Friday, 9th December 2011
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 should 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
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 uncomfortable 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
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!