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Monday, June 27, 2011


Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.  (Ps 116:15)

A precious child died today, the extremely premature baby boy of dear friends of ours in Nyahuka, a couple with whom we have a parental relationship.  His mother's life is still on the edge as she lost a lot of blood.  All weekend as her saga unfolded we have carried the burden of caring about her and her young husband, worrying about them, and sadly being far away.  We're thankful for Isingoma and Christine, and Travis and Amy, who stepped in with wise counsel and timely medical care.  Please pray for the Isingomas and the Johnsons, who are stretched in so many ways, to have spiritual refreshment and stamina, and to keep investing in the lives of younger people.  And pray for our friends in their grief to turn to God and find new depths of faith in Him, and trust and comfort in each other.  It's been a rough few months for them, and they desperately need a fresh hope.

At the same time in Kenya, I was caring for another precious child, this one a 1 1/2 year old girl NAMED Precious.  When the intern and I decided to admit her to the hospital, it was largely because her mother had brought her to the clinic about four times in that same week, and so even though she did not look as ill as most (she had a normal temperature, breathing, heart rate, no history of vomiting or diarrhea) I felt like her mom was sensing something more was wrong, and it would be prudent to figure it out as in inpatient.  Precious had rickets, a common form of malnutrition here, and was slow in her development.  However when I was called to the hospital that evening for a code, she was about the last patient of the MANY on the paediatric ward whom I expected to find being resuscitated.  She had spiked a burning fever, and possibly aspirated (choked) as she weakly attempted to breast feed.  By the time I arrived she was completely flaccid, with no effort to take a breath, though her heart beat had returned after CPR and adrenaline, and we treated her with fluids and strong antibiotics for presumed septic shock.  Then I had an excruciating decision.  Our ICU resources are very limited, and if she had been pulseless for more than 5 minutes she would be unlikely to ever recover fully.  Her motionless body and unreactive pupils were did not give me much hope.  Yet it is hard to stop breathing for a patient that still has a strongly beating heart.  A wise ICU doctor came to my aid when called, and suggested we ask her mother what her wishes were.  And she said "This is my only child, please do everything."  Ah, the name now made sense, Precious, the only baby.  We intubated her.  And before we could take her upstairs, she started to breath a little on her own.  This morning she opened her eyes.  She has a long way to go, and she may or may not recover.  But I came so close to stopping what looked like futile therapy.  Because though I care about my patients, they are not as precious to me as they are to their own mothers.  

Then I got my turn this morning to move from doctor to mom.  Luke had a pretty serious motorcycle accident riding on a rough road down in the Rift Valley on the way to interview Maasai traditional healers for his research project.  He lost control after a bump, skidded to the side of the road, where his bike stopped abruptly into a boulder and he flew off and hit his head against a rock.  Thankfully his borrowed helmet saved him. He ripped his clothes and had a bloody scraped side, but no serious injury.  When he messaged us on rounds I was eager to run home and just be sure he was intact.  He's precious to me.

Our Medical Director reminded us this morning that God our Father waits for a glimpse of us, delights in us just because of who we are, His children.  This is how my friends feel about their tiny, unviable fetus.  This is how Precious' mother feels about her with her ventilator and tubes and fever and listlessness.  And how we feel about Luke, accentuated by the risk of near-disaster.  A parental love does not flow because the baby has done anything, it exists because the baby IS.  I know I have a hard time believing this is God's passion for me.  

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