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Second Surgery... and a Scary Sickness

After 2 weeks of recovery (and waiting for the gas bubble in my eye to dissolve) in Kenya, I made the return trip to South Sudan-- by myself and with sight in just one eye.  Arriving in Uganda late at night, they wouldn't allow me to transfer to the terminal for my connecting flight the next morning.  So I sat near the open door next to the runway, being swarmed by insects and smelling jet fuel.  It was too late to leave the airport (in the rain) and pay for a visa, taxi, and guesthouse.  After waiting for several hours and asking multiple people, I finally found a security guard who made some calls and granted me access.  I rested in the terminal and boarded my flight the next morning.

It was a great comfort to be back with Elizabeth and the kids-- we had not been apart for that long in all our 17 years of marriage.  The kids took turns reading to me (as my good eye got tired quickly), covering a good portion of the original Nancy Drew series (we have several pre-teen girls, can you tell?).  I arrived back the day before our South Sudanese pastor was officially installed, for which I was extremely thankful. We had seen him go from schoolteacher to pastor-in-training, through Bible college, to leading the church.  It was a good day of celebrating with him.

The Lord brought doctors to cover in my absence, and another came from the US in response to our call for help.  In between, though, there were 2 days without coverage.  A local South Sudanese surgeon came to do a C-section one of those days, and the next day a baby in distress prompted me to go over and assist with a difficult delivery.  She had a bad laceration, but I was not yet able to see well enough to do it, so I talked our "clinical officer" (like a physician's assistant) through the challenging suturing job.

We were very grateful to see the doctor the next day.  As soon as he set down his bags, he put on scrubs and asked to be pointed in the direction of the hospital.  While he was only there one week, he hit the ground running and never stopped!  He had worked in Niger for 6 months, so he was savvy to and equipped for the type of work in South Sudan.  Aside from medical work, he taught our son new guitar skills (which I couldn't do because at age 10, he's already better than I am!).

The Lord had already arranged that another similarly trained doctor was coming for a 2 week visit, arriving on the day the other doctor left.  During this time, we also welcomed our first South Sudanese intern doctor, who came to work and learn alongside us at His House of Hope.  During this time, I was due to travel back for a recheck of my eye.  

Elizabeth and I decided we would go together, as we anticipated another surgery to wash out the blood from my eye.  Arriving Saturday evening, we decided we do some labs just to be sure that the bleeding complication in the first surgery wasn't due to an underlying problem in me.  To our surprise, both screening labs were abnormal.  This started us down a trail of talking with hematologists in Nairobi, which led to a one day trip to Nairobi and back for more labs.  I was cleared for surgery, but only if I was given fresh frozen plasma (FFP-- contains clotting factors) before and after surgery.

The next morning, I was given FFP and had the surgery.  The retina was still attached, and they were able to remove most of the blood from my eye.  I had to sleep upright, and had a fair bit of pain and nausea, but after 36 hours, we boarded a flight to return to our children, who were under the watchful care of one of our missionary nurses back in South Sudan.  As we started our return trip, she mentioned that our youngest child (Winnie, who had just turned 5) had malaria and had been started on treatment.

Upon our return, she had taken a turn for the worse.  She was laying on the floor and didn't even get up.  We promptly started her on IV fluids and stronger malaria medications, but she didn't get better.  The next day, she got a high fever, so we retested for malaria, and found it to be negative.  She got a little better, then got an even higher fever (up to 106+ degrees).  The visiting doctor and I scoured our brains for what we could be missing.  We started her on treatment for typhoid, but she continued to worsen.  After 2 days of illness, we thought about evacuating her, but realized that even if we did, it would take several days for them to evaluate her and have more information than we did then.  It was Easter morning, and I prayed more earnestly than I can remember doing previously.  The only other illness that seemed to fit the description of high cyclical fevers, severe shaking chills, and abdominal pain was tularemia.  We weren't covering for it, and there is no good way to test for it.  So, we chose to put her on a strong antibiotic (chloramphenicol) even though it had risks of causing problems with her blood.  It would cover for this illness as well as resistant typhoid.  

At this point, I really didn't care if I ever regained sight in my right eye-- the life of our daughter was much more important.  We were aware of the fact that God might not grant her continued life.  It was a process of releasing her to Him, trusting that He could sustain even through the loss of her life.  Honestly, I told Him I didn't think I was ready for that, but I knew in my head that He could see us through it.

Later in the day, her fever went away and did not return again.  She started eating again and regained her strength slowly by slowly.  We thanked Him for sparing her and trembled at how close we were to her death.

The day after Easter, with Winnie recovering, I noticed the little vision I had regained after the second surgery seemed to darken, as if a curtain was pulled down over my right eye.  I mentioned it to my eye surgeon, who was concerned.  We thought likely I had bled again.  We could not fathom another trip so soon again, so we waited until we were scheduled go through Nairobi a few weeks later.

Meeting us in the parking lot of the Nairobi airport, while others around us knelt and prayed to the east, the surgeon examined my eye and delivered unexpected news-- the retina was detached again-- this time much more extensively than the first.  I would need another surgery.

While not excited to have needles stuck in my eye again, we were at peace that God was still in control.  "He's still sovereign..." we repeat to each other.  "It's like He knows everything."  (We say this "tongue-in-cheek", as we know He truly does know everything, but often forget this in daily life!)  As we were traveling in Kenya as a family, we would be together for surgery number three-- a great comfort to us all.

(In the next post, surgery #3, trip #4 for a recheck, and what God did in the midst of all this...)

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 14:12

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