Life never seems fair here, not that “fairness” has ever been promised to us. But growing up in America has given me so many advantages and opportunities–such things as potable water from the faucet, reliable power, a roof that doesn’t leak, food security, access to health care, financial security–and I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
I had my first experience with emergency medicine here a few weeks ago. One of our beneficiaries, who has been dealing with AIDS and extra-pulmonary TB, had been getting sicker and sicker, and it was hard to figure out what was going on. Was she suffering from the combined medication side effects for both problems, was she depressed, was she demented due to HIV or an opportunistic brain infection, was there something else happening? She started to become confused and was seeing things. Then she became agitated and combative and threatened her kids with a knife. Then she became completely unresponsive–to any of the measures I had learned as a neuro nurse to try to arouse someone.
So began the saga of accessing care. We called our favorite taxi driver, carried her to the back seat and her oldest son, the Ethiopian nurse and I piled in and off we went to the ER. Fortunately there was a stretcher outside when we got there–that probably got her quicker treatment, along with the fact that my nurse knew a nurse in the ER and the “ferenji” woman was there. We did get seen rather quickly, the doctor was VERY young, but thorough in his exam, ordered a complete blood count, chest x-ray and CT scan of head. (There were some other things I would have liked done, but…) The lab work was done at the hospital, after we wheeled her over to the lab–and got a paper so there would be no charge. For the CT scan and x-ray, we had to call the taxi again and take her to another hospital to get those done–don’t ask why, because it just doesn’t make sense. Well, the first place we went could do the scan and read it, but couldn’t give us copies because their printer was broken–and the tech knew that the original hospital wanted the pictures. The second and third places we went had no power–not atypical for this time of year here.
So we sent her back home and went back to the office to put our heads together to figure out the best plan. Since we (the project I work with) would be paying for this, we wanted to do the best for her, but be cost-effective. We decided that what she really needed was nursing care, since her condition was such that her sons were unable to manage her at home and her condition was so fragile, and possibly terminal. After a few phone calls, we found a place that would take her–except when she got there, they wouldn’t and wrote a referral for “rehab”. Eventually a place was found and she stayed there for about a week, regained consciousness, but was still very confused and was seeing bugs again. Unfortunately, the cost to keep her there was getting to be too much, so we asked for a referral back to the first hospital, but after another trip there, they wouldn’t take her.
So this poor lady goes back home with her sons, all teenagers. We decided to ask one of our other beneficiaries who is doing well to be a day time caregiver to this lady, (for about the cost of $1.00/day) which was probably one of the better decisions we’ve made. With some constant attention, good food and loving care, she made great strides in the first week. Then the “bugs” reappeared and she started biting herself. So this week, it was a trip to the psychiatric hospital, where they didn’t keep her, but gave her some Haldol and Thorazine and sent her home with a follow-up appointment in 2 months! Well, today, she was sitting up, talking to us, eating well, according to the care giver and told me she needed a new pair of flip flops if she was to get up and walk around. She proceeded to pull the flip flops out from under the bed and show me how the thong pulled out from the sole!
So why do I say “God is good” in the title? Those were the words her oldest son spoke to me in the ER on the first visit as we were standing in a crowded corridor. This son, who has been the most responsible in the family (and that’s not saying a lot some days), knows the reality of Christ in his life, as does his mother. I almost burst into tears when he said this, because he was so sincere and utterly believed it, despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation with his mother. I felt that any words I had to say to him would ring hollow. We talked about how sick his mom was, how she could be near death, but if she did die, she would be with Jesus in heaven and would be free from her suffering. He talked about how the death of Lazarus, in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, was to show God’s glory.
So, is God good–all the time, just some of the time, or just when things are going right, when the sun is shining, when there is power, water or any of the myriad of things that I think are necessary for life and health and peace?
Yes, God is good–to allow me to be here and care for “the least of these”, to allow me to experience the suffering and pain and unfairness of life here and to be able to shed some of His light and life and love into the dark corners. He would be good whether my patient had died or was able to ask me for new shoes, because that is His nature and that never changes.
Well, I must now grope my way to the bedroom by the light of my computer screen, because the generator just went off.
Please continue to pray for me as I serve here, that I would show the light of Christ to those I care for and work with. I start language school in 3 weeks, which will make my life significantly busier, as I juggle language learning and working.