CHM maternity program saves missionaries from medical debt, By Nicole Wilke, Albert Lea, Minn.

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*Editor’s note: This information was published in the September 2022 issue of Heartfelt Magazine, CHM’s monthly magazine that provides CHM membership-related tips and tricks, medical advice from doctors, testimonies from CHM members, and more. Please refer to the CHM Guidelines and applicable web pages for the most up-to-date information regarding CHM membership, sharing eligibility, and ministry news.*

As missionaries, we had a complex situation: We needed budget-friendly support for medical bills that could travel with us to any country. It seemed like a mythical unicorn situation. When we found CHM, it was a perfect fit. We weren’t thinking about maternity care, but it's proven to be one of the greatest blessings of CHM!

Our first pregnancy was a breeze. I hemorrhaged after the birth, but after a transfusion, I was as good as new.

Our second pregnancy was wonderful until around 30 weeks, when we found out I had anti-Kell antibodies. Josh had a blood protein called Kell, and I did not, so my body attacked blood with Kell antigens in it.

By God’s grace, Eliana was born healthy, even though she was Kell-positive. I hemorrhaged massively again, and between that and blood incompatibility, our doctors encouraged us to have no more biological children.

We grieved the loss, but we were at peace. However, when God wills for a little one to be born, He provides! Three years later, we were shocked to discover I was pregnant with a daughter: Selah.

We knew we’d eventually need to go to the U.S. for medical care because of the high risk of hemorrhage and limited access to blood in Peru where we were serving.

We found Dr. Mauricio la Rosa de los Rios, a U.S.-trained Peruvian obstetrician who was just getting his board certification in maternal fetal medicine. He was the only MFM specialist in Peru, having moved back to the country only one month prior to our meeting. I flew back and forth to Lima to see him every two weeks for specialized monitoring; then at 26 weeks, we left for Minnesota.

Selah had many challenges. Not only was she monitored weekly, but because my blood attacked hers, she needed three intrauterine blood transfusions. It became clear that she would be safer outside the womb than in it and they induced me around 34 weeks.

Selah was born screaming and went immediately to the NICU, where she stayed for 17 days. I hemorrhaged again, requiring two surgeries and multiple transfusions. Between Selah and me, we received a combined 15 units of blood.

Living internationally is complicated but critically important to our work to help Peruvian orphanages transition to family care. Medical care in Peru isn’t always excellent, so we needed something that covered healthcare costs for normal situations and U.S. healthcare costs for emergencies. Further, we needed something budget-friendly. 

Without CHM, we could have significant medical debt right now, leading to us leaving the mission field. CHM has played a role in us being able to do what we do. CHM has been an excellent fit to share the complex needs of our international family. 

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