About Me

My name is Jen Hathorn. I'm a family medicine physician. Since January 2015 I have been living in Egbe Nigeria, which is in Kogi State. I am serving at a bush hospital practicing full spectrum family medicine. I am working with an organization called World Medical Mission which is a part of Samaritan's Purse. This blog is my place to stay connected with you through stories, meditations and pictures. I hope that you enjoy reading the posts!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fragile: Handle With Care

I love and fear taking care of premature babies. Their tiny bodies epitomize the truth that life is fragile. A reality that is often forgotten in the world of adult medicine where “life” seems so much more secure housed in vigorous bony frames fastened by sinew and strong muscle. Unfortunately, when life feels secure it is often taken for granted. Its hard to maintain that facade of security, however, when you are holding a very tiny baby who easily fits into the palm of your hand. I’d like to tell you a story that happened last week, as it reminded me of this very thing.

The night was cool and the air was still fresh thanks to a torrential down-pour in the late afternoon. I was attempting to take advantage of my night off from call by setting myself 
up for some uninterrupted sleep but alas, sleep would not come — my spirit was restless. I couldn’t shake the sense that Esmeralda wasn’t well. Oh, Esmeralda. The first of a set of twins, she entered this world 10 weeks early weighing less than 2 pounds and as you may have guessed, Esmeralda isn’t her Nigerian name, it’s her “NICU name” (a name that I lovingly assign upon admittance to the incubator room). For 8 days she was doing well, and even that afternoon she seemed to be fine. But as sleep refused to come, I became more and more convinced that things weren’t right. Doing mental gymnastics with my tired brain, I fought the urge to run down to the hospital, knowing that the doctors on call would be doing what was needed if indeed she was sick. Staying away from the hospital, however, was weighing on me. I tossed around on my bed even as I prayed for her, but peace would not come. Finally, in the quiet of the early morning I found rest. It came on the wings of peace, the peace of knowing that her life was lovingly held in the hands of the great and powerful creator who alone would decide the number of her days.  A verse from Acts (17:28) passed through my mind, “For it is in Him that we live and move and having our being”. I fell asleep contemplating the fact that her fragile life was wrapped up in Jesus, and in his sovereign will, he would decide when her life would transcend the temporal and assume the eternal. My alarm clock went off a few hours later and she was the first thing on my mind when the cobwebs of sleep began to clear. I left my house a few minutes early so that I could check on her in the NICU before heading to morning report. Opening the door of her room, I was greeted by the sight of a resident doctor and a nurse doing CPR on her tiny body. The doctor’s two fingers doing compressions looked massive against her little rib cage as he worked to pump blood through her lifeless frame. I stopped in the doorway to take it all in, silent, watching. Had her life really left this world right before my eyes? Less than a minute later she was breathing on her own again and her heart-rate was back above 100. All morning I was in and out of that small hot room checking on her and watching as she steadily showed signs of improvement. Currently she is back to breathing well and has even started feeds again, those signs of distress out of sight for the moment. But Esmeralda’s life, housed in that sweet little body, has been a sobering reminder of just how tenuous our existence is. 

Everyday we are surrounded by reminders that life is not certain. A sudden heart attack, an unexpected accident at school, a routine commute to work that ends in a car crash, hearing the word cancer in the same sentence with our name. The reminders vary but the reality is the same, life is fragile. How are we handling this truth? With care? The Psalmist aptly said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” Psalm 90:12. But here’s the secret, we can’t number our days. We must live each one with the uncertainty of tomorrow. We must allow the fragile nature of our life to alter our perspective as we make decisions which will shape the course of our days, our weeks, our months and our years. We must learn to handle life with care! 

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