A story of Mustard Seed Missions at work
Sunday afternoon, February 17, 2008.
“Amoce is late; he was supposed to be here at 2 p.m. It’s after 8:00 p.m. now. I wonder where he is? It’s not like him to be late or not to call us.”
Amoce’s friend, Jean, had called him to ask him to see a woman who was very sick. Could Mustard Seed do something to help her? Amoce and Jean hopped on the motorcycle and travelled into the countryside to find Madame Antoine. What Amoce found there was something that Doctor Mark should see.
Her name is Madame Antoine and she’s a frail elderly woman living in the mountains outside of Les Cayes, Haiti. Her husband is an equally thin man who is blind but devoted to her. Amoce asked if there was any way someone could get Madame Antoine to St. Elen in two days; it was the closest place where we would be holding medical clinics. They said they would carry her into Okay (Les Cayes) the next day, Monday, and then carry her to St. Elen on Tuesday.
“Sister Jan, it’s me, Amoce. I’m sorry I didn’t call you sooner, but I had to go see a very sick woman. I will be there by 9:00 and I’ll tell you about it.”
Amoce arrived a little after 9 p.m., the moon was full and it was a beautiful tropical night as we sat out on the balcony to talk. Dr. Mark was in his room sleeping already, Dr. Don was reading and Paul was working on packing meds for the next day.
“Do you remember the lady in Kamperen with the bad leg? The one you saw last time? Well this one is just like it.”
I did remember; she had very bad gangrene that had eaten away most of her leg. She was septic, and in incredible pain. Dr. Mark treated her with the best antibiotics and pain medication we had, cleaned out the wound, gave her an IV to hydrate her and carefully had Marcia tell her family that she was mortally ill. Her family carried her home across the mountain path in a bed. She died two days later because she was so full of infection.
“Her family is going to bring her to St. Elen on Tuesday.”
Tuesday? That might be too late. I knew Amoce was trying to give consideration to our schedule and the tens of people who would be waiting at Charete for us. I told Amoce that we would go to her and see her first thing the next morning; we would just have to be late to the clinic that day. If she was that bad we could not wait.
Monday, February 18 – 5:45 a.m.
“Mark, there’s a woman with gangrene outside of Okay that we need to see this morning.”
All five of us on the team knew that this was where we needed to go. When Amoce arrived we told him we were going to see the woman, Madame Janm Mal, ‘the woman with the bad leg’. Amoce phoned his friend, but there was no answer. We had breakfast, continued packing the trucks, and he phoned again…an answer! During the night they had moved Madame Janm Mal to her son’s house in Okay; it would not be so far away.
We all got into one truck and drove, with Amoce and his friend on the motorcycle leading the way to a poor area of Okay. The streets were grey dust and rocks. The two-room houses lined the street neatly, but they were all tiny with tin roofs. Here and there a cinder block held the tin down on the roof to keep it from blowing off. A woman stood in the street giving her small son a bucket-bath to start the morning. Was this child preparing for school? Maybe; maybe not. It depended on whether the family could afford the tuition.
We pulled up in front of the son’s house, greeted him and asked to go inside. We walked in through a curtained doorway into a windowless dark room no larger than 8’ x 8’ with a lumpy twin bed, and a couple of old pillows to find Madame Jamn Mal lying on the bed in pain. She was dressed in a thin red dress. Her husband came in and stood next to her, holding her hand. It was immediately obvious that the woman was very sick and had serious gangrene. I thought to myself ‘How can someone let an infection get this bad?’ The room smelled really bad.
The truck with all of the meds was parked outside in the street. Mark went out and got his surgical bag. Back in the room, I helped Madame put her foot up on a chair. We prepped the area by putting a dish basin and surgical pads under her leg and the chair. Mark carefully cleaned the wound very gently. He bathed it in peroxide and then tried to debride it, knowing that removal of the dead tissue would be very painful, but also feeling it was necessary. She gripped my hand while he worked on her foot and leg. Before he got too far, it became apparent that the infection and necrosis (dead tissue) were very deep; he was able to see one of the tendons in her foot, and he decided instead to treat the wound another way. After he finished cleaning, treating and bandaging the wound, he put a pain-killer patch on her shoulder and gave her some strong antibiotics. He had Amoce translate the instructions to Madame and her husband, including that we would return the next morning to re-dress the wound. He also told them that it was very important that she see a doctor at the hospital. Mark told us that he thought her only chance of survival was an amputation. Dr.Don stepped forward and we all prayed with her and her husband before we left.
Tuesday, February 19 – 8:00 a.m. We returned to see Madame Antoine first thing the next morning. Marcia, the Haitian nurse, was with us this time. She, Mark, Don, and Amoce went in to see Madame and redress the wound. Madame’s husband was sitting on the bed caressing her head and stroking her. Mark said the smell was worse and the wound looked worse. They administered more medication and Don lead prayer again.
Wednesday, February 21 – 8:00 a.m. This would be the team’s last trip to see Madame Antoine. The medical team was leaving early the next morning. Marcia was not with us yet, so I went in with Mark. Today her foot looked a little better, even Mark thought so, but he also said that it was deceiving. She was still at high risk. We were equally concerned about what kind of care she was getting; the son was not around, the family was far from home, and her husband was blind. It would be up to Mustard Seed Haiti (MSH) to take over and carry through with this woman. We knew we would be leaving them with a big responsibility. At some point in the recent past, Madame had been told she would need her leg to be amputated. Amoce conveyed that to her again. We tried to leave her with the knowledge of how important it was that she get to a hospital for proper care. These home visits were not going to be able to cure her.
Friday, February 22 - We got news that Marcia had seen Madame Antoine again to redress the wound and talked to her about going to the hospital. Marcia is so gentle, I’m confident she explained things as clearly as the woman could understand. “Going to the hospital” means, first of all, that one needs to find out when the surgeon will be there, then one needs to make an intake appointment prior to seeing the surgeon. MSH was going to need to arrange all of this and they were going to need funds to accomplish it. People in Haiti don’t have a reserve of anything, much less cash. Madame Jamn Mal didn’t even have a full set of buttons on her dress.
March 3, 2008 - We received an email from Amoce. MSH has made an appointment for Madame Antoine to see the American surgeon who comes each month to Cite Lumiere Hospital. The cost for the surgery will be $4,000 HT – about $550 US. MSH will not have enough in the account we set up for them in Haiti so we will have to wire down more funds.
March 4, 2008 - Marcia’s husband, Rivenson, sent us an email thanking MSM for the heart that we have for the Haitian people. I feel equally responsible that we’ve left them with a huge task. Rivenson’s response is “We do not see any problems with that, because the only reason that we have is to show Jesus’ love by our services.”
The news is not good – Madame Antoine had “so much stress that the doctor didn’t cut it.” We’re sitting here 1800 miles away and I don’t know what that means!! I email asking for clarification. Many questions are going around in my head. Did the American surgeon talk to Amoce and Rivenson; will they have more complete information? What does “so much stress” mean…does it mean she had high blood pressure…does that mean she was unprepared? I think about how stressed we here in America become when we face surgery. Who was by her side to help comfort her through this and understand it? How do they manage that in their culture? If you are from the countryside, what does it seem like in your own mind if they say they are going to cut off your leg? It occurs to me that she probably only has experience with slaughtering pigs and goats…they bleed to death. She would have no experience with seeing healed stumps, knowing about good crutches, a wheelchair, a prosthetic! My goodness, what must be going through her mind!
March 11, 2008 - An email from MSH says they’ve bought meds for Madame Antoine and for another patient they are helping with. MSH is also buying food for her. The American doctor has returned to the U.S. Madame Antoine now has an appointment for amputation at the end of March. Through a medical website, we think we’ve determined who the American doctor is. Mark will try to make contact with him here in the U.S.
Now we continue to pray for her survival and successful surgery. We ask you to join us in prayer for her.
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