Mark has been exceptionally busy this last week. He has had two women with ruptured uteruses and dead babies due to prolonged labors at home, several sad cases of advanced breast cancer, tuberculosis, and many high risk deliveries. He is also preparing a chapel sermon on prayer. Wow…the timing for that sermon is perfect. As you know, we have been coveting your prayers for Dr. Gray. We thank you for your encouraging emails. We know you are behind us and that helps us to keep going. As I said, this has been a difficult week. Today, because Mark is so busy, I’m writing the newsletter to tell you about one of his heartbreaking cases.
Allison speaking: My heart is breaking. Today Mark delivered twin baby boys from the young mother who is paralyzed from the chest down. We had hoped that she could make it another week or two but she went into labor this morning. Why is my heart breaking this time? We see so much tragedy here one might think that we become immune to poverty, sickness and injustice. And sometimes it seems that we do. But God has a way of breaking our hearts and remolding them, creating a vulnerability that can be painful yet healing. This patient, named Tamanyn, which means honest, came to the hospital approximately 5 weeks ago. She had experienced severe back pain in her upper spine and then lost all feeling and movement from the chest down. But getting to our hospital isn’t quite as easy as driving across town on a fast interstate highway. She had to be carried from her tiny thatched house, into the village and down the rocky mountainside to the small town where they took a crowded taxi 250 Kms. to our hospital.
Now backspace one week. Sara, the chaplain, and I went to visit Tamanyn last Thursday. Because she is a country girl from a distant tribe, she only speaks her native language. But even though she could not speak Amharic, her beautiful smile spoke volumes. Her husband translated as we told her that we wanted to spend some time praying for her healing and for the babies. We made her comfortable (she needs help just turning over or moving in her bed) and then anointed her with oil and began to pray. I wish I could say there was a miraculous healing but there wasn’t.
On Tuesday Tamanyn went into spontaneous labor and delivered the twins by Cesarean section. In the states when our babies are born we have baby showers and baby gifts. It is not uncommon for our beloved children to have enough newborn clothes to never wear an outfit twice. Tamanyn and her husband are desperately poor. They are being sustained by our maternal benevolent fund. These perfect twin boys had absolutely nothing to wear. Not a diaper, not a shirt, not a blanket. Nothing!
When Mark told me the babies had been delivered I went into town to purchase some clothing for them. My Muslim student, Semira and I went to several shops looking for anything that would fit newborn twins. The pickings were slim. We bought four outfits, some rubber pants, baby lotion and soap. When I got home we packed a box with the new clothes, two baby blue blankets from Muskegon High School and two little baby blue hats knitted by one of our supporters. We also tucked in some cookies, oranges and juice boxes and headed up to ICU. Every bed was full so the ward was teaming with visitors. There are no walls or drapes in ICU. All patients, male, female, babies and children are in one large room. Our patient was in the last bed. She was lying flat on her back, still sleepy from her general anesthetic. Her husband stood quietly by the bed. She smiled when she saw me. I bent down and kissed her softly on the forehead. “They are beautiful,” I told her. I walked around the bed to the bassinet where the little boys lay completely naked under the faded surgical drapes. They were sound asleep, facing each other, oblivious to the cruel world that awaited them. I gently peeled back the drapes from their faces so I could have a look at these sweet babies. “They look like you,” I said to the husband. He smiled. They asked me to pray. I choked back the tears as the reality of their future slammed into me. She is a paralyzed country woman, uneducated, with twin boys to raise. It’s one thing to use a wheelchair on the sidewalks at Soddo Christian Hospital. It is quite another thing, however, to negotiate rocky mountain trails, uneven dirt floors and grass paths.
Today the gardeners and I took a donated wheel chair out of one of our hospital storage containers and brought it to Tamenyn and her husband. It is sitting in the corner of her room, a stark reminder of her paralysis. We continue to pray for complete healing. Yesterday Mark started her on high doses of steroids. He had to wait until the babies were born to begin this treatment. He is also treating her for tuberculosis. We will wait and see and hope…but in the meantime, please join us as we continue to pray that she will walk again.
Mark and Allison