Friday, December 23, 2016

Solemn Rejoicing

“Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.”

Several weeks ago a young lady named Ludy came to our hospital. Ludy had been to see us once before with contractions early in her pregnancy. We treated her with steroids and a medicine to ease her contractions and sent her home. Within a few days, Ludy started having contractions again. She knew her baby was coming. On Thanksgiving day, she made the return journey along the stones and across the rivers of Papua New Guinea and arrived at the hospital just in time to deliver a premature baby.

She was small, but cried vigorously. She swaddled her up and settled in for the long night, wondering if she would survive.  Her daughter weighed only 1.03 kilograms (2 pounds, 4 ounces). We placed her in our warmer, started some intravenous fluids and medications to help her breathing and prevent infection.

Working in the newborn nursery at Kudjip brings me such mixed emotions. So often, babies who ought to live die under my care. Other times, babies thrive and their mothers receive their bundles of joy after some tender time in the hospital. I have learned to think of babies surviving in terms of their birth weights. Between 1kg and 2kg, I give them a percentage. A 1.5kg baby I would say has a 50% chance to live. I gave Ludy's baby a 3% chance (1.03 kg) to live.

“O come thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadows put to flight”

Esther and I recently disagreed about this ancient hymn, now a common Christmas carol.  She felt the song was in conflict - urging us to rejoice but always written and performed in a somber, minor key. 

While true, I noticed that the words speak about a messiah who is yet to come. Israel, indeed the world, groaned without Him.  Families were divided by occupying kingdoms, refugees filled the middle east, people were oppressed by rulers, mothers and babies died in childbirth.  The carol represents a command, not a feeling.  Rejoice not because the savior is here, but because we have the guarantee of his coming.  Rejoice in the midst of the unknown.   Rejoice solemnly, but with hope.

Every morning, the first patient I see is Ludy's little girl.  For a week or so, she lost weight and couldn't feed.  Then, miraculously, she began breathing well.  She took small amounts of mother's milk offered through a feeding tube.  Her color improved.  She gained some weight.  Each morning, I rejoiced a little more when I saw Ludy caring for her tiny baby in our nursery.

This morning, Ludy's daughter weighs 1.38kg. Every day she is beating the odds. Every day she is bringing a little more light into that nursery room. Every day she is putting death's dark shadow slowly to flight. Ludy and I enjoy her, and our solemn rejoicing holds more and more hope.

I don't know what will happen next.  But I am grateful that a savior came to absorb the burdens of His broken world.  And I choose, in the midst of these challenges, to rejoice in anticipation of a time when tears will be gone, pain will disappear and death will be a distant memory.

Merry Christmas to you and your families as we celebrate our Savior's birth.

1 comment:

  1. From a Catholic perspective, I would say it's in a minor key because it's an advent hymn, not a Christmas carol. That's why it talks about Christ coming, not being here already. And advent is also the time in the liturgical year we think about Christ's return at the end of time. So I would see your reflections as perfect for Advent! Merry Christmas.