Tuesday, October 30, 2007


October 26

Another 17 hr. night shift at pediatrics with Liz...

We finish giving all the meds by the light of our headlamps, bugs crawling down our shirts. All the kids are doing well, no worries. We each open our dinners provided by our families. Liz has a bowl of pasta with tomato powder seasoning, and I have a bowl of the thick rice drink. Liz takes a bite, hands me the spoon, I take a bite, and hand it back. Back and forth we eat, occasionally stopping to pick out bugs.

Babies are quiet, families are sleeping on mats between the rusty hospital beds. Liz and I prepare our twin-sized bed, tucking the mosquito netting around. Soon we're both laying side by side, sharing a pillow and hoping to get an hours sleep before 12 o'clock meds.

At 11:30, a dad wakes us up. Liz tells me to go back to sleep while she checks on the baby. A few minutes later I hear her calling for me. Stumbling out of bed, I start looking for my headlamp and shoes.

"Esther!" I hear the urgency behind her voice this time, and hurry over to bed 3 where I see her light.

It's a little baby with palu (malaria) that we'd been treating for a few days already. He had been doing well, and we'd started him on pills the day before. Now his eyes were rolled back into his head and Liz was doing chest compressions on his tiny body.

"Go get the bag!" Liz cried.

I ran over the maternity ward and frantically scanned the room for the bag. Not seeing it anywhere, I ran through the wards looking for Simeon, the other nurse on duty. Finally I gave up and ran back, determined to just start mouth-to-mouth on the baby without the bag. When I got there, I saw Liz closing the baby's eyes, and the mom silently crying.

"He's gone," she whispered to me. I stared at the baby, so confused. He had been so alive just an hour ago, yelling loudly at us, when we gave him medicine. There was no warning.

People crowded around the bed and Liz and I stood there not knowing what to do. We couldn't explain what had happened even if there was no language barrier. We didn't know how to comfort the mom - what is acceptable in their culture? What do they do when someone dies? The dad left to find a moto to take them home and Liz & I finally left, feeling helpless.

We walked out away from the buildings and sat under the stars, each silent in our own thought. Eventually we talked, cried, prayed and held each other, and then went back to finish our shift.

That baby's death has bothered me a lot the last couple of days. I wish that I would have checked his pulse and airway myself after Liz told me he was dead, just to give myself some closure. I wonder what else we should have done. I've asked the Drs. for explanations, and even they are perplexed by the suddenness of it.

The only explanation I give is that it's malaria. A vicious disease that comes & goes, tricking people into thinking they're ok, and then striking them down. Everyone gets different symptoms, making it hard to recognize at times, and half the kids in Chad have it at one time. When you ask women here how many children they have, they always answer..."I birthed , and have living."

I ask God how these experiences have anything good come out of them. Well, I have an awareness now, what am I going to do with it? When I go back to the States, will I just remember the sad effects of malaria, a disease so common here, that it is easy to forget the seriousness of it. Or will I get involved and do something to change? I feel driven now to study everything about it.

Another thought, I've just made you aware of it. Will you brush it off as another sad missionary story, pleading for the usual, or will you allow yourself to feel for people you've never seen or met, and do something? It's your choice.

1 comment:

  1. Sara--these experiences you are having are going to affect the rest of your life. It will change you in many ways.... be prepared! You may suprise yourself.
    Keep writing we are reading every word!
    Aunt Kim