It was Friday evening and just as the day was coming to a close a truck pulled up in front of the house. There was a 16-year-old girl who they had carried out of Burma in a make-shift stretcher of a hammock tied onto a pole. She was sick. Very sick. The family clustered around on the porch. How I wished I could have captured that image! So raw and real. These are the "real" Burma Karen. There was the little father who acted as spokesman for the bunch, with his long stringy gray hair and old straw hat beneath which lay a weathered but kind and gentle face. The small but powerful older brother. And the tiny wide-eyed teenaged younger sister with her traditional sarong and hair concealed beneath a brightly patterned but worn cloth, waiting on her sister hand and foot. Together with the whole assembly of others who gathered on the porch, presumably married brothers and sisters. I became increasingly concerned as in answer to my probing they listed off her symptoms one by one.
This touched uncomfortably close to home as "our" three little ones' mother who died last year had nearly identical symptoms.
*She had been unable to void for 5 days.
*She was dizzy with a fever.
*Severe stomach pain - which I couldn't pinpoint to one particular quadrant
*I couldn't detect bowel sounds
*Inability to walk
*Conjunctiva spooky looking pale
I wasn't quite sure what they were expecting, but the confidence they placed in me was catching. I didn't want to risk treating this one. Shortly we were heading in to the Metta ER.
Our reception was anything but welcoming. They wouldn't bring a stretcher but instead brought over a wheel chair and in a flurry of abrasive tones insisted that she get up from where she was lying in the truck bed and climb down into the wheelchair. Then they took her and set her in the waiting area rather than giving her a bed in the empty ER, after which they sent the family to the restroom where they stayed for what felt like an eternity.
I was hopping mad...
These people are gentle and easily intimidated, not to mention naive, especially in the ways of Thai hospitals.
Sometimes the lack of true empathy really gets to me and I have to struggle to not react with a complete lack of empathy myself.
I called my family and told them to please just pray. Because if it kept going anything like it already was they would misdiagnose her (as they had our other patient who had died - she ended up having a bowel obstruction and they instead diagnosed her with a bladder infection) and send her home.
Finally, they transfered her to one of the beds and got things going. They told me that they were admitting her. She had renal failure which they said was caused by food poisoning from some fruit that they have around here... I'd never heard of anything like that before, but since then others have confirmed the story of the fruit.
(And I'm wondering why they eat it??? But that's another story for a different day... They say it tastes good. And I guess we have an example of that straight from our first parents.)
They said that, unless she would be able to void, her condition would be critical. They also mentioned that these kinds of cases sometimes have to be transferred to the larger hospital in Maesot.
I went home and shortly after ten o'clock they called me. They were transferring her by ambulance right then. She had acute renal failure.
Now here if they transport a patient by ambulance in the middle of the night you know it's an emergency. From what I've had happen before, normally they'll schedule a transfer for sometime the next morning.
The only thing I wanted was to go and be with them, but knowing that there was no way that I could make the 2+ hour drive safely in my currently exhausted condition, I decided that I would instead leave before daylight the next morning.
I was very relieved to see her still alive and safely settled into a ward, but it was disheartening to notice that her catheter bag was still empty. They said that her condition was critical.
I was pretty discouraged about it. Honestly, I just didn't really want to think about it.
I returned home. The next morning my mother mentioned that PawEh had been on her heart and that she had spent part of the night praying for her.
On our way up to Chiang Mai for my family's flight back to the States we stopped by. The catheter bag was nearly half-full this time. Praise the Lord!
Oh, me of little faith...
Two days later she was discharged from the hospital and I delightedly picked up a very happy-looking, if hungry, trio. She walked out on her own two feet and insisted that she wasn't even so much as weak!
I can only attribute it to a miracle and the power of prayer.