Thursday, June 16, 2016

Because I am called . . .

Because I am called.
For this time. In this place.

What does it mean to "be called?" As a doctor, I have spent many nights “on call.” I started taking call in the summer of 1991, as a brand new third year medical student. So I guess that means I am working on a quarter of a century of being “on call.” But when I think of “being called,” I always remember the time when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had called me to be a missionary doctor. I was a kid, and no one took it very seriously-except my mother, who encouraged me every  step of the way upon a very long road.  I know then that this is my calling: to GO, and to TEACH, and to MAKE DISCIPLES, by helping women and by teaching others to do what I do, all in the Name of my Savior Jesus. And it has not been well understood by some. And it has been criticized by others. Some folks simply have chosen to withdraw from our lives altogether. Many more have loved us no matter the distance, no matter the time, and have said goodbye through tears. And this part has been painful. But when you are called, regardless of your personal comfort, when your pager goes off in the middle of the night and someone is dying-YOU GO. Regardless of anything else. You become responsible and you cannot ignore the call. For me, this it what it has felt like-being here in Africa, working in this hospital, far away from everything I have ever known: a pager in the night, a telephone ringing in a dark room, a frantic knocking on my door: "Dakari, come now. She is going to die, the baby’s heart rate is too low, she is bleeding . . .  ." And so I GO. I am called. 

I was called up to the hospital at 2 AM. Zeddy, a 41 year old mother of six, was bleeding to death from complications of a miscarriage. I performed an emergent D&C, and we got her blood, as well as covered her with multiple antibiotics. She survived. She returned to her children.

I was called to her bedside. Caren delivered her baby at an outside facility but had hemorrhaged, and had undergone a cesarean hysterectomy. But she was not doing well-she kept on having pain and was not able to eat. She had evidence of an ongoing infection. We treated her with antibiotics and fluids and she had a waxing and waning course. Some days she was better, then she would worsen. Her wound was looking sicker and sicker. We took her to the operating theatre to explore her pelvis and abdomen. We found, in layman’s terms, a real mess. The doctors who had tried to save her life by doing the hysterectomy had tied off all of the vascular pedicles in her pelvis-so there was a lot a tissue that had been left that had died-even her ovaries. The surgery took about 3 hours. And afterwards, we did not know if she would make it. I watched her everyday thereafter, as she tried to nurse her baby through her own pain and sickness. She missed her four little ones who waited for her back in her village. Three weeks later, I watched her walk out of the hospital with her baby on her back, well, and heading home. 

I was called to tell the family that she could not be saved. Linner had abrupted her placenta at an outside facility and had undergone an emergency cesarean section there. They could not stop her bleeding and had sent her to our hospital. When she arrived she had lost most of her blood volume. She could no longer form clots-her blood was like water. Her body was no longer perfused. There was nothing we could do. Her husband stood by her bed and held her hand and prayed. She was a beloved teacher and mother. She left three children behind.

I was called up to tell a story. I stood on a hillside on a cool afternoon, and read a Bible story to 30 children who are growing up in a children’s home in the Highlands of Kenya. Some have distant relatives who have placed them there, some have no family at all. They do not have mothers to care for them. They go to sleep every night in dormitory rooms filled with old bunk beds. They eat beans and rice or ugali every day, but seldom see fruits or vegetables on a regular basis. They sang a song to us after the story. Their eyes were dark and deep and beautiful and told their own stories, as old as time: the stories of children abandoned or left behind, dreaming of a mama they never knew or perhaps remembered only dimly, sadly, wistfully. 

An African doctor recently asked me about being called-actually, she asked me why we were here. She was astounded that we would come to help women and children in a place so far away from our home. She said so. Then she asked, “Why did you come?” 

Why did we come? Why do we stay? For all of the Zeddys and Carens and Linners. For the young African doctors who come here to train and wrestle with their faith and future- and graduate able to care for women and perform skilled and competent surgery in the remote areas of this continent, and share their hope and faith in Jesus without shame, without compromise. For those parentless children on the hillside who hear the story of Jesus in English, Swahili, and Kipsigis. For those children who wait for their mother and new baby sister or brother to come home-and they do come home. For hope’s sake. For love’s sake. Out of a faith rooted in the Word of God, and in an old rugged cross and empty tomb.  Out of the belief that all women everywhere, created in the image of God, should be protected and cared for with gentleness, respect, skill, and love. In Jesus’ Name. 

Because I am called. 
For this time. In this place. 

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