Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It's been a Difficult Journey
I have entered a new culture with a new language and customs I don't understand. This time, my ability to understand and be understood has life and death consequences. My dad had another heart attack last Saturday. (This follows the one he had three weeks ago). The doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital he's at are kind and caring, but I have a steep learning curve. Last night my dad was throwing up all night, and was very weak in the morning. I was very worried about how terrible he looked, and called Jane, the visiting nurse who took care of him last week. "Don't worry. It could be ileus. Sometimes when the body has had a trauma, the digestive system shuts down. They'll do an Xray and figure it out." So, when the doctor came in, he asked a million questions about Dad's nausea, and even though the medicine they were giving him wasn't working, the doctor didn't propose anything new. So I said "Could it be ileus?" (It's always good to try out the few words you know in a new language.) And the doctor said "Maybe. Let's do an abdominal Xray to see." If I hadn't said it, would he of thought of it? I don't have a medical degree, and yet I feel if I don't gain some medical knowledge, my dad won't get the care he needs. I don't know if this is the end, or something that he will recover from. I don't know whether to tell my daughter to come home from Central America. When I asked the cardiologist today "Is it possible to stabilize his heart so that he won't keep having heart attacks?" he said "I have to go look at his chart." We never saw him again. He didn't lay out a plan, but he didn't indicate that my dad's situation was insolvable. Maybe in this culture I'm not supposed to bother the physician with questions. I want answers. They want to ask questions. I love my dad so much. I want to make sure he's getting the best care possible, but I don't know how. I don't know the culture and feel I'm going to unintentionally insult the people of this culture and then they won't ever tell me what I want to know. There's lots to be thankful for in all this. I'm thankful for nurse Jane, who is a good friend and a wealth of information. She visited Dad in her off hours today and brushed his teeth for him. I'm thankful for Kathy, who is willing to take my students so I can run to the hospital, even though the kids take full advantage of her when I'm gone. I have a handful of treasured friends who have been supportive and faithful. Last night all three pastors at church huddled with me and prayed for Dad and me, and that was a great comfort. I'm thankful for my dear dad who continues to laugh and be kind to others, even through his pain. I'm thankful he knows where he's going next and is looking forward to it. He said "I'd gladly trade places with Mom at this point." I've learned to survive cross-culturally many times before, and while this feels like the most dangerous trip I've taken, I know God's by my side, leading me through it.