Of hormone test results and health care strikes (16/12/13)
We’ve had so much good news in the last few weeks—the mass on Riley’s pituitary gland doesn’t appear to be a tumor but a benign cyst, we’re not going to need to leave Kenya immediately for brain surgery—that I was a little unprepared when we received the results of her growth hormone testing today.
Good news: the test was conclusive.
Bad news: Riley has extremely low levels of growth hormone; meaning the pituitary gland isn’t sending the regular amounts of growth hormone to her body to tell it that it’s time for the bones to grow, the muscles to expand, the organs to develop.
Good news: the medical fix, injections of growth hormone, is available here in Kenya.
The reality: Riley will need daily injections of growth hormone until she reaches the point where her body would normally reach maturity. Which at her age means daily injections for around a decade. It’s a subcutaneous injection, meaning they use really thin needles like the ones that diabetics use for insulin injections, which greatly minimizes the pain.
The next step is to repeat the test for confirmation: another three hour blood test in Nairobi. Riley and Mardi will head in on Thursday morning for the test at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, with the news that Mardi’s parents arrive for a three week visit on Friday sure to buoy their spirits.
So, it appears that our journey of discovery and troubleshooting Mighty Mouse’s small size is at an end. Now, it’s time for action to correct the issue. We are currently processing and grieving what this means for Riley and for us, but we are also very glad to have a definitive answer.
In other news…
Over the weekend, a 27 week old baby was born in a Kijabe Hospital bathroom. On Saturday night, a woman, 27 weeks pregnant, limped into Kijabe Hospital about to give birth. Suffering from early contractions, she had that day been to four hospitals previously … only to find there were no nurses or doctors present. You see, all of the doctors and nurses that work in Kenya’s few government hospitals have been on strike for the last week, seeking guarantees of salary and position as Kenya’s government devolves health care management from the national to the county level (a key mandate in the new constitution). Of the really sick people who can’t wait until the strike ends to be seen, the wealthy go to an expensive private hospital in Nairobi, and the rest come to a mission hospital like Kijabe, where we are fully staffed but bursting at the seams.
Back to our young mother. After getting bogged in the mud on the road down the mountain to us, she reached the outdoor bathrooms on the way into the hospital and it was too late: there in the dark, the cold and the rain, the baby was born. A pediatric friend of ours, here on a three week visit from Adelaide tried for 45 heartbreaking minutes to resuscitate the baby, to no avail.
As I type, Mardi is on the phone. The Hospital is full, patients are being stacked in the hallways and in clinic areas, and the maternity ward and nursery are operating at double capacity. Cots and incubators are wedged into corners that should be used for storage, children sleeping overnight in the emergency department as the wards are overflowing. She is helping the head of pediatrics troubleshoot an impossible situation: there are not one, but two babies, days-old, with extremely high fevers in the emergency room, and we have no room for either of them. What should I do, Mardi? Do I send them out at night on dangerous roads to another full hospital just to be turned away, or do we make room for them in a non-existent corner of the nursery, doing our best to give them care with extremely stretched resources and exhausted and stressed nurses and doctors?
As difficult as it is to think of my precious little daughter needing daily injections for the next decade, it actually helps to receive this news today—to consider that in the grand scheme of what is daily suffering for many, our news could be so much worse.
In the chaos that is an overloaded hospital, in the stress and the tiredness, the loss and uncertainty about the future, in this Advent season I hold onto the steady and calm hand of the King-among-us. Like Peter in Matthew’s story (Matt 14:22-32), we’ve already taken the first step out of the boat at Jesus’ invitation…and now, with the waves crashing and wind whipping around us, it is the gentle and firm voice of Jesus calling us to keep stepping away from the safety of the boat that brings comfort amongst the chaos. We have only a little faith, but we can hear Jesus saying, as he did to Peter, “Take courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”