As I got out of our borrowed vehicle to pump gas at the gas station, Ruth, my 4 year old, watched in surprise and dismay as I began pumping our gas. “Why is no one coming to help us?” she asked my wife, bewildered by the very lonely gas pumps we’d pulled into. In Honduras, all gas stations, and generally each pump is manned by pump attendants who jump to fill up the vehicle’s tank, often clean your windshield, and accept your payment.
We stepped up to the busy counter at Mr. T’s Pizza restaurant and I prompted Ruth, “You can tell her (the attendant) what kind of ice-cream you would like.” She looked about in amazement, listening to all the conversations and bustle around us. Then she turned to me and asked, “Does everyone here speak English?”
In the crazy shuffle of suddenly moving our things back to the USA, staying with grandparents while trying to figure out what’s next, traveling and greeting our numerous supportive friends and family members, and generally facing a lot of uncertainty and change. Ruth told me in a quiet moment alone: “I want to go home daddy… back to Honduras.”
“I know sweetie, me too. But…” And I explained again, hopefully in a manner comprehensible to my recently turned four-year-old, how contracts end, situations change, and sometimes we suddenly find our future plans undone. For now, it looks like we will be staying in the USA for the foreseeable future.
As a family we are all experiencing our transition back to the USA differently. For myself, my wife, and our eldest girl, we are experiencing reverse culture shock – the odd and somewhat uncomfortable process of finding yourself with an outsider’s perspective as you re-enter your home culture. For my younger 3 girls, who have little to no memory of a home outside of Honduras., the culture shock is straightforward and shocking – for Ruth most of all.
For me, reverse culture shock is like when I first received prescription glasses for the first time. It’s like seeing the world anew, the beautiful and the distressing parts with renewed clarity and contrast. We are grieved to leave Hospital Loma de Luz, excited to be with family – especially grandparents, uncertain about what comes next, frustrated by first-world ‘problems’ that seem petty, overwhelmed with the sheer abundance that is the USA, and comforted to be planning our 5th child’s birth in the security of a US hospital with supportive family close at hand.
So please, keep us in your prayers. We need them.
At present we are primarily living with Bethany’s very generous parents who have essentially let us take over the top-half of their house (and most of the bottom half too), let us borrow their van, (stocked with car-seats), and have excitedly embraced the opportunity to help us love, feed, teach, and spend quality time with our girls each day.
I have a short-term, fill-in work opportunity with an Emergency Department that is starting this month with training shifts but will probably not really open up to regular shifts until after our baby is born in early December.
Meanwhile we are trying to faithfully determine what kind of long-term work I should do here in the USA. Based on that, we are looking into where we should live, where we can go to church, and how much house we should commit to buying. Finally, in all of those decisions we have a new baby soon to be born and we are also trying to determine to what extent we should be ready and able to move abroad again if and when God were to call us back to the majority (developing) world.
Please pray that God will give us clarity and direction in each of the above questions along with the patience to wait and the discernment to leap in accordance with His timing.
Our time at Hospital Loma de Luz on the north coast of Honduras has, for the foreseeable future, come to an end. In the past few weeks we have said many good byes, packed our home, been able to bless our community by genourously sharing many things we have been able to accumulate over the past few years. We are so greatful for the great work that we have been equipped and enabled to be a part of over the last two and a half years.
Numerically, I had the privelege of: delivering over 100 babies, seeing and giving care to more than 2000 clinic patients, attending over 700 emergencies, and providing more than 350 patients with inpatient care
A few highlights of our journey:
Many meaningful art projects created and shared.
20+ closed fracture reductions, casted and followed to healing.
My family and I are so blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to live, work, and minister in Honduras, with an incredible team of doctors, nurses, and support staff, at a wonderful and well resourced hospital in a beautiful and loving community. This has been an immense priveledge.
I will never forget the special priveledge of baptizing a hospitalized patient dying of AIDs, and the solemn work of helping many other families and patients prepare for immenient death spiritually, relationally and medically.
We are so thankful to Samaritan’s Purse and its Post-Residency Program that has made this time possible, and continues to offer us support through our transition.
Please be in prayer for our family as we: -Prepare for Bethany to give birth to our 5th child at the end of this year. -Seek to discern God’s next mission for us as a family.
Thank you for following us on this journey to Honduras and back again. We will plan to keep updating our blog as we discern whatever good plans God has in store for us.
Dear Mr. Fingerly (my middle school math teacher),
Thank you for all that you did to help me learn the deep joy that can be found in doing math. I vividly recall the fun we had plotting catapult trajectories and testing the load bearing limits of our tooth-prick bridges. But moreover, I remember the class where you gave us just enough guidance before pushing us to discover the FOIL principle for solving binomials independently. I remember the moment it clicked, and how I understood without being shown, what needed to be done. I believe that single success and the joy that I found in that grappling and intuition, started the process of turning me into the geek-doctor that I am today – thank you.
I also want to let you know that about once every month or so I use the fraction cross-multiplication and unit cancellation that you taught us in 7th grade (You had us use very silly made-up measurement systems) to save someone’s life.
This morning for instance, I had a critical potasium on a septic baby right as I had begun working on making breakast for my girls. I promptly abandoned the omlet I was making to its fate (but Bethany saved it and got it to Ruthy’s plate), grabbed a #2 pencil and a blank sheet of paper and then started recording my data points to begin setting up my fractions. A 8.3 kg baby needs IV potasium. The dosing is 1mEqu/kg/hr. The potasium comes in 20mEqu/10ml. How much normal saline should the potassium be diluted into and at what rate should the pump be set…
Multiply denominators and then numerators,
check that units cancel,
cross-multiply to find the amount of dilutent and
(I did send my calculations to a colleague for confirmation before starting the drip.)
So thank you Mr. Fingerly, and all my other wonderful and profoundly influential teachers. I pray that you are richly blessed in the knowledge that your lives are being and have been well spent, that you have and are doing kingdom work as you labor to light a spark in your students.
Grace & Peace, Nathan Gilley
P.S. The title pun is especially for your enjoyment Mr. Fingerly
We are well. We are in Nashville with family for a previously scheduled vacation. We had planned to fly out today, but by the grace of God we had to move our flights a few days earlier due to hurricane Eta flooding the main airport that we use (San Pedro Sula). This was good because flights are probably grounded throughout Honduras due to the latest incoming hurricane.
Pray with us for our hospital, community, and Central America as they are faced with a second hurricane, Iota, making landfall today and tomorrow.
This year has been blow upon blow against the already tenuous Honduran economy that was largely based on tourism followed by agriculture (industries deeply affected by covid and hurricanes respectively). Our hospital has been increasingly busy as the strain of COVID, travel restrictions, and various sector shutdowns have left many Hondurans without access to healthcare for everything from diabetic management to cancer resection.
Pray for our missionaries and our national staff, who continue to model incarnational Christ-likeness by being physically present to care for and minister to our patients (despite the risk of COVID and the hardships and dangers that hurricanes bring).
Pray for our family as we rest up, and spend time with family- that we would be blessed and a blessing as we visit and rest. Our children are now 8 months, 2 years, 4 years, and 6 years old- pray for them and for the challenges that they face as our family seeks to follow God through all this.
We plan to be at Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene for Christ the King Sunday (November 22nd) for the Sunday morning service and an informal evening gathering.
We also plan to be at Judson Baptist, Nashville on the first Sunday of Advent (November 29th) for the Sunday morning service.
Bullet Prayer Request:
-For all those in the path of the incoming category 5 hurricane, Iota.
-Hospital Loma de Luz’s water, electricity and internet supply (and their respective back ups)
-Pray for our return trip, especially with all the uncertainty of hurricanes and ever changing COVID restrictions.
-The hospital’s food supply (the roads and bridges to La Ceiba)
-The safety of our patients and staff who have to come in to the hospital during this storm (think of women going into labor, children with epilepsy, and our essential nurses and lab technicians, as well as doctors who have to come in terrible weather or no).
-The long-term recovery of Honduras, especially the poor who are always hit the hardest by these types of events.
-Our family and especially our children as we seek to put God first, and rightly prioritize their formation and education.
-Thank you to all of you who have and are supporting us financially. If you would like to send aid to the hospital and surrounding community to help with hurricane relief, we would make sure that 100% of what was given goes to the local needs. See our support page or email us if you’d like more information about supporting us financially or making a one time gift (please send as an email specifying what your gift is designated for if relevant)
-Also, for those of you who might prefer a different avenue, I’ve put together a short Amazon wish list of things that are needed or would be helpful in our hospital and clinic (that we can bring back in our luggage).
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
These are some of the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. They capture the not infrequent juxtaposition of very good things and very bad things in our lives, without giving either more weight than the other. It reminds me to hold the two in balance – and allow myself to feel and know the bitter sweet reality of life between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ.
Case in point, we have recently had two babies who required intensive care in our hospital; one has done very well, and one did not do well. The first baby is named Estephanie, and the majority of her medical care was provided at the direction of Drs Anne and Isaac Hotz. This is also the infant that I previously mentioned for whom Bethany has supplied breast milk. She was born premature. And while that may not seem like a big deal – it is.
Imagine being in a rocket ship, and telling ground control that “All systems are not go for launch, repeat, multiple critical life-sustaining systems are not functioning.” Only to hear, “We are go for take off.”
Premature delivery shares a similar level of disaster potential as the above scenario. Our lungs, skin, eyes, brain, gut, and fat reserves, are all essential systems that don’t come fully on board till late in a pregnancy. And being born without anyone of these systems can result in a cascade failure reminiscent of Apollo 13.
With Estephanie, we knew from her mom’s first prenatal visit that she was at risk for early delivery, because Estephanie was sharing the uterus with a birth control device called an IUD.
Anyways, with advance notice that the baby might be born premature we were able to give the mom timed steroids to rush the baby’s lung development. We do this whenever we suspect preterm delivery because once a mom’s body goes into true labor, there is precious little that doctors can due to stop the process (especially in rural Honduras).
Ultimately, Estephanie was born at 29 weeks and 3 days of gestational age. At that stage of developmental, with our resources, it was a Herculean task to keep baby nourished, breathing, and avoid sepsis. Remember the brain and fat reserves that aren’t fully developed yet? That means that most premature babies don’t have the coordination or energy to consistently breath or eat independently. So we place a tube down the mouth to allow us to put food directly into the baby’s stomach, and a CPAP over their noses to augment and remind them to keep breathing
But tasks such as feeding, breathing, and keeping baby warm are easy compared to the biggest hurdle that Estephanie faced. About a week after birth, when the basic problems inherent in preemies began to seem surmountable, Estephanie suddenly started showing signs of sepsis or an abdominal emergency called neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (nicknamed nec). The only known preventative medicine: breast milk (having had Bethany’s milk may be one the reason this baby went on to survive).
The treatment for Nec: no feeding, support the baby, try antibiotics, and wait. The treatment for sepsis: remove any possible sources of infection, give antibiotics, support the baby, and hope. In the case of Nec, if you have to wait more than a day or two you need to order a custom tailored formula called TPN that can be put directly into the baby’s blood stream (bypassing the gut completely which could rapidly necrose and kill the baby if food is put through it). This must be given through a central line (like an IV, but going through a major vessel dumping directly into the heart).
In the case of sepsis, any central line that you have in place is a potential source of infection. So we pulled the old line, ordered the TPN, and tried to put in a new central line. “Tried” being the operative word. Over two days, we tried every possible access point, multiple times, for hours at a time. We prayed, we dripped sweat, we got frustrated with each other, frustrated with ourselves, frustrated at having ordered and transported the expensive TPN from the across the country only to be unable to deliver it the final few inches.
Ultimately, we were unable to get a central line. Without a central line we had to decide when we would allow the baby to have tube feeds- the sooner we fed her, the higher the risk of complications from nec, the longer we waited, the higher the risk of complications from starvation. In the end because baby made a quick turnaround soon after we stopped feeding her we were able to compromise between the two ideal intervals and resume feeds after 48 hours We started slow and praise be to God, Estephanie was able to tolerate tube feeds.
Today, by the grace of God, Estephanie is doing well. She’s coming up on 36 weeks gestational age, and has been discharged from the hospital after almost 50 days. She is no longer needing help breathing and she is able to take a bottle. She is the youngest preemie to have survived at our hospital. Praise be to God.
Our second baby, would have been named Genesis. She was brought in late one evening when I was on call. I was already in the emergency room, monitoring a young boy I had just medicated for an ongoing seizure. I looked up to see a mother being shown in to our ER with a silent bundle in her arms. Typically I let out nurses locate a patient’s chart, get initial vitals, and ask basic questions, but something in this mother’s defeated demeanor prompted me to make the initial evaluation.
I quickly, explained to the parents of the boy with a recent seizure how to monitor their now sleeping son, and crossed the room. The baby’s mom seemed reticent to put her baby down, and when she did I saw a frail, pale, recently born baby girl who appeared dead. She was floppy and unresponsive as she laid in the bed, and I thought she might be dead. But on further evaluation she was taking shallow breaths had a weak pulse.
I urgently called for 2 other doctors to help, and tried to obtain vital signs and figure out what had happened.
The baby’s diaper was full of black and coagulated blood, and her mom said that her baby was 8 days old and had been doing well until she suddenly began vomiting and stooling blood that morning. Immediately her mother started trying to get her baby daughter to the hospital. (She does not own a vehicle or know how to drive, almost all taxis and public transport are not allowed to operate due to COVID, and road blocks are set up all throughout the country to decrease the spread of COVID)- so it took most of the day to get her baby to us.
When my colleagues arrived, and verified that the baby was still alive despite appearances we had enough information to determine that we had a baby on the brink of bleeding to death- who we might be able to save. We called ‘CQ Belfate – Rapid Response to the ER’ over the radio – signaling all available clinical staff to come in and help.
As help came pouring in, we inserted a needle into the baby’s leg bone to begin giving fluids and as soon as our lab personnel arrived we drew off some of her precious remaining blood to check her blood type. More than anything else, the baby needed blood, we later estimated that she had bled out three quarters of her blood volume, prior to arrival.
As we were waiting on blood typing, we gave the maximum amount of IV fluid, continued to give oxygen, and, as it seemed likely she was still bleeding internally with an undetectably low blood pressure, we decided to try for a central line (medicines that force the heart to increase blood pressure are called pressors and must be given through a central line).
This was only about a week after our failure to get a line on Estephanie. But miraculously, Dr. Isaac managed to get a blind subclavian line in with one of his first tries. The baby and her uncle were a blood type match so we drew a unit of whole blood from him and started giving the baby 4 teaspoon boluses of blood at a time.
Honestly, we were all a little shocked that she survived that first few hours, and not only did she survive, she awoke to start fussing and kicking soon after her transfusion! Nevertheless, that night I explained to her mother that Genesis was not yet out of the woods, and that if she did survive it would be a miracle from God.
On days 1 and 2, we continued to be amazed at Genesis’ resilience, and started to hope that God might heal her. After her first transfusion, we gave her her first vitamin k shot. We became more and more convinced that Genesis had gastrointestinal bleeding due to at least a vitamin k defeciency (pretty much all babies are born with some degree of vitamin k defeciency).
Unfortunately, Genesis had been born on the way to our hospital rather than in our hospital. As she was born precipitously in the vehicle before arrival and their family had no money to spare, they turned around and went home, never recieving the vitamin k shot.
The next morning showed that although Genesis’ brain, heart and lungs had bounced back remarkably well, her liver and kidneys were not so quick to bounce back. Those organs showed signs of severe shock and only time would tell if they would recover quick enough to allow her to live.
On day 3, Genesis had completely stopped bleeding into her belly, and her liver seemed to be making a slow recovery, but her blood pressure and oxygen were wavering and she still had not made any urine. Her mother was exhausted from staying by her baby’s side, and afraid to hold her daughter with all the tubes, lines, and devices we had afixed to monitor and respond as needed. At one point, while my colleagues and I were discussing her poor prognosis and worsening situation, baby Genesis had several very low blood pressure and oxygen saturations, her belly was swelling ominously, and I along with Dr. Isaac and Dr. Anne decided to prioritize allowing mom to comfortably hold and love on her baby who seemed to be dying.
We explained to the mom what we felt was inevitable and she was agreeable to not prolong her baby’s suffering. With heavy hearts we disconnected several lines and took off the blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeter. We were able to comfortably put Genesis in her mom’s arms. Mom asked that we discontinue the oxygen-CPAP so she could just hold her baby and see her beautiful face. I prayed with mom while holding mom’s arms as she cried and gently rubbed Genesis’ head with my other hand. I prayed for God to be with us and baby Genesis. I prayed and cried, I had several words of comfort and hope I wanted to offer, but those words wouldn’t come out. So I swallowed down a sob and simply concluded, “Help us Lord, Amen.” And then waited in silence for a time with mom and Genesis.
But, about one hour after we moved to what we call comfort care (stopping everything that doesn’t make baby more comfortable including oxygen, fluid, and pressors), Baby Genesis went from gray back to pink, from struggling to breathe back to breathing comfortably, and started becoming more active. Genesis really liked being in her mom’s arms!
With such an improvement we talked with mom about keeping the priority of her holding her baby but at least giving some fluids and oxygen to keep Genesis confortable. Mom agreed and Genesis did much better over that night. But still Genesis did not urinate.
I remember coming home that evening to find Ruthie running around with a diaper so wet that it was sagging under its own weight. As I changed that diaper I thanked God that my babies make lots of wet diapers.
The next day I didn’t know what to do. Should I continue to pursue the goal of comfort care, or should I revert to full active treatment? I prayed for wisdom, but didn’t feel like I received any. Ultimately we felt we owed it to this baby who kept hanging in there to give her every chance to survive. Even though she still hadn’t urinated, we were approaching the limit for how long a newborn can survive without nutrition.
She agreed (with some relief), so we again needed TPN (baby probably had a gastric ulcer and was uninterested in eating). TPN takes time to custom formulate and ship, so we had to order it ASAP that morning. After ordering it we needed to change out our central line to prevent sepsis. Given our recent frustrations, Dr. Isaac and I decided to use a process that uses a guide wire to hold the old line’s position while the old line is removed and a new one is placed. In the midst of this procedure the guide wire slipped out of position because it wasn’t quiet long enough.
But mom was in favor of comfort care, mainly because she was concerned that her family would already be unable to pay for what the hospital had already done. (This is a sensitive cultural intersect- in the developed West we are blind to the cost of our healthcare, and never speak about money as part of developing a care plan, in Honduras people want to know how much a life saving surgery will be before they are rolled back). Trying to compromise between the two worldviews, we asked mom to give us one more day to give Genesis every possible chance and we promised to work with her to bring the cost of the hospitalization down to something she could afford. (Our prices are set to be manageable by most Hondurans, keep our lights on, and pay our Honduran staff – for instance a 24 hour hospital admission costs about 20 dollars.)
We were crushed, literally I felt God-forsaken. Once again we had TPN ordered and we’d lost access. We tried briefly to get another line in but in a baby who could not easily stop bleeding who already had a very low chance of survival, we did not feel it was safe or right to keep sticking her.
When I explained the situation to the mother she was incredibly gracious. Her response more than anything else that day assured that we were not forsaken by God. He was right there. In the mother who bore the roller coaster of her infant’s hospitalization with dignity and grace. Even though this was her second child and her first had died mysteriously a few days after birth; she was kind and appreciative of all our efforts, thanking us and praying with us. Shortly after, she asked us to discharge Genesis so she could take her home to die.
The day after Genesis’ mom returned to our hospital to tell us that Génesis had died and to start making payments, we celebrated the discharge of Estephanie to her home, in good health.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..
The doctors at Hospital Loma de Luz, take 24 hour call 1-2 times a week. That means that from 7am to the next morning’s 7am, any emergency or obstetric problem that comes into the hospital will be primarily the responsibility of the on call doctor. For my first 2 months here, each time I was on call I had someone assigned to back me up and show me the ropes. This is necessary because the norms of treatment, follow-up, and getting things done are so different from how things are done back in the USA that you need someone to walk you through a lot of different scenarios before you can really work independently.
For instance, if you need to give your patient a medicine through an IV at a specific rate in the US, you simply enter the order and wonder why it takes the pharmacy and nurses so long to do it. Here you go to the pharmacy, retrieve the medicine or find an adequate substitute for the medicine you wanted but don’t have, find syringes and fluid bags, then mix the medicine into solution at a concentration that will allow you to run it through a pump (A lot of moderately complicated math). Find a IV pump, place an IV if the patient doesn’t have one, hook it all up and program the pump to run at your desired rate… and then wonder what happened to the last few hours.
After about 2 months of call with back up, I recently started taking call independently. My first two independent call shifts were rough.We have an awesome team that is very supportive of one another, but we also try to take care of each other by handling anything we can independently, and only calling for help when it is absolutely necessary (especially during the night). During my first shift I had about 6 medically complex admissions topped off by a young man who came in with 4 gunshot wounds – 2 to the neck, 1 to the chest, and 1 to the abdomen – whereafter I promptly called and received help. But all of the patients did well, and were pretty clear cut from a diagnostic and treatment perspective.
My second independent call shift was not so clear cut.
Things were generally okay during the daylight hours, but as dusk settled I started getting calls.
Out of the several ER patients that I was called to come in and see, I can now only remember two. At about midnight I saw an older gentleman brought in by his son because he was having trouble breathing. I was able to determine that he was fluid overloaded due to advanced liver failure and a recent medicine change. This was based on the history that I obtained from his son and my physical exam because we do not have lab or X-ray available during the night (except for clear life or death decision points that prompt us to call staff to drive in from the surrounding community during the night). So I talked with his son about our treatment plan, his good short-term but poor long-term prognosis, and then started the treatment which I would modify based on the labs that could be done in the morning.
I went back up my house, but before falling asleep I was called again. It was about 2am…
A 21 year old girl with abdominal pain and nausea was brought into the ER in middle of the night. Her blood pressure was too low but she was conscious and it was not worsening, her abdomen was rigid, her blood sugar was too high for our machine to read and she was becoming deathly pale. She had a strange history of going to a different hospital the previous night, going home, resting, eating, then coming into our hospital for the same unbearable pain that had sent her to the other hospital.
I began to treat her identified problems individually, but was not sure of her unifying diagnosis. As I was trying to decide if I should call for help or lab, one of the nurses asked me to come quickly. I followed and she took me hastily to the room of my patient with liver failure explaining that she had just gone to check on him and found him dead. I entered the room where the patient’s son was by his bed – unaware that anything was out of order. I confirmed the patient was dead and then tried to gently but clearly explain to the son that his father had just died unexpectedly. After taking as much time as I felt I could, I went to check on my 21 year old female patient and found that her oxygen saturation was dropping. With my confidence shaken and my patient doing worse, I promptly called for help from the more experienced physcians.
Ultimately, we determined that she had a very dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) coupled with the even more deadly condition called sepsis. As we tried to treat her, we came to an impasse. The treatment for DKA is to rapidly but carefully lower the blood sugar while simultaneously addressing the acid-base and electrolyte disturbances created by both the disease and your treatment of the critically elevated sugar. To do this right, one needs to monitor and replete the electrolyte called potassium, while monitoring and correcting the acid-base status, and constantly titrating your insulin to lower the sugar (in the USA most hospitals purchase a proprietary software uses a complex computer model to anticipate the patient’s blood sugar responses and guide insulin titration).
Problem #1: Our acid-base test is so finicky it cannot be trusted.
Problem #2: Our electrolyte machine broke 2 days ago.
Problem #3: The country is shut down for COVID-19 so getting the replacement part will take at least a week.
Problem #4: Septic shock is the body’s final, unregulated and often devastating response to an overwhelming systemic infection. It’s treatment is to give copious fluids, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and start life-support measures like pressors and a ventilator while rapidly determining the source of the infection.
This is the tight rope we were walking:
If she becomes to acidotic she will die – and both DKA and sepsis create acidotic states.
If we leave her sugar that high she will die of sepsis – if we drop her sugar too fast and she goes too low – she will go into a coma and likely die.
If we do not give her adequate potassium near the time when her potassium begins to drop due to our treatment of high sugar – her heart will not be able to keep pumping – if we give her too much potassium, well, potassium is the drug of choice for lethal injection.
With these limitations, we did everything we could to help this young lady. We prayed for wisdom and healing and made our best educated guesses on what to correct – when.
For a while the patient was stable on two forms of life-support: pressors and a ventilator. I had spoken with her mother and our chaplain about the gravity of her situation (she had already required chest compressions and life saving medicines once that morning, which decreases the odds that she would survive to be discharged). I then went and saw my clinic patients. I checked on her several times throughout the day and I started to be hopeful that she might pull through. We arranged to split shifts to run her ventilator between 3 doctors who were not on general call that night (we do not have any respiratory techs or dedicated ICU nurses). I went home, explained to my girls in very basic terms why they hadn’t seen me for so long, and we said a prayer together for my patient.
That night, my patient’s blood pressure started dropping and despite chest compressions and meds, she died.
The next morning my 5 year old asked me how my patient was doing, the one for whom she was praying. I told her that she had died during the night.
“Why?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” I answered. And I don’t know. I don’t know why she died.
Medically, I don’t know if she died from an infection for which I wasn’t covering, an electrolyte imbalance I caused or didn’t correct, or something I had no control over. Spiritually, I don’t know why God didn’t answer our prayers for this 21 year old girl, when other times he so miraculously intervenes (like in my previous shift when the man who was shot 4 times, twice in the neck and head, walked out of our hospital after prayers and surgery).
I understand the philosophical arguments for why bad things happen. Abstract discussions of love, free-will, the effects of sin on creation. But I don’t believe there is a simple or straightforward answer to my daughter’s question. I believe the best answer is either silence or “I don’t know,” followed by an example of continued faith and prayer that mourns and wrestles with what happened while faithfully doing the next right thing. The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. Despite what we see or cannot see around us, we keep walking in faith.
I was hurt and saddened by the loss of two patients from the same call shift. But I keep walking by faith. I trust that God is good and faithful.
Nevertheless I went into my third call shift with some trepidation and prayer that God would give me a little more time to recover before my next medical disaster. And I am happy to report that my third call shift was rather uneventful. That morning, as I was nearing the end of my third call shift, I gave thanks to God that instead of severely ill patients I had the opportunity to be on the other side of things. I helped a mother deliver a healthy baby boy into the world in the wee hours of the morning. And as I went home, I stopped at our overlook and took in this view:
Clearly to me, God is at work in our world. I don’t always understand how He chooses to work, nor do I always know how I should pray. But I hold onto the faith of Jesus Christ and trust that He will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear.
Blessings on you all,
Please pray for our family as we continue to settle in, push through culture/COVID shock, and the newborn phase of sleep deprivation.
And please pray for the preemie baby in our hospital. Bethany provided breast milk for her until her mother’s milk came in, and the baby has survived almost a week now, but she has several more weeks before she’ll be out of the woods.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, could a thousand pictures express my gratitude to God for bringing baby Hannah out of her mother’s womb and safely into the world in the wee hours of this morning? I don’t think so.
Nevertheless, I’ll try to capture these moment and my heart that is heavy with gratitude:
This is our entry in the Family book for Hannah’s birthday.
Elizabeth holding Hannah
Lydia holding Hannah
Leaving the hospital to go up the hill to our home a few hours after Hannah was born
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
Keep us in your prayers as we add Hannah to our family life.
Grace and Peace to you all.
The last weeks have been a rich outpouring of love, goodbyes, encouragement, blessing, and gifts. We know that the church universal and through them, almighty God, loves us. Thank you for the letters, donations, carbon-composite violin, blessings, prayers, hugs, and tears.
I know that many of you have been praying for us today, thank you. Please continue to pray for us as we keep you posted.
The morning was interesting. We set off to the Nashville airport with all of our children and luggage, ready to depart for Honduras. In the airport we found ourselves surrounded by family, friends, and our pastor. But at the ticketing counter we encountered an obstacle.
“A travel embargo is currently in effect for all luggage going to Honduras,” The lady behind the ticketing counter said, with no small amount of concern as she looked at our luggage.
But we had already read about the embargo in the fine print and having reviewed the criteria with our travel agent we confidently explained, “We understand, but we only have two checked bags per person, all less than 50 pounds, all less than 62 linear inches.” Knowing the embargo was in effect for the duration holiday travel, we had planned to only move with our family’s essential luggage in this first trip. With great care, my wife had packed every square inch of 7 action-packer totes and each one weighed approximately 49.5 pounds (literally, and that requires a lot of repacking and weighing).
But apparently, the awesome rugged totes into which we packed our most essential earthly possessions, fell in the category of box rather than typical luggage, and the ticketing agent as well as her co-workers and supervisor could not allow us to check our totes. We called Samaritan’s Purse and our travel agent and began working our options:
No fee or fine could be paid to wave the restriction. No other luggage, of even half the size, could be purchased for us to transfer and repack. We had friends and family check in every direction: No at every other airline desks, no at the gift shop, no at the unclaimed luggage area downstairs, and finally our pastor even made a Walmart run to see if he could get to and from Walmart with enough luggage and spare time for us to repack and board. (Apparently a group of about 20 short term missionaries had bought out all the luggage they could purchase in the airport to get around the same problem.)
In this scramble, the peace of God transcended our group, and we began to step back and realize that we were not going to make our flights with our luggage, and that was okay. With a baby on the way, a 1 year old, 3 year old, and 5 year old – going without our luggage was not an option (there are no quick or straight-forward shipping options to Honduras either).
In that moment I quietly quoted Jeremiah 29:11 aloud to my Father-in-law and children, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
Its odd, is it not? The paradox of our faith. Moments like today are polarizing, they force you to either lean in and trust God, or pull away and distrust God. We chose trust. Over and over God has shown me that he does have a plan, and a much more comprehensive planning and purposing strategy than I could ever imagine. I do not understand why I’m writing from Tennessee instead of Honduras tonight, but I trust that He has His reasons.
So we wait. We came home to Mimi and Poppy’s and we are resting and beginning another round of logistical considerations to determine when we will take our next steps of faith, be it tomorrow or next week. We’ll keep you posted.
As we were leaving the airport Lydia said, “I don’t want to go back, I want to go to Honduras.”
The Peace of Jesus Christ be with you.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.
Advent is upon us. The first season of the Christian year. A season of preparation to make ourselves ready for the dawning of a light in our darkness – the birth of Jesus celebrated at Christmas. The call of preparation for my family this season is to pack up our things, say our good byes, and board a plane for Honduras in about thirty days.
Thank you for equipping us and helping us get set. With your donations we have been able to fully pay for our first flights and all of our travel vaccines – that’s around $6,000. To all of you who gave cash gifts, paid far too much for a t-shirt, or went online to give- May the Lord bless you (and if you’ll read this blog to the bottom – Elizabeth will bless you too!)
Lately I have been reading and studying Isaiah 58. It is a prophecy of rebuke with a promise of blessing. I hope you will hear the context and then receive its blessing. In this section Isaiah is prophesying to Israel’s uppermost class. They had been carefully doing all the religious motions of sacrifice and fasting while at the same time neglecting and abusing pretty much everyone else. Yet they were confused by the way God seemed distant, even angry. They thought doing all the right worship ceremonies, prayers, and fasts was supposed to automatically equal God blessing them – no matter how they acted toward their neighbor. So God rebukes them through the prophet:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday…
This Advent and always, may we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and the oppressed, may we loose the chains of injustice, and may the Lord Almighty bless us with a light dawning in this darkness to heal us. May you know the ultimate joy of loving God and neighbor: of being with and for the wanderers and outcasts among us, so when the glory of the Lord comes among them (even as He came forth many years ago – an infant that was naked, bloody, and crying – God almighty saying, “Here am I”) may you be in the right place at the right time to behold His glory, bow before Him and say, “My Lord and my God.”
We pray and believe that God will make us an instrument of his light and healing as we go. As you give and have given, you are spending yourselves on behalf of the poor, injured, and hungry – to bring light and healing through Jesus Christ.
To the elderly couple nearing the end of their sojourn, giving 100 dollars a month out of their modest retirement- thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hungry.
To the young doctors still under the weight of massive educational debt giving regularly – thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hurting.
To the children who gave up half of their hard earned lawn mowing wages – thank you for spending yourselves on behalf of the less fortunate children.
May the Lord bless you, draw near to you, and may the light of his face shine upon you.
If want an opportunity to receive this blessing – good news! We still have opportunities for partnership. The majority of what we have been given so far has been one-time gifts. Thank you for getting us off the launch pad, now we need regular gifts. We estimate we’ll need about $3,000 dollars a month and we have about $1,000 dollars committed (If you’d like more details click here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Giving online is easy – you should go ahead and do it right now by following the instructions below (if you prefer to give by phone or mail learn how by going here).