Saturday, July 24, 2010

Death on a Thursday.

This week has blended into a month that feels like it’s been a year. Ask me my name and I might remember. Ask me where I am, you’ll be lucky to get more than a blank stare. Huh? Am I really in Africa?

Deep breath. I have to remind myself to breathe some days. I look around myself and see the hurting, the pain and the loss and I go numb. My heart is broken… it’s misfiring. It’s on the fritz. Quick get a stethoscope!


I don’t know where to begin in the last three days but I’ll try to go back until it hurts. I hope you don’t mind this being a long story…. Get your cup of tea. I’ll wait.

Thursday I was doing prenatals when I got called by a family to help their child. They were alarmed that his IV was almost out. I smiled thinking, ‘Big deal. Okay, I’ll got take out the IV tubing and then get back to prenatals.’ I go with my trusty translator, Natali, and sure enough the IV fluid is almost finish. So I wait.

As we wait, the family starts looking very agitated. Now keep in mind I don’t know anything about this case but we are short staffed so I stick around and ‘help’. But the family starts getting even more upset, moving in strange ways around the boy lying on the mattress laid out on our ‘in patient’ room (aka: back porch).

I look to Natali for some insight as to the cause of the commotion. He looks back at me and shrugs. He doesn’t know either. He is just as blind as I am as to why the child is sick.

So I start looking a bit closer. There is vomit on the mattress. Why? I wonder. The man holding his head stands up and in distress walks away. Then I see the child has stopped breathing.

I call for help… for Caleb the Clinic Officer and send for the resuscitation mask. Then I start resuscitating as best I can without any help. The translators are standing there trying to figure out what I’m calling for. What’s a bulb syringe? What’s an Ambu-bag?

Meanwhile I am doing chest compressions in hopes of keeping his heart beating. It feels like ages before the equipment gets to me. I have to repeat myself over and over to each new onlooker. When Caleb gets there he starts giving oxygen and we get the pulse and breathing to start again briefly. But then nothing.

No pulse. No breath. Silence.

Except for the wails that are starting from the women behind me. One woman is pushing me out of her way to get to the child. There is nothing left to do.

I stood and hand to walk away. I didn’t want to share my grief. I didn’t want to fall apart in front of this family.

Had we had crash carts and free flow oxygen would this child have lived? Caleb reassured me that he wouldn’t have. But it didn’t make me feel any better. I’ve never had a child die on me. I didn’t have a place for all the emotions it stirred in me. I still don’t.

Caleb explained that the child was a surgical patient. He was not going to live no matter what we did. He suspected an intestinal obstruction and there was nothing we could do.

So he died. A boy of 8 or 10 years old who only 4 days ago was running after a soccer ball and teasing his sisters.

Pray for his family. No doubt he is buried by now but how do you bury the grief of such a loss? By God’s strength … by His strength alone.