A word about cholera. Vibrio cholera is a bacteria that lives in water.
It passes from one person’s stool into a water supply, where it multiplies and infects everyone who drinks that water. The bacteria causes a toxin-mediated (meaning it’s a chemical produced by the bacteria, not the bacteria itself) diarrhea that can dehydrate and kill a person in a few hours. The quantity of diarrhea we saw was unbelievable. (15 liters a day in an adult is average.) Patients were sick, exhausted, and robbed of their dignity. So I don’t have any photos of what cholera actually does to you. I’m sure you understand.
There have been about 131,000 reported cases of cholera in Haiti since the end of October, and approximately 2700 deaths. There is another mass gravesite on the same hill, this time for cholera victims. Our pediatric team cared for approximately 150 children who would have died without the therapy we gave them.
We worked hard– with IV fluids, antibiotics, and prayer– to save people. During my time there, we had only two deaths. There were numerous children I expected to die, and none of them did. I can’t really tell you their stories. But this is my story:
I had no idea what to expect. I’d read about cholera but never treated it. I’d never a case of malaria before, nor thought I’d learn to diagnose it without any laboratory tests. I had no idea how I’d hold up under the pressure, or in such sad conditions.
But I was fully convinced God wanted me there– not just to use my skills for His children there, but also to change me through them. And this entire experience has made me pray specific prayers again. I had such a certain sense of my need. Here at home, what I need and what I want are so tangled.
In Haiti, we needed a NICU nurse– someone who could put IVs in tiny children regardless of how dehydrated they were. Our need was so clear even the first night, and we prayed. When we got back to the compound, we found a NICU nurse who had just flown in. God used her hands to do nearly impossible things. I am so grateful.
There was no hot water for tea, my preferred source of caffeine, and we ran out of Pepsi, my emergency back up. I tried a caffeine tablet and was nearly deaf for the rest of the night. (I’m not sure if that was a reaction to the caffeine tablet, or my chloroquine.) I prayed for the Pepsi truck to come– and it did, the next day. I had asked my home community to pray specifically for my language skills to return, which they did. Not only was I speaking French again, but enough Creole to get around the ward without a translator in most cases. My needs were very clear to me. I offered them up, and they were met. Abundantly. My wants… didn’t seem so important any more.
I have a renewed sense of my calling to be a doctor. I don’t know why God has so much on my plate. I don’t see any release from my call to be the primary educator of my children at this time, nor am I seeking a release. But I had been asking God– badgering Him, really– to release me from the call He placed on my life 18 years ago when I began my medical journey. I had even begun to doubt whether I’d heard right all those years ago.
It turns out, I did hear right. He has a reason for me to be in medicine. He has blessed me abundantly in allowing me to educate my children. Each of those two challenges is huge in its own right, and for whatever reason, He’s given me both. So I am praying now that He gives me exactly what I need to fulfill them.
For the first time in a long time, I have faith that He will.