Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dragons Slayed

I guess I kinda owe everybody an update on our situation and my dragon-slaying wife.

Thursday morning, the Prefet sent word via the district medical officer that he would be calling his brother, the prime minister, and asking him to call the American ambassador, requesting we be removed from Tchad.

When my wife heard this, she went back on her strike. But she felt bad for the ladies on the maternity ward, so she went and did rounds on her 16 patients. But she kinda then felt bad for the post-op patients, so she rounded on those 12 patients too. Well, and there were two elective surgeries that where waiting, so she did those too. Well, and she was presented four more patients needing elective surgery, so she lined them up for Friday.

Then today, she rounded on maternity and surgery again and then goes and performs five surgeries and consults a million more, getting home about 6pm on her strike day. (Her last patient came from Cameroon.)

Should you ever need a labor union leader... She is not the one you want.  Her compassion, in the face of the most torrid and unfounded accusations of racism, thievery, incompetence and deceit, awes and humbles me.

Thursday, after hearing the Prefet would have the ambassador throw us out, I went rapidly to the hospital to grab my computer. Trying to make a quick escape home, I was stopped by a young man running after me.

He came from twelve hours away, taking multiple busses over dirt roads. I had been so mad, I didn't go to the hospital the day before. He had been waiting for me at the hospital for three days. I asked him what he wanted. He said, "Nothing." I've been in Tchad six years, everybody always wants something.

He had come to see me a few weeks prior. I had written some medicines for him and sent him home. He went the twelve hours home. Then he decided to come back and see me again. His chest pain, his cough, his fatigue... It was all gone. He was gaining weight again. I asked him why he had come back. He said he simply wanted to say, "Thank you." He had tried all the other hospitals, but this was the one, I was the doctor, that had cured him.

I left him and headed home again. Once again, before I could reach the safety of my front gate (we live on the hospital compound), a nurse from the ER got me. He had a fist full of medical booklets. He had patients he wanted me to see.

The first was a Muslim lady with her head covered. She had a bellyache. Literally. I wrote for some medicines. She and her husband told me they had spent twelve hours on multiple busses to come see me. They too had waited a few days to see me. The lady uncovered her head so I could see her eyes. They were welling up. Her husband began to speak. They had heard about the Prefet's threats. They wanted to personally apologize for the words of another and beg me not to leave Tchad. Who would take care of them? They thanked me repeatedly.

The next patient was the same story. Another twelve hour trip on multiple busses. Sorry about the grief the authorities are giving you. Please don't leave.

When I finished in the ER, the nurse from medicine caught me and begged me to see her patients. I have never said no to a nurse asking me to see a patient, so I suppose I shouldn't start now.

I rounded on medicine. Patient after patient grabbed my hand and thanked me and asked me to stay.

By the time rounds were finished, all I could do was to nod my head and grunt, afraid anything more and my voice might betray my emotions.

Later last night, my church elder came to my door to beg me not to leave. While speaking with the church elder, Danae went up to check on a patient. (She's the world's worst striker.)

Danae came back and said a nurse took her in private and begged her to stay. That wasn't surprising. What's surprising is it was the nurse we thought didn't even like us!

So while we remain threatened by silly people for silly and unfounded things, we have been sent encouragers. We have been told that we matter. We have been told we make a difference. We have been told we help. We have been told we are wanted.

And while we don't work for human accolades... It helps.

So we don't know yet what will become of us... But it's Friday night here, which is our Sabbath, our day of rest. Our day to put all our troubles behind us.

Why worry about tomorrow, what I will eat or what I will drink? Sufficient were the troubles of today.

For those of you who are the praying type, feel free to keep us in your prayers as things play out this next week.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


My wife is a dragon-slayer. Let me tell you why...

Yesterday was a bad day. Our leading local authority accused us publicly of killing patients with expired medicines, accused our surgeon of killing patients because he's too old (anybody who's spent a day in the OR with him would scoff at the thought) and that our surgeon could be replaced with somebody two years out of high school who could do a better job, accused us of being here for the money, and accused us of being racist, using the local equivalent of "nigger". Then he lectured us on the Ten Commandments.

My wife was distraught. We fought, built, sent people to school, sacrificed paycheck and status and professional advancement, time with family. We have seen all four of our kids suffer from malaria. We have watched our son seize with malaria. We have stayed up innumerable nights watching our kids get IV quinine. We have vomited more in the last six years than in the first 31. We have sobbed, we have bled, we have sweat. We live in a tiny house, rarely less than 95 degrees inside. Our electricity and our plumbing is spotty. None of this will ever make us leave the mission field.

But now to be accused of this, my wife was done. We talked about packing up and leaving last night. We talked about going on strike and only treating the urgent cases that arrive. We were at our lowest. We prayed.

This morning I woke up to my wife cuddling hard against me, despite the heat. I thought maybe she needed some emotional reassurance. It turned out she needed to feel warm. She began to shiver violently. She was burning up. She has malaria. She is nauseated, but she is taking her pills. She is dizzy, but she is drinking a little water and eating canned peaches.

We prayed. We read Luke 12. My wife went back to bed.

A nurse knocked on the door. The midwife. I told Danae. Danae said she was on strike. I got the story of a woman who delivered at home three days ago, was bleeding from multiple vaginal lacerations and one torn into her urethra, and the nurse couldn't fix it. Her hemoglobin was three.

I relayed the story to Danae, who told them to apply pressure. The midwife went back to work.

Minutes later, Danae came out of the bedroom. She didn't even put on her scrubs. She went up to the hospital. She stopped the bleeding. She saved a life.

She came home and put on her scrubs. I asked her what happened to the strike. She explained to me there was a man with a non-urgent hernia waiting for surgery. But he had been waiting for three days. She felt badly for him.

Then there was an older woman needing a hysterectomy. It's a big surgery. My wife has malaria. And an extremely heavy heart. The sickness is causing the old woman to be in pain. It's nothing that will ever kill her. But Danae sees her. Danae agrees to do the surgery today. Another non-urgent surgery. While Danae has malaria. And while people are saying she's a racist. And while people are saying she's here for the money, she is off doing a hysterectomy for $80, 100% of which goes to the hospital. Not a single dime from this surgery will ever end up in Danae's pocket. And while people are saying she's killing patients. She doesn't care. She knows the truth.

And she knows this woman is innocent. Just another old woman in pain. From something Danae can fix. If they are in pain, and Danae can fix it, Danae will fix it, regardless how the world may be falling around her.

This is my wife. This is my hero. From the first day I met her. She has not changed.

I don't know if we will stay in Tchad or not. But it doesn't really matter. If people want us here, we will stay. If they don't, we won't.

It doesn't matter because my wife has already proven that her love beats the pants off whatever it is you have.

She has slain your dragon. And she will slay them all.

Because that's what she is.

My wife is a dragon-slayer.