Tuesday, April 19, 2016


 "Marimari kisim bek mi"
"Grace brought me back"

The last few days at Kudjip have been hectic.  Some of our doctors left for furlough or conferences leaving a bit more work for the rest of us.  On top of that, our highlands regional referral hospital closed its doors after all of the staff there walked out on strike.  Needless to say, the patients are streaming in ...

The same weekend that three of our doctors left, I took an emotional hit on the wards.  A little girl came to the hospital with spastic movements and seizures - my second case of tetanus in two years.  The next day, I saw a familiar face on the ward.  One of our nurses, Josh, suffered a seizure at home after a severe headache and was paralyzed lying on the floor.  Since his graduation from nursing school last year, Josh and I have played soccer together.  But now, it seemed he had a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, and I could do almost nothing to help him.

Then the never-ending stream of patients - some using up their savings to make it to Kudjip from far reaches of the country.  With bone infections, HIV, Tuberculosis, heart failure, tumors, meningitis, cancer and a myriad of other ailments.  By the end of most work-days I was just ready to sleep, but needed to be available for call a few nights as well.

But each morning I lost a little more heart as my patients still suffered seizures, or children died in the night or in my hands the next morning.  And I wondered where the strength would come from for more of the same work.

"You have not wearied yourselves on my behalf"
-Isaiah 43:22

I remember working long hours in residency, spending day after day in the hospital and many nights as well.  Juggling paperwork, checking on patients, going to the clinic, grabbing a few frantic bites to eat and coming home many days drained of my energy.  I remember thinking that medicine must be an ungodly profession to demand so much.  I remember planning on the glorious days after my training was over when I could have a more reasonable schedule.

I wonder now where I got the idea that God would call me to something with a "nice schedule"

 "Thou hast willed that through labour and pain I should walk the upward way; be Thou then my fellow traveller as I go."
-John Baillie

As I continued working through the crowds, I remember praying for strength and encouragement to come.  I knew I was wearied, but I trusted that my weariness was on His behalf.  And I put another foot in front of the other, shouldering bigger loads than usual, but realizing that a grace beyond me kept me going.  A grace that brought me back to the same wards, the same emergency room, the same stony ground - but with a new strength.

Karapen is a pastor in our area who comes to the hospital every couple of weeks or so.  Sometimes Karapen needs medicines or a new problem looked at.  This isn't surprising given his age, which I would guess to be about 70.  But many times I think he enjoys the fellowship and company of the doctors here.  Karapen has planted churches throughout Papua New Guinea.  And during our short-staffed week, he came to my room needing a new supply of medicines because he was going to help open a church in Enga, a remote province requiring a significant journey for this faithful servant.  I wrote his prescriptions and tried to encourage him, but I could feel the line building up as the minutes ticked away.

But Karapen, as usual, slowed me down.

I wrote some time ago about looking for the one patient each day that I should minister to in the midst of a streaming line of hurting and needy people.  That day, I was grateful that for Karapen - I was the one.

He set down his cane and put his weathered hands on mine and prayed that I would have strength for the work of the hospital, and then prayed for my entire family by name, asking that God would give us grace to continue the work here.

And that grace met me.  In the smiles around me.  In the patients who could see my fatigue and put their arms on me and pray for me.  In the nurses who pick up extra work (in spite of their pay cuts) to make things a bit easier for the doctors.  In the miraculous recoveries of my patients.  And most of all in the felt presence of that fellow traveler, who at times interrupts my labour and pain to show me that my weariness is truly a part of the upward way.

Josh - healed, now back to work.

Tetanus no more.

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