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Monday, March 05, 2007

Resurrection number 1001, 1002, 1003, . . . .

My friend Maria Garriott wrote a book entitled “A Thousand Resurrections”, about her life raising a family and planting a church in a violent, poor, inner-city neighborhood. The title sticks with me, and reminds me to look for those signs of the power of the resurrecting God at work in the muck of this world.

So I offer three more resurrections, and one transcendent moment, in the spirit of her book (which I highly recommend):

1001: Last week I admitted a nine-year-old boy named Bwambale. His father carried him into the ward, burning with fever, comatose, dehydrated, close to shock. That day the entire hospital was so packed we could barely squeeze him onto the floor. I ended up doing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) while we tried to balance his longish thin body on a small table in a closet-type room where medicines are stored, because the usual procedure room was being used to isolate triplets with gastroenteritis, and I thought it would not be technically feasible to get the specimen bottle under the needle if he was on the floor! Since we celebrated Jack’s 9th Birthday this week, a 9-year-old boy hit my heart hard. Also his parents seemed really destitute and bewildered, having brought him from a remote mountainside village more than ten miles away, with only the clothes on their backs. But in spite of my concern I had no idea of his diagnosis. His spinal fluid was crystal clear, his malaria smear was negative. I gave him all my best medicines (literally all) and a blood transfusion. By the second day his coma progressed to the point where his posture and reflexes led me to believe he might die, or at least have permanent brain damage. I asked our whole team to pray for him, and my kids took up the cause. I went to see him on Saturday even though it is not my regular day to do rounds, and felt slightly encouraged that he seemed to have a moaning response to his father’s voice, though none to mine still. I was afraid to find out the news this morning (Monday) when I walked onto the ward. There he was, looking like any normal child. He walked up and asked me for bread! (Which seems to be a normal post-resurrection need, remember Jairus’ daughter). I am so thankful. I still don’t know what was wrong with him but I believe God healed him anyway.

1002&3: Last Wednesday, as I sat seeing patients in the AIDS clinic, a nurse brought a plea from Jonah that I come to the operating room where he was doing a C-section, because he expected the baby to need major resuscitation. Since our nurse-anesthetist was involved in a motorcycle accident last week, he had been reluctant to do any surgery. But this lady had had two previous C-sections, and in both cases the baby died. Now she was presenting in labor needing a third operation, with no baby yet to show for all her suffering, and the midwives could not hear a heart-beat on this baby either. If there was any chance to save it he had to act right away, not send her to Bundibugyo town. So he went to work in the operating theatre with improvised anesthesia, and by the time I was called the procedure was well underway. I walked into the room to see the baby lying limp and grey on the counter. The midwife and I began to rub and suction and give breaths with a bag and mask, and the baby began to gasp. But then we heard Jonah exclaim “There’s another one!” and to everyone’s surprise he pulled another purple lifeless looking little baby feet-first out of the bloody hole in the unconscious mother’s abdomen. Baby 1 was starting to breathe so we shifted our efforts to baby 2, who responded quickly. Soon both were crying and protesting. The mother still looked a bit frightening, trembling under a mask of ether as blood dripped around the floor. But as of today all are alive and well, two pink and pretty little baby girls and one weak but grateful mom.

And lastly, a transcendent moment. As I mentioned above, Jack turned 9 on Saturday. The whole team and his local friend Ivan came over for tacos and a multi-layered drum-shaped cake. There were balloons and games and presents, but the real event of the evening was a dance party. Some line dancing, some free-for-all. Imagine a room full of missionaries gyrating in our candle-lit front room to SuperChick’s “Rock Bottom . . .if you’ve been there put your hands in the air and let someone know that the Most High cares . . “ It was fun, but HOT. After about five songs there was a general consensus that we move the party out into the yard. I had bought glow-stick bracelets (great for out-door equatorial nights!) and the whole team put them on, we moved the speakers out with an extension cord, and danced in the yard, which was really only marginally cooler. Just as we were about to call it a night someone said “there’s a family in your kitubbi” and went for a flashlight to find out what medical emergency was going to break up our birthday party. But no, it was our neighbor, Mukiddi’s equally old and infirm brother Tabaka, with a half-dozen younger girls from his compound. He hobbled up with his walking stick and said “Twasie kubiina”--we’ve come to dance. They live just behind our house and could no doubt hear and see all once we moved outside. So like good African neighbors, they came to join in. It was one of those rare moments when I felt like we were connecting as human beings, doing what was natural, not making a cross-cultural holy effort, just enjoying normal life together. The girls were delighted with the bracelets, we danced to the Shrek soundtrack, the younger kids ran all over the yard streaming colors, the moon shone hazily through oppressively warm and low clouds, and we had a taste of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

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