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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Another week, another year

This week began in a feverish haze of flu, shaking under a mountain of covers while my temperature edged up near 103.  In that zone, I found myself hearing the World Cup in the next room and briefly believing that the cheering was for the battle of my cells against the virus, and I remember floating over my body.  This particular pathogen eventually ripped through our whole family, with Julia also missing three days of school with chills and fever, and all of us settling into hacking productive coughs.  Thankfully we have emerged on the other side as the illness ebbs away, but we are exhausted.  I'm on call this weekend, fairly typical:  in and out of the hospital all day Saturday, evaluating multiple kids in the emergency room in the early evening, a trip in at 2:30 am, a 999 code in the early morning, two deaths, back home in time to go to Sunday school and church. That level of work this weekend, though, has left me absolutely wasted instead of just plain tired.

Physically, and emotionally.  On Thursday evening, I checked in maternity to chat with a newly admitted mom whose baby had a prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida.  When I picked up her chart though I nearly cried. Her seventh pregnancy, and all the previous six had ended in death.  Not one living child to show for time after time.  There she sat, with the paler middle-east look of the Somali-border people, wrapped in a headscarf, patient, uncomplaining.  I asked her if I could pray, and we did.  Her baby was born the next day, premature and massive-headed, pink and struggling.  Her spinal cord did not form, her brain is pressed by fluid, and she is not likely to survive long.  Which is why I gladly walked in at 2:30 am when there was a problem, to give this woman the courtesy of all my attention and explanation and communication out of respect for her suffering.  The same day she delivered, our team received a dead baby they were unable to revive.  A 13 year old school girl, too alarmed and ashamed to tell anyone she was pregnant, went out to the school shamba and delivered on her own.  The school found her and brought her with her baby, but the infant she carried in was dead.  And a preemie whom my colleague had struggled over for several weeks in ICU with ventilators and chest tubes finally gave up his tiny struggle.  This morning it was a 2-year-old whom we had admitted umpteen times for respiratory illnesses, he had severe brain damage from something previous and so a difficult time handling his swallowing and feeding, and was constantly sick.  When we admitted him he was no worse than usual, and had a good set of vital signs at 6 am but was found dead before 7.  In spite of an all-out code, we got no response.  You would never know from his well-kept well-nourished body, or from his mother's desperate cries, that this was not a perfect child.  He was loved.  I found myself supporting this woman for quite a while, reading 1 Corinthians 15 to her, and praying.  As often happens, Kijabe is a place where she spent a good portion of his two years of life, and a place where she received attention and care and hope.  Even in her tears this morning she could be thankful for that.  From there I went back to nursery where a very abnormal little baby had stopped breathing.  She had intestines protruding from the front, a heart on the wrong side, infection in her brain, lots of extra fingers and toes, a small head and deep jaundice.  We had already counseled the parents about her poor prognosis, and we stood together around her again and prayed and agreed to let her go.  No one can prepare for what he or she will be like in these life-and-death moments, so the faith of Kenyans never ceases to amaze me.  Job-like, the dad prayed in worship, and the mom affirmed thanks.  We kept a short death vigil of comfort, and then she was gone. That's four deaths and one more expected death in the last few days.  All represented the frontiers of what we can do, the margins of where we can save.  All strike home the way that evil takes its toll on the bodies of babies, in the process of birth becoming death and loss.

And in between the fevers and the losses, right in the middle of this exhausting week, I had a birthday.  I was barely moving and eating, but Scott got up to make a special breakfast of cinnamon rolls, friends brought over flowers and pie and chocolate and a necklace and a beverage.  Our quarantined family ate together and crashed by the fire and the World Cup.  I read my hundred greetings on facebook from around the world and through the years.  It was a good day.  A spot of sunshine and life-goes-on, of another year punctuating the reality that not everyone survives these flues and I am thankful for my family and this place, my work and this life.

My mom manages to get cards here on time for special occasions.

My favorite celebratory group.

The sky.  Actually saw it after weeks of cold clouds, on my birthday

Jack made me this bowl in pottery class

And Scott made his own creations

After being sick so long they were happy I emerged on my Birthday to pay a little attention to them.

How we spend cold June evenings

Birthday cheer that reminds me I have great friends.

Our lovely garden

Former neighbor Anna Rich back for a visit.  

The day Julia got out of bed, classmates came to cheer her up.

My traditional bday apple pie, courtesy of Karen.

Last Caring Community.  Sniff.

Visiting doctors on my Birthday, and it turned out the cardiologist on the right and I were actually in training together in Chicago 23 years ago.

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