Advice, Care Can Work Wonders

But Many Women Unaware Of Services

Tough Times -- Tender Years

September 08, 1991|By Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vital Statistics Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vital Statistics JoAnna Daemmrich | Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vital Statistics Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vital Statistics JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Deep down, Dana already knew the truth when she headed to the publichealth clinic on that blustery January day.

She had missed her period and tested positive on a home pregnancy kit. The evidence was hard to ignore, even though she wasn't sick in the mornings.

Still, when the doctor told her she was three months pregnant, she was surprised. It was at least a month more than she expected.

Then Dana discovered she was carrying twins. When she called to tell the man she believed was the father, he hung up. The breakup was another blow for Dana, who asked to withhold her last name because she's fighting for child support.

She was living in an overcrowded house and facing the disapproval of some friends and family members. Her job at Dunkin' Donuts didn't provide medical coverage. She was anemic from eating junk food on the run and smoking a pack of Marlboros a day. And she was depressed.

Although she was 22, working full time and living in Linthicum, Dana had a much greater risk of losing her babies than other women her age in the county. She knew little about prenatal care. She had no plans to visit a doctor again until it was time for her delivery. Worried about problems at home and upset by her boyfriend'sabrupt exit, she didn't even want to think about medical bills.

Without help from Healthy Generations, a pilot program that gets pregnant women proper health care, Dana easily might have been another statistic.

Her twins, Tommy and Courtney, were in danger of dying prematurely or being severely underweight.

Instead they wereborn healthy and just a month early.

In February, when she was four months pregnant, Dana saw a flier advertising assistance for pregnant women through Healthy Generations. The program is available in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Carroll counties and Baltimore City.

Within days, visiting nurse Mary O'Malley and social worker Karen Kirkpatrick had hooked Dana up with Maryland's medical assistance forpregnant women.

The government-financed insurance covers the costof prenatal care, transportation and hospital bills for women earning incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level, or up to $16,790 a year.

The Healthy Generations team also gave Dana advice on propernutrition, encouraged her to quit smoking and visited her at home tocheck on the twins' progress.

"My iron was real low, so they got me eating better," Dana said. "Istarted eating three meals a day and a lot more greens."

Set up in May 1989 with a federal grant, Healthy Generations serves pregnant women in the Glen Burnie area, which has the second highest infant mortality rate in the county.

At least 14 of every 1,000 infants in Glen Burnie die before age 1. In some sections of the 21061 ZIP code, up to 18 of every 1,000 babies die --rivaling Baltimore, which has the third-highest infant mortality rate among large American cities.

Healthy Generations differs from other programs for expectant mothers by being pro-active, Kirkpatrick said. Instead of waiting for pregnant women to get to the nearest public health clinic, she and O'Malley visit them at home.

Though Danawas nervous when they first visited, she soon realized O'Malley and Kirkpatrick were "real concerned about how you're coming along in your pregnancy."

A slight blond, Dana only weighed 95 pounds when shegot pregnant. She surprised her doctor and the Healthy Generations workers by taking such good care of herself that, despite her small size, she carried the twins close to full term.

On July 7, she gave birth to 4-pound, 8-ounce Courtney, and 80 minutes later, to 4-pound,4-ounce Tommy. Both were under weight but healthy.

Tommy had to be kept in Harbor Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for a week. But Dana took Courtney home immediately.

"They were pretty big fortwins," said O'Malley, who called Dana "one of our stars."

In herfifth month, following doctor's orders and encouraged by O'Malley, Dana quit her job at Dunkin' Donuts in Glen Burnie. She applied for Section 8 rental assistance and took home registration forms to enroll in nursing courses at Anne Arundel Community College.

Dana creditsHealthy Generations for motivating her to think of the future.

"Iprobably wouldn't have tried to get Section 8 or been thinking aboutnursing," she said. "I know I wouldn't have been eating right or getting stuff like WIC (the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women,Infants and Children).

She's back to smoking a pack a day, but the rest of her life has changed dramatically. Her hands are full with Tommy and Courtney, who have grown and gained 2 pounds each. They nowweigh as much as average newborns.

Dana doesn't hang out in bars anymore with her friends. Even when she can find a baby-sitter and goes to the movies, she calls often to check on her children.

With her eyes fixed on future goals -- getting her degree and providing a nice home for the twins -- Dana has decided something else. She plans to use birth control in her next relationship.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.