We have started our own little pharmacy. We keep a nice little basket off to the side, packed full of paracetamol, cough syrup, Band-Aids, gauze, and oral-rehydration solution. I try to keep the mindset of, “If this was my child, what would I do?” If I’d give them paracetamol for a fever, I do. And when I start to get worried, we take them to clinic.
Because its such a large group of kiddos, and they are in such close contact, I have been giving out Tylenol for weeks, to a new kid each day who has picked up the fever. Its been gone within a day, no problems to be had.
Wednesday a little girl of nearly two was brought over, having thrown up five times that day. Her mother actually came with vomit all over her, which was lovely. The little girl had a fever and diarrhea, too, so I gave her oral-rehydration packets and paracetamol. I told her we’d wait and see how she was tomorrow.
She wasn’t better the next day, and was throwing up the medicine and rehydration fluids. We decided to take her the next morning, when I was off work.
It was a record trip to the hospital: we were in and out in just one hour and twenty minutes with medicine in hand. And it cost us just $2.28.
The next morning, the little girl was happy, full, and playing on our doorstep.
Then it was Saturday: we had slept in and were just sitting down to pancakes at 9am when another woman walks up with another little baby girl.
Her little girl had an on-and-off fever for a month. I had given medicine twice, but now I was starting to think it was recurring too often. And as of Saturday, there was sort of rattling in her lungs.
We decided to take a second trip to the hospital. They get the baby ready–including a diaper that they didn’t know how to put on and I had to show them. She had on an outfit of every shade of blue you could imagine: a flowered blue hat, a differently flowered blue sweater, and a blue plaid skirt. She was ready for this trip to town.
This time I thought it was just me, the mother, and the two year old; we suggest the motorbike. She agrees and I climb on. Here I learn that there is a translator coming to help as well, so we now have four squeezed onto the motorbike, including the mother sitting side-saddle in her sarong. This was not the easiest journey I have made.
After a much longer wait at the hospital–three hours this time–the little girl was admitted. She had an upper-respiratory infection, pneumonia, and they suspect tuberculosis. They are running tests.
She has now been at the hospital three days, and we go to see them each day. I can’t really say much because they speak Burmese and I only know pieces of Karen, but we brought some small toys, coloring pages, and snacks. Their older little boy, about four years old, is stuck there, too.
Today, I went by the hospital at 10:30am. I spoke with the doctor, who said they were running the tests for TB and she needed at least two more days of medicine. I knew the family didn’t want to stay, but I told her it would be two more days and I’d come by later with a translator to explain. I wanted her to understand the severity of the situation, since her little girl had three ailments.
At 12pm, I got a call from someone speaking Karen–this took me a few minutes to even sort out what language she was speaking and that I should understand; I still have no idea who it was. The family had a bill and the baby could go home, she said. I told them I’d be there in a few minutes, just to wait.
(I will mention here that this is the same family that we took the drunk husband to the hospital one night with a large, bleeding head wound. He left the hospital unexpectedly and we couldn’t find him for over an hour. I was a little worried they might just head out on their own, too, if it ran in the family.)
When we arrived, they did have a bill in hand. But when I asked the doctor, he very adamantly explained they could not go home, but the hospital wouldn’t continue to give medicine if we didn’t pay for the expenses already incurred.
With the help of other patients’ family members, we translated this to the mother. The baby was still really sick and needed to stay. Yes, you did get a bill; I know that’s confusing. But you still need to stay for two more days. She looked a little defeated at the prospect of sharing a hospital bed with her two children in a hallway for two more days, which I can resonate with.
This payment was also not as beautiful as the last–it was no $2! And this is only the half of it.
As I spoke with the nurse about paying the bill, I could read her expressions. Clearly I’m paying for someone else’s bill, and her name clearly implies she is Burmese. I am obviously the white person here to pay and do very little else.
I wondered for a moment if we were fools. How do I explain myself? I imagine people asking us–how do you justify spending hundreds of dollars on medical for this community? Where is that money coming from? What if more people need it next week? Is this sustainable?
In all reality, we have almost certainly spent more money on medical for this community in the past year than on medical for the two of us. And we don’t have a budget or a plan for any of it.
No one was really asking these questions, but sometimes I think God gives me the answers anyway. He knows how much I hate spending money. He knows how nervous I get to see the large number.
In that moment, he told me I was to do it. I was suddenly confident that he had orchestrated these friendships, and that this was a way to show love. I was sure that if I was standing before the Lord needing to defend these dollars, it was a small amount in the Kingdom. Could I waver over this little girl’s health for a price? Could I tell them to go home, hope their whole family doesn’t get TB and hope she gets over pneumonia?
Certainly not. I could love them now and let God work out the details. Because they were just details, simple matters of health that somehow always lead me back to the fact that Holy Spirit is constantly leading us, guiding us, and showing up when I am the most tired and the most unsure.