Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Week With Malaria...and a few other things

It’s been a bit of a rough week for us here in Niger.  If you’ve read "A Brief Look at a Day in the Sandbox" you got a glimpse of one day this week.  What wasn’t communicated there was my fear in hearing that there was no medicine in town for my sick baby.  Talk about a moment of helplessness.  I knew that it would probably, most likely be on that bus that would eventually show up at some point before the end of the day, but I also knew that it was quite possible that it wouldn’t.  And if it didn’t show up that night, I guess it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  We could have sent someone to Tahoua, 2 ½ hours away, early the next morning and we would have had it by that afternoon.  Still, though, my fear was there.  Once it was confirmed that she did have malaria, I wanted to start treatment right then and there!

That was Monday.

On Tuesday she didn’t seem too bad.  Her fever from the night before had come down and she no longer felt super hot to the touch.  That evening there was a little less throwing up with medication administration.  I was feeling optimistic.  Again, that night there was fever all night long.

Wednesday morning the power went off at 6:00 AM.  This is not uncommon.  In fact, what is uncommon is a day without any power cuts.  Their frequency and length varies, but lately they haven’t been too bad, often only lasting a few minutes.  The day continued and Emma’s fever persisted despite around the clock medication, cool baths and compresses.  On Monday and Tuesday she still played some throughout the day but this day she was lethargic, not making hardly a peep, when she wasn’t sleeping her head was buried in my chest.  I was scared.  She’d already has two out of the three doses of malaria medication and I had expected her to be doing better at this point, not worse.  That afternoon after she woke up from her nap not in any improved state I called on of the doctors at Galmi, the SIM mission hospital about 5 hours away.  He said he might expect her to maybe be the same, but not worse.  He said we should probably think about coming in if things continued this way.  I decided that if she had not improved by morning we would make the trip.  By this time it was nearly 5:00 PM.  The power had come back on (briefly)but the water had cut off in the middle of giving her a cool shower.  Thankfully, though, much to my relief, her fever came down.  She only spiked a fever once in the middle of the night but it came back down quickly after a dose of Tylenol.

Thursday morning she was still afebrile.  I passed her off to Donnie to go get dressed.  When I came back I noticed a rash starting on her face and it was quickly spreading.  Another phone call to the doctor to say that she was doing better, but what about this rash?!?  He said it was probably viral, which was what I thought too.  It looked kind of measle-like and I recalled the red eyes and copious amounts of green nasal discharge a few days back that I didn’t think anything of at the time.  So not only did she have malaria, but she also had some other virus on top of it that may or may not have been measles…my poor baby!  Despite the quite alarming looking rash, she had a better day.  She was still quite clingy and cuddly but was starting to ask for food and water.  
By the end of the day she was playing independently for brief moments.  She started to make some vocalizations and I even got a little smile and a laugh out of her.  What a relief!

With all of this, we had less than 3 hours of power in three days and virtually no water since Wednesday afternoon.  This morning (Saturday)the power came back on, but we still have no running water.  And, did I mention that October is the mini hot season in Niger?  Most days it gets up to 94F inside the house.  Our air conditioner (that is just for our bedroom, mind you) isn’t working at the moment and Wednesday morning I discovered that the water shut off valve in our wash machine is broken…we noticed a puddle, I heard dripping and opened up the door and a whole load full of water came gushing out! 

I don’t share this with you all to feel sorry for us, so please don’t!  Some people ask what it’s like to live in Niger.  I share this because this is what real life is like here sometimes.  Not by any means all of what life is here, but definitely a part of our reality.  And I know we’re not starving, and we have money to buy medicine for our sick kids (when it’s available!), and compared to most Nigeriens we have it pretty darn good, but sometimes it’s hard for us and we struggle.  So please, you Humboldt folk who live with the luxury of outside air conditioning (oh, how I miss it!), think of us when you step outside.  All of you with reliable power and water, think of us when you go to flip a light switch, or turn on your faucet, pray for us that we would have the grace to deal with times like these that try our patience and make us wish we were home.  When you look upon your healthy children, pray for ours to remain healthy too.  But more than that, pray that we would keep our eyes on our Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Pray that our ministry here would be fruitful and that our time spent here would not be in vain.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Brief look at a day in the sand box

                        People often ask what our days are like here so I will share my day today with you.
6:00             Get up and put tea on and have quiet time as we wait for the hospital worker to come and draw blood from Emma and I. We both needed to see if we have malaria.
7:00             Haruna our local hospital worker comes by the house to draw the blood. He uses an unconventional item to tie our arms off while he draws our blood. (it looks like an old backpack strap) after he draws the blood he caps the two needles and leaves them next to the chair he is sitting in. As he is leaving we give him the equivalent of $10.00 for coming to the house so we do not have to wait at the hospital.
8:00             I go to the project office to work on grain bank administration. Allison is texting the doctors at                                the mission hospital 6 hours away to see what local malaria medicine we can use to treat Emma with if she has malaria.
11:00          We find out Emma has malaria. I go to the local pharmacies to get the medicine for Emma. None of the pharmacies have the medicine due to the high amount of malaria cases this year. One pharmacy tells me to come back in the afternoon to see if the medicine came in.
12:00          Go home to eat lunch and have siesta.
3:00            Back to work at the office.
4:00            Return to the pharmacy to see if the medicine came in. It didn't come in we have to wait to see if it is on the bus that is coming to town. I then go to the hospital to see if they have any medicine there. None available. I did get to visit with three different families I know.
6:00           Come home from work and take clothes off the line.
7:00           Return to the pharmacy to see again if they have the medicine. This time they do! Thank you Jesus!! The medicine costs $12.00 I then return to the hospital to drop off a cot for one of the families I know who has to spend the night at the hospital.
8:00             Back home to give Emma her medicine. We start to give Emma her medicine and she is not taking it to well. She then throws up all over me (I have a weak stomach and I am trying not to throw up) just before Jeff stops by to see how Emma is doing. We have to start all over giving her the medicine. This time we are able to get it in her. Just after we finish the power goes out. Outside to turn the generator on.
9:00           We eat dinner and give Micah his bath.
10:00          Power comes back on Back outside to turn the generator off and switch to local power.  We then get the kids ready for bed. Every day we each say what we are thankful to God for that day. Today Micah is thankful he got to make cupcakes with Mama. Allison and I are thankful for the hospital worker that came by and that the medicine came in today. After we pray and put Micah to bed
11:00           I take a shower then write email
11:45           Bed time Thank you Jesus!
                 So that was a glimpse into what life was like today in the sandbox.

Garden of Life

Vegetables…….chances are you have them readily available to you. All you have to do is go to your local grocery store or farmers market and providing you have money you can feast on a great variety of produce. I wish that was the case here in the sandbox.
                Here in Abalak most of the time our produce is limited to onions and pumpkin and some potatoes now and then.  Our closest “produce vendor” is 2 – 3 hours away depending on how bad the roads are. Upon arrival at the sandbox version of farmers market you never know what is available that day. There have been some trips in years past that I have returned to Abalak with only a little bit of onions. I only bought the onions because they happened to be a little bigger than the marble sized ones we sometimes get in Abalak. Some trips yield Carrots Cabbage Potatoes Eggplant & Bananas.
                Because of the lack of produce in our village we decided to start a local garden outreach. A local Christian and I started with the little area and the few seeds we had available to us. A couple seasons later and we are seeing much needed produce in Abalak.  In addition to the much needed produce we are also seeing lives changed. People that stop by are getting prayed for and can listen in on the bible teachings. Widows are having a means of food not available to them before and some are learning new gardening skills to provide for their families.
                Last week we were getting things in order for the garden season and one of the things to do was to get the water pump serviced. So we dropped it off with the mechanic and left him to his work. When the work was done we went to pay him and he had conveniently left his labor cost out of the estimate. When he said how much labor was going to be I almost laughed in his face. It would be like going to the store and when arriving at the checkout the total for the gallon of milk that normally costs you 4 dollars now costs you 600 dollars. Silly I know! So we began the great past time of haggling for a “normal” price. During this process I can see that the mechanic is flustered and something is upsetting him. I was praying it was not me. He finally says that he was in a hurry and had an out of town job waiting for him and just give him a reasonable amount so he could be on his way.
                At this point I realized that I had a choice to make I could give him the sum asked and send him on his way upset and me not exactly content either…..or as I prayed God said to give him more than he asked.  So I decided to do what I felt God told me to do which meant that we were going to have to send his friend to find change because I did not have the exact amount. During this time I began to talk with Leo the mechanic and share with him some of the character attributes of God. He suddenly became less agitated and began to look me in the eyes. He then proceeded to tell me that his “out of town job” was really a trip to go pick up his wife who had left because of family pressure from them not having kids. We talked much more about his situation and got to pray together for him and his wife before he set off on his journey!
                You never know what can happen in situations as you go about your day to day life when you take a moment to listen to what is really going on with those we cross paths with.
                Make it a point to keep your eyes and ears open to see what the people you cross paths with are really saying.