Blood Pressure – a Price of Poverty

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

BPSometimes I stare at the blood pressure machine dumbfounded at the staggering numbers.  Since we take so many blood pressures in a day we use a digital machine that squeezes the upper arm and displays the news – good or bad.  I always agree when the numbers are good.  When they are bad I’m suspicious, blame the gadget and run for the manual and stethoscope.  The numbers are the same with both machines.  Way too high.  Killer high.

Pregnant teens, middle-aged women, skinny and chubby walk around Haiti with a ticking time bomb in their hearts and brains.   This week the bomb went off and took the life of a 37 year old mom who had been through our program.

She was poor, very poor.  A lifetime of an unhealthy diet, dehydration and stress can wear a body out far too soon.    She left behind children who won’t have a mother.  She left behind friends, ladies as poor as she was and they wonder if they will be next.  In fact, they might be.

These ladies live a day at a time with no focus or preparation on tomorrow.  They don’t have that luxury.  A screaming tooth must be pulled.  A flow of diarrhea must be stopped.  These things they know, they feel them, they can see them.  Blood pressure is stealth, silently causing damage until we explode.  Why treat what we can’t see?  Why take meds for pain we don’t feel.  Why spend money on meds when food is needed.   School bills need to be paid.  Haitian moms value school for their children and will sacrifice much for their child to go to school.

On Fridays we have a circus of activities going on at once.  It all starts with Bible Study.  Ladies gather on the porch and sit through a teaching by Agathe as they wait to get results of a pregnancy test, family planning, blood pressure meds or have another need addressed.

Our nurse Wini counts out meds like a pharmacist and sets people up to be on their regiment of  life savers.  She explains the dosages and tells them what day to return.  She either smiles or frowns according to the numbers displayed on one of our many BP machines.  She lectures, she teaches, she’s gentle and kind.  She hopes she gets through.  She knows what a stroke can do, she takes care of her own mom who had one.  Wini knows.

Our program is free and yet many still don’t take their meds.  Lives are complicated.  They miss their return day.  Pills get lost.  Pills get forgotten.  Blood pressure rises.  Disaster might be around the corner.

nonameMari’s death is a sad reminder of intangible killers.  Generational poverty kills and these women have no way out.   They hope and pray for better for their children, that’s why they sacrifice so much to put their children in school.

Change is slow but can and does happen.   Each program at Heartline is designed to bring about growth and change.  Women are being educated who can make money and buy better quality food.  Women are sitting through classes hearing truth that enables them to make better choices.  Women are getting some medical care and their needs addressed.  Women are being encouraged and loved.  This makes a difference and brings about trust and change.

And change makes my blood pressure go down!

Beth McHoul

Some of you may know Mari through the blog that Beth wrote in June 2011.  Please click on the link below to read about Mari.


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