Doctor Vela and Sor Maria
How they stole the babies from their biological mothers
SINCE THE EARLY 60's UNTIL THE 90's, HUNDREDS OF BABIES WERE STOLEN FROM THEIR MOTHERS IN SPAIN AND THE MOTHERS WERE TOLD THAT THEIR BABIES HAD DIED. THE MAIN CULPRITS WERE DOCTOR VELA AND A NUN CALLED SOR MARIA.
IT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST SCANDALS IN SPAIN AND A NURSE WHO WAS EMPLOYED AT THE HOSPITAL OF SAN RAMÓN IN MADRID, EXPLAINS WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS PARTICULAR MATERNITY WARD.
“Doctor Vela handed over stolen babies as if it was a business”
A nurse who was employed in this private clinic of San Ramón in Madrid during the late 70's. and worked alongside Doctor Vela, recalls how the babies were stolen from their natural mothers and given to awaiting couples.
This nurse, who is already retired, explains what used to happen in San Ramón where the news of stolen babies hit the media more than 30 years ago. This nurse was employed for a few months at the maternity ward and reports how the babies in the clinic were stolen.
For a start there was always a frozen baby kept in the cold storage room, and this was shown to mothers after telling them that their baby had died. It was always the same baby. Doctor Vela would always perform Cesareans even if there was no need for them so that firstly the mother would not be totally aware of everything that was happening around her and secondly would mean her having to spend more time in the clinic and so hence having to pay more money.
This nurse, who does not want to be identified, wanted to speak so as to help suffering mothers who have lost their babies as far back as 30 years ago.
QUESTION: how did you come to work at this clinic?
NURSE: They called me to replace a nurse for a few months during the late 70's.
QUESTION: and what do you remember?
NURSE.: I started seeing very odd things. I was a nurse and I had sufficient experience to realize that what was happening was not normal. For example, many women entered without registering. Neither in the admittance book of the clinic, nor in that of exit. There was no medical history recorded, nothing. This was definitely not normal, but this was how it was done. There was some sort of a secret agreement which everyone adhered to without asking questions.
QUESTION: in which cases did this happen?
NURSE.: This happened particularly with foreigners, for example Philippine girls who were employed at houses of rich people. They lived as interns and had become pregnant because of an affair with the master of the house …
QUESTION: an affair …?
NURSE.: Yes, the gentleman of the house had left them pregnant, and in these cases nothing was noted down. And the 'well to do' family, would, in the majority of cases, pay for everything. Everything seemed to have been agreed upon beforehand and a lot of money was involved.
QUESTION.: how much, approximately 100.000 of the ancient pesetas?
NURSE: No, I would say that much more, that is very little.
QUESTION.: Did these women agree to giving away their child?
NURSE: These women yes. They knew to what they were doing. Also there were pregnant girls who were not married, and also belonged to wealthy families. Daughters of judges, doctors, lawyers, politicians ... people with high status. In these cases there was no control either. Nothing was registered, nothing at all. These children were taken away and the one that seemed to control this aspect was the nun.
QUESTION: Sister Maria Gómez Valbuena?
NURSE: Yes. I remember her. The nun used to make all the pregnant girls get involved doing crochet .
QUESTION: how many children were delivered in the San Ramón clinic a day?
NURSE: Two or three every day.
QUESTION: Well then there must have been many many patients?
NURSE.: No, it was a chalet with only 10 rooms. It didn't look like a clinic neither in the inside nor on the outside. But many pregnant women would enter and exit. Another thing that raised my suspicion is how so many Cesareans were practiced without need. This was so that the women would have to stay in the clinic for a minimum of seven days, and this way Doctor Vela earned more money. I remember that there was a lot of silence. It was as if no one dared to question anything. Doctor Vela was a distant man. He was the director and proprietor of the clinic. Doctor Vela acted with entire naturalness. This was his goldmine. He was in charge firstly and secondly sister Maria Gómez Valbuena.
QUESTION: do you believe that Doctor Vela was giving the babies away because, according to what he has said, it was better for the mothers as far as catholic morality?
NURSE: Definitely not. Doctor Vela didn't give the babies away for any moral question, it was solely for his business.
QUESTION: During childbirth did he sedate the pregnant women so that they were not aware of the birth of their child and in that way not be able to argue whether it had died or not?
NURSE: Yes, the women had previously given their permission in writing. They were given either ether or pentanol to inhale. It was not a complete anesthesia but enough for them not to be aware of their child. This way they did not usually ask for it later.
In San Ramón there weren't a lot of means, in fact there was scarcely any surgical material, so the women were treated with the minimum. I remember a terrible case where Doctor Vela practiced a Cesarean section on a pregnant woman and complications arose. The woman began to bleed and since there was no blood bank Doctor Vela ordered the husband to go out and buy blood wherever he could. I do not know where, but when the man came back this woman had already died. It was horrible.
QUESTION: Did you ever imagine the dimensions of this organized plot? How do you feel with everything that is now known about the stolen babies?
NURSE: Very badly. With very much pain. Many negative thoughts come to me … a great helplessness. I could never have imagined all this. I am suffering very much. There are no words …
QUESTION: how long were you employed each day at this clinic?
NURSE: A few hours ..., I had no contract. It was in ignorance that they could triumph. If I knew who the mothers of these children were in order to look for them now … But there are no records. I wasn't one of the staff and I am only finding out now about everything that happened, in other maternities also. This way of acting is against life. In San Ramón there was much silence, but it was known by all.
QUESTION: All? Including administrative and maintenance personnel ...?
NURSE: Yes, all. It was after all a small hospital. The mother entered, gave birth and later, just like that they were saying to her that the child had died.
QUESTION: Were they always showing the same dead baby when they were saying to the mother that her son had died, after the child had been delivered?
QUESTION: Then: were not babies dying in San Ramón?
NURSE: Not. I there never saw that either children, or coffins were dying neither with babies, or a burial, or anything. The only death in the months at which I was employed was the death of the woman who was drained. What I do not understand is how it has taken so much time for all this to come out to the light. There they knew it. What a lot of hypocrisy! If I had been a part of the staff … I have daughters and it looks like to me a cruelty. If this had gone out earlier it would have been easier to pull the strings. I have very bad memories.
To this day the investigation continues with Doctor Ramon and Sor Maria giving their versions in court, while hundreds of graves of supposedly dead babies are being exhumed. In nearly all of them - it is just an empty coffin with nothing inside.