Friday, February 18, 2011


On one of our past project days, Becky, Jeff, and I volunteered to go search out all the wells in the village here in Francia. So after breakfast we headed out into the first quadrant of the village walking on little trails between stilted houses. When we found a well, we'd ask the villagers around about it, noting anything broken, possible new well heads to be built, quality and depth of water, etc. I'd mark it in the GPS and then we'd trek off in search of another one.

It was great to have the chance to see deep into the village. The people are rather shy, sitting back in their houses waiting for us to acknowledge or greet them. Very unlike the boldness in Africa where everyone runs up to shake your hand and kids crowd around to follow everywhere. We ended up covering over 3/4 of the village by lunchtime, much more than expected. And that includes all the visits with people Becky knew. She was a student missionary here the same year I was in Africa and was getting the chance to greet some long, lost friends. One of the first wells was with a man with heart problems who actually stayed a year in the states for extensive heart surgery. He was barely able to stand up and greet us as he is constantly weak from the blood pressure problems and siezures he has. Later on we ran into Armando, one of the head elders of the church. He has taught himself English very well, so is always our translator when we talk up front. He invited us up on his porch to chat for a bit, noting that he needed some bleach for his well too. Also ran into a man who was so excited to see Becky. She helped deliver his wife's baby 3 years ago, so they dragged the chubby little boy out to see her. He promptly screamed and went running for his mom at the sight of us.

Towards lunch time, we happened across the house of a newborn baby that we'd seen a couple days earlier. The parents had brought the baby to Dr. Caldera because she was sick with fever and not breast feeding at 10 days old. He check the baby out and was concerned that she was developing some lower lung pneumonia. So seeing the baby, Becky asked if we could check her out. We climbed up on the porch and were happy to see that she looked much more hydrated but still had a fairly high fever. She was taking the antibiotics ok, so after some suggestions on how to keep her fever down, we left.

The next day, we decided to go check on her again after talking to Dr. Caldera. He was still concerned because he'd asked the parents to bring her back to the clinic right away to get checked, but they never had. So at lunch time, Becky, Jeff, and I headed back out to the house. I came prepared this time with balloons after seeing all the kids the day before. So while Becky checked out the baby, I blew up balloon after balloon and drew faces on them for all the kids in the family. This visit we were surprised to find 3 young babies on the porch and it took a bit to sort out which was the sick one. The other two were twins that belonged to a sister. Becky said the baby was doing better, fever down and breastfeeding. So we headed home feeling good that she was improving.

The weekend came and on Sunday, Brittany and I got called out on a house call with Dr. Caldera to check on an older lady with bad heart and blood pressure problems who was having trouble sleeping. Dr. Caldera is such a great teacher, explaining everything step-by-step and letting us do every part of the assessment with him. The lady, Olga, had a very irregular heartbeat and through Dr. Caldera's careful teaching we narrowed it down to the exact heart valve that was causing it. She also had too high blood pressure so we decided to get some meds at the clinic for her. Noticing that we were close to the little baby's house, I asked Dr. Caldera if he wanted to check her and he readily agreed. So I led them over to the house, but we were disappointed to find the parents and baby gone for the day. Questioning the family, we heard that the baby was not doing well. Dr. Caldera said it was very bad that they hadn't come to the clinic again and that they should come immediately once they returned. The family brought out the twins to be checked instead because both seemed to be coming down sick as well. One of them especially could barely cry and both their lungs sounded like the beginning of bronchitis. With promises to return with meds, and instructions to send the newborn with us, we headed back to the clinic.

The rest of Sunday went rather smoothly until that evening when Dr. Caldera was called to go check on the newborn who had finally been brought to the clinic. The new on-call team, Justin and Rebecca, went down with him. I was studying on the porch in a hammock when the 4-wheeler suddenly roared up and Dr. Caldera went running into his house. Soon he ran out with the news that he was taking the baby to the hospital in Waspam, and took off on the 4-wheeler again. Justin appeared soon after since there was only room for Rebecca to go. He said the baby was barely breathing when they got to her. While trying to study, I kept thinking about her, wondering how she could have taken such a bad turn since we'd seen her just 3 days before. I was also trying to imagine them driving all the way to Waspam on the little 4-wheeler since the truck was gone. It might be faster going around all the potholes, but very exposed and difficult to fit them all on and keep the IV in that little 14-day old baby.

A couple hours later Rebecca walked in teary-eyed with the words, "she died halfway there" and then walked out. Justin and I took a few minutes to say "that's too bad" and "they should have brought her in earlier." Then we looked at each other and Justin said, "are we really un-feeling people?" After seeing Rebecca's anguish, our quick "wish it would have turned out better" seemed short and not enough. We've both already seen so much death, though, during our times in Africa that this just seemed like another one. Justin said that as soon as he saw the baby, he had no hope that it would make it to Waspam. We talked for awhile about how to balance expecting and being ok with death while also believing in the power of God to heal. We finally came to the simple conclusion that we would at least wish and pray to feel the same that God would feel over the death of that baby. I think God feels anguish over the suffering that happened and the loss the family will feel, but also joy and excitement over the knowledge that death isn't the end of this story.


  1. Sarah, we will be praying for the family of the baby.

    Think of the days in heaven when you are able to meet all these babies you have been with on earth that have died. You will be able to hug each one and love them, blow up balloons & draw faces on them and watch the excitement in their eyes. Jesus is with you as you take the time to socialize with & love God's precious little ones.

    Thanks to you, these children can enjoy a little of heaven on earth.

  2. Wow, what a tragic story. I often wonder if we have been damaged to not feel as much as we used to.

    I miss knowing I can call you and talk to you about this. Can we talk when you get back?