Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A game of choice for Shakib

Why does God continue to allow me to make choices?  Better yet, why do I continue to make the choices that are not the best for me?  Sometimes my choices are met with OK results.  Sometimes, the option I choose gives me a good result.  Why would I settle for good when I have the “BEST” living inside of me?  Don’t you think that God gets frustrated with us?  He is watching on, with His infinite wisdom, seeing us struggle with choices with obvious answers.  Yet, He patiently allows us to make choices and mistakes.  Then, He offers us the grace to overcome our poor choices.  All of our choices have consequences.  Some of the consequences are immediate, and some are eternal.  Some choices are regarding big things, and most are regarding small matters.  In most choices, we have little risk, no matter what we choose.

God allowed my frustration to teach me a lesson on Tuesday.  Let me tell you about our new “Starfish Friend”, named Shakib, that we met in Mukono this week.  His mother brought him to our clinic on Monday. 

Shakib is 3 years old and I initially thought that he was a girl, because he was wearing a dress.  I could tell that he had burns on his face and hands.  The fear in his eyes made me want to get him through registration and in front of Jay as soon as possible.  On further examination, Shakib had been severely burned 3 months ago.  The burns that were on his hands and face were healing.  The worst burns were on his abdomen, upper legs and pelvis.  Shakib was staying with his grandparents, when a candle fell over and started a house fire.  This is at least one of the stories as his mother told us several things that were not consistent.  Immediately after the house fire, Shakib was taken to Mulago, to the burn unit.  Jay noticed that that Shakib had linear scars on his left arm from the surgery that had happened at Mulago.  They did this operation to relieve the pressure from swelling that the burns had caused.  The scarring, in his left hand, had caused his pinky finger to curl down and the rest of his hand was flexed back.  This hand was essentially useless.  Shakib’s mother had evidently fled from Mulago as she was growing weary of seeing other burn victims die and tired of her son receiving injections and painful burn debridement.  She was told, by another patient’s family, about this “burn doctor” in Mukono.

Skakib and his family are from the Kawempe area.  Kawempe is on the north side of Kampala.  Mukono is about 20 kilometers out the east side of Kampala, towards Jinja.  This family had packed up what was left of their burned home and moved to Mukono to be in close proximity to this “burn doctor”.  We were able to meet this “burn doctor” yesterday.  His “office” is in a garage-like addition to his home, where old dirty couches line the wall on both sides. 

 The “burn doctor” was a nurse at Mulago in the 60’s.  He has a developed a “secret recipe” burn cream that he applies to the burns.  Shakib is supposed to go for dressing changes daily, but usually makes it every 5-7 days because of the family not having the 20,000 shillings required for the medical care.  The “burn doctor” would not tell us what was in his secret sauce, but said that it was much better than what was available in “western medicine”.  It was amazing to us that he had perfected a mayonnaise-like concoction in his garage, that all of the universities, burn centers and research facilities in the rest of the world have failed to figure out!?!?  I think that what he was best at was convincing his patients that his care was better than a hospital with a burn unit.  They slather a mayonnaise-like cream on a cotton roll and then put it over the burn. 

This is dressing change is at least better than not changing the dressing, which had been the option for the 6 days prior to us seeing Shakib on Monday.  His dressings were soiled and smelled like he had an infection. 

After we left the “burn doctor’s” garage on Tuesday, we tried to convince Shakib’s mother that they should come with us to Wentz Medical Center for burn care and physical therapy.  It is possible that his burns would heal, with his current therapy, but right now, he is unable to bend his knees or use his left hand.  So if he heals in his current condition, he will likely never walk.  I don’t have a medical education, but I have seen Mulago, I have seen Wentz, and I have seen the “burn doctor’s garage”.  I have some wisdom in this case and I think I can see ok, decent and better.  This young mother, however, refused to do anything but stay at Mukono for burn care.  Jay tried to pull the doctor card, going on and on (not really, I’m just paying him back for some of the grief he gives me) about his education yada-yada, but she did not care what he said.  So I did it.  I pulled the pin on the nuclear hand grenade of guilt trips, the “mother card”.  I told her, through an interpreter, that as a mother, we should all want the best for our kids.  I explained that I have seen the hospitals and Wentz would be my choice.  She eventually relented and decided to come to Wentz with us, just needing to go by her home to tell her mother before leaving.  We drove to her home and zig-zagged down the hill between buildings and eventually reached her house.  As it turned out, her mother was not at home.  Shakib’s mother would not even think of leaving town without first talking it over and getting permission from her mother. 

We made a deal that we would drive back to Mukono on Wednesday to discuss Shakib’s care with his grandmother and then bring him back to Wentz.  We called back on Tuesday night to make sure that the grandmother would be available when we drove back on Wednesday.  We arrived at Mukono at 10:45 on Wednesday morning, and the grandmother was not there.  Shakib’s mother, Teddy, went to town to try to find her mother.  She came back about 12:15 and had not found her.  It seems that Shakib’s grandmother is the “boss” of the family.  She is the bread winner and pretty much makes the rules.  She had told Teddy that if she left to take Shakib to Kampala, not to come back!  So here is this young mother having to make a choice.  She has a monumental choice, with significant consequences with either answer.  Does she value her relationship with her mother and the need for financial help, or does she value what she now believes is in the best interest of her son?

I have a praise report and a big prayer request.  Shakib, Teddy and his sister, Sheila, have returned with us to Gaba! 

We truly believe that this gives him the best chance at healing and future mobility.  Teddy has gone out on a high limb.  Please pray that Shakib will be healed!  Please pray that his grandmother will understand why Teddy made the decision that she did and this relationship will be restored.

All of the Due Unto team watches this mother making, what we think is, a good decision.  She is using her beliefs and information that she has been given, to make a choice.  While at the same time, she is risking offending or even losing relationship with family.  Her mother and the “burn doctor” are giving advice that is contrary to current medical practice.  She is showing great courage in making this choice.  When I first met Teddy, I was frustrated with her for her previous poor (in my opinion) choice of leaving the burn unit.  Then I became even more frustrated that she did not come with us for care yesterday.  Now I find myself admiring her courage in making a life changing choice.  A choice, that could change the life of herself and her son.  I thought that I was going to have a chance to teach Teddy something about making good choices, but I find myself humbled by what she has taught me.  I should have been more patient with her before judging her previous choices.  I should have given her more grace in the path that she has taken so far.  She is bypassing the “OK” treatment of the local burn doctor.  She is making the “Better” choice of going to Wentz Medical Center for wound care and physical therapy.  Because this gives Shakib the “Best” chance at healing and function.  Join Teddy and I as we strive to make the “Best” choices.


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