Friday, July 1, 2016
“One is the loneliest number.” — Three Dog Night
About five years ago, Karen and John went to Dar Es Salaam to visit our friends Paul and Cathy Savage who were Baptist missionaries there. While they were gone, I was holding down the fort at the mission, but I came down with a bad case of malaria. Since I was alone, Shaban got worried and insisted on taking me to Mwanza to see the doctor at the Hindu Union Hospital there (we had been there before). I didn’t feel like it, but I didn’t fight it either. We were seen right away and it didn’t take the doctor long to do the blood test and confirm the malaria. He put me in a room and asked me to drop my trousers, so he could give me an injection. When I did, he looked at what he could now see and said (I kid you not, this is exactly what he said), “Oh, my God.” There are a lot of things you want to hear your doctor say, but this isn’t one of them. It seems that some rather male parts of me were terribly swollen. He insisted that we take one of his nurses and go immediately up to Bugando Hospital to see a surgeon. Again, I did not feel like it, but after he had given me the injection (I still had malaria), Shaban and the nurse and I all went up the hill to the big hospital of Bugando. There I saw a Dr. Chandika, who examined me, and immediately asked to get the surgical theater ready. He was told it wouldn’t be ready for a couple of hours, so I was admitted and prepped for a surgery to begin around six that evening. In the meantime, Shaban had called Karen in Dar Es Salaam to tell her I was in the hospital awaiting surgery. He explained that the doctor had said if I waited another twelve hours, I would probably die. One of those two male things that men have (which are seldom if ever exposed) had gone bad and had to be removed. Where there had once been two, from now on there would only be one. It would be the only thing I would ever have in common with Lance Armstrong. Shaban then had to drive the car back to Bunda to run the mission while I was in the hospital. Shaban left and completely alone in the hospital,they wheeled me into the operating room about seven that night (nothing goes as planned here) and they gave me a spinal so I was awake during the operation but could feel nothing below my waist. Dr. Chandika did a marvelous job, and I was on my way to a private room ($15.00 a night at the time) around ten that night. While I was being made a tad less of a man, my friend, Paul Savage, had called a missionary we both knew, Dave Helsby, to come be with me when I came out of surgery. He had ridden his motorcycle to the hospital and was waiting in the room when I got there. It was a good thing, too, because he had to help move me from the gurney to the bed. The hospital staff weren’t used to people my size. The next day Dave came back with his wife and brought me some snacks and a book to read, so I wasn't really alone--Christians never are. The doctor came in later and told me everything went well that he had fixed the other one so that it would not suffer the same fate as the one he had removed (which would have killed me, he said, in another ten hours). He then told me I could come back in six months and get a prosthetic implant if I wanted. At sixty-five years of age and serving as a missionary, I didn’t see any point in what would have been purely cosmetic surgery. I was able to go home in a couple of days and by then Karen and John were back home. I don’t know what was in the injection that the doctor at the Hindu hospital gave me, or if the medications in the surgery did the trick, but I had no more symptoms of malaria. However, if I hadn’t had malaria, I would have died, alone, while Karen and John were away. It is ironic that one sometimes deadly disease saved me from another even more deadly one, yet that’s just what happened. My father-in-law was once hit in the chest by a golf ball moving at great speed, but it hit the box of cigarettes he had in his pocket and though the impact knocked him down, he wasn’t hurt other than a bruise. He always said cigarettes saved his life. Well, malaria saved mine and took a piece of me away. The doctor did tell me as he was leaving, “There are still bullets in the gun, and it still shoots.” Like I would care at my age and in my profession. I think he just liked saying that. You can file this under “Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining” or just another one of God’s coincidences.