much longer than the average post
Well… it is definitely more work, but you can try and choose thankfulness… and so I’m trying... I really did have high expectations for the weekend:
- The beginning of vacation for our French school gang (which means some fun English learning activities together this week);
- Friday night dinner date with Tim and friends;
- A planned and much needed haircut from a friend I’ve not seen for a few months;
- A clean house;
- Saturday afternoon at the pool with the fam;
- Watching some softball while drinking iced tea;
- French fries and nachos;
- Resting and getting ahead on some of next week’s school work;
- Church with our friends at Harobanda; and
- Finishing up with a time of worship and teaching at our English evening fellowship.
Some of those expectations were realized thanks to gracious kids, generous friends, gentle doctors and our always good all the time God… but nothing, except maybe Friday night’s dinner happened as we’d anticipated…
So, first I’ll give you the story – then I’ll share my gratitude list – but admittedly, this week’s list has required a bit more work from the Holy Spirit… first getting me to see… and then convincing me... that there was infinitely more for which to be thankful!
Friday night, Tim and I went to a local Chinese restaurant with friends for dinner. Rebekah babysat the littles… the other big kids all had parties and plans of their own. Our oldest girl really is a treasure because she had an awesome attitude and she could have easily picked a “poor little me” one instead. We had a yummy dinner, fun conversation and some nice adult time, and then came home to find that Rebekah had things well under control even though the power had been on and off several times! In fact, it promptly cut out once we were back through the door. But that is just life in Niger.
When the power went out, Mary Michelle (heretoafter referred to as the little peanut) snuck into the kitchen… in the dark… found the peanut butter jar… and started eating. I discovered this a few minutes later while trying to get candles lit and a peanut buttery face rubbed up against me. I cleaned her up, our other kids all arrived home from their respective places and we started the bedtime routines and night chores. I snuggled the little peanut down to sleep and was dropping off to dreamland myself when the croupy cough and cold she’d been fighting all week seemed to come back with a vengeance. So we did a steam treatment and things seemed a little better until around 1:30 in the morning. She started throwing up, several times – and all that was coming up was peanut butter. It was getting stuck in her throat; with that and her cold, she started having a harder time breathing and we began to suspect she’d consumed more peanut butter than we initially thought (we hadn’t verified because the power had been mostly out and that sort of thing is hard to determine via candlelight… and we hadn’t thought it was a priority – after all, she’d been known to pull a finger covered in peanut butter out of the jar before for a special treat). We tried some Benedryl, just in case she was having some sort of a reaction due to the amount of peanut butter, but she couldn’t swallow and ended up throwing up again. I decided to take her in to the ER.
I drove across town the French military hospital (of course, you can’t drive directly because since the coup d’état last February, traffic is redirected away from key government buildings after dark) and waited with my lights shining by the gate for the guard to let me in; either no one saw my lights or heard me beep the horn… or the ER was closed… but after 5 minutes I headed towards another clinic (the one where Jonathan and Elsie Mae were born) because I knew they also staffed an ER. Their guard woke up, allowed me to enter, woke up the ER staff and they began examining her.
After a fairly thorough exam for here, the doctor told me that he didn’t think she was reacting, but that he did have three concerns: 1) She was obviously running a fever – I noticed she'd started feeling hot while I was driving her to the clinic. She didn’t have a fever when I left the house with her. 2) She was dehydrated from the heat, the fever and all the vomiting. 3) Because her abdomen had definite tender places, the doctor was concerned about possible excessive amounts of undiluted-with-other-food-peanut-butter in her system. He was feared a possible plug or blockage developing in her intestines as her body tried to recuperate liquids. His advice – keep her at least overnight on IV fluids or until it was evident her digestive system was back to normal, go ahead and take a blood sample from the IV port to run a few labs the next morning and immediately do something to lower her 104’ temperature.
I called Tim and told him we’d be staying and to call me in the morning.
The IV and blood was drawn quickly and easily (although little peanut protested mightily), she was given acetaminophen via the IV, her temp started descending, and the immediate fluids seemed to help loosen and then clear the congestion and peanut butter out of her throat by making her coughs more productive. Once she got over the IV trauma and settled down, she was obviously more at ease and I was relieved that we’d made the right decision in bringing her to the clinic. I irritated the doctors a little bit when I refused to let them give her aspirin… actually, I was astonished that I remembered the chemical name of aspirin and was able to confirm that that was what they were wanting to do because I’m drawing a blank on the chemical name now… via the IV. Sometimes, the French W. African medical protocols go against everything we are taught in the States – and giving a child aspirin is an example. (Although ~ I remember looking forward to taking those little pink children’s aspirins when I was a little tyke – they were yummy!) Sometimes, medical personal can become very angry, antagonistic and even refuse to treat or treat harshly patients whose parents go against their professional recommendations. As I said, these two doctors didn’t agree with my decision and weren’t happy with me, but they remained courteous and always acted in a professional and competent manner, a detail for which I was immediately thankful.
We were finally admitted and settled into our room around 4:30 in the morning and little peanut wasn’t immediately interested in sleeping, so we talked and cuddled and played until about 5:30ish, when I finally turned off the light and she dropped off to sleep. I cat-napped, but the doctors were back in to check on her and change her IV bag a little after 6 and at 6:30, they flipped off the AC, pulled back the curtain and opened the window... and Tim and I started texting back and forth to figure out our plan for the day.
Since we don’t have a house worker, Saturday morning the whole family usually pitches in and cleans the house. We were also supposed to attend a “baby presentation” for friends of ours. I had an appointment to get my hair cut by a friend I generally only get to see a few times a year. And, of course, there was our weekly Saturday afternoon at the Rec Center Pool. The kids pitched in and tried to get the house done while Tim and I were shuttling back and forth from the clinic and consulting with doctors. We missed the naming ceremony. The haircut and the pool? Thanks to friends, they happened, just not how originally planned.
Little peanut’s lab analyses was completed around 10 in the morning. By this time, Tim had come to the clinic, talked with the doctors and he was pretty sure she’d be there until at least Monday morning. She actually looked pretty good. She was sleepy, but well hydrated, eating cookies, sipping pineapple juice and fussing about her IV. Her temperature had not returned, she was alert and trying to communicate… particularly by telling the medical staff to "Go away!" and leave her alone. Her blood work came back with a positive malaria test, but no other indication of infection or problem. The daytime doctors wanted to immediately start her on an IV treatment for malaria with the strongest medication available… once again, their protocol for little ones (which I think does make sense considering their typical patients).
Little peanut, however, is not a typical patient. She takes mefloquine as a weekly prophylactic to help prevent malaria and the medication the doctors were recommending can have serious heart-related side effects following mefloquine. We’d also discovered last summer that she has a heart murmur; thus, we wanted to avoid heart related side effects! We also learned that the normal medication we use for most in our family can also cause heart issues. Medications recommended by missionary medical personnel in W. Africa, as well as the WHO, are NOT an approved treatment protocol at this clinic and so the doctors could not prescribe or recommend it. This left Tim and I in the very uncomfortable position of nonmedical people deciding which professional medical advice to follow when dealing with a dangerous parasite plaguing our precious, precocious and very ornery just-about-two-year-old.
We chose to follow the WHO recommendations. I knew from my own negative experience that mefloquine has a long half-life… meaning that 1 week after the most recent dosing is not enough time to clear it from your system and side effects can have residual effects as long as 6 months later. The local doctors kept insisting that 3 days was sufficient – and it very well might have been for that particular side effect… we aren’t pharmacists… so we chose to follow guidelines put out by the World Health Organization.
We checked her out of the clinic against medical advice – again, a risky choice because if the folks at the clinic chose to be offended, we could have burned our bridges there, and that could impact future medical issues. But they weren’t. Instead, they were more than gracious and exceedingly kind and encouraging (I thank God and my hubby for that… God has gifted him with the ability to say hard things and/or to disagree without offending.), insisting that if she wasn’t better, the door was always open. They seemed to genuinely understand why we made the choice we did. I took little peanut home (once her IV was removed), Tim searched the pharmacies for the necessary meds… and found Mary some juice, me a Coke and him a Mountain Dew! I went and got my haircut while Tim and little peanut crashed; the rest of the kids continued working on the house. Later, Tim took the kids to the pool and I crashed with Mary (who was still sleeping). She is responding well to her treatment so far…
Now, without further ado...
This Week's Gratitude List
#501 Mary Michelle Elysabeth… our little peanut... even with her strong will, continual challenging and too-big-for-her-britches attitude, she is a treasure and her presence helps make our family who we are. God is using her to grow Tim and I as a couple and as parents.
#502 a lovely dinner together with Tim and friends before the craziness started
#503 a teenager with an amazing attitude - Rebekah could have chosen differently, but instead decided to willingly serve her parents even when all the other big kids were out having fun with their friends on a Friday night
#504 a closed first choice emergency room… because we ended up exactly where we needed to be as a result
#505 competent but not arrogant, kind and gracious medical personnel
#506 doctors who insert the IV perfectly the first time – that isn’t an easy task with a dehydrated little one
#507 hot tea and baguettes with butter served for breakfast
#508 missionary nurse and friend available and willing to answer all our questions and give advice over the phone, several times, in fact
#509 texting – it is the cheapest way to communicate, unless you count in person
#510 praying friends
#511 big kids babysitting and taking charge of cleaning the house
#512 littler kid who swept the whole living room, without being asked
#513 siblings praying for their sister
#514 cookies and pineapple juice to tempt the little sickie
#515 actually finding all of the treatment medications
#516 fast acting meds
#517 friends who share medicines when they are hard to find
#518 a weekend loan so that I could pay for that haircut
#519 delightfully long and snuggly nap for a sweet little one and her mama, both of whom had had very little sleep the night before
#520 french fries and nachos grande for dinner… that I didn’t have to fix… or clean up after...