Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jethro’s little boy, Ephraim, was brought home from the hospital a couple of weeks ago – even before I wrote that last blog update. But, I’m often behind in blog updates, and it usually doesn’t matter that much, so I just updated it. Ephraim was home, he was putting on weight again, he was regaining his strength, we were all happy and relieved.

A week ago I was on the camp to see the group of people with disabilities with whom I work, meet with a few of the deaf kids to give an update on what’s happening and meet with the SMATVTC (SMA Technical and Vocational Training Center – a vocational school begun by some Dutch lay missionaries back in 2002 or 2003 and is now struggling to figure out the future of the school and the staff – a story nowhere near as simple as how I’ve summed it up, but a story that’s also not the focus of this update). I went to greet the French lay missionary at the clinic (he’s a nurse but currently acting as the Administrator – and also trying to raise funds for a surgical ward in the clinic). I needed to give him an update on some SMA stuff. When I turned around from the window to his office (he was in a meeting at the time and there was a fortunate interruption so we were able to quickly greet each other and exchange our information through the window without interfering with his meeting), I saw Jethro standing outside the wards of the clinic.

I went over to greet him, asked how it’s going, and he told me, "Steve, something strange happened this morning." Ephraim woke up crying. They saw he had toileted on himself so they cleaned him up – yet he continued to cry. After a small time, he started to convulse. Before they could get him to the clinic, he went into a coma. Soon after, at the clinic, the doctor pronounced him dead.

The boy was getting better. He’d been in Korle Bu for a month and a half and then was released. He was gaining strength and becoming his old self.

And then he died.

I held Jethro in my arms and he sobbed on my shoulder. I don’t know this kind of pain. The tears in my eyes came from somewhere other than where Jethro’s tears came from. I was crying for his pain, for his wife’s pain, for their loss and that hollowness that I know has to be taking up space between his chest and abdomen. The hollowness that’s there when you lose someone you love. An emptiness that makes it hard to catch your breath.

Ephraim was buried the same night. And life went on. I had gone to the other meetings I had on the camp. The next day I left Accra for more meetings I have for SMA (where I am now). Jethro and his wife are putting things back together with their lives and I know when I get back after these meetings I’ll see him again.

As with Abby – it’s one of the things about Africa. Life and death are present regularly in ways I don’t see and experience regularly in the US. Things aren’t quietly tucked away. Death is a strong part of life here. We don’t know why Ephraim died. We’ll never know. He was released from Korle Bu and doing fine. Then he died.


The next day, Akolo J needed to go to the hospital – hopefully to be admitted for his spinal surgery. He had asked me to join him, so I did. Last time, back in late January, he went at the appointed date, but was finally – after sitting and waiting all day – told there was no bed and the doctor was busy and blah blah blah and to come back on April 8. He wanted me there to show the hospital that he also had someone with him. We met at the hospital early in the morning. I always enjoy his company, so a couple of hours quickly passed while talking, laughing, catching up, etc. Then he pointed out the doctor on the floor who was passing by. I told Akolo J that if we don't hear anything by 10:30 then I'll go ask because I also needed to get going to prepare for this meeting that I was leaving for later in the day. He encouraged me to just go talk with the doctor right away, otherwise I may not see him later.

I'm always uncomfortable trying to push things here (partly, it's a color thing - I'm white and often get privileges that others don't get - and I don't want to take advantage of this) - but at the same time, pushing things is often the best way to get things done, no matter what color you are and probably no matter where in the world you are. So - I went up to the doctor and explained about my friend waiting to hear if he'd be getting a bed and wondering if the doctor could give me an idea since I also had some meetings to go to and I'd hate to just leave him there. The doctor checked out the file, and before I knew it, Akolo J was doing his intake paperwork with the ward nurse. Not bad at all.

It's been a week now - and he's called me several times while I've been away, just to give me updates on the process he's going through. Now, it's Wednesday night. Either tomorrow or Friday he'll be having spinal surgery that the doctors promise will take severaly hours. Dixon had spinal surgery - and came out great. I'm hoping, trusting and praying for Akolo J.


At 12:20 AM, Blogger MJ said...

Reading this brought tears to my eyes too---to lose a little guy like Ephraim when he was doing so well. I pray that Jethro and his wife find the strength they need to deal with this--to lose him so suddenly and for no unknown reason is just so heartbreaking.
I was happy to see that you were able to help Akolo J get things moving so that he wasn't sent home again after spending another day there. Please keep up updated on his condition--hopefully his surgery will be successful.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger TJ said...

hey steve,
when I was doing my twi schooling in abetifi, i came across an emaciated man who had defacated on himself laying in the street outside the church. I helped clean him up and sent him off to a hospital in nkawkaw. later, he was transfered to the psychiatric hospital in adabraka accra. Just one month later, on my birthday no less, after being fed and d improving greatly, he suddenly died. I still wonder why or how it is he died after he was doing so well. sometimes i think he just gave up. i also wonder about negligence in the hospital. But that is something you confront often when working with people in Ghana. keep up the fight! take care


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