Ever wonder what it would be like to be a medical missionary? Chris Zoolkoski, MD, MScEd, who serves at Galmi Hospital in Niger, reflects on the ups and downs of a typical day at the hospital- and on God’s amazing compassion.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Today (my wife) Nancy got up early to get a head start on organizing the pharmacy. A Nigerien colleague came by at 6AM as he was passing through town. I made him a quick breakfast and we ate together. I got (my son) Joel up, gave him breakfast, and saw him off to another fun day of learning with Teacher Barb at the Galmi Day School.Nancy called from the pharmacy and asked me to bring her the mosquito repellent. They like to hide under her desk.
We rounded on the many inpatients being treated for malaria, pneumonia, accidents, and malnutrition. Spent some time reviewing IV drip rates with our nurses as we evaluate the feasibility of using intravenous quinine for treatment of severe malaria. Transferred a malnourished patient to our malnutrition rehab center. Prayed with several patients, giving thanks for some and making request for others.
Went to the dirt air strip behind the hospital to meet the plane. It brought Jason who is advising us in the drilling of a second bore hole so that we have a backup water supply. This will take the sting out of any failures of our main bore hole as we had to deal with last year.
The plane also brought Dr. David Thompson who is meeting with us to discuss our vision for becoming a training site for the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons. We gave him a tour of the hospital and grounds. Training and discipling Christian doctors to become committed Christian surgeons is a good way to help the people of this country.
Saw a six-year-old boy who fell 10 days ago. Those in his community thought he broke his arm and attached a tight splint which cut off the blood supply. Later today Dr. Johnstone had to take him to the OR for an above-the-elbow amputation of this necrotic arm.
The next consultation was for a cute four-year-old Tuareg girl who has been having severe pain with urination for one year. She has been to several different government hospitals and her parents were told there is nothing wrong with her. My ultrasound exam showed a 2.4 centimeter bladder stone as the cause of her pain. We will remove it in the OR later this week and expect a good result for her.
Nancy made a great stir fry served over rice with chicken and cabbage and onions. I had three helpings. I went back to the hospital early to check on the IV quinine drip rates. I also checked on Aboul to make sure he was receiving his blood transfusion. I had admitted him earlier convulsing with cerebral malaria. He had a hematocrit of 4%. We didn’t have any A+ blood but one of our nurses with the same blood type went quickly to the lab to donate for him.
A woman arrived who delivered twins today after being infertile and waiting for a baby for 15 years. They were born 10 weeks early. One weighs 2.3 pounds, the other 2.4 pounds. We admitted the babies for nutritional support but the smaller one died at about 10PM tonight. I could not console her.
An eight-year-old boy was brought in 40 days after being bitten by a dog. He has severe laryngospasms from florid rabies. There is no cure for rabies once these symptoms begin. I could only give the boy some medicines to help keep him comfortable. The next 48 hours of his remaining life will not be pretty.
At 2AM the midwife called for help. I went to see the wife of one of the construction workers who is helping us to build the new post-surgical wing of the hospital. She gave birth four days ago to a healthy girl. Now she is working hard to breathe. She has a post-partum cardiomyopathy. I think she’ll be okay after the diuretics kick in.
I poked my head in on the surviving twin. She is staying warm in the incubator.
Leaving the hospital at 3AM, I stopped to check on Aboul. He looked more comfortable lying in bed. The convulsions had stopped and when I didn’t see the labored rise and fall of his chest I wondered if the blood donated by our nurse was having its desired effect. But when I put my stethoscope to his chest I could hear nothing. His father was asleep in the same bed with him. I had to wake him up to tell his son had died.
I know it’s late but I think I’ll sleep better if I write down this memory of today. Not because I want to preserve bad memories. There were several events that lifted my spirits, such as the drilling of the new bore hole and the progress we are making towards a PAACS program. We really do like ministering here and seeing those who get better and who hear the Truth and who take the Truth home with them. I’m seeing a very small focus of the world’s suffering. But God sees it in its entirety. I can go home and close the door and not look at it anymore. But He doesn’t hide from it. He feels it. He enters in to it. He is not happy about it. He’s very close to putting an end to it.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.