He was laying on the bed sideways his eyes half open and his breathing labored. It looked like he had twisted himself up while rolling over and didn’t have the strength to straighten out. He was all skin and bones with a puffy face and a distant look in his eyes. He had spoken little when I first meet him the night before and now he wasn’t responding at all; not when I spoke to him and not during my exam. In the triage room yesterday he had whispered his name and said that he was “fine.” This is the usual response I get from patients no matter how sick they really are. Everyone tells me they are “fine”. He was no exception. Except he wasn’t fine. He was dying. He was only 15 years old but the untreated kidney disease had left him wasted and toxic. His family didn’t have the resources for private dialysis and the public hospitals that could offer him help were not in operation because of a national workers strike that had left them closed for more than a month. Having done what they could at home, his family brought him to us when he developed a high fever. I tried to explain through an interpreter that his kidney failure was terminal without dialysis and that he now had a bad case of malaria. It was hard to tell from their expressions if they really understood. That was yesterday. Today I look at him and my heart becomes heavy. He has had a few seizures overnight and is now breathing in those slow agonal breaths of a person who is close to death. After completing my exam I adjust his medications, make sure the nurses take the time to keep him comfortable and clean, explain to the family again that he will not live long and pray with them. And then I leave. I leave upset that there is nothing else I can offer him out here in the bush. I leave with a heavy heart.
I step out of the ward into the bright sunlight and the heat. It’s still mid Saturday morning and I have a meeting to go to. I start to walk toward the office but my thoughts are all with him. I try to set it aside for a later time when I can process it alone in quite, but it’s not easy to set aside something so sad. I take another step toward the office when I hear it. The quite notes of a song come floating from somewhere. I can’t tell you where it was from, but softly and clearly the voices drift through the hospital compound, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.”
Grace. Amazing grace. Undeserved and divine favor from God to mankind. The moment was fleeting but powerful. I knew that my God was showing his grace for this situation. I am not exactly sure how. I am still grasping to see how this divine favor applies to my boy and to his family. A wiser person may know that answer. This however I can say, while my mind cannot fully comprehend the ways of God’s amazing grace, my heart has heard its song and can rest.
“Return unto thy rest O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” Psalm 116:7