Scriptsfrom the Sacras
“...And He sent forth His Word, and healed them” -Psalm 107:20
I (Rick) returned on May 20 th from a 3 week trip to Liberia. I was grateful for the opportunity to bring 6 pieces of luggage full of medications and lab supplies for the hospital, and to fill in for 2 of my colleagues who were attending a medical conference in Greece, especially with the possibility that there would be a serious need for medical care at the time. You may have heard about the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa in the last few months. While there are still a few Ebola cases in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, Liberia has not had any cases for over a month. ELWA Hospital prepared an isolation ward to be ready if needed, but we have not actually had any patients admitted to it. We thank God that the virus was contained so quickly.
Nonetheless, the hospital is very busy these days. I do want to share a story about one patient that I took care of during my trip.
Little Peter (not his real name) was sitting on a bench outside the lab. He’s only 5. His cheek was swollen up, and he was drooling. He had a terrible “bad breath” smell about him, and looked quite malnourished. Frieda Schmidt, the administrator of our dental clinic, was walking by and noticed this boy. She asked the people nearby about him. Peter was not even being seen at the hospital—he was just there with his mother who was also sick, and she had no money to pay for Peter to be seen and treated.
Frieda brought Peter’s situation up with me and a couple of the other doctors. As we talked it over, we knew that we couldn’t allow Peter to go home. He wasn’t eating and would soon become critically ill. SIM missionary Dr. John Fankhauser, our Deputy Medical Director, gave the official “OK” for us to tell his mother that we would admit him to the hospital and that the admission deposit would be waived.
When we brought Peter into the emergency room and examined him, it turned out he had a very severe gum infection that had spread into the cheek, and that he wasn’t able to eat anything. So we started him on antibiotics and saline rinses to help clear the infection. We also did some labs, to see if we could find any underlying cause. That soon became apparent when Peter’s HIV test came back positive. Little Peter had AIDS.
ELWA Hospital has a Counseling Department focused on helping our 500 plus HIV positive clients live positively and remain healthy on antiretroviral treatment (ART). This department was opened up in 2000 with the support of an SIM project. Bee Mason, one of the counselors, met with Peter’s mom several times while he was in the hospital, to educate her about HIV, its cause, how it spreads, and how important it would be for Peter to take medication regularly, every single day for the rest of his life. We also asked Peter’s mom to be tested and her test was positive as well. The initial counseling process is quite intensive as we help people get past their denial and their despair to see that there is hope for those with HIV, both through good medical care, and through a relationship with God.
Within a few days, little Peter’s mouth got better, and he was able to start eating. But his mom required some help and education about what foods would help him regain strength, restore lost weight, and support his immune system. It took over a week for his weight to start improving, but by the time he went home he was thriving and looking more active.
Peter and his mom will be able to connect with others who have HIV through the ELWA Hospital support group—there’s even a special group just for kids, and this allows children who are a little older and who have had HIV for years to be an encouragement to those younger or newly diagnosed, to play together and to demonstrate the active healthy life which is possible for them. It also gives our clients the opportunity to share the new life many of them have found in Jesus.
Your prayers and support are deeply appreciated! I will be making another trip, most likely in August. We’ll keep you informed with another update in a month or so.