Archive for the 'Prologue' category

Flight to the US (or the $10,000 decision)

Feb 27 2012 Published by under Prologue

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Grace on the KLM flight departing Nairobi

Monday morning started with our new “normal.” I had requested to be taken off the flight schedule, partly to be able to take Breanna to all the doctor appointments, and because I knew I could not focus on details of flying with so much going through my head. My goals for Monday were to take Breanna in for her ultrasound and lab work, then get something at the hangar, and then take the kids to horseback riding so Breanna could rest.

It unraveled quickly after goal #1. The doctor performing the ultrasound became immediately alarmed that blood pressure in the placenta was critically low. The balance, according to the cardiologist previously, was to keep Breanna’s blood pressure safe, but not too low because it would mean not enough flow to the baby. In addition, Jack’s development was about four weeks behind a normal baby.

The ultrasound doctor said we needed to see Patel immediately, not wait for wednesday. His assistant told us to go wait in the hall. So we did. 30 minutes later the doctor walked by.

“Why are you still here?” He asked in his Indian accent. “Go! You need to go now!” So we got in the car and drove to the other hospital.

I thought Breanna could get her lab work going while I parked the car. I ran up to the Patel’s office to tell him Breanna was on her way. Then I waited. I called the travel agent in the hangar and told her we might need to fly to the US tonight. I got a text from Bre saying “I’m trapped in the bathroom. The door won’t open.” By the time I got there, several handymen had figured out the errant door knob and worked the door open.

Back at Patel’s office he looked at the notes from the ultrasound. He wanted to admit Breanna immediately and talk about inducing delivery in the next two days. Any questions?

We asked about the chances of survival for the baby. Not very good.

We asked if he would write a note for us to get on the airplane to go the US immediately. He said yes.

We consulted a couple missionary doctors and decided the slight risk of the airplane flight for Jack would be worth it for the reduced risk in the better hospital. We already had a phone appointment set up with a high risk pregnancy doctor in the US for 5pm Nairobi time (9am EST). It was part of our research into the best facility to go to. We were out of time, and that was our best bet.

So we pulled the over $10,00o trigger and decided to go to the US.

With the continuous stream of choices we could make, I think we quickly forget our motivations. There is sometimes an element of missionary cavalier to stick it out when choices run out, or things look impossible. I could feel that attitude creeping into my heart. But, pragmatically, it came down to resources. AIM AIR had told us we could take as much time off as possible. Loki was up in the air still. We weren’t retreating from a fight. The biggest obstacle was the huge cost in this unplanned move to the US. It didn’t make sense to just send Breanna since we knew Jack would be in the hospital for a couple months, or longer. We knew the whole family needed to go.

Amazingly, from the previous week, several people had approached me at the hangar saying they wanted to help us. If we knew for certain that money was not a factor, would this even be a hard decision? Probably not.

God had also answered our request for clarity. And He didn’t wait for Wednesday, either. He did it the very next day. I moved through the day comforted that the same God who could heal Breanna and Jack could also provide for our trip to the US. It may not make as dramatic testimony by our standards of cool sound bites and amazing videos, but that’s not my business… it’s up to God how He wants to work.

It was after lunch, and I was trying to get the tickets lined up. The travel agent found a KLM flight with five seats still free. We put our prayer needs out on our missionary prayer chain. Then we had to wait for the final ultrasound report to be done so we could take it with us to the US.

Meanwhile people were helping us out with details, mainly our pets, both needing convelescant care from nasty scrapes they had gotten themselves into in the past months. We also needed passport numbers to confirm the tickets. Unfortunately, all the passports were at the house, not with us. I realized we weren’t going to make it home before 3 with traffic, so while I drove, Breanna called our HR officer. She was on vacation. So we found the number for her assistant, who was more than willing to take the passport numbers to the travel agent, but he needed an e-mail authorizing it.

We also called the horseback riding teacher to not tell the kids we were leaving for the US. Breanna did not want them to be distracted.

When we got back home, Breanna began packing with help from others. I ran errands, mainly picking up three months of prescriptions from the land of cheap medicine. I asked others to help with finalizing the tickets. They found out the travel agent was sitting on them waiting for an e-mail from the US authorizing the funds. Unfortunately, the US office doesn’t even open until 5pm Nairobi time! Eventually our friends got the approval and the tickets were issued, mostly. Except Olivia’s was errantly issued as a child. Fortunately a friend caught it before we went to the airport.

I called the travel agent and explained the problem. She had to reissue a new ticket, which meant one of us would be sitting by themselves. At least we all made it! Seeing the time creeping close to 5pm, I asked if she would be with her phone in case this ticket didn’t work?

She laughed and said “Why? You are saying you want to cancel?”

I bit my tongue, and as civilly as I could, explained I might need to call her if there were more problems.

At 5pm we had our tele-appointment with BOTH high risk doctors in the practice. They both affirmed our decision to come to the US. After hearing all her details over the hubbub going on around us (we called outside so the phone call wouldn’t drop), the doctors agreed to alert the women’s hospital we would be coming after 3pm on Tuesday. What turned out to be part of our research and preparation, God turned into a chance to line up the care we needed the next day.

In a tense time, we were quickly surrounded by many great friends. We didn’t need to worry about cleaning our apartment, and dinner was taken care of. Our pets and vehicles were given homes. Kids were entertained. Medicine was picked up. Some wrote e-mails and made phone calls, or selected seating arrangements online. And many prayed.

Breanna asked a friend, who was a doctor, to write another note for the airlines, with much less alarming details about her pregnancy. Unfortunately, we left it on our dining room table after we left. Someone graciously ran to get it for us. Then, when we arrived at the airport, we realized Grace’s back pack didn’t make the trip.

Filled with essentials, like stuffed animals, and books, her eyes quickly watered at the news. One last favor called in to another missionary friend, and the bag was delivered all the way at the airport.

A few hours later and we were seated on the 747. Grace and I were in the very back. I sent a quick facebook update so people could pray.

26 hours later we arrived at our US destination. 27 hours later Breanna checked into her hospital room. A couple hours later the doctors were running tests.

Jack’s heart was beating normally, and his kicks during the flight proved he was still with us. And when I got on to the internet, I was astounded at the sheer volume of people saying they were praying for us.

I am amazed at how God chose to work. It might not sound sensational to some hoping for a different kind of healing, but he gave us clarity. He brought us (Jack included), to a place of incredible care, surrounded by family, and he did at just the right time.

Thanks for praying!

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Feb 18 2012 Published by under Prologue

for with guidance you wage your war, and with numerous advisers there is victory. Prov. 24:6

In hindsight, I can clearly see the past months as a long test. Peirazoœ, in New Testament Greek, has a strong athletic overtone not meaning merely testing, but testing to prove the quality of an athlete.

Hebrews 4 says our High Priest was tested just like we are, and now stands before God on our behalf.

James encourages us to consider testing with joy because it develops us and helps us grow the distance (teleo: which can mean to maturity or completion).

Elsewhere the New Testament describes testing as a way to show us the quality of our faith. It also says being hard pressed on every side allows others to see the power of God within us.

Africa may feel remote in c0mparison to the modern Western world. But God blessed us with a wealth of advisors, some had walked the mission field for decades, others were well trained in medicine. Still others were family and supporters back in the US. From these different camps, we heard one message: Prepare as much as you can for the baby coming early.

Dr. Patel told us that Jack’s chance of survival was pretty low (maybe 30%) if he emerged right then. Breanna was 28 weeks pregnant, and she would be fine, but the hospital could not say the same for the baby. Dr. Patel hoped to get Breanna to 34 weeks, which meant about 80% survival for Jack.

The back of my mind nagged at me. I had recently heard an amazing testimony by a very respected missionary about supernatural healing he had witnessed. In the US we don’t think much about it, but Jesus promised to those that believed they would be a part of such things. Surely a miraculous healing would be a more dramatic proof of God’s power, plus it saves a lot of headache for planning and a lot of money, too. I also realize God doesn’t use a cookie cutter approach to anything. Deliberately. He doesn’t want us to get comfortable following a checklist or a manual instead of following Him.

So, with the advice of a great many, we made phone calls and sent e-mails to the US and to South Africa, and started doing as much homework as we could. Then we called people over to pray, and asked God to work however He wanted to.

During a prayer time over Breanna, the same missionary said something that drilled into my heart. He spoke of needing clarity, and one way we would see that would be improvement at Breanna’s doctor’s appointment.

I realized that our attitude of “wait and see” often comes across as an act of faith, but I don’t think it makes much sense or is supported by the Bible. I realized I felt like I was holding a stable approach into a short airstrip, and things were going OK, but I was at full power, and there were probably downdrafts ahead.

That changed my plans.

Breanna and I agreed to be ready to go immediately to a hospital with a better chance for premature babies unless everything started to improve at the doctors appointment on Wednesday. We also knew and trusted God could heal Breanna.

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Dark clouds

Feb 17 2012 Published by under Prologue

I spent Thursday night in Doro, South Sudan. The original plan was to spend another night in Loki, then fly down on the DC-3 Saturday morning. However, things changed, and the DC-3 planned to fly down Friday afternoon.

It made me happy to spend less time away from Breanna and the family, but it also meant I needed to get everything taken care of before late afternoon. After landing, I needed to run my Doro passengers’ passports over to the border. That required about an hour of driving over 15 miles of jolting road each way. A bad innertube foiled my first attempt by bike. So I changed to a car, but arrived back too late to meet my passengers before they left on their next flight.

I had another flight after lunch to a place called Kuron. As I returned back to Loki, threading my way through clouds, my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was a text message from Breanna: “Went to the doctor. Not great news. Please come home as soon as you can.”

I still had enough time before starting my descent, so I sent  a message to a friend who also lives on our compound, to please check on Breanna.

I landed back in Loki with just enough time to run home and pick up some items we were missing down in Nairobi. Then I hopped on the DC-3 after it landed.

That evening I took the passports to the passengers who had preceeded me to Nairobi. And I saw Breanna. Dr. Patel took her blood pressure at her appointment, and became alarmed at how high it was. He wanted to put her in the hospital immediately, but decided to wait after she met with the cardiologist.

He said if it didn’t come down by next week, he would admit her to the hospital and start plans to induce delivery very soon after. Breanna asked him if the baby would survive coming that early. He mumbled something about it not being very likely.

Breanna was crushed and felt very alone. When we talked it over, we knew we had some important decisions to make.

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It’s a boy!

Dec 24 2011 Published by under Prologue

Our best Christmas present was finding out our new baby was a boy

While listening to a sermon podcast as I was flying, I was inspired to try and arrange a surprise for the family. Breanna came up with a great plan.

So, at Breanna’s second ultrasound appointment to confirm the baby was developing properly, we brought a blank Christmas card and asked the doctor to write down the baby’s gender without out telling us. Then he put the card in the envelope and we brought it home to rest under the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve we decided to open the card as a family. Breanna’s mom participated from Indiana via Skype video call.

With a “here we go!” the envelope was opened. Inside the card the doctor had scrawled “the sex appears to be male” All of the kids were very excited since they had all decided they wanted another brother.

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Staying in Nairobi

Dec 19 2011 Published by under Prologue

Breanna felt fine, but we also knew it could change. This weighed on us as we prayed and saught advice about whether we should stay in Nairobi.

In some ways, Loki is less stressful than Nairobi since life is less frantic and crime and traffic are greatly reduced.  But, with available flights between Loki and Nairobi decreasing, we knew we would need to rely more on outside air service, which would quickly become expensive if Breanna needed to make several trips to see a doctor.

Also, we realized that if Breanna needed to spend most of her time in bed, there would not be much point to us being in Loki.

God used the voice of many respected friends and we realized Nairobi offers us a chance to continue serving with AIM AIR, while having a large community of support around us and the best healthcare in the country.

So, our friends in Loki, the Hildebrandts, sent down our Christmas tree and the kid’s presents, and we celebrated Christmas in Nairobi.

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What the doctor said

Nov 05 2011 Published by under Prologue

Breanna’s ObGyn doctor came highly recommended from several friends. Dr. Patel specializes in high risk pregnancies.

After a round of lab tests and a sonogram, he told us everything looked normal, except for the high blood pressure. Dr. Patel prescribed medication that would be safe for the baby. This later increased to another prescription.

A visit to the cardiologist showed the high blood pressure condition may have existed before the pregnancy. The cardiologist added a third prescription, and later on a fourth.

Development continued normally for Jack, and Breanna’s blood pressure remained elevated, but considered safe.


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Flight Down

Oct 28 2011 Published by under Prologue

I planned to take a Kenya licensing test on Friday, 28 October. We decided to have the whole family go down on the flight with me on Thursday. Breanna made a doctors appointment for Thursday afternoon.

The Cessna Caravan that came up to Loki on Wednesday had a malfunctioning stall warning horn. Our maintenance staff felt strongly it should come down empty to Nairobi. However, Friday morning, they gave permission for me to go down, but not the rest of the family.

Mission Aviation Fellowship had room for the family on their Friday run from Loki to Nairobi, so Breanna and the children rode down on that flight. I took her to the doctor Saturday morning.


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Oct 07 2011 Published by under Prologue

After recovering from a week of family-wide malaria, Breanna noticed that she was still feeling sluggish. That’s when we discovered Jack was here!

With all of the kids, Breanna had pregnancy induced hypertension, but late in the pregnancy. She borrowed my blood pressure cuff and found out her blood pressure was already elevated.

After trying four blood pressure cuffs, being visited by fellow missionaries with medical experience, and consulting with a missionary doc in Nairobi, we planned to get Breanna down to Nairobi as soon as possible to see a high risk OB-GYN. Our first big decision began rising in front of us: Should we move to Nairobi or return to Lokichoggio.


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