But Not Forever

by Rachel

Gloria was a well nourished, healthy pregnant lady when I saw her in the hospital last month, all smiles.  She was pregnant with twins, already at her due date, with a previous C-section for her first delivery.  We made plans to do another C-section for her later in the day.  I delivered her babies, one boy and one girl, beautiful children without problems.  There was some extra bleeding during surgery, but we treated it appropriately and she did fine.  The whole family was full of joy at the blessing of these twins.  I got a call later that afternoon.  Gloria was bleeding again.  I made some recommendations, and the on call doctor also decided to give a blood transfusion.  Then around 9pm I got another call.  She was not doing well…could I come right away?

I ran up to the hospital.  The bleeding had stopped but Gloria was sitting upright in bed, gasping for breath on oxygen.  Her eyes were wide and the room was tense.  I quickly stopped her transfusion, fearing a transfusion reaction.  The team surrounded her bed, running for medications, pulling out all the stops.  No change.  Finally we moved her to the operating room where there was a better oxygen supply.  She lay on the table, struggling, staring into my eyes, so afraid.  We intubated her, and pulled almost half a liter of fluid out of her lungs.  She was literally drowning to death.  Minutes later, her heart stopped.  When I went back to tell the family they couldn’t even look at me.  They just turned and walked away.  I walked home after midnight, feeling discouraged and beaten.

The day before, I had finished the final proofreads on Eric’s book (see here).  It’s a terrific book, full of promises and light in the darkness, but also full of stories of real people we’ve seen over the years, many tragic stories of sickness and death and doubts.  It left me feeling raw, and with Gloria’s death coming on the heels of my read of the book, it all felt like too much again.  Why are you not acting, God?  How long, Oh Lord?

But as is often the case, God provides answers that I need to hear at just the right time.  Days earlier, I had been listening to a sermon series from my home church in Ann Arbor.  The pastor, Brian Gregory, has been preaching a series on Daniel.  Honestly, other than the fiery furnace and lion’s den, I’ve never given much time to reading through the book of Daniel, but was powerfully impacted by this message on Daniel 8 (if you’re interested, you can hear the whole sermon here).  Daniel has a vision of the future, a terrible future full of the wicked prospering and the innocent suffering.  And the summary of Daniel’s response is basically, “How long, Oh Lord?”  The response from heaven is: “A long time.  But not forever.  Because the Lord will act.”  So Daniel is very sick and grieved.  But then he gets up and continues the work that he has been given to do by the king.

I couldn’t get this message out of my head.  It resonated with all my emotions and longings that week after Gloria died.  All of creation is crying, “How long, O Lord?”  We know that the world is broken.  We know things are not supposed to be this way.  And I think if the response from heaven was, “not much longer,” it would feel false.  It would feel like vain hope, because we KNOW that things don’t seem to be getting better as quickly as we would like.  God is acknowledging that the world will not change quickly.  Not for Daniel.  Not for us.  Perhaps we will not see justice in our lifetimes.  But the promise is, and I choose to believe it, that this world and its troubles and its injustice WILL NOT last forever.  Because the Lord will act.  I can’t see how Gloria’s life turned out the way I wanted.  The systems are broken, and on some level we failed her.  But God promises that even this death, even this sorrow, even this story, will be redeemed.  I can hold on to that.

So, as Daniel did, we grieve.  I think that’s important, not to gloss over the pain that we experience.  As most of us know, one can grieve and have hope at the same time…they are not mutually exclusive.  I grieve for Gloria’s family, and her babies that will grow up never knowing their mother.  But then I also get up and continue on in the work that God has prepared for me.  Longing for the day that he will make all things right, but working in the “not yet” of today, knowing that the sorrow will last for a night, perhaps a long night, but joy comes in the morning. 


Eric's Book: Promises in the Dark

(from Eric)

Several years ago, I drafted a series of stories and reflections from my life as a missionary doctor.  The stories center around the theme of "Walking with Those in Need Without Losing Heart".

Jesus calls his followers to enter into the broken places of the world.  That much is clear.  This may be on a personal level, like a family member dealing with a divorce or a chronic illness.  This may be on a vocational level, as a social worker or an inner city teacher or a missionary doctor.

We are called to walk with those in need.  And it takes its toll on us.  How do we avoid burn-out on the one hand and cynicism on the other?  How do we remain faithful in the midst of the tension that is our broken world, where the promises of God are not yet fully realized, and where even their smallest glimpse can be hard to find?

My hope is that this book has something valuable to add to these questions.  I'm excited to say that, after several years of refining, Promises in the Dark: Walking with Those in Need Without Losing Heart will be available October 14, 2019 (less than 8 weeks away!) from New Growth Press.

It's already available for pre-order on Amazon at this link.

Here are a couple endorsements that I've been glad to see:

“Eric McLaughlin brought me to tears with this honest look at the difficulties of the life of a compassionate caregiver. When dealing with this broken world, there are no simple answers. But there can be hope. Promises in the Dark is essential reading for anyone who walks with others through suffering and questions how to keep on going.”
- Dr. Kent Brantly, Ebola survivor; coauthor of Called for Life

“Why do we love lawyer and doctor shows? We know both worlds bear extremity, suffering, and passion, and that is at the core of what intrigues and terrifies us. Eric McLaughlin, a missionary physician, engages the raw and compelling questions of what it means to be human and trust God in the face of a world that is stark and at times cruel. Eric offers no simple answers or trite truisms. Instead, he invites us to engage the questions with the confidence that there is nothing we face that Jesus has not first entered. The song sung in this brilliant book is that death is real and horrible, far more so than our antiseptic Western world can bear, but death never gets the final word. There is something about life and love that lingers far longer than heartache, and it is this story that enables us to enter all other losses with hope. This book will intensify your passion and encourage you to live the best story ever told.”
- Dan B. Allender, Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

“What does a lived-out faith look like in the throes of an African field hospital? In a world of disease, death, and brokenness—of broken promises—how does one live as a light to the world? The answers to these questions are to be found in the pages of this honest book.”
- Michael Card, Songwriter, Bible teacher


COTW: Hip Dislocation

By Jason
We have not posted any "Cases of the Week" (COTW) lately, despite the fact that every week we are all presented with something that expands our minds and keeps our noses in the books.  So much of what we see are common diseases/injuries that present long after they started, for one reason or another, which makes them more difficult to treat.
This case is no exception. It was a young man in a car accident who had a posterior hip dislocation.

We see these once every month or two.  But this one had occurred several weeks before he came to the hospital.  I remember years ago when I treated my first patient with a hip fracture, I looked in a great book called Primary Surgery, which gives incredibly poignant advice on most anything a surgeon would encounter in a developing world hospital and how to treat it with limited resources.  The picture that accompanies hip dislocations is below:
This seems to imply that putting the hip back in the socket takes about as much force as patting a dog on the head.   I have found that this picture grossly under estimates the amount of force necessary, especially for a hip that has been dislocated for a few weeks.  For our patient we gave a spinal for complete relaxation (sometimes we can do it with just sedation).  Then we tried pulling up on the patient's leg while he was on his back (this often works, but requires a pretty strong back on the part of the healthcare provider it requires moving the patient to the floor, so that no one would fall off the bed.  See poor example below.). 

When that didn't work we flopped the patient back up on the OR table and progressed to the maneuver in the first picture, but we couldn't generate enough force.  So finally we had a medical student sit on the patient's calf while another held the ankle and then did some gentle rotations, swinging the patient's leg back and forth and then we heard it - the wonderful clunk of a reducing joint.  Maybe this can be named the "Kibuye Method for Reducing Hips" in the next edition of Primary Surgery!  The patient did well and was eventually able to walk again without any difficulties.