At 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon Emmanuel hobbled into my office in the outpatient department with the assistance of two other men. Without shoes and smelling of smoke from the fire he slept next to, Emmanuel had traveled three days and passed two other hospitals to reach Kudjip. Emmanuel had been suffering from pain in his leg from osteomyelitis (a bone infection), a common condition/disease in our region of Papua New Guinea.
This past week I’ve had many new medical experiences: my first chance to treat patients in the outpatient department, my first call nights, and a lot of time on the OB ward. Since delivering my first baby in medical school, I knew that bringing a new life into this world is one of the most exciting (and messy) things about medicine. After several more C-sections and complicated deliveries, I have had the privilege of seeing many new babies take their first breath.
This week I also witnessed my first death in PNG—a young mom who had just given birth to a daughter. For the hospital staff, the excitement of new life quickly faded to sadness. She had been sick for several days and despite the maximal treatment we could perform at Kudjip, she passed.
The next day, a four-year-old boy likely died from Pigbel, a unique condition to this region of PNG. Pigbel is an abdominal infection that develops when malnourished children in our area eat a large protein meal. He came in with abdominal pain consistent with Pigbel. While admitting him, he looked ill, but also had relatively normal vital signs. I helped place an IV, ordered antibiotics and fluids and spoke with surgery. An hour later I spoke with another physician rounding on the pediatric ward to see how my four-year-old patient was doing. Sadly, the other doctor told me that about 30 minutes after I had left the boy, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest and died.
These two unexpected deaths have been difficult, but I am thankful for Emmanuel for reminding me why I am here. I asked Emmanuel why he passed two other hospitals to come to Kudjip. He replied, “Yu soim gutpela pasin long lukautim arapela.” Or in English, “You show compassionate care.”
While working at Kudjip, I have felt a strong sense of God’s presence in this place. God is truly working through the staff and the doctors here at Kudjip. I’m convinced that this is the main reason that people come from so far away to visit Kudjip.
Emmanuel also reminds me of why God’s presence is here. Emmanuel means: “God with us.” Two thousand years ago God became a vulnerable baby just like the babies I have been delivering. Jesus was coated in blood and filth. He walked on this earth with broken and sinful people and faced the same struggles and death we all face. Through His death and resurrection, He now lives in and works through people. He dwells WITH us. Christ, our Emmanuel, ultimately conquered sin and death so that we may be born again and have new life with Him forever.
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.”
– Isaiah 7:14
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
– Revelation 21:3b-4