the appendix

These stomach bugs get us here all the time. I haven’t had one in quite a while, but then, I’ve been taking probiotics from the States. I should have given them to all of us.

Last time the Dreamer was really sick, when she was six and she had dysentery, she was so exhausted that she asked us to put a chair in front of the toilet so she could rest her head on it. Then she fell asleep there. So then we made up a bed for her, right near the toilet, so she didn’t have to go far when she needed it. She hated the antibiotics she had to take, a nasty liquid version, so I mixed it with grape juice. She hasn’t touched grape juice since.

This time, she didn’t fall asleep on the toilet; she fell asleep draped over the “barf bucket”. But after a couple of days, it seemed like she was starting to get better. She even stopped feeling so nauseous, and she started drinking a little water, sometimes even juice. But she still didn’t want to move, her stomach hurt, and her fever wouldn’t go away. I figured it’s time for antiobiotics. I considered taking her to the hospital, but that’s the last thing I wanted to do, if I didn’t absolutely have to. Hospitals generally aren’t so good here. Sometimes clean, often not. Sometimes good doctors, sometimes not. Rarely good nurses. Always crowded. And my Arabic is so inadequate. Yes, I had Malina in a hospital here, but I had the German midwife, who was a gift from God. And I went home as soon as I could afterward, not three hours after she was born. I admit, though… I don’t like hospitals in any country.

I took her to see my Finnish doctor-friend. “You need to take her in,” she said. “It could be appendicitis.” Really? Surely, if it was that bad, she would have been crying, at least. She’d been cranky, of course, but… “Take her to the new one, the one up on Sharia Siteen. I’ve heard good things about it.” Thank you, God, for my friend.

When we got there, it was hard to find a place to park. She could hardly walk, but I supported her, and we went slowly. But the hospital was beautiful. A huge waiting area with leather couches, marble floors and everything. It sparkled. Amani said it was like an airport. “She needs a doctor…” “It is closed.”  It was after 5 p.m. “Go to the emergency room.” But they brought a wheelchair for her. Thank you, God. We went down hall after hall, I was lost, but I kept following the man pushing her wheelchair. It was calm, and it was so clean.  Thank you, God.

He brought us to a little room, and then a nurse came. “What’s your name?” “The Dreamer.” It means peace in Swahili. “Oh, it’s an Arabic name!” “Yes,” I smiled. It means hope in Arabic. She asked lots of questions, and her English was excellent. Thank you, God. She brought us to a beautiful room with Winnie the Pooh painted on the walls and started a cartoon on the flatscreen TV. The Dreamer loved it. Thank you, God.

“You need to pay the fee over there…” she told me. There’s no medical insurance here; they need to have payment before they can proceed.  Patient’s name? “Oh, that’s an Arabic name!”  Father’s name?  “Uhh… Dad?”  Grandfather’s name?  “Well, Grandpa.”  Family name?  “Oh, well, actually her father’s name is Dad, her grandfather’s name is Grandpa, and her family name is Rikshaw.”  I wrote it on a paper for him, and he typed out The Dreamer Dad Grandpa Rikshaw.  That’s how names work here (2014-02 update: sorry, this prior paragraph is now confusing since we are obfsucating our names.  Contact us if you want to get a better understanding of naming in the Sandbox!).

More nurses, doctors, questions, prodding her stomach… “The Dreamer? Oh, that’s an Arabic name!” They treated her like a princess. Thank you, God. They gave her pain-killers and started an IV. We waited. The doctors were from the Sandbox, but they’d studied in western countries. The nurses were mostly Filipino. The common language of communication was English. As they discussed her case together, they spoke English. I understood everything. Thank you, God. We waited.

“She needs some tests. Go pay the fee over there…” A CT scan. I’d never seen one in real life before. They let me stand behind the technician while he punched various buttons and different images of her abdomen flashed on three different screens. God, thank you for the gift of technology.

She needs an ultra-sound, too. “The Dreamer? Oh, that’s an Arabic name!” I thought this would be painful for her, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Thank you, God. “What do you think?” he asked her. “It’s interesting, but I wish it was in color.” “Oh, I can make it have color, too.” He punched some buttons, and then red and blue streaks flashed on the screen, as it showed her blood flowing, with and without loads of oxygen. Then he took her on a brief tour of her heart and a few other organs, just for fun.

We waited. The doctor came. She needs surgery, and she needs it right away. “Go pay the fee at the admission office.” I found the office, but the lady wasn’t there. “She’ll come soon,” I was told. I waited. I was nervous about the Dreamer, and I knew I didn’t have enough money with me. It’s a cash-only society, and the largest denomination is worth about $15. There’s no way I could have brought that much with me. The lady finally came, but she wasn’t sure exactly how to charge it. A nurse came, “What’s taking so long?” A stream of Arabic; they were both from the Sandbox. The surgeon came too. “I don’t have enough money with me right now,” I told him. “That’s ok,” he said, “I’ll tell them that’s ok. You can pay in the morning. We need to do the surgery now.” Thank you, God.  She typed out The Dreamer Dad Grandpa; didn’t bother with the Rikshaw, I guess.

They had a single-bed room available for her. Thank you, God. It even had a couch for me to sleep on later. Thank you, God. They laid her in the bed, and then wheeled it out to bring her to the O.R.

11 p.m. It was quiet. I waited. Oh, God, thank you for your mercy. Please, have mercy… I waited. My friend called, “I’m coming up there.” Thank you, God. She brought a pillow and blanket, food and water, chatted with me while I waited. Thank you, God…

It was 1 a.m. when they came to the room, “The doctor wants you to come.” Is something wrong? The surgeon met me outside the O.R. “Here it is, this is her appendix.” He unfolded the paper towel, and there it was, coated in blood.  Yep, I guess that’s an appendix.  Not that I would know.  “See? Here is where it ruptured. The abscess was so big. I spent a long time flushing out the whole area. Why didn’t you bring her sooner?” But he smiles at me, and assures me she’ll be ok. Thank you, God. She has tubes in her arms, another coming out of her stomach, an oxygen mask over her face, and she’s just starting to regain consciousness. Oh, honey. My baby girl. I love you. Thank you, God. I love you. Please have mercy…

Hours later, after I’d tried to sleep a little bit and Mr. Rikshaw had come to switch places with me, I opened up my computer to find a stream of emails. So many prayers, so much encouragement. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t even know how to respond. But I’m so thankful. So thankful for His provision, His caring, His peace, His hope. Thank you, God.

– Mama Nomuula