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Remembering that the Lord Jesus does not give up

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#1 Andrew/Esther Schaeffer

Andrew/Esther Schaeffer

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  • Location:Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
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  • Gender:Male
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  • Northview Alliance Church, Wooster, Ohio

Posted 28 June 2024 - 07:19 AM

Our son David serves as a doctor at the Alliance Bongolo Hospital in Gabon. He wrote this about his missionary work:

"One of my very favorite patients is a young woman I’ll call Lina. She came to us from another hospital during one of my first weeks working at Bongolo. She had a problem. It was a very bad problem and also a rather disgusting one (some of you may just want to skip down to the 3rd paragraph, you know who you are). You see, Lina had recently had a C section at the other hospital and delivered a beautiful baby boy, but her surgery was a difficult one due to some scar tissue in her abdomen and they had ended up needing to repair some small intestine that had been injured while delivering the baby. Unfortunately, the repair didn’t hold and, like a hose not correctly attached to the spigot, within a week the intestinal contents started to leak out into her abdomen and out the easiest point of escape - her recent incision.

On top of being a rather distressing problem this is also a life-threatening problem. Unable to stay hydrated or adequately nourished, the body can rapidly get overwhelmed as infection sets in. Surgically, this is also a challenge. You want to operate to stop the infection, but many times the intestine is so irritated by the surrounding infection that simply repairing the leak is no longer an option. We told Lina her prognosis was grim, but asked for permission to operate to try to save her life. We then took her to the operating room and thankfully were able to stop the flow towards the leaky area by bringing up some of her intestine to her abdominal skin and having her poop into a bag. Unfortunately, Lina didn’t improve right away. She had a bad infection that made her feel very sick and required us to do many more trips to the operating room to continue to treat it. At one point during her lengthy fight with infection, she lost hope completely. “Just tell me I’m going to die.” she moaned. “I’m not going to make it.” “No.” my zealous resident Dr. Wilson replied, “God hasn’t given up on you and so we won’t either. We still have hope - you need to keep hoping with us.”

Not long after that conversation, things started to change. Lina wasn’t as sick any more, her infection started to improve. Then one day we saw her smile for the first time since she had come to our hospital - she had hope! She was going to make it. Lina has been a feature of our department over the months that I have been here. She has come frequently to have her wounds checked and then for a big surgery to restore the normal intestinal circuit. It brings me such joy every time I see her.

I tell you this story because it’s amazing, but also because it’s a rarity here. Most patients who have a problem like Lina’s don’t make it - including several patients whose intestines have leaked after I operated on them. Given our lack of ICU level care, severe infection after a surgical complication is an extremely discouraging problem. There’s simply not enough Lina’s out there to keep my spirits up. At a medical missions continuing education conference I recently attended an attendee made a comment that has stuck with me. “We’re not saving lives,” he chided, “we’re prophesying.” Every person we treat is someday going to die (even the favorite patients). We offer our care not as a permanent solution but as a way to testify towards the ultimate resurrection coming. It is therefore essential that we admit our own mistakes and limitations. In admitting our failings, we direct our patients to hope in the perfect healer rather than the one standing in front of them.

David with his favorite patient!

[attachment=1160:david and hope.jpeg]

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