Soddo Christian Hospital, Ethiopia
“Today a 12 year old boy came to the hospital nearly at death’s door with a neurological disease, which I think is Guillan-Barre Syndrome. He was.gasping for air. We checked his lungs and they were clear. We did a neurological exam as his muscles were extremely weak. He was unable to move his legs or his arms, and he was using all his strength and energy to move his diaphragm enough to pull in small breaths of air. His oxygen saturation was falling and he needed to be placed on our breathing machine.
“Typically our hospital can’t keep these patients. We don’t have enough ventilators, or enough money in our benevolent fund, and it is a huge drain on our ICU staff to care for these patients for a long time. In fact every patient, we have had to transfer to Addis Ababa for long-term ventilation, has died. EVERY ONE. They either die en route, or die at the referral hospitals in Addis. Or, their family gives up hope and they take them home to die.
“Today, I was moved by this sweet boy and his widowed mother. Moved to TRY! Moved to give him a chance at life! I pulled our team together, admitted him to our ICU, inserted the breathing tube and helped his body rest as the machine did the work of breathing for him.
“Have you ever felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit to do something out of the ordinary for which you’re not totally prepared? To step out in faith and TRY? That was me today.”
This was the email that I sent to one of our supporters the day Sisay presented to our hospital!
It was a grueling journey. For 39 days Sisay was in the ICU, the ventilator breathing for him. There were many twists and turns during his stay: days of sedation so he could lie comfortably and not fight the tube in his throat; a surgery to put the tube directly into his trachea to protect his throat from damage; infection and treatment with our strongest antibiotics; complications where lung secretions blocked the breathing tube and he almost died. All the while, his mother was by his side keeping the hope that her child could be saved and be well again.
Sisay was truly paralyzed up to his face. He couldn’t move his body, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow. Our ICU staff poured out their lives for him. The machine breathing for him, our staff and his mother feeding him by tube, caring for his body by preventing bed sores, speaking to him, singing to him.
After weeks of care Sisay’s strength began to return. He could raise his eyebrows and indicate pain and hunger. He wanted to eat. He could start to shrug his shoulders. He could breathe on his own for a few hours at a time before tiring out. If we could keep him healthy and avoid complications for a little while longer, he would make a full recovery.
After 39 days on the machine, the tube was removed and Sisay was able to get in a wheelchair for the first time to see something different other than our ICU! By God’s grace he had survived! Soon he was moved to our pediatric ward for observation, and then sent home with his mother to finish recovering at home.
As I was reflecting on this young boy’s life, I thought about Ephesians 3:20-21:
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and Jesus Christ throughout all the generations.
HIS power that is at work within US!
I can say with confidence: he was going to die, and today he is alive!