Monday, October 13, 2014

Trying to get a Shunt for Baby Esther

Well, you may remember the last post I wrote about baby Esther probably needing further surgery.  Well as can happen with many babies with Spina Bifida, after the closer of the spinal column, Esther began to develop hydrocephalus, where the spinal fluid builds up in the brain and doesn't drain into the body as normal.

Esther in back and Rebecca in front.

On her return home, we were told to measure the circumference of her head every few days, and so we did that.  And after 2 weeks of watching her measurement increase, we realized that she would need to go in to a medical facility and have a shunt put in.

Simple enough decision.
Not so simple to see happen!

First Pastor had to come up with the money for yet another medical procedure.  He considered selling his motorbike, or his wife's two cows.  They rounded up a few other items (like a solar fan...) and took them to market to see what they could sell them for.
Not enough.  So they waited for the next Monday - Market day in Makalondi.
They took the cows in and sold them for less than their true value.  But money in hand is better than wishing for more.

We contacted the neurosurgeon's office (he is the brother of the doctor who did the repair) and were told that he was "en voyage", traveling.
We arranged for her to be seen at the national hospital.  There on a Friday they did see her, took a scan of her head (and took a chunk of their money) and told them to come back the following Monday.

Monday came and the family showed up for their appointment at the hospital, hoping to be admitted with a day for the shunt scheduled.
Instead they were told, "Sorry, we can't do anything.  The Doctor's and medical staff have all gone on strike for the next two weeks"  "Come back then."

When I heard that, I tried the Neurosurgeon's office again.  He was back from "voyage" and yes, we could see him in two days and our appointment was at 4 p.m.
We showed up early and signed in and paid the consultation fee.  We waited.... and waited and thankfully both babies slept peacefully.

And let me digress to another interesting cultural experience here....
As we're sitting in the enclosed waiting area, a staff member brings a smoking brazier through the room waving it around and spreading the smoke everywhere.  This is incense smoke and the air quickly becomes nearly impossible to breathe...unless you really love breathing incense.  And to tell the truth, I seemed to be the only one struggling.  It seemed that all the other waiting patients were totally fine with thick, musty air.
Back to the story...

Finally around 5 p.m. we were ushered into the Doctor's office.  He did a quick check-up, heard their story and went to his phone.  He called the hospital and secured a bed for Esther.  She would get her surgery and... good news... "the surgery if FREE!  One just needs to pay for the bed and the medicines. Go tomorrow morning and check her in."

The next morning, Thursday, we are full of optimism.  Pastor and his wife take the babies and go to the hospital. They are told that they can have the bed but the surgery can't be done until the next Tuesday, so they must pay $7 each day for the bed.  They can't afford it and are told to come in next Tuesday.

Tuesday arrives and they head to the hospital for the surgery.  On arrival they are told, "I'm sorry, The surgery can't be done because everyone is still on strike."
Parents: "When can we get it done then?"
Nurse: "Just listen to the radio news and when you hear that the strike is over, you can come back"

Now remember: Pastor and wife left their younger children back at home in the care of their eldest daughter and left his fields of crops.  They've now been away over 2 weeks!  They are staying with David, their son who is in Medical school, sleeping on mats on the floor.

At this point, hope is running thin for this family.  David calls me and asks me what we should do.  I told him to go by the Doctor's office and explain what has happened and maybe he can help.  Soon he comes by our place.  He went by the office and they told him, "Sorry, the Doctor is 'en voyage' and we don't know when he'll be back".  David then tells us that the 2 week strike has now been extended another week...

Before discouragement could overtake us, I reminded him that God knows what is happening.  He knows we have tried everything we know to do.  God loves his family and He wants their best.  We can trust baby Esther to Him.  God will take care of her.  We decided to praise Him instead of crying and giving up.  And God restored our hope in Him!

And so the next day, as Gary and I left Niamey for Makalondi, in the back seat was Pastor and his family.  Going home until they hear that the strike is over.  And I get to hold baby Esther in my lap.  As we travel back out, I lay my one hand on Esther's head and pray over her.  I pray God's protection and healing for her.  I pray blessings on her.

At our home, Pastor and his wife get on his motorcycle (they had left it at our place).  She has Rebecca on her back and before they drive off, I hand her Esther.  It's dusk and they have another 24 kms. to go through the bush to get home.  They thank us over and over for all our help.  They leave us with joyful farewells...

I am filled with respect and admiration, once again, for my Gourmantche family here!  They teach me so much about victorious living in Jesus Christ!  Living above your circumstances.  Living in peace during difficult situations.  And choosing every day to live graciously.