Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Berna's Journey- Part 2 (finally!)

Berna’s Journey- Part 2

(Sorry for the long delay)
Stepping off the plane with Berna on my back, I was looking forward to the ambulance that would be waiting for us on the other side of customs.  Berna seemed less and less responsive and I was relieved to be in country.  Handing our passports over to customs I was immediately told, “you don’t have a visa.”  I explained our situation, in tears, and told him of our urgency to get to the hospital.
“You need a visa.”
Frustration, scared and tired I was brought to a room to buy our visas.  I couldn’t help but feel that precious time was slipping away.  But finally, after getting our luggage we stepped out into the meeting area and saw……no one.  No ambulance, no representative from the charity organization, no one.   Suddenly a small Ehtiopian woman walked up to me and said, “Are you waiting for someone?  I think he was here but then had to leave because the plane was late.”
I broke down crying, “She needs to go to the hospital.  I think she is going to die.”
A group of three Ethiopians were now with us and one of them quickly offered their cell phone to me.  I called the doctor that was awaiting us and he told me he would have the ambulance sent right away.   After hanging up, one of the men said, “are you trying to go to Korean hospital?”  I said yes.  He then said, “Let’s go. I will take you.”  Through my tears I told him that I had no Ethiopian money with me and couldn’t pay him.  “No problem,” he said, “She needs to go now.”
Praise Jesus!!
We finally arrived to Korean hospital around 11pm and I was fully expecting the doctor to take Berna to the OR immediately to have a shunt placed.  This way, after a couple days in Ethiopia she could still go to the U.S. and have her tumor removed by the team awaiting her in Louisville. 
After some initial lab tests, we met the attending physician who took a look at her MRI (imaging of her brain done in Togo) and said to me, “I cannot put in a shunt.”
My heart dropped.
My dear Jesus, Berna is going to die here in Ethiopia without her family.
“So what are you telling me?”
He proceeded to explain to me that putting a shunt in could result in a part of her brain being pushed upwards through  her skull and would kill her.  He then told me that he was going to take out her tumor—thus performing the surgery she was supposed to have done in Louisville.
You might think that this was good news, but in fact, it was terrifying news to me.  Here is a surgeon that I know nothing about, in a hospital I have never been to, and I have to agree to let Berna undergo a very delicate operation on her brain that could kill her.  But without it, she would surely die as well. 
I was forced to give over any last sense of control that I was trying to maintain, and give Berna over to the Lord.  He had orchestrated all things up to this point, and it was time to decide whether I trusted Him or not.  Berna’s mother had to hand her daughter over to me and I was being forced to hand Berna over to this stranger.  We all were giving Berna over into the hands of the Savior, trusting in His plan for her life and/or her death.
Berna’s surgery was gong to take place in 6 hours.  She was in and out of consciousness and her moments awake were spent screaming in pain and hitting her head until Morphine could be given to calm her.  We slept next to one another in the Emergency Room waiting for morning.  Around 5 am she had a seizure, but it thankfully stopped after only a minute.  I passed the hours praying incessantly and singing worship songs softly in Berna’s ear.  

They finally came to take Berna to the OR.  There is no way to say good-bye to someone you love when you think it may be the last time seeing them.  It was a hard glimpse into what I ask my patient’s families to do every day.  There was such a peace the Lord gave me during that waiting time.  I found that I wasn’t scared or worried because I knew The Great Physician was in control. 

After arriving to the ICU
I was able to be there when she came out of the OR and into the ICU.  And although it wasn’t really allowed, I stayed with her in her bed all night long (which turned out to be quite necessary because issues with a national resident doctor that was caring for her during the night).  After two very sleepless nights (for me) in the ICU, she was moved to a private room.  It had been an exhausting 72 hours and although I was thrilled that Berna was now in her own room, I realized that I now had the full-time care of a 4 year-old girl who didn’t speak my language and visa versa.

As Berna got better and better each day, things actually became more and more difficult for us.  She was becoming fully aware that her family was not around, she wanted Togolese food and she wanted the medications to be OVER!  Sadly, I couldn’t explain these things to her and my own resources were limited—I couldn’t leave her alone to go by taxi to a grocery store and I didn’t even know what she wanted if I could go!  Thankfully the Lord provided in BIG ways each time I felt like I couldn’t quite make it.  One day when I was quite tired, hungry and stressed out a group of doctors came in the room.  As they were introducing themselves I look passed one of them only to see Ed Boss, a familiar face and friend I had met in Thailand a few years passed!!  He was in Ethiopia at this same hospital working on setting up a Pathology lab.  I started crying when I saw him and gave him a big hug.   It was such an overwhelming, unexpected comfort to have someone I knew standing in front of me. Later in the week a wonderful missionary brought us some bread, butter, fruit and other meals that were an amazing blessing.  (butter became a very important means of getting Berna to stop crying! :-)  )Her Neurosurgeon kept us supplied with great yogurt and chocolate.  
We spent many hours watching
movies to pass the time.
Winnie the Pooh's Grand Adventure
was a favorite!

During the last days of our stay Berna would spend about 4-5 hours in a row crying and screaming in her mother tongue that she wanted to go home.  She would pack her suitcase, put on her shoes and stand at the door pleading with Jesus—literally.  It both broke my heart and mended it at the same time; two weeks ago she was hours away from death and I was pleading with the Lord to save her, and now she is crying out for the Lord to save her with her own voice, longing to go home.  I would back her in the African way and we would spend the night walking laps around the hospital and singing praise songs.  When she would fall asleep on my back I would just crawl into bed, leaving her on my back until the next morning.  Graciously, during the last weekend of our stay my friend and fellow SP missionary Stephanie Hall was in Addis to pick up her mom.  Stephanie speaks Amharic and knows her way around the city, so we were able to venture out of the hospital and give Berna (and me) a break from hospital life!  I will never be able to repay Stephanie for what she did for us at a very stressful time.

The Pariko family
Flying home!
Our journey home was much very different than the journey there.  Berna colored and slept for the majority of the journey.  We were both very excited to put our feet on Togo soil.  The reunion with her family was so very sweet.  The pastor from her church also met us at the airport.  Berna sat down next to her sister pointing to all the little scars left on her hands from all the IVs.

Unfortunately, about 36 hours after arriving home Berna came to the hospital with CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leaking from an incision on her head.  This was very discouraging and required us going to the Operating room right away to try and plug the hole (basically).   I had to do several days in a row of taking out fluid by inserting a needle through her back so that the pressure in her head could stay low while the patch in her head healed.   Once again we were all back on our knees in prayer.  After a 10 day stay in the hospital, through the Lord’s intervention, the pressure in Berna’s head subsided and she went home.

I wish I could go through all the ups and downs, encouragements and discouragements, spelling out how God provided even in the midst of struggle and difficulty—but that blog would take more pages that most are willing to read.  The point of this blog, this story, is to highlight our weaknesses and to exemplify the amazing power of our Savior Jesus Christ, His plan for us, and our worship back to Him.

Dr. Safi- Berna's awesome Neurosurgeon!

Thank you to each and every person who had a role in Berna’s journey—doctor’s, Healing the Children, Dr. Safi (neurosurgeon who performed the operation), Stepahnie Hail, and the countless number of people who lifted us up in prayer day after day.  There aren’t enough ways express our thanks and appreciation.