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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Twenty years ago, only a few hundred meters from where I am sitting right now, Caleb came into the world after an anxious pregnancy marked by preterm labor in a very dangerous place for babies.  One of the first flights out of our grass (mud then) airstrip hacked out of the jungly Ugandan bush was me with Caleb heading to Kijabe early.  His gestation was a faith-stretching time and the primary story we came back to, over and over, was Abraham putting Isaac on the altar, believing God was powerful enough to give him his son even from the dead.  It was during this time God stripped away some assumptions that being a missionary meant we would pray and everything would be alright, that we somehow deserved special treatment.  I would never have claimed those attitudes theologically, but emotionally they were there.  We faced the possibility that having a baby living where we were would end in loss and disaster, but we believed God was calling us to stay.  The Abraham story is one of the hardest in the Bible, and not one I would choose to include.  But that was our story in 1995, taking a risk without a sure outcome.  

And our story for the last 20 years with Caleb.  An early struggle with overwhelming illnesses that stopped his growth for a while.  Two emergency surgeries, one in Bundibugyo and one in Kampala. Broken arms that didn't stop him playing soccer. The terrible day he destroyed his knee and we thought his Air Force career was over.  He's one of those kids who everything seems to happen to.  One of those kids that makes your heart seize.  He's a risk-taker himself, serious, funny, brave, open to adventure and exploring new things, deeply thoughtful, extremely hard-working and perseverant.  Which he's had to be, because he consistently chooses very hard paths, for very good reasons.  Like the Air Force Academy.

And God is redeeming that story too. Because he's becoming not just a kid whom hard things happen to, but one who is looking out for others in that process.  He's developing a passion for justice, a desire to see things set right for others.  We've caught glimpses from afar of the young man who leads by serving.  Who stays up half the night with the freshmen who are stunned by the death of one of their classmates.  Who listens to friends struggling through life's difficulties.  Who takes a path less traveled and follows the directives of his soul rather than the crowd.

So today we celebrate 20 years with this boy-turning-man.  And we celebrate from something on the order of 10,000 miles and 10 time zones away, while he begins his powered flight course with a day of instruction.  We're on the edge of our seat for the story the next 20 years will tell.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The broken edges

After a relatively encouraging month, February is ending in fracture.  Life on the broken edges.  Painful, possibly dangerous, definitely challenging.  Yesterday morning I walked in to find a colleague who had been resuscitating a newborn for an hour, with only intermittent heart rates.  The baby was gone, and I could see the weary pain in my friend's eyes.  And from that point on, we were all running ragged all day.  A convulsing month-old baby in the casualty, struggling for IV access.  Juggling beds.  Malnourished kids.  Three in ICU, trying to get my mind around terrible lungs and proper ventilator settings.  Blending into a call night where two babies died, and one was resurrected.

Both deaths were the end of painful journeys for kids a few months old with terrible congenital malformations.  The first had hydrocephalus, a collection of fluid in the brain, that had resulted in infection and seizures.  After a month of hospitalization he was no better.  While my partner kept his heart going a while longer I spent an excruciating half hour with the parents gently trying to help them accept the inevitability of the impending end.  His mom's tears actually soaked through my skirt, her head resting on me as she trembled and wept and basically shut down.  The second was a 9 month old with Down syndrome and a severe heart defect that had become infected, with raging fevers, a too-fast-to-keep-going heart rate, dehydration.  She had been dwindling for a day so her mom had more of a quiet, resigned cry when she died at 5 this morning.

In between, another baby a few weeks old who was post-op from a spina bifida repair, suddenly with no breathing, no movement, no heart rate.  Thankfully we were only steps away and could do a full code, rounds of drugs and CPR and oxygen, and we got him back.

Scott texted that he was taking care of a 15 year old girl with a hemorrhage, who nearly died, and he had to do a small surgical procedure he had never done before to find a vein for a transfusion.

And in between all this, a litany of other types of brokeness:  two missionaries from South Sudan with medical problems needing attention and phone consults, crisis in our school in Bundibugyo as usual as disgruntled people with ulterior motives stir up trouble, car issues with the mechanic, our ancient dog fell in a trash pit and needed rescue, running up to RVA clinic, following up on multiple kids and issues, local friends with deep sorrows, and a half-hour video-conference prayer time representing our field for a meeting in our mission's main office.

Bethany reminded us this week, that this very experience is part of the point of Lent.  The early disciples did not see the crucifixion through the lens of resurrection.  They experienced the pain and despair unmitigated.  In this season we enter into the broken edges of the world, where we get scraped and remember the desperation of a world gone awry.  Babies who do not live more than a few hours or months; slander and hate; hunger and hopelessness.  I will end with the quote she referenced:

“But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation…it is the experience of genuine grief that prepares us for joy. You see? The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples terrible, wonderful preparation. 
Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with faithful care-and thus prepare for joy.”

Prayer: Jesus, come again! You need never suffer again. That was done once and for all. But come and remind me of the suffering so that I recall and regain the utter joy of your rising after all.”

-Walter Wangerin, Reliving the Passion

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A week in pictures, with a praise and a prayer

Sunday night, a week in review:  Visitors, and more visitors, who knew February would be so popular in Kijabe?  Midterm weekend with two of Jack's classmates staying over.  Some really encouraging saved lives, the miraculous survival of baby Blessing after her dad's prayer.  Texts and calls with Scott, news from Liberia.  Working on a research abstract due next week, juggling patients, following labs, going to meetings, puzzling over cases.  Making dinners. Jack at Model UN all week, meaning early mornings and late evenings, driving back and forth, and one overnight in Nairobi, plus one more college interview. The social-event-of-the-year Junior-Senior Banquet (think of an elaborate dinner theatre with set and drama and food all put on by kids and their hardworking parents and sponsors).  Perhaps the highlight, 5 out of 6 Myhres on a family Google-chat one night.  Too tired to be profound, and on call expecting a baby in respiratory distress to arrive in our ICU soon, so just going to throw some pictures here in no particular order:

 On midterm, I drove the boys to Naivasha for a swim Saturday afternoon.
 And then to Nairobi on Sunday, to visit the Mixon's church (below) and eat Ethiopian food (above).

 Jack has taken over Scott's taco-making job.
Scott realized that the TIME magazine cover is Dr. Jerry Brown, the Liberian surgeon he's working with.

 Went to Rosslyn on Wednesday for a sound defeat, but our boys played with spirit and had a come-back, just not quite soon enough.
 Baby Blessing as she was off the ventilator.  Now she's back down in the nursery and holding her own, though still quite sick.

 One day this week I actually got to go on a morning run, with this panorama, and my somewhat clueless but joyful companion.
 Christine and Maria visiting Kijabe.  Christine's dad Bill was visiting us in Uganda 16 years ago when he got appendicitis, and through a surgical mishap in Kampala nearly lost his life. Scott had to physically remove him from the hospital there and fly him to Kijabe.  It's a long and dramatic story, but the short version is that God used that week to build all our faith.  Maria is a former World Harvest missionary who still manages children's homes in Kenya, so they had come for a supervisory visit.
 Nyambula Esther was our houseworker 17 years ago when we had evacuated from Uganda for war, and came to Kijabe where Jack was born.  A year ago she had her own baby, Michael, and I saw him in clinic this week and brought them home to lunch.
 The Mbega Boys.  This is the dorm that has adopted Jack, with welcoming and wonderful dorm parents Steve and Sharon Entwistle.  These boys are all dressed up for Banquet, and spent a fun hour on the football field in various poses reliving all their memories and groups, before going to pick up their dates and walk them to the venue.
 Jack and his date, Carlene, who is a lovely articulate athletic young woman from Kenya who has lived all over the world due to her dad's work.
 My Sunday School class posed with me !
The station boys of Mbega
 Jack picking Carlene up at her dorm.

Jack and John Amos, great friends and sometimes confused as twins.
Emily and Evans: we met Emily when she decided to throw a Birthday party that sponsored a goat for malnourished kids in Uganda.  She is a doctor in Indianapolis and her program is connected with one in Kenya, which is how she met her husband Evans.  They were back to visit Evans' family and passed through Kijabe.

In the last week I've had 6 overnight guests and probably 20 for meals . . . I love the way visitors are a blessing in Africa, and I feel that deeply.  Right now I have a former RVA grad who is now a senior resident staying with me, and she's helpful, smart, and good company.  Friends whom we have known for probably 17 or 18 years, who work in a closed area, are staying as well for the rest of the week, and their company is always great.  I guess God thought I might get too lonely without Scott so has sent me some rescuers.  The Wallace family from South Sudan also arrived on station, though they are staying at a local guesthouse and will only be joining for a meal. 
Please pray for our US kids as they plow on in the winter doldrums of hard work and snow.  Pray for our friend Heidi, formerly our Bundibugyo nurse, then South Sudan, and now on a furlough in the USA to care for her mom.  Her mom is dying of ALS, which is how my dad died, so I feel for her deeply.  They are near the end.  And lastly pray for our former foster-son Basime Godfrey, the young man who is nearly blind, who had the amazing rescue of surgery in the states because a visiting generous ophthalmologist took it upon himself to make it happen . . . Basime and his wife Eve had their first baby this weekend.  Eve's labor was long and difficult, and the medical system is still dysfunctional.  They were referred very late for a Cesarean section, and by the time it happened the baby was in bad shape.  Basime called in tears and we prayed for his son, who lived about 24 hours, but died yesterday.  I'm thankful I've been able to call and pray with both of them several times, and kind team mates have gone to visit and help.  Today he texted that "we are standing strong" . . . so please pray for their comfort, and their healing, and their faith.  So many hard situations crying out for the redemption of the New Heavens and New Earth.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Data and Life

This week I had a lot of late nights, two on call and the rest scrambling to prepare our Nursery Audit a week early.  Every week we enter data into spreadsheet, tracking every admission, the weights, the positive cultures, the diagnoses, the need for oxygen and phototherapy.  Then once a quarter we review the data to see how we measure up, where we can improve.  At the end of the year, I try to also collate the entire year's worth of data.  And since we've been doing this for three years now, this represents the whole shebang.  My presentation ended up having 70 slides.  Everything from our goals and our team, to the proportion of males/females or the outcome of babies treated with surfactant, to tables documenting admissions and deaths by birthweight, gestational age, and place of birth for every quarter.  After the summary stats, I went through all the deaths, focusing on about 4 or 5 that I felt we could have prevented with better care.  This is how we learn, and change.  Scrutiny, data, facing real facts, being vulnerable. Naming our mistakes.  

The table above compares the survival of babies (preemies and term) at Kijabe to a brand new study of 22 Kenyan "teaching" hospitals where interns are trained.  We're the top lighter-blue line.  It was very encouraging to see that we are leading the way in what is possible.  And a challenge to bring up the stats for the smallest babies.   I love being part of a team that wants to do this.  Data and life, crunching numbers and hands-on care.  Data IS life, perhaps.

And it is very good to look at the big picture while slogging through the daily details of life in the trenches. Our 5-bed ICU has had 4 beds occupied by Paeds this week, meaning they are my responsibility.  It is rare to come through a week in the ICU without walking down the agonizing road of death with a family.  I am very grateful for your prayers, because there have been some remarkable glimmers of hope that have no other explanation.  This baby I mentioned before, baby of J who is now named "Blessing".  She had to be taken by CS two months early because her mother has severe heart disease.  She's the one whose dad asked us to please try and help her survive.  I spent a lot of the early week gingerly dialing her ventilator up and up as she got worse and worse from immature lungs.  On Wednesday she became very still, not moving or breathing on her own at all.  That evening, I told her dad that I thought we had reached the end.  I offered to pray and he held her hand as we lifted her up to God.  At that moment I thought of the dad in Mark:  Lord I believe, help my unbelief.  And I thought as I prayed, maybe this dad has faith for his daughter that I don't.  I had lost hope. So when I came in Thursday morning and she was opening her eyes and moving her arms and legs and breathing over the ventilator, I was in holy awe.  Then I did a blood gas on her and got the first decent numbers of the week.  I literally did a little dance right there in ICU.  She still has a long way to go and her lungs are beat up.  But she's still fighting, so we'll fight for her.

Most of my patients have been tiny, but on Monday evening I was called to casualty for a 15 year old girl.  She is bigger than I am I think.  She was living her normal life until Friday when she developed neck pain along with a severe headache.  By Saturday she ended up at another hospital with vomiting, and they started treatment for meningitis.  Over the weekend she became less responsive until she wasn't talking, sitting, walking, anything.  She arrived in a coma and with some worrisome neurologic signs.  After admitting her to ICU, intubating and putting on a ventilator, we asked for a head CT(only available in Nairobi over an hour away).  This is the case that got me embroiled in controversy and politics and phone calls, stepping on some toes in commandeering an ambulance meant for a private stable patient and arranging for a nurse-anesthetist to accompany her which is never popular.  However her head CT gave us invaluable information: NOT meningitis, but a mass in her brain.  Neurosurgery agreed to take her into theatre, and we all expected cancer.  Instead they found TB, a tuberculoma of the posterior fossa for the medically curious.  You may not think TB in your brain is good news, but it is much better news than cancer in your brain.  She is on treatment and already waking up and moving a bit. When the pathologist texted me the results on Thursday, it was my second rejoicing dance of the morning.

And taking another premature baby off the ventilator was my third. Whenever I talk to baby T's mom, she listens to me tell all the problems then says: "But she's going to be OK, right?"  "Yes, I think so, but she still has a long way to go."  Jack and I were reading a devotion on Naaman.  I can relate to the King of Israel, when he is sent the patient referral letter saying basically "here is my servant, heal him."  And the King says, who am I to heal anyone?  Yes!  Amen.  That's my life, referrals from hospitals that have hit their limits, parents who are desperate for hope, saying take this kid and make them well.  And lots of weeks that seems impossible, but this week we've seen some great progress.

Last fun story, on Wednesday afternoon in the midst of baby Blessing looking like dying and the usual press, I had a phone call from an unknown number.  It was an Ethiopian man who had come to Kijabe a few months ago because his wife was pregnant with quadruplets (IVF) and he wanted an affordable an safe place for her to deliver.  He talked to Scott, who showed him around and helped him with cost estimates.  And perhaps gave him my phone number. . . because somehow he was calling me to say that his wife was now 27 weeks and two of the four babies had died in utero, and could they come to deliver the other two?  I quickly made sure we could open up an incubator, and said YES.  Within two hours she had arrived from Nairobi.  The OB team admitted her to prepare, and Dr. Ari and Bob received these two beautiful babies, a boy and a girl.  At 27 weeks and less than 1000 grams we know they have about a 40% chance of survival here.  So please pray for them. Their mom has clearly been through a lot to get them here.

Meanwhile in Liberia, Scott did an emergency surgery on a lady with an ectopic pregnancy, and another CS on a 15 year old girl who was seizing by the time they got her on the operating table from a condition called ecclampsia, which put her life and the baby's at risk.  Not pretty, but both survived.  It is good for him to sense the purpose in being there.  Hopefully he'll give us more of the story by email.  (contact me at if you're not getting those and want to, and contact Serge at with your mailing address if you want our new photo prayer card in the post and you don't normally get our Christmas letters).

This weekend I am off, and Jack has two friends staying with us, so I'm trading in my stethoscope for baking cookies and making dinners.  And hopefully, some sleep.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Watching out for each other

Twenty-two years ago today, in a Baltimore hospital blanketed by snow, Luke Aylestock Myhre was born.  After losing three babies by miscarriage, then spending six weeks on strict bedrest waking up every 3 hours to swallow medicine, making trips to the emergency room to get IV fluids and slow down preterm labor, simply having a live baby (even a month premature) seemed like a huge accomplishment.  Within a minute of being born he was swept of to the NICU, where he perked up and his stay was mercifully short.  Nothing was simple.  I suppose the next 22 years were harder than those months of anxious bedrest and those hours of pain, but it really doesn't seem that way.  Because the big difference in the last 22 years is that we had an actual person to love and relate to, not just a wish.  A boy who exerted his will from the get-go, hated sleep, explored anywhere and read everything, saw through any pretense, caught any faulty logic and found any loophole, somehow managed to both tease/torture and loyally love his siblings, the animator and energizer of any group, with a solid heart for good and a strong leading path. (The photo is Luke holding Jack at Kijabe in 1998).  He missed the memo on how first-borns are supposed to support the status quo and follow the rules.  The world became a much more interesting place 22 years ago today.  And as his journey unfolds, we are thankful to be watching.

But watching from a distance, sadly.  I think the last time we spent a birthday together was when Caleb and I flew out to Kijabe for his 16th.  It was his first year of boarding school, and I made cinnamon rolls for the whole dorm for breakfast, and we climbed Longonot.

That premature baby had to become a premature adult in many ways. The fracturing of the family fosters independence, which is great.  And sad.

And, in tiny ways, redemptive.  We look for slivers of redemption in our deepest pain, believing that the ache signals a place where we feel the cross, and therefore where the cross is creating the all-things-new of the Kingdom.

This year, because we are continents apart, Luke had one of his best nights in med school yet.  His friends threw a surprise party for him and another classmate with a birthday.  I am grateful for those who extended kindness to make my son loved and welcome.  And because we are continents apart, when Jack told me two of his class mates had birthdays this weekend and their plan to visit one of their families fell through, we pulled a handful of Senior boys together for a gourmet grill-out and movie night.  I am thankful to care for other people's children, in gratefulness for the way other people care for mine.

Because that is community, after all, watching out for each other.  The boys above were born in four countries on three continents, but now they are fast friends.  And though I am only a small and peripheral part of their lives and those of other senior boys, I am thankful to bake, and teach them Sunday School, and cheer at their games, and make them breakfast every Sunday morning, and open our home for dinners and games and movies.  We all long for the connection that was lost in the Garden, and these moments give us tastes of the true belonging.

And that sense of pulling for other-people's-kids extends deeply into my work.  I was on call Saturday here at Kijabe, watching over three critically-ill intubated ICU babies, 22 others in the NICU, and another couple dozen on the Paeds floor, two admissions in the emergency room, and a handful of consults in the outpatient department.  I grabbed a few minutes to chat with L, the girl who was wasting away, and she smiled, which I took to be a pretty amazing sign.  Still a long way to go on the path from death to life.  Most of my day was spent agonizing over baby J, whose mother was nearly dying herself, who was born too early and whose lungs just were not working.  
Her bewildered dad simply said, please, can you do everything you can?  Yes, of course.  Over the course of the day there were slight turnings in the right direction, but it will be a miracle if she survives.  It is a weighty responsibility, the holding of other people's children, being the person to interpret every piece of data, the numbers and labs, the pallor of the skin, the squeaky resistance of the lungs, the limits that can be pushed and those that can't.  This weekend I was thankful to be consulting back and forth with our newest paediatrician, Dr. Ariana Shirk, who traded off with me this morning.  
This is Ariana with a visiting resident/physical therapist couple.  One of the joys of Kijabe is that it is a point of intersection, where people with a heart for Africa come to serve and learn, and where Africans are equipped.   
Best. Feeling. Ever.  The Sunday morning return to my house, turning off the pager for the day (note that the dog was hoping I would take her running, but I had to make chocolate-chip-raspberry-pecan pancakes for Sunday School . . . ).  This life as hostess, doc-on-call, solo responsible adult in the house, Serge rep for East Africa, and communication coordinator for a family of six in four time zones . . has been more tiring, more draining, than I anticipated.

And this month our caring for other people's kids extends across the continent.  Scott is on call today in Liberia.  Last night, a baby less than a week old died of tetanus.  This is an indirect ebola casualty.  When ebola spirals out of control, maternity services disintegrate, immunization programs are suspended.  And then babies die of horrible, painful, spasmodic, tortuous diseases like tetanus which are 100% preventable.  He has done one surgery to save a mother's life who had a ruptured uterus.  And he's been straining to listen and understand, donning protective gear to admit patients with fevers that could still be ebola (they haven't been, yet), agonizing over whether to put the in the ETU (ebola treatment unit) which could unnecessarily expose them to ebola, or in an isolation room on the regular ward which could unnecessarily expose others.  This graphic from The Economist explains why he is there:
Yes, there are more than a HUNDRED TIMES as many doctors per population in the US than Liberia.  

Watching out for these sweet little ones who can't ask anyone to help them, and thankful for those who watch out for my kids.  And those who watch out for me.  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

An early Lent

For 2015, I am using a nifty Lectionary app, that gives me Bible readings from Psalms, Old Testament, and New Testament, daily.  Though I was not raised in this tradition, I am appreciating the way that spirituality and season are tied together, the way that the year forms a template for redemptive history.  Monday, 2 of February, was a celebration of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  That made me look back into Leviticus and read the law.  40 days after birth, the mother and child bring a sacrifice, signaling the end of her post-partum period, a return to community and health.  Yes, it has been 40 days since Christmas already.  Because Joseph and Mary were poor, they did not have to buy a lamb, but used the provision for "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons."  This is the scene where Simeon recognizes the infant Jesus as a light for revelation for all people.  Then more ominously, he predicts that Jesus will bring division, opposition, a decision point for many, a way of revealing their hearts.  And lastly, he says to Mary, a sword will pierce your own soul too.

Is that not the way of this life, as a mother, a pilgrim, a struggler?  You see redemption coming, but a sword pierces your soul.  Because redemption is not a theoretical concept.  It is a process that is still unfolding the world over, and it involves people we love, and a piercing ache.

Scott landed last night in Monrovia, was picked up by one of the SIM ebola-survivor missionaries who is back for a month and whom he will replace this week.  He reached the ELWA hospital compound, in the dark, with the sound of the sea and the humid lingering dark heat.  Meanwhile a vaccine trial is going ahead in Liberia and Uganda, but a treatment trial of a new antiviral was suspended due to inadequate patient numbers.  Schools may reopen this month, as soon as chlorine buckets are organized.  Infection rates are slowing across the region, thank God, but as I read this morning, even one case is enough to spark a new surge of the epidemic.  Two British medical workers were evacuated after needle stick injuries.

So on the day that Epiphany blends towards ordinary time, I decided to move Lent up early.  Lent is a tradition I find meaningful, a period of fasting, prayer, meditation, preparation to remember and celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection.  Giving up something(s) that is not essential to life, that is a luxury or a crutch, is a daily/hourly reminder of our weakness and dependency.  As if I needed one more, on a day with a heart-crushing death (see below), entering into the story of a Somali-Kenyan teen who is skeletally thin for unclear reasons, scrambling to prepare for guests, listening to the poignant story of a new friend mourning her brother, a 9 pm mission-related virtual meeting, a late night with frustratingly slow internet trying to help my last son on his last college app way overdue, and the sinking pit of loneliness, I think I'm pretty aware of just how helpless I am.  But the other side of the coin of desperation is deliverance.  This two-month Lent, let us be alert to the hidden work of God. To impossible situations turning out well.  To celebration and hope, to open doors and new life.  The transition from fasting to celebration is prayer.  In our weakness, we ask.

Consider a Lent this year, a season of abstaining from something good for the purpose of growing in deeper awareness of depending on God's power to resurrect us.

A sword will pierce our souls, but we pray that the holy pain will heal, that the scar will be a reminder of glory.  

Monday, February 02, 2015

mourning and singing

Sitting in the ICU, entering baby G's death into the database.  The clinical facts belie the anguish of yesterday.  10 days old.  Severe infection, acid accumulating from poor perfusion, dehydration, seizures, struggle.  Yesterday at 5 pm I was sitting on this very bench to tell G's parents that he had died in the operating theatre where we had taken him to get a central line.  Fifteen minutes earlier I had been called by the surgeon to say that they were giving up on the procedure, and as I talked I realized they were telling me that they had stopped resuscitating the child.  I rushed there to find the head anesthesiologist walking away, G's stiff cool pale body bruised and still. Failure.  His mother has two teens, but has now lost three infants in a row, at 1, 5, and 1.5 weeks of age, over the last five years.

The surgeon calmly and kindly explained what had happened in the theatre, how his heart had slowed and stopped, how they had struggled over and over to bring him back, the medicines they had given.  "Oh, Jesus, WHY?" his mother wailed.  "Why me?"  She collapsed onto the floor in agony.  Those moments are the hardest for me.  I had seen the baby that morning and recognized his condition was potentially fatal, in spite of lots of fluids and antibiotics over the 36 hours he'd been admitted in the nursery. We had brought him to ICU, increased his respiratory support, adjusted his antibiotics and fluids, added another antiviral drug, checked an arterial blood gas, arranged for a donor to give blood, and for a more reliable IV line to give it.  I honestly thought we were going to save him, because he was responding to the therapy, his kidneys starting to work.  So the surgeon's call and the mother's grief knocked the wind out of me too.  What do you say to a woman who is crying over the third infant to die in a row?

This is a point of weakness, emptiness, wordlessness.  I held her hand, rubbed her back, talked to her, prayed for her.  Then the words I had read that very morning came back to me, from Hebrews 2.  Jesus shared in our flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  Jesus walked right here, in this situation of heartrending loss, of years of anxious fear in facing multiple deaths.  And he did it in order to destroy death itself.

 Today as I enter the codes in each column, I hear angelic singing from outside my window, the harmony of hymns in Kenyan voices.  I am near the School of Nursing, and they took exams last week, so I look out expecting a graduation.  Instead I see a funeral, clusters of people standing near the morgue, singing.

The paradox, mourning and singing, all at once.  Death conquered, death present.  Jesus near the brokenhearted, but the hearts still broken.  Eternal truth of hope and reunion and coming home, but a present ache and loss all the same.