by Sarah Glover, missionary at Kunai since 2010
When living and ministering to provide health care in a communal society, your history with your patients runs deep. They are your friends, not simply a chart to be pulled out of a file, and your friendship deepens with each interaction with them. Such is the case with Bufort. But let me back up a bit and put his story into context.
Bufort’s grandmother, Linda, has been a translator at Kunai Health Center for years. She is faithful in all her areas of responsibility in the clinic, but she truly excels in her work in our prenatal clinic. So it was a special day for all of us when her oldest, newly married daughter came for her first prenatal visit. We were able to provide her with care throughout her pregnancy, including diagnosing and treating malaria during her pregnancy, which can be potentially life-threatening for both mom and baby.
I was already in bed one night when the knock came on my door. It was Linda. Julie was in labor. We had no midwife on the property, and since we encourage all of our first time moms to deliver in a health facility, we decided to transport her to the rural hospital on the other side of the mountain. A landslide on the trail prevented us from taking her the whole way, but we were able to take her a little over halfway in our Kawasaki Mule, and we waved goodbye in the wee hours of the morning as she continued her trek another 45 minutes to the rural hospital.
The next afternoon we were delighted to see Linda, Julie, and a precious baby boy on the clinic porch. They named him Bufort nearly right away, which is unusual for our people. They often wait a year to name their babies to prevent over-attachment should the child not survive his first year. But that’s ever so gradually starting to change, especially among younger parents. I can’t prove it, and I’m sure they could never articulate this, but could it be tied to a generational shift in thinking because they grew up knowing that Kunai Health Centre was there? Could it be perhaps some hope has been born in their hearts that there will be someone there to help their babies through the preventable and treatable diseases of childhood which so many wee Kamea warriors had succumbed to in the past?
Julie and her husband, Tom, are good parents, and Linda loves her little grandson. But when Bufort was about 3 months old, a crisis struck their family. Julie became desperately ill. Without the ability for any major diagnostic testing, and based only on experience and on her symptoms, we began treating her for meningitis. She rallied for awhile and seemed to be responding to the twice-a-day shots we were administering, but then her condition gravely worsened, and she began experiencing seizures and hallucinations. We knew she needed to have access to medical care that was closer than the next village down the trail, so we made the decision to again transport her to the rural hospital on the other side of the mountain. We took her in the same Kawasaki Mule to the same landslide, but this time there was no walking to the rural hospital for her. Instead, she had to be carried in a sheet tied to a pole. We prayed, believing God could do exceedingly great and wonderful things. But we also kept an eye on the trail out front every day should things not go well, and we happen to see them walk by carrying her body back to the village.
Her conditioned worsened, and at times she was in a near comatose state, unable to rise from her bed for any reason. Eventually her deterioration was so severe that she was unable to nurse Bufort anymore. She had so beautifully given him life, but now she could not sustain it, so they turned to us for help. Before in such cases, there was a high likelihood that the baby would not survive. But thanks to the Baby Milk Program at Kunai Health Centre and all of those who support it, this one got to live and be nourished even though his mom was so sick.
Julie remained in critical condition for months. God heard the prayers of many around the world, and He turned our sorrowing into rejoicing. Many months later she walked him home to her village. Bufort has a mom, and Julie has her sweet baby still. Thank the Lord–and thank you to our supporters for the part you played in this story.