Written on 14-08-2013
God created us to need people. And I became so acutely aware of this in these two weeks. A young woman of about 22 years came to the hospital in a desperate state a week before my arrival at Soddo Christian Hospital. She was dying. She had a tumour of the mandible (ameloblastoma) - a totally benign and curable tumour and certainly not the biggest we have seen by African standards. But it was slowly suffocating her.
This particular tumour was growing from the inner plate of the lower jaw and more inwards than outwards, compressing vital structures. By the time she reached hospital she could only breathe and with real difficulty by sitting up. Lying down the tumour would compress her airways totally obstructing it. She could not swallow anymore and was by now literally skin and bones. Without surgery she would slowly suffocate to death and she was days away from it.
The general surgeon at the hospital took the patient to the operating room, did a tracheostomy (placing an artificial airway through the front of neck so she could breathe), and a feeding jejenostomy (a pipe through the abdominal wall into the small bowl so she could be fed) and kept her alive.
God has just put me in a position that working in Africa and with Dr Gary Parker on the Mercy Ship in West Africa over the years, and he taught me so much about the management of these conditions, that I was able to help her. The surgeons at the hospital knew that and waited for me to get there.
We did the surgery removing the tumour, replacing the lower jaw that was 75% removed with a metal plate (that will be bone grafted later in the year).
When we finished the surgery and stood back looking at this young woman knowing she is cured, a normal life (apart from some local difficulties, not having teeth on the right lower jaw, etc.) and a normal life expectancy ahead of her my heart we were filled with unbelievable gratitude knowing God used us to be the need in her life for life – that she could now live through the grace and timing of God. He sent us there at the perfect time of her desperate need so that she could live. And at this hospital she would not only see the love of Christ through everyone working there, experiencing it, but also in a kind and sensitive way hear it.