Kila mwenye pumzi namsifu Bwana!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Greetings from the Intensive Care Unit of Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza. I have asked fellow missionary Maria Roeber to type and send this for me.
This past Sunday I started having trouble breathing. By Monday morning it was really bad. My local family took me to the hospital where I was placed in the ICU, given oxygen, and diagnosed with “acute abnormal bacterial pneumonia.” I am responding to antibiotics.
Responding slowly. The more I improve, the more I realize how very sick I am. Through Wednesday I was on maximum oxygen, sitting bolt upright in bed, fighting hard to breathe. I could barely speak, drink, or eat—let alone sleep!—because all my consciousness was focused on getting that next gasp of air..and the next…and the next.
Now I am able to lie down. I need less oxygen support. I have been sleeping. It’s wonderful!
I feel like I am receiving good treatment. More important, Maria is satisfied with my care. She is a nurse, and she hould know! She and missionary Michael Pagedas came to Mwanza on Tuesday morning and Maria has been with me daily, keeping company and being my link to the outside world. I’m grateful to her, and grateful to her supporters for sending her.
This is my first hospitalization, so I’m getting familiar with all the trappings of this life. My clothes are gone. There’s an IV valve in my left arm, a cuff on my right arm, a little clip on my thumb, and wires stuck all over my torso and legs. A mask is strapped over my mouth. I can barely move for fear of coming unplugged. My sheets are changed under me while I’m in bed, nurses bathe me, and I’m learning to use a bedpan. I’d always wondered if this stuff was as ncomfortable and embarrassing as it looks. It is.
Being helpless is no fun. I can’t imagine anyone becoming like this by choice. But it’s Advent, and I remember how our God came down to us. By choice He was stripped of His power and glory as I am of my breath and my clothes, and was confined to this earth as I am to this bed. The creator of the universe chose to become weak and needy, a child as tiny as the one in the bed to my left. In time, He cried out in pain like the man with tetanus on my right. When I arrived on Monday, the closest I could get to prayer was to gulp out: “My God”--gasp--“do you know”— gasp—“how awful”—gasp--“this is?” And the reply comes back: “Yes, James”—gasp—“I sure do.”
Bugando Medical Centre may be one of the best hospitals in Western Tanzania. It provides good, affordable care to thousands of patients. But Western Tanzania is bigger than California, and has about eighteen million people. Most folks in my condition cannot access the care I’m receiving.
Even so, I am experiencing in a small way the suffering of many who I’ve been sent to serve among. I am grateful for good care as I learn to identify with the people around me, and understand in a new way the radical sacrifice of the Incarnation. Thank you for sending me here.
Thank you for your prayers especially in these tough days. Maria is keeping OCMC updated on my progress, so if there is news it will be on ocmc.org. When I am out of the hospital, I will write again.
By your prayers in Christ,
P.S. This is a note from Maria: James gave me this letter this morning, which he wrote yesterday. He continues to improve every time I see him, which is twice a day. He is now free of his BP cuff and heart monitor, and is on oxygen mostly for comfort measures. He continues to receive antibiotics both via IV and also by mouth, but he is breathing much easier and is able to eat and drink. His vital signs are all normal. James’ phone is not allowed in ICU, but we are hoping that he will be transferred to another ward on Monday or Tuesday when he doesn’t need as much oxygen. James is under the care of an American physician working in Bugando Hospital, and he and I spoke the other day about James’ treatment plan and progress. His doctor is quite reassured that James will be just fine and that his body simply needs time to heal. I am also very impressed by the Tanzanian nurses and other physicians who have been caring for him, as well as with the equipment and facility in general. I am grateful to God for his mercy and compassion on James, and so glad to be able to be here with him in Mwanza. Thank you for your continued prayers for James. Asante sana!