Between classes this past week, we made a quick emergency trip to the village of Igoda to check on Dolla. Dolla started the AIDS medications three weeks ago. When we got there we found she had lost consciousness, her poor children and neighbors looking on, feeling quite helpless and afraid. Msafiri, who serves at our clinic, and I were also feeling quite helpless. Totally helpless in fact. Everything had been done right, her medicines were correct, she had no fever, no cough, no symptoms. She just simply wouldn’t regain consciousness.
Encephalitus, menigitus and other horrible diseases that can enter the brain easily once a person is infected with HIV can affect or kill my friends here. Within a few hours they can go from being normal and healthy to dying before our eyes. Oral anti-fungals we’ve learned are a great first aid – and we use them all the time, if we can get to a person in time. One of my greatest fears these days is that we won’t be able to intervene fast enough and rather than recovering, the victim is left hanging, here in this world, but no longer really here. Their poor families are perplexed and fearful and just continue to endure until mercifully the Lord ends their suffering. My commitment is simply to be a friend to the person suffering and to be a friend to the family in their time of need.
One of these in-between cases is Idda. I think I wrote about her last year as she seemed to be making a miraculous recovery. But then sometime in February of this year everything unraveled. Poor sweet Idda went crazy - doing things like biting at her elderly grandmother who was her faithful caregiver, wailing all night without ever sleeping, taking off her clothes and dragging her half paralyzed body through the village. There were times that I was the only one she would take her medicine for. I think God enabled me to calmly coax and love her enough to give her ARVs – the only thing to hopefully get her back to “normal.” In the midst of her outbursts, her eyes though would latch onto mine and she would smile and do whatever I told her to do. I had, and still have, no idea what the end will be for Idda and there are times that I feel quite burdened. All I know is that to abandon her is unthinkable.
I just visited Idda again yesterday. The atmosphere was almost festive when I got to her house. Everyone was eating, and cheery and there was Idda, calmly sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. She seemed so genuinely pleased to see me. In fact the whole gang there came out to greet me like a long lost relative. Lots of hugs, handshakes and thank yous. The whole visit was the total opposite of everything I had expected, everything I had feared I would find. As we were leaving, Idda gave me a “thumbs up”, and I in turn gave her a thumbs up back. It so warmed me heart. God hadn’t forgotten Idda.
Later in the day, we visited another young woman who had similarly succumbed to this illness to the brain. She had been taking the ARVs for a few weeks and then became paralyzed, confused, and unable to talk. A widow, a mother of two very young children, her husband had refused to get tested himself and then refused for her to get herself tested as well. The day after his funeral was over, she came straight to us to get tested and start the treatment. But as I’ve learned now if the virus goes to the brain, there truly is so little we can do. I pray a lot. So dear Betty is bed-ridden, trapped in a body that won’t work, unable to communicate. But I can’t just leave Betty; I have to dole out hope. As I was leaving I decided to pass along the “thumbs up” that Idda had sent to me. And as I gave Betty my “thumbs up” she managed to get her own hand out from under the covers and give me a “thumbs up” back. A sign that my dear friend Betty is still there and that she can get better. I hold on. I plead with them to hold on. I promise them we won’t give up, and we certainly won’t leave them.
And today I have received word that next week, a neurologist from Finland is coming to visit. She is specialist in these brain diseases and she wants to help. Where could I possibly find a neurologist who would want to hang out with me and my friends for two weeks? It almost makes me laugh to think of it it’s so absurd! Even if I could ever find one, with what money could I ever dream of paying for any kind of services of someone with that kind of expertise and knowledge? And who would ever find out about our villages let alone want to come, not just to visit, but to serve the poorest of the poor who would never even be able to get to a hospital, let alone pay for any kind of treatment. And that is why I cannot help but marvel, and sing and dance in my heart. Look at what the Lord has scheduled for my friends! The very best! The very, very, very best! In spite of all the sorrow we see and live here, the glimpses of His sovereignty gives me great encouragement.
And so I write to all of you to ask you please to pray for dear Dr. Anna who is coming, and to pray that these two weeks that she is with us will somehow be used for His glory as He answers the prayers of so many desperate people. I see this over and over as God sends workers and provides, and yet I never cease to marvel at the incredibleness of it all. And so I rejoice, and I want you as my friends to also rejoice and to marvel, but I also want to thank those of you who help us by praying for God to send workers. We are blessed beyond measure here in our little five villages around Madisi. God does gracious favor after gracious favor for us. My heart dances thinking of it!
So keep on praying! Especially in these coming weeks ….
Lots of love,