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Life and Death, Light, Color…

It was night and I had arrived to start up our donated generator which was needed through the night to provide electricity for our five donated oxygen concentrators that were likely allowing those connected to them to survive illnesses that otherwise would have taken their lives.  We started the generator after filling it with donated fuel under a donated bulb that was providing light because of donated batteries connected to donated solar panels, which had provided enough charge to last until the generator was needed to continue to do the same.

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As we were leaving the donated generator room and going up a few donated steps to the rest of our donated new hospital buildings, a man walked up carrying his 11y/o son, Xavier, who was covered in blood from his neck down, grunting painful respirations at about 50-60x/minute.  We took Xavier and his dad to our donated ED and put him in a donated empty bed and took his vital signs with our donated instruments.

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Xavier’s heart was racing and he was bravely struggling to remain conscious.  He had a large, bubbling puncture wound through his right chest nipple and had a steady stream of blood flowing from the wound.  He couldn’t speak more than grunts, but his father told us that he had fallen about 2m from a tree onto a branch on the ground that had impaled his chest.  They had heard his muffled cries and ran to him and pulled him off of the offending branch and drove two hours on dirt by motorbike to Cavango, with Xavier held on the bike with one man driving, father on the back embracing Xavier in between them.

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Xavier’s chest and back had palpable crepitus, or air bubbles under the skin that popped with slight compression which, with the bubbling from the entrance wound, provided evidence that the branch had punctured Xavier’s lung.  I messaged Eduardo with our new, donated internet system at the hospital and he came to provide assistance on his “day off”.  We did a quick exam with our donated portable ultrasound system to confirm that he had a “pneumothorax” or air in the chest cavity outside the lung, under tension, causing lung collapse, with its associated difficulty breathing and chest pain (at his lung apex, well above his puncture).

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Eduardo expertly inserted a donated chest tube under Xavier’s arm and a burst of escaping air confirmed our diagnosis.  Xavier’s chest pain and difficulty breathing immediately subsided.  When we left twenty minutes later, Xavier was sound asleep after quite a day.  The next morning he was without pain and difficulty breathing, eating and smiling… and enjoying a sucker for dessert.

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Xavier wouldn’t have survived another hour or two without so much donated intervention and I think his family understood that.

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The next morning, on my “day off”, Eduardo and I spent the morning trying to rescue a very malnourished and sick little 8y/o girl with a lot of donated equipment, who likely had TB, heart failure and typhoid fever, who became comatose each of her first two mornings with us from hypoglycemia, and failed.

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In Cavango, we always have pleasant and unpleasant outcomes, never one without the other, but the pleasant cures/healing/successes are impossible without the contributions of every one of you and we are grateful to be working with such generous people from the other side of the world to literally change the generational landscape in so many saved young lives who will go on to have children, who will have children….

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This weekend was a snapshot into our lives.  There is no better way to begin my day than to see someone who was hanging by a thread the night before and sitting up and smiling at my approach in the morning.  There is no more difficult way to begin a day than walking into our ICU and seeing an empty bed that was occupied when I left the night before.  Both happen quite frequently, the former more often, but the latter, as well.  After doing this work for more than thirty years, they both can color the rest of my day…

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Our Father permits us to be a small part of people’s joy and sadness, healing and heartache, and it’s all beyond my understanding.  He calls us to be faithful, no matter the outcome, to love, care and serve and to always point to the Lover of our souls and His ever-passionate desire for intimacy with each of us…

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The boy in the video, Manuel, came to us less than two months ago with a fractured vertebra in his upper back from TB and was completely paralyzed from the waist down.  He was unable to even move his toes…

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We enjoyed a visit from missionary pioneer, Steve Foster, who performed multiple surgeries with Eduardo in our new dedicated, simple, well ventilated and lighted OR, over just a couple days, benefitting many rural folks suffering from debilitating chronic illnesses, such as hernias, hydroceles and tumors, and he even did a laparotomy, likely saving a little girl’s life who came to us with peritonitis secondary to Typhoid. So many people contribute to the lives of these forgotten people in the heart of rural Africa and we are grateful that we are not alone!

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The new (donated) buildings are a joy and greatly improve our service.  All of our critical patients are in three rooms in one building, in the Banco Urgência (ED), Reanimaçāo (ICU), or the combination Bloco Operatório (OR)/Maternidade (Maternity).  We can put about 15 critical patients in these areas and see them all first thing, in an organized and timely manner. 

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In the photos you see lights on.  No one has lights at home so, for them, indoor lighting at night is a great luxury.  The lights remain on all night and the patients love sleeping in our bright rooms!    Beauty and the beholder…

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The contributions of our partners in Cavango, the DeSouzas, cannot be overstated.  They share the sweat, grief and hardship and fill our days with smiles, and kids, roosters, chickens, Guinea Hens, dogs, cats…  They color and light my often muted and dark days.  My Father maybe hasn’t sent anything/anyone my way more beautiful since introducing Himself to me and sending to me my wife and kids…