Monday, December 28, 2009

P is for Pneumonia -- and for Prayer

It has been an especially prayerful Christmas at Maseno Hospital.

Festus, 19, died of PCP (pneumocystis carini pneumonia) in Ward I on Christmas Eve in his weeping brother's arms.

Felix, 13, died before he even made it to the hospital on Christmas night, after enjoying his first holiday party ever -- in spite of a cough and high fever.

And Phoebe Leah, 26, is back on Ward II with pneumonia. You remember "Mama Zedekiah." (It is her 3-year-old son's arm that I am holding in the "Hands to Work" photo.) The family that cast Phoebe out because of her HIV status has now quite literally dug her grave. Although Phoebe is still struggling to breathe, she is slowly improving on antibiotics and oxygen. We do not know, however, who is looking after Zedekiah in her absence.

Unthinkable Christmas stories are our patients' everyday realities. Unfortunately, too many people come too late for medical help -- for financial, social and personal reasons. Sometimes it is merely that the cost of transportation is too high. A 20 KSH matatu ride to the hospital is simply too much for someone who is trying to support a family on less than 75 KSH ($1.00) a day.

How can we keep from praying? (For some help and hope, click on and listen to Brother Curtis Almquist, SSJE's "Twelve Days of Christmas" at

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