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Breath of Life

“It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only God.”

The four month old boy lay grunting and struggling to breathe each of his 90 breaths per minute.  He  had a pulse of 230, oxygen  saturations in the 80s on several liters of oxygen (it should be close to 100%), his skin was starting to mottle and we knew we were losing him…

We already had a few X-rays on him, and we had consulted a pediatric surgeon and a radiologist in the US to look at our X-rays. They were telling us to try various maneuvers and all day we had tried to listen to the specialists, but time was running out. The child was minutes away from death at this point. In spite of the radiologists read we still felt this must be a collapsed lung.  The only course of action for a collapsed lung is to relieve the air pressure in the chest cavity that is putting pressure on the lung and keeping it from filling with air properly. The specialists said no, this was not the case, and who are we to challenge the specialists? But we had few options. And so Dr. Dave, our general surgeon, said a prayer and directed the needle between two ribs in his upper chest wall. All four family physicians surrounding him encouraged him to do it…

There was a whoosh of air (that had been compressing his right lung not allowing air to enter the normal way from his mouth). And then there was pus. It turns out it was a bad pneumonia that had collapsed his lung. We had no CT to help us figure this out, but had been going on instinct and observation. We reshot the X-ray and the lung which had been an eerily dark shadow before was now expanded showing a white pneumonia filled lung. Almost immediately our little patient started to stabilize. His young life spared. Dios obra aquí (God works here)…

So that is just one of so many stories I already have from my time here.  We  have joined a team of  physicians, PA’s, nurses and ancillary staff, who can and do manage just about any problem that comes here, from routine maternity care to Ventriculoperitoneal shunts to  machete trauma to prune belly syndrome to  congenital adrenal hyperplasia. It is an incredible honor to be among amazingly gifted and at the same time humble doctors! And we do this work (including specialty work) at a fraction of what other doctors around the country charge.

Let me tell you about one of my colleagues. This general surgeon whom I mentioned above served as scrub nurse for a C-section here. This is analogous to Jesus washing his disciples feet, a nice sentiment but something that would NEVER happen in a US hospital. And when I finished my second C-section with him, he provided me with invaluable pointers that I could only get while working directly with him…Dios obra aquí!

These are the folks  that do codes with me when there is an emergency, invite my family to meals, teach me ultrasound, whose kids my kids play ultimate frisbee with, with whom we worship, with whom I bounce all of my questions off of. My biggest fear coming to this place was the community being so close that things would be too messy.  But we all realize that we are  broken vessels (vasijas rotas) and that without God working in and through us we can do nothing.

Thus far, working here has proved incredibly gratifying. I am allowed to practice the full scope of family medicine, and I am enjoying maternity care (nine normal deliveries and now two C-sections as the primary operator). On my calls I do admissions of pediatric, maternity and geriatric patients, run the ER, and sometimes do crazy ER procedures. In the end, I know this — Dios obra aquí…God works here…in and through us and we are so grateful that you share in this with us through your love, prayers, and ongoing support.


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