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A letter from Barbara Nagy in Malawi

December 2010

Three Smiles and a Sigh

I had the rare opportunity this past week of seeing a string of successfully treated patients that brought smiles, laughter and even tears of joy to many faces.

The first patient was an elderly pastor who had developed tingling and numbness in his hands and feet several years ago, followed by severe anemia that resisted all attempts at treatment. When we first saw him in the hospital he had not walked for over two years, had severe anemia and was also developing heart failure. Putting all the symptoms together, yet lacking laboratory capabilities to make a firm diagnosis, we decided on a therapeutic trial of Vitamin B12 injections. (For those medically in the know, he had so few white blood cells we couldn’t even check for hypersegmented polys.) I received a scratchy phone call about a week after the injections started to say things were improving, but I was quite unprepared for the sight that greeted me in the Outpatient Department several weeks later. This same man who had been bedridden for so long was walking, leaping and praising God up and down the hospital corridors. His blood problems had disappeared, and we were able to stop most of his heart medicines. The other patients and hospital workers burst into cheers as they watched his celebration. We are very thankful for his recovery and for being able to play a part in it.

A second patient, Anifa, is a 5-year-old girl born with cyanotic congenital heart disease (a “blue baby”). It was enough of a miracle to have a pediatric cardiologist from Canada come with his own ultrasound to make diagnoses on many of our heart patients, another miracle to get our patient to Canada for surgical repair, but the final exaltation was having her walk through the doors of the pediatrics ward this week, nearly two years later, looking pink, twice her previous size and weight and in robust health. That she greeted me in impeccable English was icing on the cake! Courtesy of her successful surgery, the way has also been eased for a few other patients to have tertiary care procedures at no cost to them or the hospital, which is a lifesaving gift to all served.

A final joy this week was seeing Ulemo, an 11-year-old boy who was unconscious and struggling for life for weeks in our pediatrics ward due to tubercular meningitis. He returned for a checkup, another picture of health, having gained over 15 pounds and bouncing into the pediatrics ward, smiling. Though previously partly paralyzed, he is now completely normal, neurologically. After a wild reception by the pediatrics staff, I was able to make his smile still bigger by telling him there were no injections to be given this day!

Amidst all these joyful events, the sigh came as there was too much going on for me to go home and plant maize. I have a 5-year-old Malawian daughter and feel we should understand how most of the rest of Malawi feeds itself. Accordingly, we have set ourselves the task of cultivating our own (very small) maize field this year, without help from anyone else. As I experienced repeated interruptions in my gardening schedule I realized most people in Malawi don’t have the luxury of doing something else besides planting, no matter how desperate the need. I recalled a severely burned patient whose mother insisted on discharge, explaining that if she didn’t plant her fields they would have nothing to eat the following year. It reminds me that there is still an overwhelming amount of work to do. We rejoice when God gives us success for our efforts, but we yearn, work and pray for the time when Malawi will be strong enough to allow the majority of her citizens to prosper through her own resources.

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Thanks to all who have helped and prayed for the work of Nkhoma Hospital and Malawi, we never forget Whose we are or that we are loved and supported by all of you.

Blessings and joy this Christmas season!

Barbara Nagy and family

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study. p. 67

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