Saturday, April 26, 2014

A stronger man

 What do you do when you are at the end of your rope?  When you think you are out of options.  When you've tried everything but your circumstance isn't changing.  Around here I find myself praying and crying.

Most doctors in the United States or other more affluent nations never see a case of tetanus.  Universal immunization practices and prompt wound care have almost eliminated the disease there.  In Papua New Guinea tetanus still rears its head.

Lesley is a wonderful little boy about five years old who started feeling week several days ago.  Dr Erin saw him and admitted him to the hospital.  His father struggled to find a way back from Port Moresby, the capitol, and his mother needed to come from where she works in another part of the country.  A relative watched over Lesley in the meantime and Erin, Erik (our visiting student) and I pondered our limited options in treating Lesley.  Erin prayed for him and, though barely able to hold his small head up, Lesley prayed for himself out loud with her.

Lesley and his aunt

Over the next couple of days, Lesley wouldn't open his mouth, became progressively weaker and then developed spastic episodes.  He received multiple medicines to relax his muscles, was placed in an isolation room to minimize visual and auditory stimuli and his parents arrived to see their son having frequent fits.

Lesley's fits increased and the nurses called me to the ward because his breathing had labored.  I gave him valium and phenobarbitone while the nurses gave him oxygen.

Before we moved to Papua New Guinea I warned Esther that a few months into it I might hit a wall.  Leaving home, missing family, a new baby, longer hours and long nights of call can wear one down.  Combine that with the emotional drain of seeing patients, especially children, that I can do little for and I feel like I'm on that last little strand of rope.  And my arms are getting tired ...

Do not pray for easier lives - pray to be stronger men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers - pray for powers equal to your tasks  
-Phillips Brooks

I've painfully realized that my hard work in medical school and grueling hours in residency, while giving me a useful skill set, haven't given me powers equal to these tasks.  Further, my emotional reserves are not enough to absorb every blow as patients suffer here. 

But I also see that falling off the rope means I've nowhere to go - but into the supporting arms of God.

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 
-Psalm 73:26

So tomorrow I'll go back to the hospital.  I'll watch my pneumonia, asthma and trauma patients make recoveries and see my liver and heart failure patients get weaker.  I'll cry over Lesley's chart and, eventually, his death certificate.  And I'll put all my efforts on the cross, because in the end I don't have any more rope left. 

But I trust, believe and feel that God will make a stronger man out of me than I am now.

I will stay should the world by me fall
Lift up your name as the darkness comes
I will wait and hold fast to your word
Heart on your heart and my eyes on you 

-Stay and Wait

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