Wednesday, 23 November 2011


It was Tuesday morning and I was post call.  Well, not quite.  Call finishes up about 8AM when all the docs arrive at the hospital.  At 7:45, the phone rang.  Sigh.  It was the nurse on duty in the ER.  A young man was spitting up blood.  He had had surgery two weeks ago to remove a tongue cancer.  He began bleeding from his mouth the night before, and had lost about two liters of blood.  It was still coming.

I stopped by the ER on the way to D-ward rounds.  Sure enough, the patient was loosing a LOT of blood.  I did my best to take a look, but it was difficult to see what exactly was going on.  I recruited a watchman to hold pressure at the base of his tongue.  The nurse started an IV and drew blood for a hemoglobin.  The lab result later confirmed that he had lost almost half of his blood volume.

Normally in this situation, I would call Dr. Jim who would take the patient straight to surgery.  Unfortunately, Dr. Jim was on holiday.  The next option was to refer the patient to the provincial hospital in Mt. Hagen.  I attempted to call the ENT doc from Hagen to inform him about the transfer.  He was on a bus from Goroka and wouldn't arrive for several hours.   It was an option, but definitely not a good one.  Hmmm, what to do now...

A thought popped into my mind.  After discussing with Dr. Bill and Margaret, the head OT nurse, it was decided that we would go ahead and take the patient to surgery.  We would do our best to stop the bleeding.  If it didn't work, we would transfer him to Hagen and hope for the best.

The anesthesia boys intubated the patient, Margaret draped him up, Dr. Bill and I put on our virtual ENT doctor hats and scrubbed in.  Before we started, we said a word of prayer and asked Papa God for wisdom.  Margaret handed us some instruments I had never seen before, and coached us on how to use them.  Dr. Bill retracted the tongue.  After removing a bit of clot, I was able to see the source of the problem.  I stitched and cauterized the bleeding areas, and the surgical site was soon dry.  Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayers.

The next morning after rounds, I stopped by to visit with Steven.  Twenty-four hours post-op, he was doing great.  He was able to talk well enough to share his story with me.  He said that I could share it with you, too.

Steven was born at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.  He attended Nazarene primary and secondary schools, and was active in the church as a young man.  He was sponsored by a former missionary to attend university, where he studied to become a teacher.  He was just about as Nazarene as you can be.  But sometime in his mid-twenties, Steven decided he didn't want to be a Christian any more.  He stopped attending church.  He started smoking and chewing betel nut.

Earlier this year, Steven received a wake-up call.  He noticed a growth on his tongue and came to outpatient clinic.  The diagnosis he received was a potential death sentence--tongue cancer.  As he thought seriously about his life, the Holy Spirit began to work in his heart.  It wasn't long until Steven had given his life back to Christ.

Steven had his first surgery to remove the cancer in May.  It began growing again after several months, so Dr. Jim did a second procedure a couple of weeks ago.  I don't know what Steven's prognosis is.  Can he be cured?  I pray so.  Will the cancer grow again?  Oh, Lord, please strengthen his faith.  Whatever the outcome in this life, I know where he will be spending forever.  And that is why we do what we do.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
~ James 1:5


  1. So glad the Lord gave you wisdom and skill to do what you did! God is blessing you and your work!

  2. Amen to your mom's comment. I agree with you in prayer for Steven's complete healing!