Monday, May 4, 2009

Chad: Bere's Farewell

My last Sunday in Bere was rather memorable. For some reason, I just wasn't feeling good at all. Ansley and I had planned to go to Prudence's house for bouillie because she wanted to have us over one last time. So, off we went. But as we were walking there, I told Ansley, "I really feel pretty awful." My head hurt, I was slightly cool (which is only unusual since it was probably a good 100 degrees outside), very nauseated, and rather fatigued.


You guessed it: malaria. I still went to Prudence's and looked at all of her pictures, ate bouillie with her, and talked for a while. But I don't think I was my usual "charming" self. When Prudence asked why I looked so glum, and I told her how I felt she said, "Oh, it must be Bere's farewell to you."


What a sweet parting gift.


When we finished, Ansley went home and I went back to the middle house. I lay on the bed for a while out of sheer exhaustion. Then I took my temperature, and when I discovered it was 103.6, I decided that I ought to muster up the energy to get up and go bother James. But I knew what his answer would be, and it was not what I wanted to hear.


I had made it my goal to get through my time in Chad without ever needing an IV. But sure enough, the verdict was IV Quinine. I have a theory as to why this last round of malaria was so bad. About a week earlier, I had tried to give blood, but Anatole couldn't find my veins. The next day I did a malaria and hemoglobin test, which showed that my hemoglobin was 9.6 (low normal is 12), but the malaria was negative. Praise God that Anatole couldn't find my veins because if I had given blood, who knows how low my hemoglobin would have dropped. Anyway, I suspect that it was a false negative test and that the malaria had just been multiplying in my red blood cells for a good week or two.


So, Ansley kindly came back to the hospital to take care of me. Apparently I don't do well with IVs though. Ansley stuck me twice and got good flashback, but couldn't advance the catheter. We called Caroline who also had to stick me twice with a smaller needle. And then, my IV infiltrated before a day was over, so Augustin 2 had to come stick me the next morning. His IV lasted an even shorter time before I got phlebitis. I am not a fan of IVs. 


Let me just say, this experience gave me an awful lot more sympathy for my patients. When you are already feeling fairly miserable, the last thing you want is for someone to be shoving needles in your veins.


Anyway, they got me all set up, gave me some Vitamin B complex and some Diazepam for my nausea and to make me sleep. I don't think the Diazepam worked too well though; it knocked me out for about 10 minutes, and then I think I was just slightly loopy afterwards, though the memory is a bit fuzzy for me.


The one thing I will say though, is that IV Quinine really works. I was feeling tons better within several hours, and tried to convince Ansley that I could take pills, but James had ordered for a full day of IV medication. I suppose nurses really don't make good patients.


I am quite content that there is no malaria here in Gimbie, and would be even happier if that turned out to be my last experience ever with such nasty parasites.

Chad: Jungle Adventure

In my last blog I mentioned that I'm now safely in another country. Unfortunately, with the last minute rush of everything in Chad, the stories just started to accumulate from my time there, and now I have quite a few stories to write from Ethiopia. So, for now, I'll preface each post with the name of the country it happened and hope that I don't confuse everyone too much. Here's a story from Chad:


Jungle Adventure


For quite some time, I had wanted to go to the river for a sunrise. I thought it would be a nice, peaceful, and possibly beautiful activity. I invited others to come with me, but it ended up being just Jason and me.


Sunrise is generally around 5:45 am, and the river is about an hour walk away. So, Jason and I both woke up early one Sabbath morning and met up at the middle house at 4:45 am. It was still dark enough that we needed our headlamps every once in a while, though we went a lot of the way by moon and starlight.


I was glad to have Jason along because my directional skills are certainly not up to par with the average human being. However, it's amazing what being in the dark in a desert will do to even the average person's sense of direction.


We ended up taking a wrong turn that led us far, far out from the main path we generally take to the river. The sky began to lighten as we neared a small village. We asked a man near his home which way it was to the river and were thanking God that the man spoke French so far away from town (God answered our prayers and sent people our way several times on the trip). He pointed us in the right direction and we continued on our way.


Now, at this point, the sun had already risen. The unfortunate thing was that we didn't really get to see a "sunrise" because it was rather hazy that morning. So we stopped for a minute to take a few pictures of our sad sunrise and kept going.


It was about at this point that my right foot began to hurt really badly. It was strange because I hadn't twisted my ankle or anything; it just felt like one of my tendons was really sore. It was at this point 6 ish in the morning, and I knew we had a long ways still to go.


We walked and walked for another 20 minutes or so when we finally reached the river! But alas, it was still very far away from our usual river spot and we didn't want to just back track the way we came because we weren't 100% certain of how we had gotten there. We decided to follow the river until we came to our usual spot so that the journey back to the hospital would be quicker.


I can't even remember how long we walked, but it seemed like forever. While we were walking, though, we discovered that there are jungles in Chad! Or at least, it was the closest thing to a jungle I'd ever seen in Chad. There were lots of green plants that were sort of thick, which I thought odd since it was the dry season. So we took some pictures and a funny video in our jungle (I'll have to post tons of pictures online when I get back to the States).


When we finally arrived at our destination, both Jason and I waded in the river a little bit to wash and cool our feet. Then we sat down on the shore and ate some mangoes. Of course, the whole time we were doing this, we had a small audience. Apparently, it was prime time for washing clothes and crossing the river to get to the market (Saturdays being market day in Bere). I tried to ignore the people staring at us and talking about us in Nangjere (I could recognize a few words…).


Eventually we headed back, but it was a lot slower than I had anticipated. By this point, my foot was really hurting and it took a lot of will power to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But we made it. It was a rather unsuccessful and anti-climactic river sunrise trip, but it still made for a good adventure. The only unfortunate consequence was that that evening, my right foot became more than slightly swollen and was sore for a couple of days.


Oh, I almost forgot to mention… After church was out, James decided to make another river trip with the van. I'm not certain, but I'd be willing to bet that they've never fit so many people in that van before—36 people all in one load. So, I spent an unusual amount of time at the river my last Sabbath in Bere. But it was worth it.

Ethiopia: Five Minutes

Five minutes can change a life. A month ago in March, 30 year-old Taye was walking, presumably to work as a daily laborer, early in the morning. While en route, Taye was stopped by a man who was constructing a new building and asked to help. "Just for five minutes," the man implored.

Taye acquiesced, unaware of some exposed electrical wiring, and began to pour water on a new cement wall per the man's request.

Now, a month later, I help the local nurses at Gimbie change the dressings to his electrical burns every day. We also change the dressings to his amputation sites where he lost both of his feet due to his injuries. His burn wounds are looking better every day, but his muscles are now so weakened from a month of lying in bed that he cannot move of his own will.
Currently, the owner of the new building where Taye had his accident is paying for his hospital stay, but I know that both Taye and his wife worry daily about how they are going to care for their two children when they leave the hospital. He is no longer able to work as a daily worker and has no education for another job. Right now, the outlook for his quality of life is grim.

The first day I saw Taye, he stopped me as I was leaving his room. He pointed skyward and lifted his eyes up. I gathered he wanted me to pray for him, so I did. It's hard to describe the dimly hopeful look I saw in his eyes when I finished praying. I left his room wondering what else I could do for this man who, in my eyes, seems to have so little left to hope and live for. I gave Taye a Bible in his native language hoping that he would read it, and that it would bring him some kind of peace, but it doesn't seem like that is enough. Yet each day since I first met him, Taye always asks me to pray with him before I leave his room, and each day it seems to me that I see an improvement in his countenance.

I still pray often that God will show me other ways to help Taye, but for now, I try to spend about five minutes each day visiting with his family and praying with them because I have to believe that five minutes can change a life.