Who We Are

Curving Ugandan dirt road. Photo by Jonathan Gohner
The Need

As a nurse and nurse-midwife, we are burdened by the many maternal deaths and stillbirths that we have witnessed in Uganda over the years.

The maternal mortality rate in 2022 was 336/100,000 births in Uganda compared with 32.9/100,000 in the USA. Mothers usually die from postpartum hemorrhage as well as preeclampsia/eclampsia and infection. The factors are many, but one is a lack of knowledge by the care providers in dealing with high risk perinatal care.

We are also burdened by the lack of perinatal bereavement care that families receive after a stillbirth. In almost all circumstances, there is an inability for a mother and family to hold their stillborn baby or have time to interact with their baby as “seeing and holding” a deceased baby is a global standard, but uncommon in Uganda. Uganda has a stillbirth rate of 17/1000 (2020) with a total number of 37,734 stillbirths in 2021 compared to 1/175 births in the US.

Prenatal clinic, antenatal clinic
Long road in Uganda with people traveling on it. Photo by Antoine PlussLynn teaching at Mbale hospitalLynn teaching class in Uganda (Feb 2019)
The Work

Our first trip to address these issues occurred in February 2017. During that trip we educated 350 nursing, midwifery students and medical students in five different areas of Uganda.

Many of the nurses told us that a lack of knowledge in emergency situations prevented nurses from giving good high risk perinatal care. One group of nurse leaders from Mbale Regional Referral Hospital requested to continue to work with us and we developed our first Birth with Dignity program at their hospital. Birth with Dignity focuses on both high risk care of moms and babies in pregnancy, as well as bereavement care for grieving families after stillbirth.

We returned to Uganda in 2019, 2022, and 2023. On each of these visits we have continued to hold conferences teaching more midwives, students, and also nursing leaders from around the country. On our most recent trip we additionally planted a second Birth with Dignity program at a hospital in Kampala and held a first ever “Baby Remembrance Service” in Uganda.

Throughout these years we have continued to provide ongoing education. In addition, we have assisted with the creation of educational resources, tools, and support, as well as sending needed supplies to our nursing teams. It is our hope and dream to not only improve the care in these healthcare facilities, but to bring this teaching and improved care to rural areas and other regions of Uganda in the future. Thus far we have been told that the hospital that has our program has a marked decrease in maternal deaths, and seeing and holding a stillborn baby is now the standard of care after a loss. We are greatly encouraged.

The Founders

While teaching Bethel Nursing Students for many years in Uganda, Sue and Lynn saw the great needs of mothers and babies in childbirth.

Sue’s nursing and teaching career spans over 35 years. Sue has done research in the area of perinatal bereavement and works as a Perinatal Nurse Navigator at Maple Grove Hospital, with families who have suffered the early or late loss of a baby. She is also an adjunct nursing professor at Bethel University. Sue is currently serving on the board with the International Stillbirth Alliance. She resides in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with her husband and two grown children.

Lynn has been a nurse for 40 years as well as a nurse-midwife for 37 of those years. She spent her nursing career in clinical practice, teaching at the University of Minnesota in the master’s degree Nurse-Midwifery Program and at Bethel University in the Nursing Program. Lynn resides in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with her husband, two adult children and two grandchildren.

While teaching Bethel Nursing Students for many years in Uganda, Sue and Lynn saw the great needs of mothers and babies in childbirth. They experienced firsthand the great disparity of childbirth care between women in Uganda and women in the western world. They continue to educate Ugandan midwives and nurses on ways to prevent maternal and newborn death, as well as improving bereavement care, according to global standards, for families who suffer a perinatal loss. Their hope continues to be that of saving the lives of moms and babies and supporting families who experience a loss.

Sue Steen RN, MS
Sue Steen RN, MS
Lynn Zdechlik RN, MS, CNM
Lynn Zdechlik RN, MS, CNM
Treasure holding baby Njuba

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalm 139:13-14a

Raising Funds

Partner With Us

We are raising funds to invest in the training of Ugandan nursing leaders and midwives, as well as plant new Birth with Dignity programs. We also hope to purchase ongoing educational supplies and provide needed medical supplies consistently to our hospital based programs.

Mbale Regional Referral Hospital Birth with Dignity Team 2023
Mbale Regional Referral Hospital Birth with Dignity Team 2023