Monday, August 14, 2017

Learning from a little girl

August 14, 2017
Jenina in August 2017

Some of you have followed the story of my 5-year old patient Jenina, a little girl with nephrotic syndrome (protein losing urinary disease) who has been in the hospital since January.  Young Jenina went home today!  She is such a special little girl with a beautiful voice and faith in Jesus.  She loves to braid hair and dress up.  It took her about 5minutes to prepare herself to take this picture.  In Swahili she sang to me this past week, “He gives and takes away.  May the name of the Lord be praised.  He is good.” 

I asked the family if I could share her story.    The family was willing to stay in the hospital (even 6 months) if it meant another chance at life.  We tried multiple drugs, including tuberculosis therapy and a kind of chemotherapy.  We did everything short of a renal biopsy as pathology is just not available in this part of the world.  I will probably never know exactly what kind of kidney disease she has, but as is so often in this part of the world, you try various things and you watch closely.  The immunosuppressive medication called tacrolimus traveled around the world from India, to the US, to Congo to help control her disease.  It seems to have helped.  We finally got her dose of steroids down to a manageable level and will come back to see me in a month.  It is a small victory.  Is she cured of her disease?  Not yet, but it is manageable.  I want her to have the best quality of life possible.  May the name of the Lord be praised.
Jenna in January 2017
They agreed that this would be good.  The family thought Jenina was not going to survive as her body was so swollen and she had no energy.

This little girl touched my life and taught me several things. 

-She reminded me the importance of love in medicine.
-She reminded me to be patient when looking for the best therapy and to not give up.
-She taught me to push the limits of what is possible medically, even out here in Congo.
-She reminded me that children experience the love of God very tangibly and this is often how they come to know Jesus.
-She reminded me how important it is to give thanks to God in all things and to share our stories with others.

Our family is leaving tomorrow with our friends for a little safari vacation in western Uganda.  We have been looking forward to this time all summer.  Unfortunately, both Warren and Emmanuel came down with malaria this past weekend so we have been recovering.  I need a break from clinical medicine and to think about other things for a while.  It is really important to get a break.  We will also be acquiring some medical supplies and equipment for the hospital during our time in Uganda. 

THANK YOU so much to all of you who have responded so generously to the work of Nyankunde Hospital during this time of crisis.  God has used you to bless us and remind us of His faithfulness.  We will keep you updated on what we have been able to accomplish.  Keep praying for our hospital and ministry. 

Many blessings,

Lindsey (for the Coopers)

Warren roasting coffee on his forge

Catching butterflies

Lots of hospital projects...a walkway through the rain

Love his curls!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pole pole, slowly slowly

August 4th, 2017

Today I went to a funeral of one of “my kids” from the nutrition program.  This one hit me especially hard, as the child is related to our nanny.  We have lost a lot of kids lately.  I happens every July/August and every year I block it out of my memory.  Every year.  It always knocks the wind out of me.

I sat in the family’s home with the little boy’s still body for about 1.5hours.  We sat quietly, waiting, waiting with the mother and grandmother and aunts.  Visitors came in and out to simply sit and be together.  I brought a blue hydrangea and tropical flower bouquet.  Very few words were exchanged.  There was a certain peace in the waiting.  I prayed silently for the mother, for consolation, for peace, for her heart.  I prayed for the father.  I cried.  I had time to think about a lot of things.  I told God, “I think I need another job?  This is just too hard.”

The hardest moments were when the mother had to be separated from her child.  At one point she had to say “goodbye” to his physical body and I could just feel her pain.  She wanted to keep him, but he was already gone.  She had to accept that all she would be left with was memories.  As a mother, I felt it so deeply, more deeply than I ever have before.  There is something so final about death.  As his body was lowered into the ground, she fled, simply couldn’t handle watching the men bury him.  Her little boy would not come back.

Friends and family came just to be present, to witness, to pray, to sing, and to consider the value of a 16month old child.  There was a certain beauty in that.  I was reminded that Jesus wept with those who wept and rejoiced with those who rejoiced.  There is a time to speak and a time to remain quiet.  There really is a time for everything. 

There is a Swahili saying here, “pole pole,” that is so appropriate.  It means “slowly slowly” and you can say it in almost any context.  We need to slow down.  We need take time to notice things…notice other people…notice our feelings.  We need to notice the sunset (or sunrise if you are an early riser).  We need to simply observe the passage of time.  Funerals have a way of causing us to pause.  

Hug your loved ones today and let them know what they mean to you.  August 4th has come to a close.