Sunday we loaded our sweaty selves and stuff onto a ferry headed to Dar and a week family vacation, language review lessons, and routine doctor checks. Or at least that was the plan. Not 20 minutes into the 2 hour ferry ride Evy started to get a high fever. Even on fever reducer she was burning up. It happened so fast with no warning. Again. Then she had a seizure. Right there on the over loaded ferry between some locals going to visit family and some tourists heading to catch a flight. Her little body was shaking violently, her eyes were glazed and unresponsive, and her lips and hands were turning blue and we….. were…. stuck. This one felt like forever but we think was actually at least 4 minutes. We called on the only doctor
that do a thing at that moment and laid hands on her convulsing body and prayed outloud over and over again for healing in Jesus’ name. When she did not stop Jason handed her to me and I rocked and tried to calm her some way while he ran to ask the crew if there was anything they could do. Only a “pole” was offered and it was confirmed what we already knew: we are on our own.
I think for me I really discovered what I believe and what I am made of in those moments. Between two land masses neither of which have what I would call emergency medical care and floating over the vast blue we prayed. Hard. For healing. For peace. And for wisdom. And He was there in it and gave us peace. And that for me is a miracle since my natural tendencies are toward emotional hysterics.
After the seizure subsided I took her outside to get some fresh air and talked with other mothers holding their children. Then we moved our family to the Chumba cha Ugongwa
(sick room) on board which Anni succinctly pointed out smelled of vomit and diarrhea. But at least we could have some space and try to formulate a plan and pray. We also knew in those moments we had to thank God for everything. Even if that is not how we felt sitting in a small room surrounded by bags of other people’s vomit holding my baby passed out from the toll the seizure had taken on her little body. He has been teaching us a lot about gratitude lately and it was like this was our opportunity to relax into His care or busy ourselves with our burden. He has been chiseling away at my self-reliance here and teaching us to really be grateful in all circumstances and to trust He is who He says He is. How being grateful is a choice some days. And not expressing our gratitude to Him is ultimately a reflection of how much we trust Him. Do I trust Him? Do I trust that He has a purpose in my baby being sick for months on and off? For all the troubles and hardships our family has dealt with (small in comparison to others but if I am honest kicking our butts lots of days)? For all the crap in the world? Do I believe what I share with my neighbors and friends on our island about my Father? Do I really know He works things for our good
even if that good is not what I would choose? Why are we so quick to thank Him for blessing and so quick to pray for a way out of trial. Are we not promised He is with us, even more so in our trials? Maybe that is why we are reminded so many times in His Word to be thankful. In everything. We need to remember. We are creatures who easily forget. I know for sure in that moment He was asking us to choose trust and peace. And we did. And many of you across the world stopped for a minute and joined us in praying. We felt it; thank you. It was His kind of peace.
We had very limited cell coverage but we were able to communicate with our team leader who helped us find an on-call doctor at a clinic (since it was now Sunday night and no where would be open). We are again remind how grateful we are to have such amazing friends here. After 2 hours we finally arrived and I strapped Evy to my back, grabbed my carry-on bag stuffed with as much as I could carry, and pushed and jabbed my way through the crowd waiting to get off the ferry. Once I said “mtoto anaumwa sana” people were willing to allow us to go to the front of the mass of people waiting to get off. Jason and Annikah stayed back and collected our luggage and would meet me at the clinic later. Before we had even docked I was yelling to the eager cab drivers waiting on the dock and after we finally settled on a price we ran all the way to one man’s car and headed out. Of course, he had no gas and we had to stop twice since the first gas station was out. But by this time Evy was starting to act more like herself; pinching me and laughing. Tricking me into questioning whether the last few hours ever happened. The clinic opened and a doctor from Europe arrived right away. She examined her and asked many questions about the last few months. I recounted the 8 times she has been on antibiotics (the last time only 2 days ago), the injections, the staff infections, the thyphiod, the diarrhea, terrible diaper rashes, my HG when I was pregnant with her which she thinks may be related, and the 3 times she has had an “unknown” bacterial infection. They tested her for malaria; again. They did full blood panels. And again everything came back the same; high white blood cell count, no malaria or worms or amoebas that would explain the reason she is so sick. And every time it comes on so fast. She had some theories but said she cannot test for any of these things here in Tanzania and recommended a trip to South Africa or possibly Nairobi or Europe/the U.S. By this time Jason and Anni arrived and after more injections to help Evy’s little body fight whatever is attacking her (Anni was so sweet and comforted her sister during her shots)we packed up and made an appointment for the next morning at 8am.
The next two days we canceled our trip and stayed in Dar making return trips to the Dr, more blood tests, stool tests, and ruling out everything that can be tested for here. We monitored her closely and as all the other times she seemed to be getting better but we knew we had to find out more. After the 3rd time she was sick and it required an emergency trip to the mainland we prayed a lot and sensed that if it happened again; mystery infection with no apparent cause resulting in fever or seizure we would seek better care, even if that meant leaving the country. This has been happening with too much frequency and we as a family cannot take it anymore. It is hard even to write that but it is true and after we had made that decision we felt a weight lifted. This life can be so hard sometimes because you often worry you are either not trusting enough or not worrying enough. But still now that we were in the midst of the needing to do more we felt a swirl of chaos, decisions, and the need to trust that we could afford a flight, that people would support our decision, that Evy would be well enough to travel, etc. We also sense that much of this is spiritual attack. After consulting with many people here though we felt our decision confirmed and that we needed to make sure there is nothing serious going on somewhere where we could trust we would receive good care. We are entrusted with these precious children and we need to follow what we feel He is telling us after all as a friend pointed out “you are the only mama she has got.” I was going to listen to my mama gut.
Our God “is not the author of confusion but of peace
” and we sensed that after we finally decided.
The second day we made the decision that I would return to the U.S. (After weighing options and comparing scenarios and praying )with Anni and Evy as soon as the doctor here felt she was ok to travel and we could get a reasonable flight on short notice. Jason searched using his sketchy phone internet service and found a flight that was a pretty good deal and after three desperate minutes of prayer actually went down hundreds of dollars in price after he refreshed the website! We still ended up having a few days of family vacation (because the earliest flight we could get was 4 days away) which was blessing all over since we will be apart from Jason for possibly 6 weeks (the longest I have been apart from him in almost 10 years). The girls and I leave tonight at 9pm Tanzanian time. I still have not fully processed that I will be back in the U.S. soon. Crazy! It will be a long haul that I think I am still in denial about with 2 kids by myself; first to Nairobi, then to Zurich, then to New York, and finally to Chicago. But what is keeping me going is knowing His care stretches oceans and time and space. And when my exhausted and weary self arrives my Mommy will be there to do what she does best; make everything all better! That and the Strabucks latte, Mexican food, and a glass of wine waiting at the other end. Still it would be nice for once to actually PLAN a trip stateside and not always be heading home in a quasi-emergency medical situation
. Ya know, to have more than 5 pairs of chupis, long skirts, and one actual pair of shoes in tow but that is life. Or at least this life of ours right now. The question is am I willing to be grateful in the midst of it…. Before I can see and look back? And Yes. I am. Or at least I am trying to release my plans to His care and choose gratitude. I have 2 beautiful girls that are pestering me and giggling as I type. We have the means to seek medical care; something all our friends here do not have. I have family and friends who are already mobilizing a task force to get everything we need for our 6 weeks in the U.S. I have a husband who is my best friend and cares for his girls and leads his family because he knows it is the work God has entrusted him with. We have abundant life in Christ. And I know I can trust He who has never abandoned me, who has made me His own child, who cares for us more than we can care for ourselves. So all this to say; unexpected trip again. This journey continues to test my limits but every time I come to the end of myself I realize that is where we are meant to live. Just trying to breathe deep and fully live there.