On my return to the office a young female came in with pelvic pain that was worse with sitting. After a brief history she laid down on the exam table. “Are you pregnant” I asked in Pidgin. “No,” was her response. She looked pregnant and had something firm in her abdomen. Off to ultrasound we went. Hmmm . . . that’s a head . . . and there’s a heart beat. “Yep, you’re pregnant and about 36 weeks.” “I know” was her smiling response. Well, I guess I botched my Pidgin on that visit. I will keep working.
No time to wallow in language doubts I headed back to my exam room. A middle aged female came in with years of pelvic pain and vaginal discharge. It did not take long to figure out she had PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) from prior STD exposure. This is far too common in PNG with promiscuity, domestic violence, and rape. I gave her antibiotics to treat her symptoms. Hopefully not too much scarring has occurred and the pain will resolve.
Then the watchman (a friend or family member who comes to the hospital with the patient) of a patient I saw last week came in asking my advice on his esophageal cancer as the patient was too weak to get to the hospital. “Could your surgeons remove the cancer?” he asked. Dr. Jim Radcliffe and I explained that the surgery would either kill him or prolong his suffering. The best we could do was remind him of his hope in Jesus.
Next came a child vomiting water with occasional blood. He also has watery diarrhea. Off to the lab. Mom and Dad return later with the blood test which looks alright. Medications given for dysentery. His parents are happy with his care. His dad, it turns out, is the pastor of a Nazarene church a few miles up the road. I cheerfully turn to my translator and say “Hey, one of my brothers in Christ. Can you see the family resemblance?” The dad and I laugh. They head home with their fears released.
A new mother with Chronic Migraines, a young man for a school physical, then an elderly woman, deaf and blind from cataracts. The afternoon was flying by.
I poked my head out the door for the next patient. “One pela kam” I called. A 30 year old female stood up and slowly walked down the hall. She had temporal wasting (loss of muscle and fat), was pale, and moved slowly. “Man, she looks sick,” I thought. TB? She sat down in my room. “I’m here with a cough, short of breath, my belly is swollen, and there’s something on my back where I was stabbed one year ago,” she says. She had fluid in her abdomen on exam and a hard mass on her right posterior chest wall. Cancer. We made our way to the ultrasound room. I scanned her back and abdomen. Liver cancer with ascites (fluid in the abdomen). I sat facing her and her young husband. “I am truly sorry,” I said and explained, “You have cancer of the liver.” I paused as she and her husband sat in shock. I slowly went on, “There is no cure.” Tears began to stream down her face and the husband’s face tensed. I was fighting to hold back the tears as I talked. “Have you given your life to God and trusted Him?”
“Yes,” she replied, “my spirit is in His hands.” I asked if I could pray with them. They nodded yes. I slowly began to pray in Pidgin. They headed home to see their pastor and will come back if they need us. She probably has 3 months or less to live.
No time to morn I moved onto the next patient. A young man with seizures. Then an ultrasound of a pregnant patient that is 28 weeks. “Congratulations. You have twins!” I said with a smile. One of the labor and delivery (L&D) nurses poked her head in the ultrasound room. “Dr. Nathan we need you in L&D. We have a laceration that needs suturing.” No time to celebrate with this patient for now, off to L&D. And so my day ended.
It’s not always easy but I am thankful for the chance to show the people of PNG the love of Christ. Sometime that means sharing in their brokenness and pain and other times celebrating life with them. Sometimes that means using my skills to help ease their suffering or being able to heal them. Each one of you who is partnering with us through prayer and finances is also helping to treat every person that walks through the hospital doors. Thanks for all you are doing.