Some would call it fate. Others would call it a lucky coincidence. But for the faithful, this story is, at the very least, about Divine Providence…and maybe even a miracle or two.
Since opening its doors in 1966, the Maternidad de Maria has seen its fair share of premature births. And while the overall infant mortality rate in Chimbote has dropped in the last 50 years as a result of the mission’s medical services, saving premature babies requires equipments and interventions that have been in short supply in this impoverished area.
Babies who weigh less than 2.2 pounds at birth are at very high risk even in the most well-equipped hospitals. They are considered to be on the edge of viability. Many do not beat the odds, and even those that do may suffer complications. That is what makes the survival of such an infant born in Chimbote so amazing.
In 1988, a mother who was in labor with twins came to the Maternidad to deliver her babies, but she was only at about 26 weeks gestation. “It was very difficult to save an infant under two pounds at that time,” explains Sr. Margaret Mary Birchmeier, OP. Sr. Margaret Mary has spent five decades serving in Chimbote, and, as a midwife, has attended countless births.
The staff did everything in their power to save both babies, but sadly, the male baby did not survive. For some unknown reason, premature baby girls have slightly better odds than boys, and this little girl was a fighter. She survived. Her mother named her Milagros, Spanish for “Miracle.”
Milagros Del Solar is the youngest of 11 children — six girls and five boys. She grew and flourished and, over the years, she worked hard to pursue her dream job. After years of study, Milagros graduated from dentistry school in 2012, although with no real job prospects on the horizon.
Her family has been coming to the clinic for years and learned that the recent construction meant that the Center for Social Works was expanding to include dental services. Her mother spoke with Sr. Lillian Bockheim, OP, who encouraged her to check back as construction progressed. As luck (or Divine Providence) would have it, Milagros, now 30, was hired as the dentist at the brand new dental clinic!
Milagros is a capable and compassionate dentist. She sees patients of all ages and agreed to provide free care to those deemed unable to pay for her services. She is even looking after the orphans cared for at the Center who were so near and dear to Msgr. Jules Roos when he was living, agreeing to do dental checkups for them on Saturdays.
In February, Chimbote Foundation board member Gretchen Roos (niece of Msgr. Roos) visited Chimbote for the dedication of the new medical clinic. Ms. Roos was able to meet Milagros and watch her work. Directly above the exam chair in the dental clinic hangs a photo of Milagros as a tiny preemie, held in the gentle hands of the missionary priest. Gesturing toward the photo, Milagros told Ms. Roos, “Fr. Jules guided me here from heaven.”
Divine Providence indeed!