As most of you know, my mother-in-law made it safely home to Vancouver after a grueling 48 hours in Haiti. She is doing rather well and is heading to Uganda on Wednesday...seriously...she is one of the strongest women I have ever met. If you'd like to join her on a Journey of Compassion to Haiti in June (or to the Philippines in February!), please visit www.impactnations.com. You can also donate there, too.
Needless to say, Haiti has dominated my daily thoughts. I have a few friends working at a mission's organization providing medical/maternity care for the poor there....they are still working amidst the rubble. You can see their work or donate to their ministry at http://heartlineministries.org . They are updating their blog daily.
Today, however, I have a story to tell.
Remember May-May, my continuity patient that delivered a baby boy on December 22? Well, she came for two baby checks and then I did not see her for a while. Concerned, I texted her several times with no reply until two days ago. She texted apologizing for the late reply stating that something terrible had happened. She shared that her mother was put in the hospital with kidney failure, a compromised liver, and a failing heart associated with severe diabetes. For this reason, she was unable to afford the fare to come to Mercy for her baby checks and was embarrassed to say so. She complained that she was bleeding heavy again, had a very bad headache and felt very tired. I asked countless questions and found out that she had been the watcher for her mother in the hospital and her baby at home getting very little sleep and not eating much.
For those of you who do not know, when a woman gives birth, if she immediately goes back to work, lifts heavy objects, and suddenly switches from breastfeeding to formula, she can hemmorhage from the stress on her body as the uterus is not given time to heal. This, unfortunately, was beginning to occur with May-May...I discovered that she was CARRYING her mother to the bathroom to wash and holding her up all by herself. I found out that she was contemplating giving her baby to her ex-boyfriend hours away from Davao because she had to get a job fast in order to pay for the hospital and medical bills her mother was racking up daily. This would be over $800 US every TWO WEEKS! In a society that lives on less that $5 per day, May-May and her family would be working day and night and still be in debt many years after her mother dies! With no insurance and just a slight bursary from the government, May-May would still have to find a very well-paying job to even sustain her mother's daily medication...not including the actual cost of the hospital stay.
My heart was heavy for her. She asked me if I knew of a nanny that she could hire. I started to look into the idea and advised her to come and see me as soon as possible to ensure her baby was still healthy and to assess her bleeding. I also began to pray for a miracle for her mother....and for her.
May-May came for her check this morning. I had made her a sack of food, iron supplements, and some money for fare and she was exceedingly grateful. She looked so thin and pale. She was too tired to cry. Too dehydrated. However, her vital signs were normal and her baby appeared healthy despite the rapid change in diet. We talked for over an hour and after much questioning by both my dear Filipina friend, An-An, and myself, came to the conclusion that the only solutions for this predicament was either for her mother to go be with Jesus or for her to be totally healed. Two options. I asked if An-An and I could go and visit her in the hospital. May-May was not opposed to the idea, so we headed to DMC in the late afternoon to visit May-May's mother.
An-An and I were having trouble finding her. The ward that she was in was located in the hospital gym, wide open for animals to wander in and out with little to no airflow available. Beds were lined about two feet apart with about 200 beds in the gym. It was not a pretty picture. May-May's mother was being looked after by May-May's other sister until May-May was able to return. She was so sweet and welcomed us to her mother's bed. Her mother was yellow, jaundice from the failing liver. Her frail body was misshapen by edema, so much so that only one of her eyes could open...most likely from the kidney failure. She had already acquired painful bed sores and her breathing was extremely labored. I started to cry. I began to understand May-May's situation. It is dire.
We talked a little while about how things were going and I shared with May-May's sister that May-May needed some time to rest or she may end up in the bed next to her mother. I was a little harsh. But then I felt a sharp tug on my heart...I felt like the Lord said that I needed to ask her mother if she wanted to be healed or if she wanted to go "home" to be with Jesus. I asked May-May's sister if it was okay to ask her that and she began to explain that her mother knew Jesus and was not afraid to die, but that they never asked her that question before. When I asked her, she opened her eye and said in Visayan, "I want to go home. I am tired." So I repeated, "You want to go home to Jesus now?" And she slowly, but with conviction, nodded yes. An-An, May-May's sister, and I burst into tears and look at each other knowingly that she was ready and we needed to pray her passing would be fast....with no more suffering.
May-May had shared that her mother was supposed to start dialysis once every two weeks (costing over $800 USD each visit) and I felt again like I needed to ask if a decision had been made and if her mother had been consulted. They had not asked her what her desire was. So An-An and I did. And her answer was, "no", very firm. She did not want her family to be in debt for life for a procedure that most likely will not work.
Her breathing became labored again and An-An and I asked if we could pray with her. We did so and cried a lot more.....we felt the hopelessness in the room....the anguish, her mother's suffering....her daughter's fear and exhaustion...it was overwhelming. I thought of Haiti. No doubt this conversation is taking place by the thousands saying good-bye to loved ones too injured or sick to recover. I know God can heal them in an instant. And for May-May's mother, I think He may not....because she so desires to be with Him now. Mmmm.
An-An and I rode home together feeling tired, but hopeful for May-May and her family. We may have found her a nanny, too.
The feeling of wanting to go home ....home to the West came over me with such shooting pain as I walked the rest of the way home. Since living in the Philippines, I have missed the birth of two nieces and one nephew, missed 4 weddings, 3 Christmases, lost two very very important and irreplaceable friends and could not say goodbye or go to their funeral, and could not share the birth of Promise with my family except via Skype [:)] or walk through this pregnancy with a pregnant sister-in-law......and this week, I didn't get to be the one to hug my mother-in-law as she came off the plane from Haiti.
After visiting May-May's mother, I realized that I am not willing to miss out anymore. How long will I have with my mom and dad? My nieces and nephews...cousins for Promise? How long will I get with my brothers and sisters-in-law? How many more coffee dates do I have with my mom? Deep conversations about the heart of God with my brother? Stories from my grandma?
I am done. Perhaps this is my preggo body and mind speaking, perhaps it is the realization that at any point, I could lose the dearest people to me and never be able to say goodbye or grieve with those who know them, too. I am tired of missing out on my family. I want to come home now....yet I know I will not want to stay for too long...but I do know that I need some time with my family now. I am eagerly awaiting February 2 when Promise and I will begin our long journey to Oregon to see my family and take my midwifery certification exam. I may not want to leave them. Three weeks is not enough time to make up for 3 years of "misses". I will need to send for Tim..."leave the apartment furnished...who cares about it...just come home." That's where I am at. Selfish. With a heavy heart. I long to cry and grieve for Uncle Bob...for Christina...for May-May...for many things...some grateful tears, some anger, some just plain sad....but I just don't feel safe, yet, to let them fall.
Thank you for praying for us amidst all the crazy prayer requests. This has been a difficult season and I am currently fighting a urinary tract infection and some intestinal problems.....on antibiotics now. Tim is also feeling a little...well, "intestinal", too. :) Blessings to you all...give your mother a hug for me.
Here are a couple of recent photos. You can see more on Tim's Facebook page here.