Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Remembering Vickie

This Twitter message brought back a sad personal memory.


NYC Women Dying In Childbirth At Alarming Rate, Report Shows
A new report shows that women in New York City are 30 percent more likely to die in childbirth than they were just 12 years ago, with black women facing a maternal mortality rate of 79 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 10 per 100,000 live births for white women. Furthermore, infant mortality rates among black women nearly triple that of white women. 
C. Nicole Mason, the executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest and author of the report, told us that the spike in the maternal mortality rate among African American women in poor communities is largely based on three factors: Poor prenatal and postpartum care, higher rates of c-sections and most significantly, other health factors, like obesity. In fact, Mason said, 40 percent of women who die from "maternal related complications" are overweight. In short, though, Mason said it's an issue of access. "We really need to think about how women in poor communities are treated from the time they become pregnant until they deliver, and whether they're getting the health care they deserve," she said. 
The report, published by the New York Women's Foundation, also found that at 32 percent, Brooklyn has the highest rate of new HIV diagnosis among women. Black women comprise a startling 64.6 percent of new HIV diagnoses, followed by Latinas at 27.8 percent. Ana Oliveira, the foundation's president, told the Daily News that the statistics were "very troubling," and called for a “community-based effort in which we bring together fundamental services.” 
Despite conditions for women being most dismal in Brooklyn and the Bronx, the report also said that economic disparities are "most pronounced in Manhattan." Which borough is overall best for women? Staten Island. With lower than average poverty and unemployment rates, the island also has the lowest levels of public assistance and highest median family income.
And this is where the comparative statistic was linked.  I didn't find Gaza or the West Bank on the first page, but that's beside the point. The US certainly doesn't jump off the page with the most impressive statistic.

What caught my eye was that part about  the maternal mortality rate among African American women in poor communities is largely based on three factors: Poor prenatal and postpartum care, higher rates of c-sections and most significantly, other health factors, like obesity.

My retirement was still in the first year when I got word that two of the women employees working at my cafeteria had died. Neither was old. Neither was in poor health. Both were exemplary in every respect, dependable, sweet-spirited, hard-working and cross-trained to do several jobs.  Vickie was among the staff picture that appeared in the 1996 Annual report which captured her natural smile forever. That photo, along with a note she left in my retirement good-bye album is among my treasured keepsakes. 

Vickie was still in her twenties when she died in childbirth. She appeared to be in good health and had carried her baby full-term. The baby was born without a mother, which underscored the tragedy of her death. I have no grounds for suspecting negligence on the part of the doctors or hospital, but I cannot shake off the feeling that had she not been one of the working poor good prenatal care would have been routine and may have revealed some preventable problem that resulted in her death. But the healthcare of poor people in America, especially here in the South, has more to do with emergency care than managing transitory conditions like minor lacerations or bruises,  pulled muscles, headaches, toothaches, mood disorders or being pregnant that don't rise to the crisis level.  More often than not, poor people regard seeing the doctor as a sign of weakness, especially if you appear to be in pretty good health.

Every time I think of Vickie I remember her bubbling personality and childlike ability to enjoy anything that happened. She had those effervescent qualities that made everyone she met feel better. And she was quick to jump in when there was a problem to be solved, especially if the problem involved something as simple as busting butt to clean up a mess or serve an unexpected crowd. I had many good employees during my years as a cafeteria manager and Vickie was among the best. Incidentally, she was also a Haitian immigrant and spoke French and Haitian Creole as well as English. If my opinions about how immigrants are poorly treated sometimes seems a bit prickly, she is part of the reason for that as well.

1 comment:

  1. Her note reads...
    "Hello, John! I don't have to write a long story because you know all about me, how I feel about you. I love you, you're my dad still, no matter where you're going I wish the best for you.
    Have a good time with Jesus.
    May God bless you and your family.
    Vickie Jean-Battiste"