December was a tough month. Work was busy. Acuity was high. Our friends, the Barriers, were home for the holiday. Praise God that my parents were here with us. It was such a blessing to have them here for Christmas, to not be isolated from family and friends. And equally important, Mom was able to watch Cathen while Lindsay and Dad and I worked at the hospital. We would not have been able to take adequate care of the patients without their help. Also, what a cool experience to be able to work side-by-side with my Dad at the hospital. Not every son has the pleasure of working alongside and learning from his father.
Mom and Dad have gone home, and the Barriers have returned. Cathen is thrilled that Isaac is back. The hospital has also slowed down, but the acuity of the inpatients still remains high. We’ve lost a number of patients these past few days. One in particular stands out:
A 7-month old little girl showed up with a history of recurrent bloody stools. She had been seen about a month previously at an outside facility where they gave her a blood transfusion because her hemoglobin was ~5. She then came to Mbingo because she was again having profusely bloody stools. A quick exam was enough to show me that we were not able to save this girl. She showed all the clinical signs of liver failure – massive abdominal distension, ascites, jaundice and scleral icterus, caput medusa, coagulopathy with bloody stools, and esophageal varices with hematemesis, and hypoglycemia. She had an ultrasound that could not identify the biliary tree – likely biliary atresia, a congenital disorder that has minimal success with surgical correction, and typically requires a liver transplant. That is not an option here in Cameroon.
I talked with Mom, explained that the girl was born with a very serious problem and that we could not heal her. She asked to be discharged home to be with family when the girl finally passed. Before leaving, I asked to pray with her and for her daughter, Leila. I asked that God would provide both the girl and the family with comfort, that she would not suffer, and that their last minutes, hours, even days together would be a sweet time. The mother expressed her gratitude for the prayer. Our Pediatrics ward chaplain, Elias, was there with me, and as I was leaving, he asked me to look up Isaiah 57:1-2. He told me that this was a verse he liked to share with families suffering an early and unexpected loss of a child.
“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” - Isaiah 57:1-2