Today started out as any other. Our meeting with the people was to take place at Ngolola a forty-minute trip over roads that had been gouged and rutted by the last rainy season. Yesterday I greased the
car, checked the oil and radiator water and topped up the air in one of the tires gone a little soft. The car was good to go and so were we, the catechist Matayo, a couple of our Christians desiring to take part in the meeting and myself. After an uneventful ride we arrived at Ngolola and were surprised by the lack of people waiting for us. Usually there is a small group of ten fifteen people waiting under the shade tree that is our place of meeting. The couple of women and a man that waited for us had long faces and it was clear that something out of the ordinary had occurred.
We sat with them and slowly the sad tale emerged. A young woman from the village had been having a difficult pregnancy and found it impossible to give birth. The very competent midwives of the area, usually able to handle any emergency, finally admitted defeat after many hours of effort. They packed the woman, now in great pain, on the morning bus to Karatu some two and a half hours away. Karatu has a good medical clinic. Everyone in the village was hopeful that the resident doctor at Karatu could deal with the ever-worsening problem and save the mother and her baby.
The woman. in excruciating pain, died just minutes after arriving at the clinic in Karatu. The doctor was able to save the child that will be raised by her grandmother. The family was devastated on receiving the news of the death of this young mother hardly twenty year old.
As we sat with the people in their pain, we learned that their had been a second death on the arrival of the sad news from Karatu. An old man, closely related to the newly dead mother had been so stricken by the news that he fell over dead on the spot. It was a horrific day for the whole village.
Olbalbal is far from competent medical care and tragedies like the one just described are not uncommon. In the local government clinics care is haphazard at best and medicine is often unavailable.