Doctors in Nepal give a newborn a chance at life.
By Dr. Pearl Lau
Canadian Dr. Pearl Lau is a family practice physician. Dr. Lau and her husband Calvin serve at United Mission Hospital in Tansen, Nepal, through World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency Program.
Sherin was born prematurely at our hospital in Tansen, Nepal. Since day one of birth, she vomited every time she was breastfed. We learned that Sherin had a birth defect which caused part of the bowel to die and create an obstruction.
This baby needed surgery, and because she only weighed a little more than three pounds, we counseled the family that their baby’s best chance of survival was to have the surgery done at a pediatric hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. At our hospital, we didn’t have the resources to feed an infant through IV, and we knew that feeding and post-operative recovery would be extremely difficult.
While the mother was willing to go to Kathmandu, the father, who was working overseas (which is quite common in Nepal), did not agree. Understandably there were many challenges, such as the financial burden and the challenges of caring for this baby along with their other child.
We knew with almost certainty that if the surgery was not done Sherin would die. However, taking this baby to the operating room put the baby at risk of dying during the surgery, and there would be a very long uphill battle post-operatively.
After much discussion among our pediatrics team, the surgical team, and a number of other doctors, we did the surgery. There was nothing cavalier in the decision, but just simply a desire to see this child live.
I have come to learn that what wears me out here is not the physical aspects of the job. It is the burden of the decisions we have to make, trying to make do with what we have or don’t have, the heart-wrenching stories we hear, the rumination even after leaving work of whether or not I made the right decision for my patient. When I’ve lost children, there has been a tendency within me to say that I didn’t sign up for this.
Coming to these realizations is a reminder that the impossibility of our work is only made possible by God’s power and sufficient grace. It is a reminder to continue to ask for prayers for our work.
We had a small party three weeks after the surgery because Sherin had finally reached her birth weight. She continued to gain weight daily and was discharged.
Sherin is now about three months old and is living with her family. Following her release from the hospital, she had to be re-admitted a few times for various infections, but she is growing and feeding well.
We thank God for the miracle and blessing of how He has worked in this baby’s life. It is easy for me to forget that our work is much more than medicine. Our work is a struggle for life and death in more than just the physical sense. Our work is also a display of God’s grace and mercy for each patient. We have a ministry of hope. It is a declaration that God cares intimately for the sick and broken.