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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

On TB and Two BOYS and Hope

I am going to be politically incorrect and use real names, because these are real people.

Jonah is an 8 year old from Samburu country, who came here on a mission flight in a desperate attempt to save his life.  He has tuberculosis of the spine.  TB is treatable, and his caretaker who came coughing out the disease is much better.  But Jonah's spine was perilously bent, his nerves stretched, his blood vessels compromised. Drs. Muchiri and Mara planned his surgery while our team initiated TB treatment and nutritional support.  His first surgery was aborted when his blood pressure dropped, his second allowed most of the infection to be drained out but was aborted when his heart stopped temporarily, and the third finally allowed him to have his spine stabilized.  His little brain took a hit, but over the last week he's been opening his eyes and moving his hands.  Today I transferred him out of the ICU.  Small victories.  A recovery would be a miracle.  But we can ask for a miracle.  I have learned only one word of Samburu:  "Suba!" which I say loudly many times a day hoping for a response.
Dr. Mike Mara is pulling for this kid with skills, funds, and prayer, and his hope is inspiring.  Here he is greeting Jonah last week in ICU post-op, along with Jonah's little Samburu friend with a hip infection who came on the same plane.

Back home, the village women held a fundraiser to contribute to his care.

Please pray for Jonah.

And please pray for Vincent, who we believe has the same disease.  Only he is 15, and his was even more advanced than Jonah's by the time he came.  This is his spine MRI courtesy of Dr. Sarah Gessner.  Note the folding bend in the top right.  It should not be there.  His spinal cord is crimped, and he is paralyzed.
Vincent was a normal kid for many years.  He had some prolonged illness when he was 4, but eventually ended up on TB meds.  Within two months he was so much better that his parents thought that was enough.  But TB requires prolonged treatment.  It wasn't enough.  Vincent's mother began to notice a hump in his back when he was in 6th grade.  By 7th grade, his legs were getting weaker.  By 8th grade, he could only walk with a stick to prop up his dragging limbs. By 9th grade, he had to go to school in a wheel chair.  By August this year, his paralysis and time in the wheel chair forced him to drop out of school.  By October, his hips and legs were eroding as he stayed too long unable to move.  His mother took him to the best hospital around, which said there was nothing to be done, unless she wanted to try coming to Kijabe.  She went home for two days to organize and ponder her terrible choice:  let her son die, or travel across the country with him leaving her other four younger kids to depend upon the kindness of neighbors for survival.

She came to Kijabe, where Vincent's horrific wounds were assessed by two surgical services and found to be incurable, particularly in view of his sullen withdrawal.  We found him on our ward, reeking, with thick wool blankets pulled over his head.  What teenager wouldn't be depressed to be paralyzed, with his body decaying around him?  My colleague and I are both mothers of boys this age.  We decided to ask for another miracle.  To treat his depression and malnutrition, to clean his wounds and see if there was any spark of hope left in his heart.  Today he nearly died.  His wounds are so infected we had to put him on a course of antibiotics that will cost about $600.  The odds of his survival are slim.

But just when it seemed prudent to give up, to not prolong suffering . . a flock of Australian nurses appeared in his room today.  Teaching wound care.  Thoroughly debriding and cleaning.

What are the odds that these angels would miraculously materialize at this moment?

So we have not yet given up hope.  But hope is ethereal, easily vaporized in the hard reality of Vincent's life.  Please pray for him to choose to live.  Please pray for us to witness the power of God bringing impossible healing in this boy.

Sometimes I have to admit that I hesitate to hope.  Hesitate to ask for prayer for two boys who may not be able to breathe much longer, let alone sit, or walk.  Hesitate to draw attention to two cases that will most likely end in sorrow, as if that would make God look bad.  So I can only say that while they are in my care we will do our best to give space for God to work, to speak words of truth about their worth, to trust that whether God heals them on earth or in death they will be eternally running in glory.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You write so beautifully even/especially about cases like these. I completely understand why you might almost hesitate to write about two seemingly hopeless cases... "eternally running in glory" - what a perfect phrase.
Praying for stamina and love and wisdom and joy for all...