Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Weary World Rejoices

When I saw her for the first time, she was being held on the bed, throwing her head side to side screaming. It was fear. She was afraid of needles, like many of us. The nurses around her were trying their best to keep her calm. As I walked over I saw her face and the tumour protruding from below her ear. It was big for her small 7 year old frame. The nurse looked at me, defeat in her eyes, compassion written over her face, “Every time I get her vein, she jerks and it blows.” I bent over her bed, patting her chest and wiping her sweaty brow. “Shhh….”
Once we got some medicine to calm her down and our nerve back up to gently hold her down once more, the IV was quickly inserted. The CT was ready for her. I scoped her up, still cocooned in a sheet, sweat beaded on her head, part of the tumour now scraped raw and bleeding on my scrub top. She was light in my arms, much too light for her age. Her papa walked with us and stayed by her side while her small body lay still on the CT bed, injected with contrast, moving through the scanner.
When it was done, I scooped her up again, cherishing a little cuddle as her papa and I walked back into the ward.

The next I saw them, they were back in the ward. Her haemoglobin was in the 50’s (5.something for the Americans) and we needed to give her some blood before taking a biopsy of her tumour.
She sat on her bed, dressed in the same dress I had seen her in a couple of weeks prior but the blood stain where her tumour had bled was gone. Her hair was neatly braided off her face, a shy, sweet smile appearing now and then lighting up her face.
Over the next couple of days she received blood transfusions and had a biopsy in the OR, recovering well, but we all knew our next steps would come from the histology results. With the way things are set up over here, you can’t hold your breath for the results because we’re SO far away from the countries that report to us.
She wasn’t a child who immediately abandoned her papa and her bed to play with us, but she did curiously roam around the room, quick to ask me for a balloon and just stand near. I bet if I’d had more time, she would have sat in my lap and cuddled for hours.

Recently she was readmitted to the ward because she was having high fevers. We couldn’t find the reason except for knowing that she had this tumour and wonder what it was doing to her body.
She lay in her bed, no appetite, crying for being pricked again for another test, sweating through her fevers. I think my heart broke a little more each time I saw her sweet little face, knowing what I’ve seen with my eyes in the past years in Africa.

Today her biopsy results came through.


That horrible, horrible word. For us on the ship it means that we don’t treat them.

Tonight I can’t get her face out of my mind. I went down to the ward to say hello, but she was sleeping and it was too late for her to be waking up again tonight. I waved to her aunty who is here with her. She smiled and waved back. I sat on a stool next to the computer where I would sit during my shift as a charge nurse and spoke to the current one working. We chatted briefly about a few other things but as soon as I mentioned the little one’s name, the tears welled up again. I sat on the stool, unable to form words, afraid the moment I did the tears would flow in a steady stream, giving me away to a ward full of patients, caregivers, nurses and day crew. The charge nurse and I looked at each other, knowing neither of us could keep dry eyes, knowing each other’s thoughts, knowing God was breaking our hearts for what breaks His. I slipped out quietly, walking quickly down the hall to the safety of my cabin to let the tears fall. There I was wrapped in a hug and a sweet prayer whispered over my heart and our precious girl.

It’s Christmas, a time of joy and hope. I know this season is full of pain for many.  A few friends have lost loved ones and I’m sure this season is one of the most difficult times of the year. There is no use pretending that everyone is happy, but we have hope for our future!

My favourite Christmas carol written in 1847 sings,

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Praise God we have someone to hope in. When death, disease, sickness, life’s troubles overwhelm us with sadness and despair, we have the God of the universe to hope in. He has not left us alone to battle this out on our own. He sent us His son and the Holy Spirit, our comforter and friend. He told us he would never leave us, or abandon us. (Deu 31:6)

Whatever this Christmas season looks like for you, troubles or carefree, sadness or joy, I’m praying you know His abundant, overwhelming love for you.

Merry Christmas friend.


  1. Merry Christmas to you! This story is so heartbreaking to hear. It will be difficult for me to fully accept- I guess is the word the iniability to treat these inoperable types of problems. Blessings to you there- I will be working in B ward soon, and look forward to meeting you.

    1. Looking forward to meeting you soon Joni! Safe travels!

  2. Hi Deb, I am a RN and I worked on an oncology ward for a time -- it was difficult and hard to hear tough diagnoses but this story you shared is truly heartbreaking. I will be praying for that precious girl, her family and you all. <3 I will actually be joining the nursing staff starting this next fall for two years -- I look forward to meeting you. I have been reading up on your blog posts and your words have been very encouraging, so thank you for posting! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! Looking forward to meeting you one day!! Thanks for joining us in prayer!



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