Saturday, June 4, 2011

Paper People.

A shadow of a waif that once was a woman, she wore her dress like a tent. It hung awkwardly on knobby shoulder, attached to rail thin arms. And in those arms, a tiny stick version of a child peaked out at me.

Six months ago, Amon started coughing and couldn’t stop. It got so bad, she explained, that blood came out at times. Each coughing fit shook her slender frame; Wet, deep hacks that bent her in half.         --Tuberculosis.

As I lifted the blanket and touched her baby’s skin, my hand burned with fever. Skin-and-bones set on fire, he weighed just 1.9 kg (4.2 lbs).          --Lord...?

But that was just half the problem. She also reported her uterus was coming out?     --What?

Tom and Benedict took the baby and started an NG tube (naso-gastric tube) to give the child some food and medicine, and Sarah and I took Amon to another room. I had to see for myself what she meant by her ‘uterus coming out’.

Was it prolapsed or inverted? No... it couldn’t be inverted. She’d be in shock... or dead. Right?

She moved with speed but obvious pain. Once on the bed I was able to see the full extent of the protrusion; a third of her uterus was visible. White with a fibrous brown-red patch near one end, it left no doubt; it had prolapsed.        

-- Amon, I need to understand. How long has your uterus been out like this?
-- It happens each time I deliver. It comes out after the baby, I go to the hospital, and the doctor puts it back in.
-- And the coughing?
-- Oh, it’s been six months.
-- And the fever?
-- Since the birth.
-- When was that, exactly?
-- Last month.
-- Last month? Why are you just coming now then?
-- My husband was caring for the cattle. I couldn’t come without him.

Her husband sat in silence as we moved between the rooms starting IVs and taking vitals. He looked like a normal person, thin but strong. But his wife and child looked like paper people --edges torn and wrinkled.

I guess I could have attempted to re-position her uterus. But I’m not ready to do that mentally. I’m not ready to cause her the pain. She’s sick but stable. They are able to make it to Wau; and I’m okay sending them there.

Please pray for them both. Pray for Amon’s tuberculosis and prolapsed uterus. Pray for their son, Dhuony. He’s getting food now, pray that he would survive this month of wasting fevers and pain. 

Post Script: As I finished this post, Tom knocked on my door to tell me the baby had died and they wanted to take Amon home. Her husband explained that he’d bring Amon back tomorrow for the procedure, but tonight she must attend the funeral.

How could I argue? She had waited a month; what was one night going to change? So I prayed for them, then watched them walk out with their precious paper child.

It’s hard for me to understand the nuances of life here. I confess, obligations and protocol surprise me almost daily. Was it truly impossible for her to come without her husband? Did she really have no other choice? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Please pray she comes back in the morning. Now that there is little chance she’ll go to Wau, I’m ready to try and re-insert her uterus. Pray that it goes well and she’s able to seek treatment for her TB soon. Thanks.