Monday, May 24, 2010

The Vinedresser

John 15. "I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser"

A famous chapter in the Bible. It contains some of our Lord's final words before He was crucified.

I took a trip to Italy a year ago and, very appropriately, heard a sermon on this chapter. It really opened my eyes to God's dealings with us.

The branches of a grape vine receive all of it's life and nutrients from the vine itself. With a healthy vine the branches grow out long and full. There comes a point, though, where the branches get so long, that they no longer produce any fruit. You see, all of the nutrients from the vine must go into keeping the long branch alive, that it cannot support the growth of any grapes. The vinedresser then must come along and cut away at the branch. He knows exactly where the branch needs to be cut. If he cuts it too close to the vine, the branch will die all together. If he cuts it too far away, the branch will still not produce optimal fruit. So he cuts the branch. What happens next? Not only does the branch begin to produce fruit once again, but several new branches sprout out from the shortened branch! Eventually much more fruit is produced with the shortened branch than what was originally produced when that branch was first that length!

The vinedresser is skilled in his work. Before if I had visited a vineyard and seen a vinedresser cutting back all the branches, I would question why he was destroying his beautiful vineyard. I would think him a very poor vinedresser. But such is not the case at all. In the "destruction" or cutting away that he performs, he is simply making his vineyard worth more value.

So, the connection? God is our vinedresser. He is skilled in His dealings with us and those who cross our paths. He knows what cutting away he needs to do in each one of our lives, because he knows his vineyard well. He sees our hearts, while others just see our outward appearances. And so he cuts away at the areas that have grown wild and interfere with our effectiveness. For a moment, the cutting away seems to be destructive to the branch, but with time, as new branches begin to grown, the faithfulness of our loving God is proven again.

Don't question the cutting away that God does in your own life. Embrace it with confidence knowing that His plans are for good and not for evil. And at the same time, don't question the work that God is doing in the lives of those around you. In seeking to trust God with your own life, learn to trust Him and His dealings with everyone else as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Meet my man Anderson (Pronounced with a Spanish accent:). One of my cutest patients ever, who didn't talked to my once the entire time that he was in the hospital. No matter how nice I was to him or how much I tried to play with him, he would just give me a blank stare. Yes, a bit disheartening. :( Anyway, he's still cute, even with his blank stare.

This picture is of him when he first arrived to the hospital. His face and belly were extremely swollen. This picture shows how he could barely open his eyes because of how edematous they were. He had something called Nephrotic Syndrome. It's an illness caused by damage to the kidneys, and for this reason he was completely swollen.

Usually this syndrome is treated with a very strong diuretic, Lasix, to take off the fluid, and a blood product, called Albumin, to replace the protein that the damaged kidneys are excreting in the urine. Well, considering the fact that our only blood bank is a list of names of missionaries and their blood types for them to come give blood on the spot when necessary; we definitely did not have Albumin. Despite our limited resources, we decided to start treatment with just Lasix. The first couple of days showed no change in Anderson's swelling, but about three days after being admitted, it started to go down! He was discharged within a week and a half after being admitted to the hospital.

Just another reminder that God is powerful. He is the one that holds the world, the universe, your life, together. Without Him nothing exists. He is in charge 100% of the time. He decides when the sun rises and when it sets. It's funny how we live in nature every day and we see His greatness right before us, and yet we still forget. We forget that it is only through Him that we move and live and have our being. I think that we tend to forget how helpless we really are without Him until He puts us in situations where we are inadequately equipped or not prepared to handle. It forces us to fix our gaze back on Him, and to remember how great and mighty He truly is. We are not confined to our human resources and expertise, but to His; and "He gives to all men freely and without reproach" James 1:5. I have seen so many cases in the hospital where God takes the little that we have in resources, causes it to suffice. He is so great.

Good News!

I just was informed by Penny that the patient we took into La Ceiba because of iron overdose survived! He made it through the most critical time (first 48 hours) and he was actually discharged from the hospital yesterday. Praise God!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Whatever you do, don't call an ambulance!

Yesterday night I was taking care of our precious Orlin, the baby who I wrote of in my last entry. He seems to be doing a bit better, but continues to have recurrent lung infections. He has been out of the hospital for a week now. Praise God for that!

When I was just about to leave from watching Orlin, I got a call on the radio from one of the nurses in the hospital. A two year old boy, Anyel, had gotten into his mother's iron pills and had swallowed thirty tablets: a lethal dose. He had suffered convulsions in his home, which prompted the mother to bring the child to our hospital about 5 hours after he had ingested the tablets. At that point it was too late to try to induce any vomiting of sorts. Our hospital did not have the medicine needed to excrete the iron from the body, so I was being called to help transport him via ambulance to a large public hospital in La Ceiba.

There are 5 stages that a person goes through when they have overdosed on iron. In the first, the patient will usually experience gastrointestinal symptoms and convulsions. It is common for the patient to be bleeding in his stomach and intestines, which causes death in a significant percent of victims. The next phase, is deceptive in that most symptoms subside, and the patient appears stable. Within hours, however, the patient enters the third stage where low blood sugar, cardiac problems, shock, and coma often occur. This usually happens within 6-8 hours after ingestion. Most patients do not make it through this stage. If they do, they enter the fourth stage which is when the patient presents liver failure from the damage that the iron has done as the liver tries to filter out the toxins in the blood. Lastly, if the patient makes it through all of that, he must then deal with the residual gastric problems, which sometimes warrant surgery.

When we began transport, our patient was in the deceptive Stage 2. He was still vomiting and stooling blood, but he was at least alert and oriented. Knowing that he could begin to present cardiac symptoms at any point, and possibly go into coma or shock, I was extremely nervous about the hour ride ahead of us. I had no idea that by the end of the trip, I was going to be fearing for not only this baby's life, but also the lives or all of us in the vehicle.

The first half of the trip was on dirt roads. We sped along and cut corners as we went. Apparently the driver was determined to not allow anything to slow him down: not heavy rains, not terribly fogged windows, not even losing control of the vehicle on the slippery mud roads. I maintained my hand on the Anyel's pulse, and my eyes on the road, as my attention quickly became divided from that of the life of Anyel to also the lives of all of us in the vehicle. Penny, the nurse accompanying me refused to look at the road at all. It was so scary!

FINALLY, the rain subsided and we reached paved road. I breathed a sigh of relief, not realizing that these better conditions only meant more risky driving. We sped along, not stopping for anything or anyone: not even a semi-truck. Nope, we didn't budge one bit as we drove in the oncoming lane of traffic, and the semi came fast approaching. Thankfully the truck decided to drive into the ditch rather than smash into us at the last second. I can't count how many other times we pulled directly into oncoming traffic. I knew it could be the end for everyone in this...ambulance?

But we made! Alive! Anyel was hard to awaken and barely responsive when we arrived. Thank fully the hospital was expecting him and he was seen immediately. We found out that the medication that he desperately needed is no where to be found in the entire country. So we left, feeling a bit disheartened.

The following day, this past friday, he was visited by some of our staff. The doctors explained that his iron levels are about double where they should be, but they are lower than what requires drastic intervention. Anyel was not alert or responding much when they visited.

Please pray for him, as he is still in a very critical state. I will be posting more updates as I get them.