Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Emergency Surgery at a Bush Hospital!

This story took place in the lives of two of our Institute students, both from the Chicago area. It's a GREAT story and gives good insight into not only the workings of a village hospital, but also God's sovereign purposes in his orchestrating of events and lives. This story is (of course) part of a much bigger story of God's work in the lives of these two. Enjoy.

A few days ago, we woke up with some excitement to celebrate our very first Uganda Independence Day. The date was 10/09/08 a day that stands out for another significant reason. However, neither of these reasons are the reason why this day will forever be engrained in my heart as a day that I will remember.
The day started out with some celebrations. I played in a football match and we had the special treat of being able to watch baby Hope (one of the orphaned babies). However, in the afternoon Tiziana began to experience some sharp stomach pains, which she suspected to be due to constipation, a longstanding problem. Yet even after a bowel movement, the pain continued. This caused her major concern, especially due to the abnormality of her pains, which seemed to be ongoing but spike into sharp almost unbearable pains. Later in the evening, her stomach began to swell in the abdomen and we decided we needed to have New Hope’s nurse evaluate Tiziana. After the visit we had planned to try to wait out the night and go to the clinic in the morning for some testing, but when we arrived home, her stomach would not allow the wait and we immediately picked up the nurse and rushed to the hospital. On the way, her pains increased to the point of screams and cries. It was as if the pain was thwarting her body and could only be alleviated by her screams for a moment. Our cries to Jesus began to match the intensity of hers as we called upon Him name.
When we arrived at Kiwoko Hospital, it was 11:15pm just after the outpatient care had closed. Unfortunately, there was no real system for emergency care so we ended up being put in the female ward of the hospital and the nurses seemed to be unprepared to handle the urgency of the situation. As Tiziana lay on the hospital, vomiting from the intensity of the pains, the doctor was not in sight and I continued to helplessly watch the minutes pass praying with faith that Jesus was with us but struggling to see Him. After nearly an hour, I went and found the doctor busy with another patient in serious condition, and explained the urgency of the situation to him and that we had been waiting already over and hour. Thankfully, he arrived in about 15 minutes and began to take assessment of her condition. Before he could even talk to Tiziana, he began an IV and injected pain medicine to calm her down. After some assessment and evaluation he realized that he needed to consult the surgeon who is one of the senior staff and by now it was about 2am. The surgeon came in and took her to have and X-ray and CAT scan done to see what they could find. In the meantime, they sent me back to retrieve the X-ray results of the barium enema that we had done in August. So I brought them back to the doctor who had just finished his tests. He found so much gas inside her large intestine and some other abnormalities. However, when he saw the barium enema X-rays he saw another piece in the puzzle, which was a genetically elongated large intestine. She had a significant extra length large intestine which he suspected could be twisted, but he still considered that a big enema flush would work even if it was slightly twisted. So the doctors went back home and the nurses began to carry out the enema. In about a half hour the enema began and the second flush of the enema brought an unwelcome sign of internal trauma. Blood began to pour out of her bowel and my heart sank as the bridge of hope we received from the doctors (regarding the enema) gave way and we sensed the desperation of that moment.
When the nurses saw the blood coming from her bowel, one of them left to go and find the doctor, while the other stayed behind. My mind was racing and I found myself crying out to Jesus, “Lord, we desperately need you right now. Please come and show us that you are with us.” Not knowing what to do, I was moving back and forth from my wife, to the nurse to ask the whereabouts of the doctor, to the door awaiting his coming. The minutes dragged by and I felt as if I might see my wife bleed to death before my eyes. The nurse arrived back and I was awaiting the doctor behind her when she told me that the doctor did not answer to her knocks. My frustration arose higher as I exclaimed, “What do you mean he doesn’t answer? Go back and knock louder! Take me with you and I will make sure he comes out because this is an emergency!” The nurse refused to allow me to go with her, but left again to find him. Tiziana continued to lose blood and I again felt so helpless. However, I noticed the peace that she had. She was not panicking, but had certain calmness about her countenance. This gave me some comfort, but I paced and checked my watch noting that 45 minutes had gone since she started loosing blood and it was nearing 4am. Then the nurse returned and again was without the doctor. By now I was sensing the frustration and anger swelling up within me. It was difficult because I wanted to communicate the absolute urgency of the situation to them but not lose control and make the situation worse. Finally, I decided that I was going to go back to New Hope and pick up Keith McFarland to rush her to Kampala (capital 2 hours away), giving the nurses and ultimatum that I would take my wife out of there to get help if they could not help her. On the way back, I was continuing to pray asking the Lord to bring his peace to us in this trouble.
We arrived at the hospital to find the doctor at the edge of the bed as he had seen the blood and contemplated a decision. The momentary relief I had in finding him there crumbled as I saw him look down as he exhaled the internal pressure of the situation shaking his head with deep concern. Then he looked up to find us and told us of the weighty decision we now had before us. He told us that the worst-case scenario was now upon us as her large intestine had literally twisted itself forming a “kink” inside her body. The incredible pain and pressure was a result of this kink which could let nothing in or out including large amount of gas and stool which was lodged insider her. Anyone who has ever had gas pain or indigestion has knows only a fraction of what was happening inside because of a temporary struggle for the gas to move through the system. However, her intestine had begun to expand and could be visibly seen as her stomach swelled. The doctor told us that we would risk her bowel bursting if we try to make it to one of the large hospitals in Kampala recommending that we stay and have the operation immediately under his care at Kiwoko Hospital. Now, Kiwoko is that it is a village hospital near New Hope, which was started by a Christian doctor from Northern Ireland at the same time as New Hope in response to the war in the late ’80. Admittedly, I was concerned about having the surgery mostly because of how little we knew about the abilities of the hospital. Our experience at the beginning with the nursing staff was upsetting, but the surgeon’s presence did much to reassure us.
In lieu of our urgent decision, I asked the doctor if we could pray, thinking that he was going to step out and allow us to pray, but without hesitation the doctor grabbed her hand and began to take us directly before the throne of God as he pleaded for the Lord to give us wisdom and he entrusted himself and her to God. The peace that followed was a peace that can only be described as the peace surpasses or is beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). With hearts set at ease, we were ready to go for surgery. Tiziana was full of faith and trust in God knowing that she was in the caring arms of her Father. She calmed my own heart, which was struggling with the possibility of losing her. She wiped away my tears and told me not to cry as she pointed me to trust Jesus. She said, “He is with me” and “There is no reason to fear,” words, which I knew, were from God’s Holy Spirit, which dwells in her. The Holy Spirit is the comforter and we knew no greater comfort than that which he brought us (John 14:16). It was as if at that moment, the Lord was answering our questions of his purposes in this and reminding us that this has not caught him off guard, but that He had ordained this to come at this time and with the staff of this hospital. We rested in him and I remember releasing my wife not into the care of the physicians, but into the care of the “Great Physician” trusting that come what may, he was with us.
The surgery was estimated to take about 1-½ hours. The doctor explained that the procedure was to take out the twisted section (turned out to be over 2 ft.) and sew together the two ends of the large intestine. In the waiting room, time trickled by as I continued to check my watch awaiting news. As I waited, my thoughts went back to home as I realized that in all of commotion we were experiencing, back home our parents remained oblivious. Again, I was reminded that He was with us as I sent word back home and I was reassured that they were with us and calling more people to pray. The time passed by and when the surgeon came out I was trying to read his face before his words came and he showed little emotion. Then he assured me with the wonderful words, “Your wife is fine”. My soul was stirred to worship God who had worked his miraculous power to reveal himself in our lives here. Today as I write this, I am still in awe of the power and complexity with which God orchestrated this event.
God brought us to Uganda to this little village hospital to unleash his wisdom to this world, which boasts of its great medical advances. God brought us to a Christian surgeon and missionary from Germany who had performed these surgeries in his training. God brought us to Kampala in August to have a barium enema test done which would be a key factor in the doctor diagnosing the problem. God put it in the heart of our friends to lend us the car for the night “in case” we needed to go to the hospital. God helped me find the keys to the house in the middle of the night when I returned for the barium enema X-rays, and had dropped it on the ground. God brought a nurse from Alaska who worked in post operation surgery on a short-term trip to care for Tiziana in the hospital and watch for infection. God put it on the heart of an anonymous person to pay our bill in full. God brought a wonderful support of people to care for us with food for me and care for her through those days in the hospital. God is intimately involved in our lives we know with deeper conviction that “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Today she is recovering and gaining more and more strength. I can say with all my heart, “Lord, thank you for your wonderful work on our behalf, and not to us, but to Your Name be the glory”.

If you would like to see more about Kiwoko Hospital you can look at their website:


Anonymous said...

WOW WOW WOW! That is amazing!

Anonymous said...

We will continue to pray for health of all at NHU.

Caroline Kirchner