Long Day

Today was actually a pretty good day. I woke up, had personal devotion and then prayer with my wife (something that husbands as priests and heads of the household should strive to do). Today was Dr. Ang’s last day in the OT (operating theater as they like to call it here; we call it the OR) before he leaves for his yearly furlough. We were taken on a tour of the OT by George, the scrub nurse.  Their operating room really isn’t all that bad. As I observed the surgeries I noticed things that they just had to deal with due to a lack of resources. For example: 1) Dr. Ang needed a certain suture but they didn’t have it 2: also the scissors they gave him had been in use for so many years that it couldn’t even cut the suture thread 3) They ran out of scalpel handles, so with a clamp and scalpel blade, they clamped the scalpel blade and made a makeshift scalpel 4) They have to sterilize and reuse lumbar puncture syringes, etc. etc.

Today was lecture day, where Dr. Ang made a presentation to the clinical officers and the nursing students on the topic of an acute abdomen. The story Dr. Ang told us about one of the acute abdomen patients that came in was quite amazing. Here is what I remember:

A woman named Mary wakes up with severe pain in her abdomen; she definitely needs to go to the hospital. She lives in Chipata (a nice sized city) so her husband got ready to take her to Chipata General Hospital. HIs wife however absolutely refused. She told her husband that she wanted to go to Mwami Adventist Hospital. This request was quite unreasonable because Mwami was a 40 minute drive away on a dirt road, with no lights, with potholes so terrible it would make a New Yorker cry. The husband tried to reason with her, but she said, “No! I am very sick…if I go to Chipata General Hospital I may die, but if I go to Mwami I know I will wake up after the surgery.”

So they took off; by the time she arrive to Mwami she was almost completely pale (they could tell that she was bleeding out somewhere). When they opened her up her abdomen was filled with blood from an ectopic pregnancy. There was about 3 L of blood inside her abdomen. Her blood was type O positive and Mwami’s blood bank was out of her type and Chipata’s blood bank was closed. She was losing blood too quickly so what they did was they sucked the blood out of her abdomen, then they poured the blood through a gauze into another container. They then sucked the filtered blood into a syringe and pushed it right back into her veins. This worked for awhile (as they operated) but she wasn’t going to last til daylight unless she got more blood. Dr. Ang remember that he was also type O, so he left during the surgery and gave a liter of blood. This gave her enough volume to last until the morning when the Chipata blood bank opened.

She did survive and I think this was a testimony to all medical students, physicians, and nurses that God can do amazing things through you when you serve him. Chipata General Hospital was much newer and closer, but Mary knew that God was guiding the surgeon’s hands at Mwami.

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At 23:45 ours my cell phone started to ring. I couldn’t understand why my parents were calling so late so I just ended the call. At 24:47 my cell phone rang again…I actually looked at the phone and realized it was a Zambian number. I had forgotten that I gave the nurses my number and told them to call me if any cases popped up. My wife asked me whether I was going to go in. I replied much to harshly and sarcastically, “Does it look like I’m going in? I’m tired.” She bore with me and encouraged me to go. Eventually we both rolled out of bed and went to the hospital. The patient, a young mother, couldn’t deliver because her pelvis was too small, so she needed a C-section to save the baby. It was my first time viewing one and it was truly amazing. You can view the video here:

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At about 0:57 hours when the surgery was done my wife and i started to walk back to our guesthouse. Dr. Ang however told us to wait because he would drop us home; he just needed to finish a chart in the office. He was in there a long time so I decided to go to his office and tell him that we were going to just walk back. When I walked in, Dr. Ang was listening to Mr. Myembe talk. As I walked in, Mr. Myemba was saying, “Doc, I just can’t take it anymore. Just give me enough meds so I can die.” He was in constant pain all the time; you see Mr. Myembe (a life long Adventist Christian and clinical officer at Mwami for 32 Years) had been diagnosed with autoimmune chronic pacreatitis 4 years ago. He was truly slowly and very painfully dying. To be honest, I was very tired and I just wanted to go to bed. Not wanting to really interrupt I closed the door to Dr. Ang’s office and proceeded to leave. However I only walked away about 10 steps before I couldn’t continue. The Lord had been truly speaking to me through the book, Jesus, M.D. I just knew that if the Great Physician was there that He wouldn’t have left that room. To be like Him, I too needed to be sensitive to human suffering. My wife and I walked back into the room, sat on the couch with him, and put our arms around Mr. Myembe.

Mr. Myemba was truly have a Job experience. He had been an active Christian for just about his whole life. He never smoked or drunk his entire life. He had only been with one woman his whole life and that was his wife. He had faithfully worked at Mwami for 32 years winning many souls to Christ. At his home he had a huge farm with vast acres of bananas and orange trees and all other sorts of fruits and vegetables; the farm brought in good money too. Four years ago, just when he was about to start a doctorate he came down with the autoimmune pancreatitis. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t work at Mwami or at his farm, so all the fruit trees and vegetables and cattle died (working the farm was his main hobby). Medical bills were rising so he decided to take all of his money out of his savings. When he went to the bank, the bank said that someone had already withdrawn all the money out. Everything seemed okay on their end so the bank sent him away. After Mr. Myembe finished telling me all of this he asked me, “Doctor, I have tried all my life to serve God completely and live a life that is acceptable to Him. What did I do to deserve this?”

I looked at my wife and she was speechless; I looked at Dr. Ang and he was quiet. I didn’t know what to really say either. I mean I had honor my Behavior Medicine class so I should be able to figure out something right? But real life practice is much different than class. I asked him if he had heard of the story of Job. “Yes I’ve heard of it,” he replied, “I’ve heard and know all the stories in the Bible and I can recite them for you.” The Lord spoke to me and told me to be silent. You know, sometimes the best comfort you can give someone is a loving arm and your silent company. So I listened to him; he talked about his lost hope and his despair. He just wanted Dr. Ang to give him enough meds so he could die. He didn’t understand why some were lucky to get sick and then die 2 hours later Why did he have to continually suffer? What was he to learn from this? Is this how God repays his servants? As in the story of Job, he knew that he wasn’t with God when he made the heavens and earth, so he knew he had no right to think that God’s ways were unfair. He knew that he couldn’t understand God’s actions all the time, but he just wanted to know how could a God who claimed to love him allow this to happen?

In cases like this you have to get to the soul of the matter. Does the patient know that God loves them? Does the patient still love God? You can’t end the conversation without addressing these issues because if they don’t love God, they won’t be happy to see Him when He comes back. So we comforted him, shared our love and empathy (empathy is most important here), and encouraged him not to end his life. Dr. Ang, my wife, and I prayed with Mr. Myembe and then we departed. (He was admitted and given pain meds too).

If I had been my normal selfish self, I would not have gotten out of bed tonight and I definitely wouldn’t have stayed with Mr. Myembe. But I didn’t, and I was blessed much more than any sleep I lost. We must remember to always emulate the Great Physician. He was always on call, and always interupptible. His sleep and his eating schedule could wait if it was for a soul in need. Let us strive to emulate the Greatest Attending that ever lived.

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