Life and death here in the jungle

Over the past month we had our first patient die in the hospital. He was an older male who came in with symptoms of shortness of breath for three nights, where he could not breath lying flat. Fr. Jack hooked him up to our EKG machine and found ST changes which means he had a heart attack. We admitted him to the hospital and gave him what he would have recieved at home, short of a cath to open up the vessel... aspirin, beta blocker, morphine, oxygen, lovenox (blood thinner), and a statin. However his heart was too damaged to recover and on his fourth night in the hospital he progressively worsened and at 2 am, the resident Laura who was on call and Fr. Jack had him connected to the EKG and were trying to recessitate him and saw his heart rate slow down and he died with his wife at his bedside.
Our second patient that died was a pleasant elderly woman named Marcela who had end stage uterine cancer. She came to clinic dehydrated with sepsis from a urine infection. We treated her with fluids and antibiotics and she improved enough to go home to be with her family. Although she did not eat while here in the hospital she did eat and drink enough at home for the next 3 weeks, however her cancer progressed and she died peacefuly with her family 2 nights ago. Her husband came to clinic yesterday morning to tell us and get the death certificate. He spoke with Fr. Jack and told him their history. The husband had married early in life and his first wife died in childbirth with their 7th child-who also died in the delivery. He later met Marcela and they had 12 children which 6 had died. He is 20 years her elder, and for the past month he did not show much emotion. Today after church Padre Jack, Sister Gigi and one nun in training and I went to the wake and gave a blessing. It was a touching scene for me to see a small community center with a cement floor and roof with the body wrapped in a simple white cloth covering her face in a simple wooden box with flowers at the head and feet. The coffin sat propped on some wooden boards that were balanced on tree stumps. It was when Padre Jack had the family members bless her body with holy water when her husband, stoic through all, began to weep and needed to be supported. Later in the day 3 students who are working here: Mark, Suzana and Laura were walking and saw the burial which they stopped and attended. They took some pictures which the family allowed and even asked for some copies to be made and given to them. During the wake the room was filled with over 10 grandkids running around, smiling, maybe oblivious to what was taking place. An interesting contrast to see such young vibrant lives contrasted against the inevitable passing we all will encounter

25 March 2012

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