“Ou ka chita la, si ou vle.” I said, setting a chair down beside the hospital bed. A twelve pound one-year-old boy lay on a white sheet covering the bed in the corner of our hospital room. His mom sank into the chair, her clothes dripping from her journey here in the rain. A relative had brought her child in an hour or two before, and we’d struggled to get the malnurished boy to drink any milk from a bottle. He was just too weak.
A little bit later, my heart was heavy with the story his mom had just told us… his three-year-old brother passing away in Port two weeks ago, of how the family left home in hopes of a better life in the mountains, and of their decision to bring him into clinic for help. Her words “Lap mouri” (he’s dying) rang through my mind as I breathed a prayer they would not come true. We just did not know though… he was so sick!
I checked to make sure the feeding tube we had placed was still in, then turned to leave the hospital room. I glanced across the room, and noticed two men struggling to set a lady on a bed. Her body was limp, her eyelids fluttering. I rushed over, helped them set her on the edge of the bed, then ran to the ER room for a blood pressure cuff. Jacinda and Sylvia were there visiting with Kenzie. I told Kenzie a lady was crashing in the hospital room, and soon there was a flood of nurses and staff. I took her blood pressure- it was so low, and I could hardly hear it. Kenzie ran for oxygen. Jacinda and I grabbed IV supplies. Mis Sisi checked her blood sugar. I found her pulse and O2 stats while Juicy called Dr Verial to come back down to clinic. Mis Junie and Sylvia lended a hand wherever they could. Soon, she was beginning to respond a little. Dr arrived and after an examination, diagnosised her with a severe infection. He wrote her plan of care on her dossier.
We continued monitoring her vital signs for a little while as we cared for other patients who had come- a 33 year old patient who had a stroke and a child who needed a nebulizer treatment.
By the time those patients were cared for, it was time to feed the malnurished toddler again. He took one sip of milk, then whimpered a little… it just took too much energy. His mom cradeled him in her arms as we fed him the rest of his milk through the feeding tube.
We took turns throughout the night feeding him, and monitoring our other patients. When morning came, we all were wishing for a few more hours of sleep.
We gathered at Boss’ house at eight o’clock for our morning devotions. Most of our time together was spent singing and praising God. We closed in prayer, asking God for strength for the day.
Only a few people sat on the benches when we arrived at clinic. The night rains tend to lead to people arriving later in the day, after trails have dried some. Kenzie commented how happy she was there was not many people today. Therese, one of the ladies who works in our pharmacy, informed us it was not good though, because today is celebration of the dead, and if there were not many people here, it likely meant they were seeking help from other places (witchdoctors). We discovered the toddler’s family had taken him to a witchdoctor before bringing him to us.
Several more people trickled in to the waiting area while we sang and prayed together with clinic staff.
We fed the toddler again, and gave him some medication. He sat in his mom’s lap, looking around the room with his hollow eyes.
We checked on the other patients in the hospital room, changing the stroke patient’s IV and giving the lady who had collapsed yesterday an injection. Then we started our other various tasks for the day. I headed to the pharmacy to fill bottles with liquid medication. An hour later, I peaked into the hospital room to check the IV. The toddler’s mom stood in the aisle, tears streaming down her face. Someone beside her said “Li mouri” and pointed to the closed curtain in the corner of the room. I pulled the curtain back and glanced at the bed. His lifeless body lay wrapped in a blanket. Doctor came into the room just then, and we both listened for a heartbeat. Silence. Then broken sobs from the opposite corner in the room.
Kenzie soon entered the room and came over to help. We re-wrapped him in his blanket and placed him in a small cardboard box. Yevette, our cleaning lady, entered the room to check in on everyone. She went over to the mourning mom and tried comforting her.
I returned to the pharmacy to write some prescriptions and restock a few items. Yevette’s boys hung around the door, chattering away, asking if they could help label bottles, and begging to play uno as soon as I was finished working. They were excited they did not have school. I asked why there was not school today, and they said “Se premye Novanm” (It’s the first day of November), which I interpreted as “today is the celebration of the dead, and that’s why we don’t have school.” It saddened me that they were so happy about such a dark celebration. Their culture is influenced so much by witchcraft. I finished up pharmacy work, then sat on the benches in the waiting room, watching Kenzie spin Yevette’s boys on office chairs, making them dizzy. Their laughter filled the clinic.
As I sat there, my mind replayed everything that had taken place since yesterday afternoon and each of the people who had come to stay in our hospital. How does one cope when one side of your body refuses to follow any commands, no matter how much you will it to move? How does it feel to be unresponsive, then wake up to a flood of medical staff surrounding your bed? How does a mom grieve the death of two of her children, and in a new place that’s not “home”? How do we offer them hope?
I do not know the answers to most of those questions, but I do know the answer to the last one. His name is Jesus. Through Him, we find hope and our lives our transformed. Through Him, others can find hope. Jesus is the Answer.
Photo 1: Kenzie and I feeding a malnourished child.
photo 2: Andy Martin joined the team here in July as mechanic
photo 3: Sylvia Decker came in September to do domestic work
Photo 4: Stan Swartzentruber came in September. He’s an EMT and helps out at clinic.
Photo 5: Our team in October, right before James’ left to go to the states to wait the arrival of their second baby’