Death Watch

I realize that this is kind-of a morbid title, but please bear with me. And mom: do not be alarmed, everyone is fine. My roommate has not been feeling well for a few days now. She’s been slightly conjested and tired of recent. We thought it was due to allergies and just recovering from a tight and busy schedule from the past 6 weeks, but last night we discovered differently. On Monday night she was running a slight fever of about 100 degrees ferenheit and had a restless sleep. We were supposed to go into town for a supply run and to pick up a new associate from Germany early the next morning. I woke up and my roommate was still sleeping, so I thought I would let her be. I left after saying goodbye and making sure she was supplied with ample water nearby. The day in town was restful and productive, though long. We expected to spend about half of the day there but ended up staying for about 11 hours total, due to the airplane delay. Our new German friend never came as all flights into Garoka had been cancelled. Fortunately, he came in safely this morning and I have yet to meet him! As you might imagine, Liz was very lonely when I arrived back home. She still wasn’t feeling well but was a little less depressed now that we were all back on campus and there were people for her to interact with. She was pretty weak after not really eating anything all day and sleeping most of it through. I made her a dinner of minestrone soup (out of a can; I’m not that domestic yet) and left her to sleep some more. We called the nurse at Lapilo (the missionary base about 30 minutes away) and informed her of the health situation. She took some notes and informed Liz that a few others were experiencing the same symptoms. We had just been at Lapilo on Monday, so Liz very well could have picked up something there. The nurse thought of the possibility of pneumonia or just a common cold. She instructed Liz to take some meds and rest, just to see how things were going to pan out in the morning. The fever was about the same and she took a few otc meds to help that situation. After watching a movie at someone else’e home I came back to go to sleep. I checked on Liz and she was fast asleep. Good. At about 1:30am this morning, Liz came into my room and woke me up in a very alarmed voice, “Kate, I’m scared.” She had just taken her temperature and it read 105.9 in one ear and 104.9 in the other. She felt freezing cold and rather anxious about what was going on. I asked her a few questions about what she was feeling in her body and what she thought she needed the most at the moment. Her simple reply was, “All I want to do is pray.” Duh. So we sat on the couch and prayed for the Lord to bring comfort and peace as the feelings of uncertaintly were overwhelming Liz. I didn’t say anything out loud, but I too was wondering what was going to happen. I called Janie, our go-to missionary on campus for health purposes, and Janie had me call the nurse immediately. At this point Liz just sat on the couch with her eyes closed looking like misery. The nurse had me take some vitals (thank you, mom, for being a nurse and educating us in the basics) and take her respitory count. The nurse asked me questions that I then proceeded to ask Liz and eventually Janie came to our house and talked to the nurse as well. In the end there was really little that we could do but pray for the fever to break. Since we are currently living in a third-world country, the hospital is not exactly somewhere one would go for first-response medical help. Besides the fact that the nearest hospital is about an hour away from the campus where we are located, there is probably more chance that one would contract a disease there rather than be healed of illness. So the emergency room that is so readily available back home is not even an option here. We were quickly jolted to the reality that our security blanket was not available. I followed the nurse’s instructions:

  • cold compress/sponge bath until the fever lowers at least 2 degrees, but not to the point of giving her chills
  • 1000mg of tylenol immediately
  • 400mg of motrin in 2 hours (she had previously taken some)
  • tons of water

Liz and I had joked about being able to play “house” this week since we moved from the cabins into a real home. So now we joked about playing “doctor.” It was every little child’s dream. At one point we even remembered the Little House on the Prarie stories of how little Carrie was so ill and they thought she would die. Not that we really thought Liz would die at that moment, but it made for a lighter atmosphere. We joked about how I secretly always wanted to be Laura, and since Liz is the one with curly blonde hair and I have brown hair, she was Mary and I was Laura. Liz quickly fell back to sleep, probably due to exhaustion, as I continued to have a cold compress on her forehead and arms. I took her temp every 30 minutes and it was slowly lowering. Finally, after about 4 hours the fever was down to about 102 degrees and I fell asleep. I woke up at 8am this morning (about 3 hours later) and took her temperature. It was back to normal! Praise the Lord!! Liz slept until about noon and is now blowing her nose and taking time to read mail that family and friends have sent her. A whole list of movies is on the agenda, with plenty of rest and water. Continue to pray for her recovery, as we have only 2 weeks left here in PNG and want to make the best of our time! Pray, too, that I would continue to be healthy. I have been asked to be excluded from interaction with the other missionaries for the day, in case I am a carrier of whatever Liz has. As I was sitting by Liz in the dark last night, pressing cool cloths against her forehead and arms, I thought back to missionaries Brad Buser and Mike and Sandy Mikllavich. Brad told us a story in class once about how he was in the Sepic region of PNG with his wife and young son. His son was stuck ill, probably malaria, and had a fever that would not break. As they were hiking out of the jungle seeking the last resource of help for their little boy, Brad told us how he and his wife had to just commit their son’s life to the Lord. They knew not if the fever would break, but were very aware that it could kill him quickly. They prayed with every step they took, and the Lord’s grace reigned in the form of the fever breaking. The whole point of Brad telling us this story was to illustrate the seriousness of living in the tribe and daily being willing to give up everying–including your infant son–for the sake of others hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Mike and Sandy shared a story with us about their daughter being ill from malaria. An air strip had not yet been built near their village and they knew that hiking out for 3 hours and then taking a 6-hour boat ride to the nearest medical clinic was not an option as their daughter was quickly becoming dehydrated and burning a fever. As I remember, they ended up injecting her with water time after time, and again, the Lord’s grace reigned in the form of a broken fever and physical healing. All this is to point everything back to the Lord. He is the author and giver of each of our lives, and that initial prayer that Liz and I prayed was to express our full dependence on Him for our lives. The so-called “risks” of tribal missions became a little more realistic to both of us last night, and we cannot be more thankful to the Lord for His provision. It was a neat experience, though very scary, to be fully dependent upon the Lord–in a very tangible way–for life itself. May we all come to the point of counting the cost of being a disciple of Christ, no matter what our capacity of serving Him looks like.



Filed under In PNG

4 responses to “Death Watch

  1. beccaboone

    praise the Lord! i remember brad telling that story too, and was amazed at their faith and complete trust in whatever the Lord would have for them and their son. hope to chat with you again soon. 😀

  2. praise the Lord! i remember brad telling that story too, and was amazed at their faith and complete trust in whatever the Lord would have for them and their son. hope to chat with you again soon.

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