By Trixy J. Franke ’06
Patience does not come easily. No matter the country, few people espouse serenity with unending fortitude, especially when it comes to an illness. We all want sickness to end now. The cure cannot come soon enough.
“But, doctor, I want to go home. I can’t stay here tonight. I have small children at home. There isn’t anyone to help with the children. I can’t stay.” The breastfeeding mother with her severely anemic and ill baby turned pleading palms upward in a gesture begging me to discharge them from the hospital.
Her baby was very ill with malaria. He needed intravenous medications and a blood transfusion. These treatments cannot be completed hastily. A blood transfusion takes time. First, a donor must be found, then the body needs time to slowly accept each drop. A minimum of 24 hours is required for intravenous malaria treatment to even begin to lower the parasite load. Lots of complications can occur while a young body is compromised under such an illness. Still, the busy mother persisted, “I can’t stay. Just write the medications. I will buy the medications and give them at home.”
“It’s not safe,” I tried to explain. “He’s too sick to go home. He needs to be in the hospital and take intravenous drips. He can’t take those medications at home. He’s too sick.”
“But I can’t, doctor,” the mother continued.
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t keep him unless it was necessary. This is the best treatment for him.” The mother doesn’t appear to hear me though. Her face was contorted in anxiety for her ill infant and concern for the rest of her responsibilities at home.
“But doctor,” her pleas trailed off.
“I’m sorry,” I said with genuine sympathy. “It’s the only way. Perhaps you can call someone to help? A relative or a neighbor?”
She finally nodded wearily. She was not happy about the situation, but she was resigned to another night in the hospital. Her mind was full of all the responsibilities she wouldn’t be able to take care of now that she had another night to care for her youngest. Her crops might suffer without her vigilant hoeing. Her other children would face hardship without their mother to care for them and ensure they did their chores. Her cooking would not get done this week, and the laundry would pile up. She sighed. It was not easy waiting. I could sense her disappointment in white man medicine. Her expectations were not aligned to the natural course of healing required by a young body fighting malaria, even with intravenous medication.
I certainly wished there was a faster, easier way. Unfortunately, physical healing takes time, longer than the human spirit often wishes.
In reflection on this busy mother’s pleas, I wonder if I ever plead with God for instant healing. Perhaps I instantly want healing from a bad habit or a poor relationship and ask God in my prayers for an overnight change. In such instances, perhaps God does begin the healing process, but I’m not always happy with the speed of change.
How is it that humans become so quickly disillusioned by God when He fails to instantly meet our heartfelt prayers? Perhaps we can extend a bit more patience, a little more forbearance, to the healing period required for spiritual wounds or broken relationships. Just like physical illness requires time even with the best treatment, God, too, must allow healing time in our lives.
After two days the baby was well, and the busy mother was very happy. All things sorted themselves in the end, much to mother’s joy and doctor’s relief.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV), says: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Dr. Franke completed her five-year term in Cameroon in 2014. She and her husband, Bill Colwell Jr., have settled in Portland, Oregon, where she practices family medicine and enjoys hiking and backpacking while improving her selfie skills during the pandemic.