December 22, 2013
Greetings from sunny Soddo!
We send our warmest Christmas greetings, hoping that you are enjoying the hustle and bustle of the season but also finding the time to enjoy your families and spend some quiet moments reflecting on God’s amazing gift to us, his Son Jesus Christ.
The sun rises and sets at 6:15 and the world continues here virtually untouched by the Western Christmas flurry. The Orthodox Christmas, (Gena) is observed here next month on January 7. It is a spiritual holiday celebrated by attending church and spending time with family. However, we have managed to import a little American Christmas cheer into our home by putting up a little ‘Charlie Brown’ cedar tree on our coffee table. We put some little 220 white lights on the tree, brought to us from Simone when she went to Germany, but the wispy tree needed a little help to stand tall. In the Karnes’ Christmas tree tradition, Mark tied some fishing line from the tree to the window sill. Allison made some red bows and dried some orange slices with cloves and it doesn’t look too shabby. Well, compared to the pictures we are seeing of your trees you might not agree:) Allison had our hospital welder make some metal rings and she and Jackie Anderson created some attractive Christmas wreaths with the pine and cedar available in this country. We also strung some white lights on the front porch and our Ethiopians friends seem to love the festivity. With some Christmas music piped in from ‘You Tube’ (YES! We can stream You Tube!) and some traditional cookies we are doing quite nicely. On Monday we will leave for Addis Abba to celebrate Mark’s birthday and Christmas with Joshua and his family. We still cannot believe our tremendous blessing having the kids here in the country. And to make it even more special…Miriam and her three children arrive on Saturday for a 6 week stay. If that isn’t enough Christmas cheer, Kebede, Dr. Stephanie Hail’s new husband, will arrive, God willing with his American Visa in hand, in Chicago on Christmas Eve!
I wanted to share a couple of stories with you. Ten days ago an acutely ill mother of five children was brought to our hospital. Her youngest child was age 3. She had a rapid heart rate of 140 beats a minute. She was also anemic with an enlarged uterus. She had not had a period for five months and her pregnancy test was positive. However, the ultrasound revealed no fetus present and a cystic mass filling her uterus. The diagnosis was another molar pregnancy. This was my fourth in as many months. This time, the molar pregnancy was causing hyperthyroidism. The cure is surgery but she was too ill. Just two months earlier we had lost a mother to a molar pregnancy. This patient, however, had good kidney function but she was vomiting continuously. Before we could do surgery we had to reduce her heart rate. This was done by giving her blood and starting her on anti-thyroid medication. If we went straight to surgery she would have died from a condition called thyroid storm. The molar tissue was creating her elevated thyroid hormone levels. We started her on PTU to lower her thyroid levels and a Beta blocker, Atenelol, to lower her heart rate. It was tedious treatment and by day four her husband decided he needed to take her home to die. We had to beg and plead with him not to take her home but to give us a chance. By the next day her heart rate slowed down to 120. The following day it was 110 and the next day 100. At that point we took her to surgery and performed a hysterectomy under spinal anesthesia. She lost a fair amount of blood during the surgery but we had no complications regarding her thyroid and heart. After removing the tumor she dramatically improved. Below is her picture. She is the woman on the left. We will continue her on anti-thyroid drugs for awhile but eventually they will be discontinued. Her husband beams and greets me warmly each day.
On Friday I had such a sweet experience. A little over two months ago a woman brought her baby boy to our hospital. She had just delivered 28 week (3 months early) twins at the local government hospital. His little sister had died but we were hopeful we could save his life. He weighed 900 grams (just a little under 2 lbs.). He was started on IV’s and kept warm in an incubator and started on antibiotics. An NG tube was later inserted in his stomach. God spared his life and his weight is now 2 kg. (4.4 lbs). He still has an NG tube but he is breast feeding and doing very well. It was time for him to go home. To celebrate his release from the hospital they wanted to have a coffee ceremony for our staff to thank them. Their small hospital room was crowded but what a joyful experience we had eating bread, bekolo (roasted barley) and drinking coffee together with the Wolaitta traditional butter added for flavor. They said they wanted to thank God for saving their baby’s life and asked if I would name him. I suggested the name Bekalo, who also happens to be our head midwife. The meaning is ‘the word from God.’ We prayed for him that God’s word would dwell in him and the spirit of God would also live within him. It was such a sweet time of fellowship together.
We close this wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas. Thank you for your prayers for us and this ministry. Your generosity made it possible for these two families to be treated in this hospital. Their total care was underwritten by our maternal benevolent fun.
Mark and Allison