HOLY CHRIST! This took guts!
Ines Ramirez Perez and her son Orlando Ruiz Ramirez, 4, gesture in their home in the town of Rio Talea, Mexico. In March 2000, Ines cut open her womb with a kitchen knife her husband used to slaughter animals and delivered Orlando in her rural home after problems developed during labour. Inset: the knife she used. Photos: AP
Alone in her one-room cabin high in the mountains of southern Mexico, Ines Ramirez Perez felt the pounding pains of a child insistent on entering the world.
Three years earlier, she had given birth to a dead baby girl. As her labour intensified, so did her concern for this unborn child.
The sun had set hours ago. The nearest clinic was 80km away over rough roads, and her husband, her only assistant during a half-dozen previous births, was drinking at a cantina. She had no phone and neither did the cantina.
So at midnight, after 12 hours of constant pain, the petite, 40-year-old mother of six sat down on a low wooden bench. She took several gulps from a bottle of rubbing alcohol, grabbed a 15-cm knife and began to cut.
By the light of a single dim bulb, Ramirez sawed through skin, fat and muscle before reaching inside her uterus and pulling out her baby boy. She says she cut his umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, then passed out.
That was March 5, 2000. Today the baby she delivered, Orlando Ruiz Ramirez, is a rambunctious 4-year-old. And Ines Ramirez is recognised internationally as a modern miracle: She is believed to be the only woman known to have performed a successful Caesarean-section on herself.
In an interview at her isolated home, she described her experience in halting Spanish, accented by her native Zapotec language.
"I couldn't stand the pain anymore," she said. "And if my baby was going to die, then I decided I would have to die, too. But if he was going to grow up, I was going to see him grow up, and I was going to be with my child. I thought that God would save both our lives."
Although there were no witnesses available to confirm her account, the two obstetricians who examined her 12 hours after the birth are wholly convinced.
Dr Honorio Galvan and Dr Jesus Guzman were so stunned by what they saw that they told Ramirez's story at a medical meeting the following year. But the birth got little attention until it was reported in March in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
The doctors relied on the testimony of the village health assistant, Leon Cruz, who initially was summoned to help Ramirez and who described in detail what he saw when he arrived.
Ramirez said she thinks she operated on herself for about an hour before extricating her child and then fainting. When she regained consciousness, she wrapped a sweater around her bleeding abdomen and asked her 6-year-old son, Benito, to run for help. Several hours later, Cruz and a second health worker found Ramirez alert and lying beside her live baby.
Cruz sewed her 17-cm incision up with a regular needle and thread. The two men lifted mother and child onto a thin straw mat, lugged them up horse paths to the town's only road, then drove them to the clinic over two hours away.