Carly's Corner July 2021
Jeremiah 9:17-18 reads, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for the wailing women, that they may come! “Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, That our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water." February and March were challenging months for us in the Brady family. The second COVID wave was devastating to the communities with numbers that we could never have imagined. Sometimes four out of five patients that were brought in dead to the department (meaning they died before being seen by a medical provider) tested positive for COVID. It was hard work. It was difficult to live through. It was scary, and it was lonely. I felt like I was barely hol Then Juliet got sick. She was a close friend from church. She was 27 years old and pregnant with twins. Her positive COVID test seemed like an inconvenience at first because it prevented her from being admitted to any of the nearby private hospitals (they weren’t accepting COVID positive patients). Since she was admitted at Queens I was the only one able to visit her because of the “no visitors for COVID patients” policy. She deteriorated quickly, and less than a week after her admission, they decided to do an emergency cesarean delivery in hopes of giving her more space to breathe and potentially saving one of the babies. I visited her once again the night before...not as a doctor but as a mother. We went through the babies’ belongings talking about being a first-time mom and how scary it is. The next time I went to visit her was after the surgery. The delivery had only made things worse. There were no ventilators. There was no next step. I wiped the sweat from her forehead, told her that her husband loved her, and asked God for a miracle. Then, I watched my friend die. I walked over to the corner of the room and cried. Then, I walked out to talk to the family. The baby girl died a few days later. The stress of the COVID combined with prematurity was too much. It was the worst experience of my medical career. I then woke up the next morning and was on 24-hour call for the next seven days. So, I put my head down and kept going because I didn’t know what else to do. The hits kept coming week after week. We learned of a close friend’s death back home, got more bad news from family members, and work just kept building up. On March 23rd we received word that Zack’s Granny had passed away. Despite the fact that her death was expected and we could finally celebrate her complete healing, the sorrow of missing this major event weighed heavy on our souls. We mourned missing the opportunity to grieve and remember alongside Zack’s cousins and extended family. It all just felt like more than we could bear.
Finally, one day it all boiled over. Ellie was at school, and Miriam was napping. Zack and I got into an argument about some small detail, and I left the house in anger to go for a walk. I headed towards this small mountain in our neighborhood, called Nyambadwe Hill. As I walked towards the mountain, I could already hear the wailing in the distance. You see, Malawians love to pray on a mountain. They feel closer to God. So, any decent hikeable terrain is sure to be filled with people praying. As I walked, I was struck by the emotion in their prayers. Emotion always seemed so unnecessary to me. In fact, I spend most of my life trying to remove emotions from situations so I can make the most logical decision. (It’s a helpful characteristic to have in a emergency physician.) And yet, as I walked past each person praying, wailing, and just crying out to the Lord, I thought “Is this what I’m missing Lord? Do you want me to wail? ..... I don’t know how.” In Jeremiah 9:17-18, the prophet tells them to call for the mourning women, the wailing women. “That our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water.” And yet I couldn’t. I kept saying over and over. “God, I asked you for a miracle and you said ‘no’, I don’t know what to say when the answer is ‘No.’ I don’t want to wail, I want answers." Since it had been such a hard first few months we were really eager to finally get a little bit of a break as a family. We had the opportunity to take our first big trip to Lake Malawi the weekend after Easter with a group of our close friends. The place we were staying was beautiful. It felt like we were in another world. Then, on the second to last day, one of the kid’s got sick. Seriously sick. He woke up in the night with some symptoms of a viral respiratory illness his sister had the week before, and then all of a sudden, he was critical. We rushed to the local government hospital because it was the only place open on a Sunday. There was no clinician available. There was only a nurse who was caring for all the other children. I believe he was trying to do his best, but he obviously did not appreciate me barging in, calling myself boss and making demands. They only had a few meds available. There was no working stethoscope. The nurse and I did not agree on the treatment. It was a combined croup and asthma attack, and the nurse had never heard of croup as a diagnosis. The child was requiring oxygen. They only had a concentrator that went to a maximum of 2 liters, and if the power went out there was no backup. I called the nearest major hospital. They had no ambulance and their power was out for the day so they had no oxygen. The hospital we were at didn’t know where their ambulance was, and their portable oxygen cylinder was broken. Blantyre was three hours away. We could never make it in a car. I was certain that for a second time I was going to watch someone I loved die in my care. So, in desperation I prayed again for a miracle. There was a woman who had joined our group because she was going to a wedding in the area. She was currently working as a teacher but about ten years ago worked at a clinic in the area. As I stood in the hospital and prayed for a miracle that I was sure would never come, she suddenly called me and said, “I have a contact at this clinic 18 miles away. I think the doctor there may have the meds he needs.” But we still couldn’t move him without oxygen. Then, this beautiful woman (who was absolutely sent from the Lord) drove the thirty-minute drive to the clinic through the Malawian bush, picked up the oxygen tank and mask, and then drove back to the hospital. We loaded the mom and child in the back of my car (Subaru now turned ambulance) and took a nighttime ride across Malawi, praying that this was the right decision to make. It was. Even by the end of the drive he was getting a little bit better from the few medicines we sourced at the government hospital and the increased oxygen we were able to give him from the tank. At the new clinic we were able to give him stronger medicines addressing the croup and asthma. By 10:30pm, I knew he was stable enough that we could sleep. I left him and his parents at the clinic with the doctor and drove the slow bumpy drive back to my family. When I got back to the place we were staying I couldn’t sleep. I sat out under the stars and looked to the heavens, looked to our creator and prayed, “God, you said ‘Yes.' I really didn’t think you were going to say, ‘Yes'. It turns out, I also don’t know what to say when the answer is, 'Yes.' I don’t just want answers, I want to understand why. Why did you say yes this time? Why do these things keep happening? Why are you letting these things happen at all?” And yet at the end of these questions I finally settled on one thing I could say. “Thank you. I don’t understand…but thank you. I wish this hadn’t happened at all...but thank you.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 The fact that my friend’s little boy survived still baffles me to this day. Every time I look at him I see God’s goodness. And yet every time I see Juliet’s husband I am taken back to when God’s response was “No” and the answers that never came. This tension is hard. The reality is that I won’t get my answers on this side of heaven. There are things I will never understand. This year I am learning to cry with the wailing women. This year I am learning to pause my questions long enough to simply say “Thank you.” I am learning, ever so slowly, to really mean it when I say to the Lord “Not my will, but yours be done."