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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ian's trip to a Swazi hospital with signs of a heart attack - Africa is not for sissies.

Ian in his favorite t-shirt
On Wednesday morning Ian woke up and followed his usual early morning routine. That includes letting Jack (our Jack Russell who likes to sleep inside!) outside, letting the new puppies out of their gated area, taking Jack and Max up to their daytime living quarters (where they won’t eat a Swazi who might walk by), feeding/water the dogs, feeding/watering the chickens and letting them out of their coop AFTER he turns OFF the electric fencing and opens our gates for people to come in.  The electric fencing keeps the dogs in and people out at night, but is off during the day so that we don’t have fried chicken all the time.  This all needs to be complete before 7AM when people are here to see us.

When he came back in the house he was dripping with sweat. Not unusual since it is so hot here right now.  But he was very flush and said his chest felt like someone was sitting on it.  Before he lay down on the bed to slow his heart down he took his blood pressure and it was a bit low (117/78), which is unusual for him.  I brought him a glass of juice in case it was a random blood sugar drop, but that didn’t seem to help. After a while he got up and showered and prepared for his morning meetings.

I left to go to my weekly meeting at the Children’s Campus and came back just before lunch.  He said he still wasn’t feeling great, still feeling pressure and was really tired.  The power had been out the night before we were sound asleep by 9PM, so I really didn’t think the “tired” was likely.  I called Brooke Sleeper (our amazing and wonderful Nurse Practitioner) and handed the phone to Ian to answer her questions.  He hung up and went back to his meeting.

A few minutes later I received a text message from Brooke basically saying, “Give Ian an Aspirin and take him to the hospital for an EKG now, not this afternoon. I don’t want to scare you, but his symptoms are inline with a minor heart attack.”  I got up, got an Aspirin and water, took it out to the patio where Ian was meeting with Kristal about payroll, gave it to him, asked him to please come with me, we are going to the hospital.  That was that.

Going to a hospital in Swaziland can be a terrifying experience.  I am in hospitals 3-4 times a week, every week, and they are not a place you want to go as a patient.  The hospital that we thought was “the best” in the country is the one who misdiagnosed Jimmy and John’s injuries only two weeks ago. They said John didn’t have a broken wrist, but he did. They said Jimmy had one broken rib and a cracked pelvis.  When he arrived back in Missouri they found NINE broken ribs, one displaced rib that was sticking in to his liver, two cracks in his pelvis, two sprained ankles and more bruising.  So, I really really didn’t want to go back to that hospital. 

Brooke called the other “good hospital” to see if they had an EKG machine and they assured her that they did.  The only problem was that they didn’t have the right size paper to print on, so it was out of order.  Kristal was in our back seat as we were dropping her home on our way and she mentioned a hospital that some of her new neighbors go to.  We dropped her at her gate and within minutes she had texted us the number.  We called and sure enough they had an EKG machine and so we headed there.

We were totally surprised to find this private hospital inside the corporate offices for a construction company.  We quickly learned that this hospital has an EKG machine, handles Trauma, has a lab, Life Support, Operating room and beds.  Within a short time we met the Doctor who actually owns the hospital and he had Ian hooked up to the EKG machine and blood drawn in record time.  In equally quick time, Ian found himself admitted to the hospital in the ICU ward with an IV in his arm and oxygen on while they took more blood to watch for his Cardiac Enzymes (to see whether he had or was having a heart attack). 

Of course Ian started to feel much better and even quoted Monte Python saying, “I feel like going for a walk!”  He picked up his laptop and started back on payroll, which was to be paid the following day.  As an aside, we have 217 employees at Project Canaan who get paid once a month. Each person’s hours/days are tracked manually, put in to a spreadsheet, deductions made and then each one gets paid in cash, down to the penny (or Lilangeni).  It is a grueling process that Kristal is (thankfully!) helping take off Ian’s plate, but it was not off his plate for February payroll so there he sat, in ICU, doing payroll (which likely was part of the heart problem to start with).  Yes, I had to take a photo.  I digress. 

As Ian’s favorite t-shirt says, “Africa isn’t for sissies”.  It’s hard.  Everything about it is hard.  Our children live in the US and Taiwan – how/when do I call them and tell them that their father may have had a heart attack?  How do I comfort them or assure them from a million miles away in a hospital in a Third World Country?

Following Jesus is not always easy, in fact, it is rarely easy and scripture warns us that people who followed Jesus didn’t always have easy lives (or die painless deaths).  It is times like these that our faith is really put to the test.  What do I really believe as I drive down a highway to an unknown hospital for unknown tests on my best friend and love of my life?   That is the real question.  I assure you that we are not Super-Christians (whatever that means), but we do believe with all our hearts (even ones in trauma) that the Lord has called us to be here.  He will see us through, and that might not look the same to us as it does to Him. 

Luke14:25-27 (The Message Bible) says, One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.”  That is not an easy scripture to embrace is it?  It doesn’t seem reasonable. The cost is too high.

The next day, after Ian’s EKG and blood work was reviewed by a Cardiologist in South Africa (there are none in Swaziland), Ian was discharged with Aspirin, Beta Blocker, Nitroglycerin and an appointment to go back for a Stress Test.  Maybe he dodged a bullet.  Maybe the Stress Test will show the need to see a Specialist. Maybe this was all an early warning sign to us to make some changes in the stress levels of our lives.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. I know that this may be easier said than done, but it is what we are commanded to do.

Speaking of giving thanks - it was two years ago today that the first baby arrived at the El Roi Baby home.  His name is Joshua and while he arrived with Syphilis, Jaundice and a few other conditions, he was quickly attended to, fed and loved.  Today he is happy, healthy and celebrated his second birthday yesterday with his 51 brothers and sisters.

What if Ian had said “no”.  I don’t want to move and leave my children, my family, my life.  Where would Joshua and the other 51 babies be today?  Only He knows.

Live from Swaziland … we have much to give thanks for this week.


PS – if you can be a monthly supporter of the children living at Project Canaan, please do so today.  Every dollar helps us save a life.   Thank you.

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