Normally I find writing in my blog about the experiences here therapeutic. This time, though, my hands nearly shake as I try to put words to what happened at Kudjip last week.
On Thursday morning Levi woke up with a bit of a runny nose and wheezing. He did this a couple times before we left the States, needing a visit to urgent cares and some nebulized medicines to calm him down. I gave him a treatment but worried more later that morning when Esther asked me to bring my pulse oximeter (used to measure oxygen levels in the blood) home from work at lunch.
When I got home he wasn't doing too badly, but Dr Erin came to check on him as well. I went back to work believing that his medicines would enable him to turn the corner.
After work, Levi looked drained, sitting alone on the couch watching a cartoon on the laptop while getting his medicine. He could only speak in one-word answers to my questions so I called Erin again. She recommended IV fluid to get him some energy since he was breathing so fast. The next ten hours were probably the longest and scariest of my life.
Getting oxygen and IV medicines at the hospital
We got our fluids in the ER and planned to return home. But I noticed Levi having more difficulty and had to give him breathing medicine every hour or so. His heart rate hovering at 180 and his breathing labored and coming about 60-70 times per minute, I needed this illness to be managed by someone else. Erin graciously came back to check on him. Her level of concern told me that this was getting serious.
She brought Esther, Levi and I back to the hospital while our neighbors took care of Anna and Lucy. When we got to Levi's hospital room, our field coordinators were there and so was our Anesthesia officer with pediatric intubation (breathing tube) supplies. Levi was getting continuous nebulized medicines, oxygen, IV aminophylline and a dose of IV magnesium but still breathing about 80 times per minute, struggling to get enough air and wheezing so loudly you could hear each one of his labored breaths from across the room. Erin got information about having him evacuated to Australia.
Would we actually need these for a breathing tube?
Esther needed to go home to take care of our girls, so I held Levi to keep him calm while he received drugs to keep his airways open. I couldn't believe what was happening, but I felt the effects of dozens if not hundreds of people praying for us. I also saw that Erin had no intentions of going anywhere - she stayed awake at his bedside all night, adjusting IV drip rates, giving nebulized treatments and praying at his bedside. (Levi noticed this at one point and said, "wake up!" which made us both smile - partially out of relief to hear his voice)
About six hours later, in the early morning, Levi took an interest in Erin's iPad, and began playing a game on it. I believe the pediatricians might make an exception on the idea of limiting computer and movie exposure in kids if such devices calm them down enough to keep them breathing.
From that point on, he showed gradual improvement. We spaced out his breathing medicines to every hour, gave him additional oral medicine and took a chest Xray which showed pneumonia. I was able to take the oxygen away and Esther showed up with some breakfast and to give me a break.
As he got better, we transitioned him back to the house to receive the rest of his IV medications but kept him on breathing treatments every two hours.
Trying it out at home
Just 72 hours after this ordeal, you would barely know that he was sick. He's back to running, playing with Anna, talking excitedly but also to being a bit moody (from loss of sleep and steroids, I hope)
Was this kid sick?
One of our family members back home admitted the day after we left the hospital that their first reaction to hearing about his illness was "You get all three of those babies on a plane and back here now!" In my heart, I confess I too knew that thought and felt the anxiety leading up to it.
Now Levi is on a host of medications to prevent flare ups of his condition. They're not easy to get here. There's also no guarantee that he won't have another episode like this one, or that it might even get worse. How do I approach that knowledge? I asked Bill via email if it made me a bad missionary that I was considering the wisdom of living somewhere without the advanced medical care he could potentially need.
I blogged in the past about the concept of following God's call even when circumstances or outcomes might be challenging for me. Now I face that idea in a new light. That night in the hospital with Levi shook everything I felt to be secure around me. Does that change where I live - who I serve - how I see patients - my calling?
"The heavens and the earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people."
We've not felt compelled to change our plans for staying here. Esther and I are both prayerfully considering these next weeks and months while seeing how Levi does.
I remember a couple years ago speaking with a friend about the incredible love a father has for their children. Obviously, there are Biblical parallels to this concept. That Christ would give up his own life to make things right for his children (us) resonates easily with me. I would give my life in a heartbeat for my children. But another amazing love is that God would give His son for us. I find it harder to as readily say I would give one of my children's lives for others. I don't know what that means yet. But I do know that I can very slightly understand the great pain that God the Father must have felt as He saw His child suffering. And I pray that I'll use that as motivation to continue to share His love with those brought under my care here.
How deep the father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only son
To make a wretch His treasure