This week…

We admitted four babies two days ago with severe pneumonia.  All very seriously ill with the oxygen in each of their systems quite low.  One had measles (we’re in the middle of a measles epidemic) and the others had malaria, followed by pneumonia.  Two of them died yesterday after considerable effort on our part (we resuscitated one three times).  The other two are doing remarkably well.

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Two girls yesterday received blood from their mother because they arrived gravely ill with a blood count of 3.  Normal is 12, which means that the malaria had destroyed 3/4 of their blood in a matter of about three days of illness.

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We have several 1-2 year olds with severe malnutrition with the classic severe swelling, profound weakness and pathetic cries.  The first couple of days were about resuscitating them cautiously with IV fluids and now Bets makes them a hard-boiled egg daily to help begin the protein replacement.

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We had a 2 month old arrive with his spine in exaggerated extension and his eyes fixed in an upward gaze and essentially unresponsive.  We began aggressive therapy for meningitis and 24 hrs later, he was responding normally, nursing and even smiling at times.

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We’ve had several adults arrive in comas with or without seizures in the last couple of days and were responding normally after a couple days of aggressive malaria treatment.

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At one point yesterday, At the end of an exhausting day, we had a full and very noisy ED (7 beds), many sick people waiting, we were resuscitating one of the infants, had a comatose, seizing adult man with malaria, and a mom entered holding a 4 year old girl who was screaming so loudly that everyone had to stop and almost hold their ears (it is a room with cement floors, wall and ceiling).  She had a 1 inch laceration through her eye brow!  It was enough to make us stop and smile that this very minor wound (comparatively) was the source of such commotion.  She screamed this way until she was sutured an hour later (she had a shorter wait because of her volume) and promptly fell asleep.  She wore us out (her voice was a good indication of how strong she was physically) more than all of the critical cases!  Squeaky wheel…

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Zeka is in his seventies and empties the trash for our small hospital.  He never misses a day (he’s had malaria multiple times) and always, faithfully carries out his duties.  His duties involve picking up all of the trash, which can be substantial in a hospital (including needles and other sharp objects, soiled materials, and normal trash), and burying it all in a hole on the grounds deep enough that it will never be disturbed.  He lives in a shack on the hospital grounds and works a total of about a half day.  He hasn’t missed a day in over ten years.

I remember today that our Father is much more interested in faithfulness than in giftedness and success.  Gifts and success come from Him, faithfulness to Him and to those He loves, is how we can participate.

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We had a remarkable case involving an eight year old boy.  He came in with a fever of two weeks and tested highly positive for both malaria and typhoid fever.  He was quite ill, so we treated both illness with aggressive IV medications but after a week (the kids who survive typically respond well after 2-3 days of such treatment), he still had consistent fevers of 103-104 and was gravely ill, minimally responsive, etc.  Sometime during the first few days, I recognized a significant heart murmur and wondered how this might be tied to his illness, but because he tested positive for both typhoid and malaria, we thought the murmur was an incidental finding that he likely had congenitally.  On his cot daily, with his mother, we asked our Father to help him and to help us  (as we did for the two infant girls), especially because of his lack of improvement.  Then, one day (about the 8th or ninth day) I arrived during rounds to discover that his fever was suddenly gone and he had begun eating and responding normally, even smiling.  I was so pleasantly surprised (I had begun to lose hope for his recovery) and, I’m not sure why I did, but I checked his heart only to find no murmur at all!  We classify murmurs on a grade from one to six and his was a 5/6 with what we call a “thrill” (we could feel the murmur with our hand on his chest).  I listened again and again (I couldn’t believe my ears) and… nothing.  I called one of the nurses who had heard the murmur previously and… she heard no murmur.  Several days earlier, when his fevers were continuing, I had considered endocarditis or infection within the heart, including the valves, and treated the same.  But I had never heard of such a murmur disappearing in a day!  We discharged him to a thrilled mom and dad who were convinced that a loving Father had intervened in their lives.

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I wish I could say that as my head hit the pillow, it was this boy that was on my mind, and that my heart was joyful and grateful.  But it was rather the two girls who had died who consumed my thoughts along with the grief of their mothers.  We are so blessed to be a positive part of God’s story in so many lives, and this is truly a joy.  He also chooses us as well, however, to play a role in profound loss and this is never easy.  He places me in the middle of so many tragic stories here, such difficult loss in the midst of horrific poverty.  There are so many like this little boy, and so many like these little girls.  Several funeral processions pass our hospital daily.  It is too easy to feel their loss and to wonder why God chose them to endure such grief in such harsh conditions, rather than me.  There is no place for blame but this is such opportunity for our Father’s children…  Tragedy is difficult to understand.  As is blessing.  My sovereign Father’s ways are so beyond me, but today… I am so privileged to enter the fray, love them, and trust Him for the outcomes…

Thank you for working with us here and following our story.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for writing about your experiences. I heard about you through Lisa and Monte. I am a 4th year med student who is trying to discern God’s will for me in missions and I fibd your stories inspiring. Please pray for me as I listen for direction. I just attended a Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY, and one idea that stayed with me is that God calls us to give everything to Him and go where he calls us, even though it may not be easy. One speaker said, ‘you may not be safe, but you will be secure.’

  2. As always, I so much appreciate hearing from your heart. As you shared about the grief and grieving today, I thought of Stephen Curtis Chapman’s “Beauty Will Rise” — even from ashes and desolation our Father can somehow in HIS timing bring beauty…

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