“Mouaaaaaahhhhhhhh…, Mouuuuuaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.” The patient laying on the ground in front of me was coming out of yet another hypoglycemic coma. She arched her back. Her tongue stuck out. Her eyes were rolling around doing crazy things. If I didn’t know anything medical I may have thought she was Devil possessed too. I do believe in Devil possession.
But this was not that.
I’ve seen this many times with the families here. A patient is sick. They get worse. Their family gives up and decides the medical treatment isn’t working and would rather go to the Marabout (witch doctor). This family was no different. Already today I had diagnosed her hypoglycemia by listening to her history and looking at her.
I noticed four small cuts on her forehead. There were some dried herbs that had been crushed up and mixed with water and sprinkled over the patient’s face and neck. I’d seen it before. I wasn’t naive. This was definitely not God-driven. This had it’s origins in curses and non-God-centered spirits.
I got upset. I yelled. I told the family they could chose our hospital, which was centered around believing in God, or go to their witch doctor. Not both.
After she awoke again with our glucose drip, the family agreed to stay and not do anymore witch doctor stuff. Still she was very sick.
I don’t speak Nangere, but I can understand certain words and phrases. I overheard them saying that they were ready to take her home. The nurse was also translating certain things to me in french.
I got really mad. This girl, Honorine, can live! She just needs a little TLC. Her crazy movements were from her actually getting better and coming out of her deeper coma each time I gave her more glucose.
I spoke to her father. He had his excuses, “Where would we bury her if she died here? How would I get her home?”
I replied, “You are worried about the dead. I am worried about the living!”
I told her big sister that if she stole her in the night I would call the police! She replied with, “Bring me to the police, You are not keeping her here! She is Devil-possessed! Look at her!” This made me even more mad. No one was respecting me. They knew her sickness more than me supposedly.
I kicked out all of the family members. I told them all to leave. Several of them weren’t listening, they just stared at me when they clearly understood! So I started shoving them out of the door. I called the guard. He helped me get them out. I told them they had to leave the hospital compound. Somehow, though they always find a way of getting back in! I locked the doors and told the nurse to not let anyone in! I decided I was going to have to take her to my house.
This was a full sized 8-month-pregnant woman! How was I going to get her home? I was going to have to use the stretcher. My kids were already in bed and asleep at home with my mom babysitting since Olen was in NDJ. Maybe this was a bad idea. This girl has gone diarrhea several times on herself. Where was I going to put her? Right in the middle of my living room? I imagined what I was going to do with her. Watch her drip. Open it wider when needed. But if one night of this could make her live, I was going to do it.
I came home to get the OR keys so I could get the stretcher. I was so exhausted from yelling and kicking everyone out at the hospital. How was I going to stay up the whole night and work the next day too? Mom was in the living room and said she would watch the patient if I needed her to. I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I needed guidance. I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, please help me know what is the best thing to do. Should I bring her home? Should I let them go?”
I had left the hospital very annoyed and upset. How could I care more about Honorine than her own family? They didn’t seem to care to give her a chance to live. Clearly she kept getting better with the glucose drip.
I went back up to the hospital with peace. This was not my battle. It was God’s.
There was a big group still standing around the outside of the maternity area. The guard was there. I very calmly asked who was the one person who was responsible for Honorine.
“I am,” said her father-in law who was a very young-looking man. He had actually been the reasonable one all along.
“Thank you,” I said. “Now can you please pick two other people who you would like to also be responsible.” He said he would like her father and mother, and his wife. “Well that’s three, but okay.” Everyone else has to leave, please.
I did my best to get the rest to leave, but still, it was extremely difficult.
Right then and there we sat down and discussed their fears and ideas. I discussed my fears and ideas.
Their fears and ideas were that Honorine was sick with a curse. If they did not get her to the witch doctor in time, she would die. My fears were that she had hypoglycemia. If the family took her away, she would die. I argued my side. They argued their side. It was mostly her father speaking. He clearly cared for her, but he was so concerned that she had a curse. He even claimed to be a Christian, but he clearly trusted the curse over God.
The story is that someone stole some money. They bought some food with it. Honorine was the first person who ate this food that was bought with stolen money. That’s why she was sick. I’ve heard this story multiple times. It’s a well known fact around here. If you don’t pay the witch doctor to remove the curse, you will die.
So I asked the father why was the witch doctor hiding? Why didn’t he come out here and reveal himself? Why was I publicly stating my side? I am not afraid of the witch doctor. I know my God is more powerful! If it was a curse, why did my medicine work on her? All of this was translated into Nangere from French.
After a long discussion, they agreed to stay. They agreed to have all of the other family members leave in the morning. So I agreed to leave her in the delivery room area.
That morning atI got called in because she wasn’t doing well. I revived her with D5 and she awoke somewhat. Still she wasn’t talking. One of my friends had written and suggested I try something new. My sweet husband had brought back several small containers of the most yummy frosting you have ever eaten. So I became a big girl and decided to share some.
I put some on my finger and shoved it between her lips. I didn’t want to give too much because she had been vomiting. I had thought about an NG tube with sugar water, but the vomiting deterred me. This yummy frosting seemed to do the trick! She sucked it off of my finger. She was alert enough to do that! Still, she was very sick. She had a very high fever, so we gave her IV Tylenol.
I told the nurse to give her some often.
I went home. I asked God for guidance on whether to do a c-section or not. Maybe taking away the pregnancy would help her glucose control? God, please just show me what to do.
When I came in to do rounds I noticed there was a new young man who was also a family member. He was mumbling stuff about N’Djamena and leaving. Suddenly the girl’s father also wanted to leave again.
“Seriously! This new young man comes and you want to leave again? Be a man!” Why are there so MANY family members still here? “You promised there would only be you four in the morning,”
I forced the new young man to leave because he was just stirring up the family to take her to the witch doctor in their village or to another hospital (um, ya).
Back with the patient, I opened the glucose drip again. She came to and when I offered frosting, she actually opened her mouth. She grunted when the family asked if I was the Nasara. Since there was now a nursing student there, I told him his only orders today were to give my patient frosting every 20 minutes. He did a great job! He faithfully wrote down each time he gave her frosting every 20 minutes. During my day, I kept coming back to check on her, making sure the family did not take her away. She still was pretty comatose, but awake just enough to suck down some frosting. She vomited a few times, but kept most of it down.
That night I put the kids in bed. Then I went to check on Honorine.
I walked in the delivery room area and Honorine was SITTING up! There were several (way too many) family members gathered around her. She was greeting them. I was in shock to see her NOT DEAD! “Wow! It’s a miracle”, I said! “Merci à Dieu! (Thanks be to God!)”
Her whole family was in awe she was alive and were grateful to God for his healing. It was clearly not the witch doctor who healed her. She greeted me and shook my hand. Then, all I could do was stare at her… in awe of God’s miracle.
She continued to recover. The next day she went into preterm labor and delivered very quickly a 2kg (4lb, 7oz) baby boy. He didn’t cry right away, and, even though he was big enough, he didn’t seem like he was going to live. We put him on antibiotics with D5 and taught the family how to do skin to skin to keep him warm. I really didn’t expect him to live. It seems like in Chad, you can’t have too many happy endings. There’s always a little sadness. And it seemed like this little baby boy was going to die.
But today on postpartum day 1… Both mom and baby are doing well! He was actually breastfeeding today. And crying! And mom is eating! And hasn’t fallen into a coma for 36 hrs now (since Friday night).
It’s a miracle from God.
And… vanilla frosting is not always unhealthy!