Now that I have had time to reflect over the last week, I would say that the thing that stands out the most to me is how a whole host of people stepped in to get my baby girl to get the medical help she needed, and also those who visited me (in Cairns) and Ben here in PNG (he had childcare help often and meals brought every single day I was gone!) Added to this were phone calls and e-mails that we had from family and friends encouraging us with the words that they were praying for us. So now you’ve heard my global statement, on to the details….
As we were preparing to leave for our village stay (where we would consultant check the book of LUKE finally) we were also gearing up for a week long family holiday in Wewak, our regional center. I was picturing how we would stay at our mission guest house and visit a local hotel that has one of the cleanest pools we have seen in PNG.
During the week, Jenny Beth had a cold. She didn’t have a fever, and was acting normal, getting into trouble with her brother. However, at night she was getting a bit raspy and wheezy sounding. I didn’t think it was serious but decided to take her into our clinic on Friday before the weekend, just to see if they found anything. It turns out that her oxygen saturation levels were in the mid 80’s, so the doctor ordered a nebulizer treatment and gave us an inhaler to give her that night if she needed it. I did give it to her twice and each time she was breathing easier.
The next morning I took her down to the clinic again at 9:00 am, fully expecting that they would take a look at her and send us home again. Not so! Her oxygen levels were still in the mid 80’s…and as the morning progressed they gave her various treatments and finally put her on oxygen. I started realizing that we would not be leaving on Wednesday for the holiday and wondered if our village stay would be delayed too. At that point I called down to Ben to see if he could come be with us, and Beth, our teammate, was thankfully available to go be with our 4 other children. By early afternoon, Jenny Beth’s readings were even lower than when we first got there in the morning whenever they took her off the oxygen. So with heavy hearts we heard to the doctor say “we have to make a decision right now.” I knew immediately he was talking about a medevac to Cairns, Australia. If we waited too long, it would be impossible to fly out because our planes can’t leave in the dark. We agreed with the doctor that it was better to go sooner rather than later, than stay and wonder if we had done the right thing.
The next hour was a flurry of collecting passports, overnight clothes and diapers for Jenny Beth and I. Thankfully Beth was here to help me think of things that I might want to bring. I was teary saying ‘goodbye’ to Jacob, knowing he wouldn’t have any idea what was going on. The older kids (6,9 and 11) were big enough to know why I was leaving with Jenny Beth.
Various people met us at the clinic with documents and permission from the insurance to do the medevac and the clinic manager drove us to the airstrip where the mechanics and pilots were waiting with the KingAir ready to take us to Cairns. I cannot emphasize enough how touching it was to see all these people get into gear to help us.
The flight itself was really good, the only difficulty being that Jenny Beth kept trying to rip her oxygen tube out. I kept thinking about how her pediatrician here has said a few times how strong willed she is! The pediatric nurse who came with us assured me that she would be with me during the evening while they figured out what to do with us at the hospital. When we landed, the nurse turned off Jenny Beth’s oxygen to see if her levels would go up now that we were at sea level. Nope. They went all the way down again, which was a sign to us that we had made the right decision.
As soon as we landed an ambulance was there to meet us on the tarmac and I was thinking about my big boys and how they would have liked to be riding in it with us. When we arrived in the hospital, we were seen right away, and ended up talking to three different doctors. I had brought all of her records from the US with me so they went over this, and ordered a ‘snotty nose test’ (testing her mucus) and an x-ray. Their initial diagnosis was “bronchiolitis,” which ended up being the same for the whole time we were in the hospital. Everyone was very helpful and kind.
The next few days were pretty much the same—nebulizer treatments, nurses taking Jenny Beth’s blood pressure and temp until the day the results came back in from her ‘snotty nose test.’ At first they were telling me that she was positive for influenza A, which could be H1N1. I was a little intimidated by the lady who first told me about the influenza A—I felt like we were being treated like criminals (none of the other staff made me feel like that) but I plucked up the courage to ask a few questions and then take a breath and wait. We were under quarantine so anyone coming into our room had to wear gloves, a gown, and a mask. It turns out that first result was a ‘false positive.’ PHEW.
I do have to mention here, that friends of ours came over as soon as they heard we were in the hospital. It was a strange feeling because they were both in the hospital recovering from a serious car accident when I had visited them a year and a half ago! I felt a lot less alone when I knew they were in town. Several other visitors came as well; the final one being my teammate Beth who was able to book a flight out of PNG on Tuesday. What a relief to have her there to help me watch Jenny Beth while I went to the bathroom or had a shower….I had to practice being assertive with the nurses (who were always kind and willing when I asked) to be able to do those things before Beth arrived! The days in the hospital were really hard, especially because I had very little access to the outside world and I had back pain from the hospital bed and the medivac. I missed Ben. He is always really good in an emergency, able to make decisions under pressure. I guess there’s nothing like having a medivac with one of my kids to realize how much of a support Ben is to me emotionally.
Our biggest issue right now is deciding whether to go to the village or not. On Oct 5, we our teammates will begin checking Luke for some groups and Acts for others. In the case of Onnele, this will be the first large portion of Scripture checked for them—we have wondered how the sickness, etc., has been a spiritual attack in order for this not to happen. We have been talking to our medical personnel and have asked if they would allow us to leave here on October 5. On Thursday we will be able to see the pediatric nurse and she will help us decide whether we can do it as soon as the 5th.