A Tale of Four Patients: An Exercise in Opening Our Eyes

 (from Eric)

I can't honestly say that I enjoyed the whole of A Tale of Two Cities, but I thought the ending was fantastic. Sydney Carton is a lawyer and a scoundrel (or "ne'er-do-well" or "blackguard" or pick you colorful Dickensian description). He is talented but shameful, and he knows it. Yet, he bares an uncanny resemblance to a good man who has been unjustly sentenced to death. He chooses to switch places with him for the sake of the good man's liberation, and as he goes to the end of his life, he utters the immortal words:

"It is a far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Without devaluing Carton's sacrifice, I have often thought of the way that his whole life was imbued with new meaning when his actions redeem the life of one man. Why is this important to me? Because my attempts to be a healer in rural Africa are a mixed bag of outcomes. Yes, some people are healed, but so many people continue to suffer and die, and on a day to day basis, this can easily crowd out the amazing victories. And they are amazing; make so mistake. They are of inestimable value. They are transformed lives, each of which is enough to imbue meaning to the entire existence of an otherwise scoundrel.

But we won't feel this, unless we proclaim it.

So, in the spirit of "far better things that I do", here are four simple but glorious stories from recent Kibuye life:

1. Tiny baby. Big Milestone

Last week, on the hospital employee WhatsApp group, this picture circulated with numerous celebratory responses and emojis of dancing women.

This little baby was born at less than 1000g (about 2 pounds), and went home at about double that weight and in good shape. If you've ever had the chance to follow a very small preemie, you know that it is a patient process. Feed, sleep, feed, weigh, feed some more. Small unremarkable days that form a steady trend towards a transformed life. This photo was from a return visit, demonstrating that the baby is continuing to grow well at home.

The story of the Kibuye NICU is a long one, and we don't always see these little ones survive. But this one did. And all of Kibuye is rejoicing.

2. Kidney disease gone

About six months ago, the internal medicine service hospitalized a young mother. She was swollen from head to toe. Her kidneys didn't filter well, and they were leaking protein at such a rapid rate that she looked like a terrible care of malnutrition no matter what she ate. We could easily figure out the problem, but our medicines weren't helping very much. She needed a biopsy and a pathologist and all sorts of treatment that we knew she wasn't going to get. But we put her on a bunch of water pills to take the swelling down, and hoped that it would at least make her life a little better for the time being.

A couple weeks later, she went to refill those water pills at a distant pharmacy, and the pharmacy gave her diabetic medicines by mistake. Not being diabetic, this sent her into a hypoglycemic coma that nearly killed her. Her family rushed her back to Kibuye, where we fixed her sugar problem, put her back on the right pills, and gave our government colleagues the necessary feedback about the error in the private pharmacy so they could investigate. The situation continued to be desperate.

Six weeks ago, she came to see me in clinic, and I hardly recognized her. Gone was the puffy face and the malnourished air. She smiled at me. I double checked the name on her file. Not only was the problem better, but this was despite being off her medicines for a week. We confirmed that her kidneys were now functioning totally normally. I told her to come back six weeks later to see if this was sustained. Last week, she showed up in good health with normal testing. We sent her home with no treatment, and we thanked God together.

3. Full continence

One of the possible, but rather difficult, repairs of congenital problems that our surgeons tackle here is anal/rectal malformations, i.e. babies born with no way to pass stool. This becomes an emergency after birth, and a provisional solution is made by creating a colostomy in the newborn.

Later on, when the baby is a bit bigger, there is a more complicated procedure to basically create what wasn't there at birth, i.e. a functioning outlet for stool. Given the intricate nature of this surgery, the difficulty with anesthetizing little babies, and their ongoing nutritional challenges, it's not hard to imagine why these are difficult patients. But one of the greatest challenges is a fully functioning sphincter so that the child will grow up without fecal incontinence.

Two weeks ago, just such a follow up kid showed up. Doing well. Growing. Full continence.

He wasn't too happy to see the doctor but mom was ecstatic

4. Redemption after Loss

We do a lot C-sections. Last Thursday was yet another C-section. But this one had a known backstory. A couple years ago, this mom had carried her baby nearly to term only to lose the pregnancy. She came to Kibuye where it was found that she had a bunch of big fibroids in her uterus and she was scheduled for surgery to remove them.

She did well for her surgery, and afterwards got pregnant again. This baby went all the way to term and the couple's first baby was delivered healthy this past week (6-pound girl!). The health baby was carried to the side warmer where another doctor was diligently training a new nurse about how to resuscitate newborns and care for them well after delivery. 


May you also have grace today to see the goodness of your life and work.


Awaiting Provision

by Rachel
Several months ago, I shared a message at family worship from 1 Kings about the prophet Elijah. I've been working my way through a Bible study entitled "Elijah: Faith and Fire" by Priscilla Shirer, and one of the chapters felt particularly meaningful to me, so I thought I'd share it with our team (and now with all of you). In 1 Kings 17, Elijah shows up to the Israelite king, Ahab, and shares a word from the Lord that due to Ahab's wickedness and Israel's rebellion, God is sending a drought on the land. He leaves the palace and ends up going into hiding for three years. God hides Elijah in a small ravine with a brook...and how does Elijah get food? "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening." 

 So here at Kibuye we don't have ravens, but we have the African pied crow, which must certainly be a close cousin. These are not anyone's favorite birds. They look angry/evil (with beady eyes), they make a lot of noise, and they steal things and cause a nuisance. We have amassed some stories of them over the years in their devious behaviors...stealing eggs and produce from our market baskets, killing small animals (even pet chicks), and even one year swiping Easter eggs from our Easter egg hunt (and somehow managing to open them and eat the candy inside). I gather that ravens are much the same. These are not the kind of birds or animals that seems generous in any way. Bring food? Absolutely not--they are much more likely to eat it for themselves! And in addition, they are found on the list of "unclean" creatures that God forbids the Israelites to eat in His law. And yet this unimaginable event is how God chooses to provide for Elijah, for years. When the brook dries up and Elijah has to go elsewhere, God sends him out of Israel to a pagan land (the homeland of Queen Jezebel, actually, who is trying to kill him) and has him go to an impoverished widow to ask for food, of which she has almost none. A foreigner, bottom of society, vulnerable, starving woman. Another unimaginable provision. 

Shirer points to Ephesians 3 at this point. "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus..." She writes in her study, "God can craft solutions and remedies for me beyond my ability to reason...your loving Father has categories of answers, solutions, and options for you and your life that you don't even know exist...have you fully trusted him to do what he wants to do, the way he wants to do it?" 

There's a lot of application here for us in Burundi. We're wrapping up another wonderful school year at KHA, but we're awaiting the provision of another teacher or intern for next year. It seems to us that providing another teacher would be a great way for God to meet our needs! But is that how he will work? Will he send someone now, or later, or never (or maybe he'll send YOU!)? There are so many lives being changed at the hospital, but we pray for more staff and better outcomes. Will God provide miraculous healing, lower patient numbers, send extra staff? Or will He use this season to help us lean into him more? I need to remember to trust him to work in the way he wants to work. I need to remember that he has solutions that I can't imagine. I need to remember that he will always provide for us, in his perfect way. 

Don't you want to teach these adorable kids?
This baby was born prematurely at less than 2 pounds, but is doing well and just went home (topping the scales at over 5 lbs!)