- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

RIO TALEA, Mexico — 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’d had a stillborn girl. As her labor intensified, so did her concern for this unborn child.

The sun had set hours ago. The nearest clinic was more than 50 miles away over rough terrain and inhospitable 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 the 6-inch knife she used for butchering animals and pointed it at her belly.

And then she began to cut.

Under the light of a single dim bulb, Mrs. 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, playful 4-year-old. And Ines Ramirez is recognized internationally as a modern miracle. She is the only woman known to have performed a successful Caesarean section on herself.

In an interview with an Associated Press reporter in front of her isolated, wood-plank home, she described her experience in halting Spanish, heavily 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.”

Though there were no witnesses available to confirm her account, the two obstetricians who examined her 12 hours after the birth are wholly convinced. And no one in her village challenges her story.

“We were astonished,” Dr. Honorio Galvan said in an interview at the San Pablo Huixtepec hospital south of Oaxaca City, where Mrs. Ramirez was taken.

“I couldn’t believe that someone without anesthesia could operate on herself and still be alive. To me, it is incredible.”

Doctors rushed the mother and child into the operating room. Dr. Galvan took photographs while his colleague, Dr. Jesus Guzman, opened Mrs. Ramirez up to find that her uterus had returned to its normal size and stopped bleeding and that she showed no signs of infection. Dr. Galvan doesn’t know if Mrs. Ramirez tried to sterilize the knife before she operated.

The doctors were so stunned by what they saw that they told Mrs. 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.

Dr. Galvan acknowledges there may be skeptics, but he has heard Mrs. Ramirez give her account several times, “always with the same details.”

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