Last Friday I was in the OR for several scheduled cesarean sections. We had a nice woman lying on the bed talking to us a little for one in the middle of the day. After a bit as she noted how serious the rest of us were, she asked for someone to sing a song to lighten the mood. One of the nurses said the doctor will sing for you, and the next thing I knew I was standing as the center of attention, completely scrubbed and ready for surgery, near this woman’s head with smiling eyes looking at me expecting a performance. In my slight nervousness I scanned my memory banks for a song that I knew I could perform to its full potential and came up with a core memory from childhood. “Jesus Loves Me”. I cleared my throat and let it rip. Actually letting it rip sounds like how one might sing another of my core memory songs “You Give Love a Bad Name”. This time I let it rip a bit more like you can imagine Mr. Rogers singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. More pleasant for the OR I hope. Later, as we finished the case she started speaking about her baby who had died a year ago. It was an intrauterine fetal demise, which means the baby died near his due date inside the uterus. She stated that they had buried her baby the same day and hour on which we were delivering by cesarean section her living baby. She said, “Its not a complete restoration, but it feels at least like a partial one.” I don’t know that anything can heal such scars, but I was glad to be a part of at least a partial alleviation of some pain.
As I walked into the operating room to do a cesarean section on a young mother, I was surprised that she was already requesting a bilateral tubal ligation. In a culture where children are important, and many children are considered a blessing, it was surprising. And I wanted to try and understand why she wanted permanent sterilization. As I reviewed her chart I noted that she was HIV positive. This is common in Kenya. As one surgeon colleague has said, “Everyone has HIV!” That is an exaggeration, but sometimes
it feels very true. It made me sad to look at her and to know she carried this burden. She was fortunate, because with her anti-viral medication her disease is in a sort of remission. This means she is less likely to pass it to her child or her husband. Yet it is hard for a young woman to know that she has an incurable disease. There is compassion to give in these cases. A friendly touch, a word of encouragement to do our best to keep her and her baby safe, and a prayer before surgery may sometimes be all we can offer. I try and do my best to do for her as I would want her to do for me if our positions were reversed. I am thankful that I can be part of God’s work to care for the least of these in Kijabe Mission Hospital. God has been good to us, and we try our best to extend that good to others.