The first part of January was quite eventful over here. It actually was just about the most traumatic experience of my life. And while I don’t want to relive the pain of the whole ordeal, I do want to always remember God’s faithfulness. While I know God is faithful regardless of what He asks of us, it is such a testimony to me how He protected our Joey despite our being so far away from medical help. Anyway… the story-
While I was finishing up my morning routine this Monday morning in January, I was thinking about how well the kids were playing together while I got ready for the day. Just then, Damon called me saying he’d discovered Joey carrying around an empty bottle of children’s Tylenol and showed it to me. My first reaction was a searing knife-in-the-heart-panic and immediate sobs; I know how crucial timely treatment is needed for overdoses. And we live in the middle of NoWhere.
I made a frantic call to a nurse friend in town for guidance where to take Joey. Our car was getting repair work done, so we couldn’t even throw the kids in the car and get down the hill for a head start. My nurse friend was visiting with another lady from our town who, once they deciphered the story between my sobs, immediately offered to drive us the 45 minutes to Mwami hospital.
While I was on the phone with our nurse friend and setting up transportation, Damon contacted our missionary friends who came over to take the older two girls so we could move as quickly as possible once the car came. By the time we left our house, it had been 20 minutes from the discovery, and we’d been unable to get Joey to bring the tylenol back up. FYI- finger down the throat doesn’t work on a 21 month old- they bite! I was bleeding from the attempts!
As we bumped along the dirt road en route to the hospital, still attempting to get Joey to bring up the medication, Damon and I looked at each other and said, “Joey can’t get the childproof cap off the bottle. But Natalie can.” It was another knife to the heart and in a panic we called the friends who were watching the girls. They said she wasn’t showing any signs of overdose and was denying taking more than one swallow, but they started the treck out to the hospital just to be safe.
Once we arrived at Mwami Hospital, we took him straight to the doctor, hoping for immediate treatment since our nurse friend had called ahead and appraised them of the situation. The hospital staff looked at the empty bottle, did a bunch of calculating, and seemed to be moving incredibly slow for this mama’s worried heart! They even suggested just giving him activated charcoal.
At this point, I was beginning to go numb, wondering how they expected us to have to fight for every single step of this life saving process. Thankfully, Damon was sharp enough to urge for the stomach pumping. And he began to apply pressure about the speed of their preparations. We knew time was slipping by fast for a stomach pumping to even be effective, and Joey was already loosing coordination. He was still in incredibly cheerful spirits, though. The combination was heart wrenching.
Finally, they got the tools needed to pump his stomach. We took turns holding him down for the next hour. That was the worst hour of my life, no contest. But there was an underlying relief that he was getting the best treatment for this overdose.
After the grueling stomach pump, they wanted to see if he’d take the activated charcoal, to be on the safe side. He was so thirsty and traumatized that he guzzled it down without so much as a grimace. Natalie didn’t need the stomach pumping, and was much less thrilled with having to drink the charcoal, but we got enough in her to help calm our hearts about any slight overdose she may have taken. While Natalie grimaced at her dose, all the nurses and our friends were laughing at Joey inhaling that nasty stuff and we were again relieved that more was able to be done to get the kids on the path to recovery
While I had been taking my turn holding Joey down, Damon was on the phone. Only after the fact did I realize how very many people Damon was talking to during this process. Beyond calling the prayer chain at our sending church (humbling parenting moment!), keeping our parents updated with current treatment, learning of the best procedures and antidotes, contacting several in country doctors, calling MedEvac flight providers, calling the embassy to see if they could get us an exemption on the mandatory Yellow Fever shot should Joey need further treatment in South Africa, checking into accommodations in Lusaka (the capitol) should we need to take Joey there…
And the best part of all that work Damon did? The Lord used that information to help us decide the next best step to be able to take. Since Tylenol can cause damage to the liver when overdosed on, even if no symptoms are present, we needed to get his bloodwork done, and he needed an antidote. We did not anticipate these things to be easily obtained in Chipata so we decided to MedEvac Joey, Damon, Calina and me to Lusaka.
But this post is long enough, so I’ll continue the flight and Lusaka part of the story in my next post.
Coming up- Part 2.