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Monday, April 22, 2013

Can't Complain

I called one of my Paeds colleagues today and when I said "how's your day" he said "Can't complain". . . upon which I thought, wow, I can ALWAYS complain.  I was checking in with him because I had some desperation texts from the outpatient clinic asking for help, as I was finishing up an admission of a kid that kind of punched my own heart, pushing my new interns in nursery to step up and get some labs and xrays done, all while trying to get home to say goodbye to the Massos who were about to leave for a month of sabbatical, and trying to not even THINK of the hundred loose end emails, people, plans, work that I should be attending do.  His day was just as bad, starting with a bloody death of a neurosurgical baby I'd watched gasp and dwindle on Saturday who took a turn for the worse on Sunday and died in a messy final hemorrhage and shock this morning.  But his reflex reflection was "can't complain."

Which, in some ways, is true.  Because every time I'm ready to throw up my hands and give up, I don't, because there is ALWAYS someone who is a little worse off than I, someone whom I could help if I just hold on another hour.

Last week as I came back from the US, I immediately got involved in the ICU care of a child who died.  A little boy who had been healthy, normal, running, and active the week before, who contracted an unknown infection of his brain, and though we thought we were making some progress, I was paged for a code and we could not get him back.  The brain, when pushed too hard, does not recover.  His parents were devastated.  After I told them, as we walked towards the bed, the chaplain in her Kenyan wisdom told the mother that Satan wanted to get hold of her but that she needed to be strong.  She would not let the mother flail or collapse, she told her to stand up.  So even I, who was teary and about to lose it myself, had to buck up too.  Since then I've wondered about the chaplain's approach.

I thought of it again on Saturday as I went to casualty for a very sick and dehydrated 9 month old girl, Ivy.  It wasn't until I was praying for her with her parents that the detail came out that she was a twin, but her brother Ian had died 4 days earlier on the way to another hospital of the same gastrointestinal disaster.  I could barely keep my voice from quavering too much.  These parents named their babies Ian and Ivy, so sweet, and now they had no time to grieve one as they struggled for the other.  But I thought of our chaplain, and my job, and their needs, and pressed on.

So tonight as the rain pours down, the tears stay mostly suppressed.  This culture is more stoic than our Ugandan atmosphere.  And who's to say they don't have a point.  Can't complain, it could be worse, let's move on, and work for the ones that are left, that we might help.  I've learned from my son that you can always do one more.  One more pushup perhaps for him, one more admission or treatment for me.

And lastly, complaining could be replaced by a bit of thanks:  five at the table, Julia, Jack, Acacia, Scott and me, with pasta and candlelight.  OK it was almost 8 and drizzly and there was a tarantula on the door jamb and we had all had long days, but it feels like a tiny seismic shift of RIGHTNESS to be together again.

So the week will march on, with threatening tears.  A veteran missionary our age, whose family we know, died today.  Veteran African friends, whose ministry we respect, face illness in a child.  My problems suddenly seem trivial.  Can't complain.


Cindy said...

Dear Jennifer - I follow your blog daily and am so grateful for the continued impact of your life and your narratives. This most recent post is representative of the eternal perspective you always manage to convey, a call to face life's trials with strength and courage and a determination to stand up to Satan's attacks. You help me to live for Kingdom purposes, to press on with determination, and to be thankful for the present blessings which are mine.

Edwin Chapin spoke wisely when he said that "Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." You are impacting me and countless others for this age and the age to come. My vow for tomorrow: "can't complain."

With love and prayers,
Cindy Nore

lovesafrica said...

I am always blessed by reading your blog. I don't know you personally, but we lived in Nakuru '05-'06 when Don was field treasurer for WGM. We definitely have left a part of our hearts in Kenya and understand some of the things you go though. Please know that I pray for you as you minister at Kijabe.
With love and prayers,
Pat Bloomster