Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is pretty much a normal day in PNG.  We docs start rounds at 8AMish, see the patients on the ward, move on to the outpatient department and ER where we see the long line of patients who have come to see us.  Maybe take a break about noon, and then back to the OPD to finish up the line.

Although it is not an official holiday here, we missionaries don't miss out on this special tradition.  Our holiday just begins after work.  We gather together at various houses across the station for a Thanksgiving feast.  This year, the bottom half of the station ate at the Bennetts' house:  the Bennetts, the Dooleys, the Thompsons, the Myers, and me.  Turkeys are hard to come by, but one made an appearance and subsequent disappearance at our dinner.  As always, there were plenty of other traditional foods--from mashed potatoes to green bean casserole, to made-from-scratch pumpkin pie.

Well, what I thought was going to be a pretty normal Thanksgiving day, didn't turn out to be so normal.  When I woke up in the morning, I thought to myself, "Hey, it's Thanksgiving!"  Took Brutus on a walk, came home, ate breakfast and got ready for work.  Went to rounds and clinic.  You know, pretty normal normal day kinda stuff.  A little after noon, I took my lunch break and walked home.  I put a cheese and tomato sandwich on the grill and sat down to check my email.

The phone rang.  "Dr. Steph, we have an emergency on D-ward."  Emergency?  OK, sure.  What's up?  "We have a patient with a cord prolapse."  Oh, shucks.  That really is an emergency!  I rushed out the door and jumped into Herbie.  I sped up the road toward the hospital just as fast as my 25 year old little car could take me.  I found Anna in the first OB bay, the nurses and students hovered around her.  The story was that her water had broken at 6AM this morning.  I did an exam and felt the umbilical cord looping down below the baby's head.  No way it is still alive.  I quickly grabbed the ultrasound.  Sure enough, there was the tiny heart beating away.  And not only was there one live baby, but two!  I began barking orders to the nursing officer and students...  "You--put your hand in there, push up on the baby's head, and DON'T take your hand out until I tell you.  Give salbutamol.  Start an IV and put in the foley.  Notify anesthesia that we have an emergency c-section!"  

(At some point I realized that I had left my sandwich toasting on the grill.  I made a call to the closest missionary house.  Dr. Jim rode his bike down to turn off the grill, saving not only my sandwich but also my house from burning down!)

A few minutes later, we rolled Anna over to the OT.  The minutes seemed like eternity as anesthesia prepared to intubate the patient.  As we waited to begin the surgery, I prayed that the little one would survive.  Anesthesia gave the OK, and I began to cut through mama's abdomen to the uterus as fast as I could safely go.  I reached in to deliver the first baby, my fingers brushing those of the nurse who was pushing up the baby's head.  It was a girl.  She was floppy, but alive!  The baby catcher took the baby to the side and began resuscitation.  It wasn't long until she began to breathe on her own.  I returned to the incision and delivered baby #2, a little boy with a strong cry.  The babies were taken to the nursery and we finished the c-section.  Anna was taken to D-ward to recover.

I finally made it home to eat my lunch about 3PM.  As I sat down to eat the perfectly toasted tomato and cheese sandwich, I reflected on the events of the last two hours.  Definitely not a normal Thanksgiving Day.  But boy did I have a reason to give thanks... two new precious, healthy babies in the nursery.  Yes, this was a very happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Pslams 100:  For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

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