Monday, April 14, 2014

Spiritual olympians

I've worked on our pediatric ward for a couple weeks now and will continue there for another few weeks.  The sick children here tug at my heart - some in great ways and others in devastating ones.

Baby Wendy came to the hospital with cough and fevers looking like she had a bad pneumonia.

After a few days of treatment Wendy's fevers continued.  She wasn't as tired, but still had a bad cough.  Her following Xray looked like this.

A few days earlier I had placed a chest tube in one the babies next to Wendy to drain an empyema (infected fluid around the lung) and thought Wendy might need the same.  But instead, she responded very well to TB medicine and came to see me in clinic looking better with the following Xray.

Although she felt better and her mother felt good about her progress, I couldn't get her to smile for the camera.  Lots of pikininis around here are afraid of the "white-man dokta"

I love stories like Wendy's because in all honesty, three fourths of the patients we see at Kudjip have illnesses that we can treat and sometimes cure.  Many people and families are changed here and several receive care that saves their lives.  A few weeks ago I felt discouraged that three of my nursery babies died but Dr. Jim reminded me that had this hospital not been there for them, ALL of them would have. 

Several years ago Joseph suffered a car accident.  His spine and leg were broken in two places and never healed.  Now paralyzed, Joseph came to me to check up on his blood pressure.  His two sons accompanied him, along with a brother.  I didn't give them any good news. 

Over time, high blood pressure changes the heart.  Because of the increased load, the muscles hypertrophy (get bigger) which overcomes the blood pressure but can make the heart so thick it doesn't function well.  Over time, this causes fluid to build up in the lungs and for the blood not to reach some of the vital organs it needs to, including the kidneys.  Joseph's heart couldn't keep fluid out of his lungs and his kidneys started to shut down which means he doesn't have many more months in this world.

His son on his left takes excellent care of him from what I can gather.  He is built like an olympian, probably because he pushes his father around in his wheelchair along the stony roads of Papua New Guinea and carries him in and out of it.  Over time, like Joseph's heart, his muscles grew to accommodate the increased workload.

Their story makes me think of the individual journeys God gives us to walk.  A friend of ours was recently diagnosed with cancer (actually, we are rather sick of cancer in our friends and loved ones).  I've found that God gives me the strength and grace I need for my circumstances but seldom much more than that.  I wish I could stockpile those some times, especially in Papua New Guinea.  But I think He prefers making me reliant on Him on a daily basis.

Joseph will never walk again barring a miracle.  He now faces a tedious battle against his blood pressure and heart failure issues as well.  But each day I believe his emotional and spiritual reserves will build. 

I think that when we encounter challenges to walk through and endure, perhaps God delights in seeing us come out the other side looking like spiritual olympians.  

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