Martina arrived to the delivery ward in active labor. A quick cervical check and ultrasound demonstrated the baby to be breech with thick meconium. We started to prepare for a C-section when the baby’s heart rate started to drop. We rushed to the operating theater and helped Martina onto the table. I was helping anesthesia get Martina asleep while Dr. Scott (an OB from Missouri volunteering in the hospital and helping to train me) began scrubbing in. Lying on her side, Martina started to deliver her baby girl. The baby was coming, but the head was stuck with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times and there was no pulse. Now lifeless and pulseless, we tried our hardest to deliver this limp baby. With me pushing on the top of the uterus and Scott pulling the baby, we were unable to deliver it. After 6-8 minutes of trying, we resigned to the fact that this child was dead and we shouldn’t harm the mother for no gain. If there was any chance of the baby being alive, we would have continued. Sister Vero (one of our head OT nurses) prayed and we waited 5 more minutes until the cervix dilated enough for us to smoothly deliver the dead baby. I went through the motions of clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, handling the baby gently. I was going to hand Martina her baby to let her grieve, when I saw a small twitch of baby girl’s arm. Not really believing my eyes, I continued with the same mindset when the baby twitched again.
In America, I witnessed some pretty drastic turnarounds. Patients that I was sure were going to die, but ultimately came through. I remember a 50-year-old man while I was working in the ICU. He had suffered brain damage after a cardiac arrest. We were having discussions with the family about termination of care when he had a dramatic recovery. These rapid reversals are easy to rationalize medically with all of the gadgets and medicines we are able to give in a state-of-the-art American Emergency Room or ICU. However, here in Papua New Guinea, there is no rationalizing what happened to Martina’s baby.
Not expecting much improvement, I brought the baby to the basinet and started resuscitation. After a few rescue breaths and medicine in the umbilical stump, a pulse came back. I put a tube in the trachea and gave more breaths. After only 1-2 minutes of breaths, this former lifeless, pulseless and technically dead baby, was breathing on its own with a strong pulse. Over the course of the next 15 minutes, the baby not only had a pulse and strong cry, but was vigorous and had no signs of brain damage from having no oxygen for nearly 15 minutes!
This baby’s story is only the beginning of the medically unexplainable events I have witnessed during my short time here. There is Kelepa, an 8-month-old baby who came into the emergency room at midnight nearly dead. He was thin, cyanotic, breathing 100 times a minute with a barely palpable pulse. What he needed was a ventilator, expensive antibiotics, pressors (medicine to raise his blood pressure), a pediatric ICU with trained nurses, and a doctor specializing in the sickest of kids. What I could offer was salt water in his veins, basic antibiotics, some oxygen in his nose, our nurses, and me. Despite our disproportionately inadequate resources and the gravity of his illness, he recovered.
There is also Joshua who was nearly brain dead from cerebral malaria. We had written “No CPR” on his chart and did not think he would recover. And Shirley, a 5-year-old girl who made a remarkable recovery from an abdominal illness we could never fully diagnose with our limited diagnostic capabilities.
At times, I am tempted to think it is my expertise that made a difference in these people’s lives; but in reality, these recoveries are not medically explainable. With what little we have to offer, these four people should not be alive today. Without the multitude of medical devices and medicines to cloud our view, I can definitively say that it is only because of divine intervention that each of these individuals are alive.
C.S. Lewis writes in his book, “Miracles”…
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is
written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
And in another section Lewis writes…
“In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem;
in Christianity we find the poem itself.”
Science is evidence here on earth for a magnificent creator, intelligent design if you will. However, only when we pair that with the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, can we see the entire beautiful picture of who God is. A picture where God cares for people like Martina’s baby, Kelepa, Joshua, and Shirley. A picture where the God of the universe cares enough for you and me to die for us; so that even though our physical bodies will one day fade away, we may spend eternity with Him.
The motto of Kudjip is “We treat, Jesus Heals.” I will continue to do my best to treat with the knowledge and resources I have, but I am thankful to witness the healing miracles which God provides with His endless knowledge and resources.