Sunday, February 7, 2010

Showers of Blessing

A gospel hymn frequently sung in sun-parched Africa (sorry, freezing friends and family in America!) reminds us to pray, to be grateful and to trust God -- lessons I am re-learning here every day: "Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead."

I've recently asked you for prayers for the sick and prayers for the dead. Today I invite your prayers for the living, as we thank God for three patients whose lives have been saved this week at Maseno Mission Hospital. We are grateful for the drops of mercy and the abundance of love that we share. Most especially, we give thanks for the lives of:

Phoebe, about whom I've written before... HIV-positive and the mother of two, Phoebe was abandoned by her husband when she developed opportunistic infections and her status became known. She and her youngest child, also positive, were put out of the house and left to starve. Phoebe was brought to the hospital in January for the fifth time, shortly after her husband's family had quite literally dug her grave in their yard. We treated her for PCP and TB, fed, comforted and encouraged her. Phoebe is now living with her son in a new women's shelter in nearby Luanda, created by some of the remarkable ladies of the Mothers' Union in the Diocese of Maseno North.

Rose, 26, who was admitted with puerpural sepsis, a systemic (and often fatal) post-partum infection. The second of three "co-wives," Rose delivered a stillborn child at home three weeks ago, was found near-death and brought to the hospital on Monday by Desmond from Christ's Hope, an aid organization that provides home-based care. [Three months prior, Rose's husband had strangled wife number one and run off with wife number three when the neighbors turned out in force with their pangas/machetes. "Mob justice," it's called.] Rose has lost two other children, both prepubescent girls. A neighbor in Nyahera murdered, then decapitated, her daughters and drained their blood. The blood of a virgin brings a high price in secret rituals. "Mob justice" in that case was responsible for burning down the home of the murderer.

Jonhes, 16, who was admitted with a deep laceration and fractured skull after a panga (machete) blow sliced into his head. Jonhes was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is lucky to be alive.

We also give thanks for the families of two patients who died last night of "blackwater fever," a complication of malaria which is believed to be an autoimmune reaction. We recognized the hemolytic crises, severe jaundice, fever, anemia and dark red/black urine, but we could not stop, in either case, the rapid progression to death. Catherine, 25, suffered from sickle cell anemia but had graduated from college and was working as a social worker. When I held Mama Catherine's hands to express my sorrow during rounds today, she smiled radiantly and said simply, "It was God's plan."

Her words were more than echoed by the father of Elijah, a 3-year-old who arrived in a hepatic coma as we were finishing rounds yesterday. We immediately checked Elijah's oxygen saturation (thank you, St. Andrew's, for the pulse oximeter), put him on oxygen (thank you, St. Barnabas, for the oxygenator), administered blood (thank you, God, for the matching blood type, miraculously the only unit available at the time), IV fluids and quinine. But hemolysis had already done too much damage. The child died at 2 AM. "The Lord has called him home, and we say thank you for everything," Baba Elijah said.

"Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them," Padre Betty reminded me this morning. I am still shaking but grateful for the faith of people who experience such painful losses, yet sing with such profound conviction: "There shall be showers of blessing. This is the promise of love."


Nancy Rowe said...

God bless you dear friend. Such sadness. Sometimes I wonder about stoicism....vs....stuffing ones feelings. Do you think that culturally they can truly just stuff it. Or do you think the pain is just so great, so frequently with grief, that they must in order to survive? Make sense? Ohhhhh, as I have said other trips, sometimes I just cry for all those "who have forgotten how to cry" which is what one of the Mothers union Moms told me. God bless dear Dianne!

Dianne, Dee, Mom, Granny said...

I've seen many tears here, too, but maybe people everywhere simply do what they have to do -- perhaps especially if there are other children at home, other hands to hold, other mouths to feed... with God's help.