One of my greatest fears when planning for this trip was that one of my kids would get sick. Since my dad is a pediatrician in our small town, we always have expert medical care right at our fingertips. My brothers and I have abused this privilege for most of our lives, especially since we have had our own children. I won’t even tell you about all of the weird questions we’ve asked my dad, or the pictures of rashes or injuries we’ve texted him. We call him with every medical question imaginable, from the mundane to the serious. In times of emergency, we depend upon his advice. And, if we’re seeking medical care somewhere else, we’re not too proud to name-drop if we think it may make a difference. My dad has always been very patient with us in all of this.
I was nervous about leaving behind his medical expertise and assistance and going to a place where it might be difficult to find the kind of care that we needed. Well, God has been so gracious to me in addressing my fear in the gentlest way possible. Let me tell you the story:
On Thursday night, Caleb woke up crying that his ear hurt. We gave him some ibuprofen, and let him get in bed with me. The next morning, I mentioned to our good friend Wendemu, the excellent nurse at Lifesong schools, that I thought Caleb might have an ear infection. He immediately pulled out his otoscope and examined him. He said that while Caleb’s ear did have some fluid in it, he couldn’t see anything that indicated an infection. We thanked him, and assumed that whatever was bothering Caleb would go away.
On Saturday, we started noticing that Caleb was running a fever. I became a little more concerned, but I knew that my mom and dad would arrive on Sunday, so I knew that my dad would figure things out. Caleb kept running fever off and on through Saturday and Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon, my dad checked Caleb’s ears and said the same thing that Wendemu had said; he couldn’t determine that there was an ear infection. We decided to start Caleb on an antibiotic in case he did have an ear infection that we just couldn’t see. Even though Caleb has been on anti-malarial meds since we arrived in Ethiopia, there was still a slight risk that he could have contracted malaria. We discussed whether or not we should have him tested, but it seemed like he was doing better, so we decided not to.
On Monday morning, Caleb seemed much better, so we felt that the worst had passed. We had lots of things planned for the day since my parents were in town, and we stayed very busy. Then, late Monday afternoon, Caleb started running a fever again. I suddenly felt very nervous, since he was still running a fever after two days on antibiotics. We decided to get a malaria test done just to be sure.
Casey called Solomon to find out where the clinic was, and he said he would be right over. Then we called Tsegaw to come pick us up. When Solomon arrived he came into our room and started asking Caleb questions: ”Does your head hurt? Is your body achy?” Caleb looked up at him with his little feverish face and said, “Are you a doctor?”
Once Tsegaw arrived, the five of us drove to the medical clinic that the school uses when any of the students were sick. Solomon had called ahead to tell them we were coming. As soon as we arrived, we were taken back to the doctor’s exam room. Solomon accompanied us and translated whenever it was necessary, though the doctor did speak English. He asked us a few questions about what had happened, and then he asked Caleb about how he felt. By this time, Caleb was feeling well-enough to give paragraph-long answers instead of just yes or no. “Does your throat hurt?” ”Well, not really, but sometimes my throat hurts when I swallow, or when I eat something, but not all the time. Mainly my ear hurts, but not all the time, just some of the time, and then it feels better, but then it hurts again.” Ethiopians always get a laugh out of this little white kid who talks so much.
The doctor did not expect that it was malaria, but they almost always do a blood test just to be sure. He sent us right next door to the lab, where they gave Caleb a quick finger prick. After waiting about thirty minutes, we had the result: NO MALARIA! The doctor suspected Caleb had an ear or throat infection, so he gave us a prescription for an antibiotic. We ran by the pharmacy and had the prescription filled in about ten minutes. It took less time than it would have in the U.S. They didn’t charge us for the exam or blood work, because of Lifesong’s relationship with the clinic, and the prescription cost us $8.
Maybe I was ignorant before, but I didn’t expect that taking care of a sick kid in a developing country would be so easy. Caleb is doing much, much better now. I was so comforted to know that our friends will quickly take care of us if we need them, and, even though my dad was here, he simply provided confirmation of what our Ethiopian nurse and doctor determined. Praise God for great friends and great care!