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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Other Side of Christmas Week--part two

For part one of this story, click here.

After the nurse carried Gladys away, I sat back on the bed stunned. I picked up my phone and sent a Blackberry chat message to Debbie. She cried with me and I was so grateful again for God sending her to me at just the right moment.
Then, I had to call Meg. Gladys was more her baby than mine. She didn't answer her phone--later she told me that she saw that the call was coming from me and didn't want to here the words--so I left a voice message and felt sick to my stomach after.

I wondered how the other ladies in the ward were viewing me. In the space of 3 hours, two moms had lost babies but the reactions were very different. I had very little outward show of grief. I shed tears but they were quiet and mostly unseen. The other mother had cried aloud and at length. I voiced this question to Debbie and she reminded me that "we do not grieve as those who have no hope". Very true.
Zambians are also very social people. Part of the outward grieving is to let their family and friends know that they are sad and in need of special comfort. The entire village will gather at the sound of the wailing and wail also to show camaraderie and community.

I wanted to hold out hope for Joseph, but as I looked at him, lying so very still on the stark hospital bed, I wasn't sure. We still didn't know what was attacking his body. He had shown some improvement after some fluids via IV, but once the drip stopped he looked wan and weak again. 
Despite a negative malaria test, the decision was made to start him on quinine injections. Quinine is sa lifesaving, but extremely harsh drug. It can have terrible side effects--one of which is deafness--and is usually reserved for emergency cases. I hated that we had to give that to tiny Joseph, but there was nothing I could do.
He was also started on a second, more powerful antibiotic. His little body was being bombarded and I just hoped that we would see improvement soon.

Later that morning we were moved to a private room. I was so thankful! The room was tiny, but the bed had linens on it, there was a sink in the corner--no running water, but I could bring water in and do dishes--and a couch which turned out to be useless since it had no seat to it. That was OK. Remember my packing list from yesterday's post? One of the things I packed was a folding camp chair. Lifesaver!

I have to say here how grateful I was (and am) for our friends. The hospital was an hour away from home, so impractical for Tom to come back once he'd dropped us off. But, our good friends, Sanjay and Jackie stay there in that town. Three times a day they brought meals. I was so grateful! There was really nowhere else to get food. Jackie was a star--not only bringing a sandwich, but bringing full cooked meals. She even remember napkins and everything! It made such a difference to have that break in my day when meals and some conversation walked through my door.

Meanwhile, Joseph was still quite sick. He was so uncomfortable and seemed to be in pain, but didn't want to be held much or touched. He just lay on his back tossing his head back and forth and whimpering softly. He had no energy to drink so every two hours I had to coax him to take some milk from the bottle and then slowly pour more into his mouth bit by bit. 

There would be times when his eyes would roll around and I couldn’t tell if he was just tired or was dropping into something worse. My nerves were totally shot after caring for Gladys and how that had ended. I searched Joseph’s face endlessly hoping to see a spark of improvement.
The hospital still hadn’t taken any blood to test. The stool sample I’d given them had been corrupted. So, after 3 days, we still had no idea what was wrong.
Then, miraculously, Joseph began to show interest in his food again. He still couldn’t drink much at a time, but he wanted to—and that means all the difference in the world. He also tolerated me holding him again. I was able to pour all my love into him with cuddles and kisses. He even gave me half a smile. Nectar for my soul!
After a third night on an IV drip, he was finally rehydrated. With regular feedings I was able to maintain his fluid levels. It was Christmas Eve and I was hopeful we could go home. With careful instructions on his medications still needed (they could all be given orally) I was confident I could finish is convalescence at home. I just wanted to be at home with my family!
Thankfully, the doctor agreed. I bundled Joseph up, gathered our many survival possessions and his all important medicines and climbed into a taxi for the hour long ride home. As a special gift from God, my taxi driver was playing Christmas music and I sang along and felt a bit of Christmas spirit entering my soul.
Coming home after time away and jumping back into a household is always a challenge. When you’re doing it on the eve of arguably the biggest holiday of the year, when you are completely sleep deprived, well, let’s just say it is a recipe for disaster.
My family had done a wonderful job in my absence, baking some of my favorite cookies and wrapping all the presents for the little kids.
Later that night, as we cleared up from dinner, Jasmine asked me why someone had put away all the cookies but left about six still on the tray. I thought that was weird too, and then it dawned on me—Buzz had struck again! That naughty, rascally dog had eaten a few dozen cookies right off the tray. No more cookies for Christmas Day! Unfortunately, that was the proverbial last straw for me. I began to weep. All the pressure and struggle of an entire week culminated in that moment. We had to have the special Christmas cookies! Or Christmas would be ruined! 

Tom very wisely bundled me off to bed with the sage advice that it would all be better in the morning. And, do you know? He was right. I got up every couple hours to feed Joseph (he was now crying for his food. Hallelujah!) but was still able to wake up early. I stuffed stockings, set out a special breakfast, and wrapped the few presents our family would receive, just in time for my big kids and hubby to wake up. Then, we were able to do our Children's Christmas Party. 

Day by day, Joseph improved. His trademark grins returned. One day he even giggled! He giggled! He was on his way back! Aside from his half shaved head (we really ought to do the other and create a baby Mr. T), you can't even tell he was sick. 

Thank you all for the encouraging comments you've been leaving me. I really appreciate your encouragement. Having a cyber community means the world to me!

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