Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ega's Baby: The Story PART 1

I arrived Sunday afternoon (7/17/05) to pick up Ega (ay-gah) and a few other men to go out to a new village where we have been preaching the gospel (Gbotayidohoue, or “bow-tie” as I call it). It’s an exciting place and we feel like God’s going to raise up a new congregation there within the next month. I knew Ega would be eager to go, serving as the leader of this evangelism team. Men from Kaiteme (ky-uh-tim-ay) and Dandihoue (donny-way) round out the squad. Upon arriving, I knew something was up when Ega immediately asked to speak with me privately. I learned that his wife, Lokadi (loh-kah-dee) had started going into labor earlier in the morning. Because of his polio disability, as he has done with his other kids, Ega sent his wife on to the nearby “clinic” on a motorcycle taxi and a brother followed them out there. The brother came and went throughout the morning and early afternoon with reports. When I was talking with Ega, he had just received word that the attendee at the clinic wanted to see Ega himself, an indication, Ega presumed, of something wrong. Committed to this evangelistic meeting, I could not convince Ega to abandon the meeting immediately to attend to his wife at the clinic. Rather, he suggested that God would take care of her until after the meeting when we could go and see her (trying arguing with that). We had a super meeting, a lot of excitement and an enthusiastic reaction to the story of Daniel and the lions, and Ega shared with everyone there that his wife was in labor (most of us Americans are probably shouting, “how insensitive, go be with your wife!”) Upon conclusion, I drove to Dandihoue and dropped off the men and woman from that village. Knowing our path, Ega’s brother, though, had about an hour earlier ran by and told people there to inform Ega that the problem was beyond their capacity at the village clinic. As we heard this troubling news, we immediately re-routed and the remaining of us headed straight for the principal hospital in the region where Lokadi had been transported (no ambulances at that “clinic”; so they again, in full contractions, mounted this overdue pregnant woman on the back of a motorcycle to transfer her over 15 miles, on a bumpy dirt road to the hospital in Azove (ah-zoe-vay)!

The Dad-Delegation arrived two hours later where we immediately heard the harrowing news that the baby’s head was too big for her to deliver naturally…only by C-section. Having been through 3 of these at the aggressively sterile Harris Methodist in downtown Fort Worth, I knew C-sections here were not the commonplace procedures I had witnessed when my kids were born. I knew here, just as it had been years ago in America, this was a serious situation and that the operation would be very risky. But absolutely necessary according to the nurses in Azove. Normally within their capacity to perform, there were no doctors on call that weekend night that could be reached. While they would be in on Monday morning, it was apparent that this could not wait. Ega was overwhelmed. Trying his hardest to remain strong, Ega began to weep, an emotion rarely expressed by Aja men in public. Several of us knelt to the tile floor to comfort him and assure him of God’s power to protect his wife and the baby. I knew, too, that although it wasn’t foremost, he was thinking of the cost of the operation. With health insurance an unfathomable reality to this man, and facing a costly procedure that might normally take weeks to get the money for (borrowing from every friend or relative he could find, getting small change everywhere he’d go), I assured Ega that I would help him. He had saved up some money to take care of the costs of a normal delivery, but the equivalent of $400 or more was suffocating and overwhelming at that moment (think: Aja person lives on $1/day; imagine any of us being asked to pay CASH immediately for an operation that costs, for example, the equivalent to your annual income). After regaining composure, Ega talked with the Azove nurses and all the transfer paperwork and a glucose serum was bought to help her make the next move, another 45 minutes away. The nurse offered the Azove ambulance, but it would cost about $20, a huge expense for anyone in this country, much less someone already facing tremendous expenses. One of the other men in our group asked if a personal chauffeur could be used…upon hearing this, I knew I was being summoned to drive. After verifying that the “ambulance” they were offering was not equipped with any life-saving device or personnel, I agreed to be the driver. Some of our group needed to be dropped back off, because I knew I was at the debut of a long evening. As Ega rallied things together for the departure, I sped away dropping off several of the men back at their house. Knowing the hospital staff was working on Africa time (no rush, even in emergencies), I ran by my own house to gather essentials like money and bottled water (knowing from previous experience that drinkable water is not available). Backing up the truck to the door nearest Lokadi, she and Ega’s mother climbed in the back (this is an enclosed 4WD LandCruiser; don’t think I put her in the open bed of a pickup truck!) Ega was lifted up to the front seat next to me, and 5 other men along with Ega’s sister all piled in to start the long journey to Abomey (ah-boe-may). As we were pulling out, I confirmed that someone in the truck knew the location of this hospital and all I could hear was what I thought was affirmation. The nurse then gave me quick instructions that I felt would be helpful to match up with what the others might know (later on, as we were pulling into the city of Abomey, upon my inquiry, I realized that no one in the car had ever even been to Abomey…glad I had asked…and with the little instructions from the nurse and a faint memory of seeing this hospital once, we made it).

The drive was LOOONNNNNGGGG, as I guess anyone who has driven a pregnant woman with intense contractions might know. But under the seriousness of the impending operations, Ega winced each time his wife wailed with excruciating pains (not to mention her cries, “Ega, I’m going to die! Lord this is it!”) However, the angel of speed (!) guided us along the dark paved highway (no street lights) allowing us to reach the hospital in record time (not without a few inevitable craterous potholes…not fun for the woman in the backseat!)

Following another car drive into the maternity drop-off about 9:30p, we quickly realized we (she) were going to be second in line. The waiting game was slow and did nothing to calm anyone’s nerves. Who knows how many prayers were prayed silently, publicly, or even across the world (thanks to cell phone updates to Kelly who then emailed requests to America)! God was at work. I was comforted though upon examining the externals of the facilities at the Abomey hospital, much more groomed than the one in Azove, and vast in size. Even as the night evolved past midnight, God opened the mouth of a born-again Catholic security guard who gave Ega (and me!) assurance that the experienced doctors there performed C-sections routinely every day. Lokadi had been given some kind of injection (maybe epidural?) and she was no longer howling in agony.

But the operation would not be for another couple of hours still … just waiting ....

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