natalee Johnson, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife and Coordinator of Medical Services in Carleton’s Wellness Center, who will be going to Haiti this summer with Midwives for Haiti.

Currently, Haiti has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the western hemisphere, with 76 percent of deliveries occurring without qualified aid. Childbirth is a completely natural occurrence, yet without proper knowledge and care, preventable complications can take place.

But this can be prevented with the right skills in midwifery. Midwives for Haiti began in 2004 and aims “to reduce the high maternal and infant mortality rates by teaching midwifery skills.” They have a main training facility at St. Therese Hospital in Hinche, Haiti, where they train women for one year in birth attendance, but many training facilities and resources were greatly damaged by January’s devastating earthquake.

Aware of the devastation in Haiti, Johnson felt that she had to do something. She holds a Masters in Midwifery from the University of Minnesota and practiced midwifery for 13 years prior to Carleton.

A midwife provides support for women, which allows them to “own their power of birth,” Johnson said, and they deal with the issues surrounding women’s health as well as provide medical care.

According to Johnson, midwifery is unique in that it requires a particular vigilance of the one giving care because, as she puts it, “midwifery has its own body of knowledge as a medical profession.”

Johnson and a colleague from college will be stationed in Carrefour, Haiti (just outside of Port Au Prince) from June 19 to July 3. They will be working with a translator in order to attend laboring women rather than teaching, since it is currently more crucial to provide direct care due to the earthquake.

Johnson is not entirely sure what to expect, and is unaware of how much will be available at the medical facility or what kind of conditions she will be sleeping in, but she is going with an open mind and heart.

“I’m going to learn more than anything that I can give,” she said.

In preparation, Johnson attended a conference this week for a certification in Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics. Along with gaining further knowledge and skills to manage any emergencies, she is also collecting supplies to bring along, including basic vitamins and medicines that are important for pre- and peri-natal care, medications to treat worms and malaria and other general supplies like protective gear, sheets (for birthing because most sheets have been used in make-shift shelters after the earthquake), food and personal medications.

Along with various hospitals and companies, Haiti Relief – Carleton is also helping provide for Johnson’s trip. This group, led by Rebecca Palmer ’10, Hunter Knight ’11, Kate Adkins ’11 and Max Bearak ’12, has hosted many fundraisers, such as the Singing for Haiti concert on February 28 and online fundraising. So far, they have collected over $10,000, and a portion of the funds and donations from faculty and staff were collected to get baby supplies for Johnson’s trip. Carleton volunteers were also able to make care packages on Friday, April 9.

As Bearak said, “Haiti Relief—Carleton wants to change the way people think about relief efforts, to be committed in the long term; it can’t end with a donation.”

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