No one expects the moment that will change their life forever. The thirteen of us certainly didn’t see this coming. Dinnertime was wrapping up when we were informed that there was a sick boy in the orphanage. Dr. Roy Blank asked four of us to accompany him down to the orphanage to assess the situation.
We entered the concrete bunkhouse and it was completely dark except for the faint flicker of an oil lantern. As we approached the boy’s bed, Dr. Blank’s headlamp revealed a motionless child. Megan Smith, PA-C, examined the non-responsive boy and found that his heart was racing at 180 beats per minute and his eyes were rolling back in his head. At that moment, it was clear that we had a critical situation. The house mother pointed to the next room and told us in her broken English that there was one more sick child. We descended steps into the lower bunk room which had no light – complete silence and darkness. Our headlamp beams cut across the dank, fetid room to illuminate more small bodies lying still in their beds. Vomit soaked their clothes and sheets.
We inched further into the room and our shoes began to slip on the vomit that had overflowed from the beds. One…two…three…four…five…six more boys.
We rushed back to the guest house, adrenaline flowing, to relay the situation to our leader, George Collins. Without hesitation or questioning, George immediately selected his team, delegated tasks, and we were out the door to the clinic. As we hurried down the hill, George instructed us that upon arrival our team would need to disperse and transform the run-down clinic into an emergency room.
When the door opened we were met with the choking fumes of paint, still wet from being applied to the clinic walls just hours earlier. Windows were flung open. Rusty dental chairs and dirty exam tables were quickly covered with sheets and converted to hospital beds. A small table was shoved into the hallway to serve as our supply station. The speed and teamwork of these thirteen people, most of whom were not medical personnel, was incredible. Within minutes, the sick boys were being carried into the clinic.
I was in the room where the first boy, Macxon, was brought in. I strapped on a mask and gloves and held him down as Dr. Blank attempted to insert an IV. He was jerking and crying as Dr. Blank was unsuccessful in both arms and both legs. Macxon was so dehydrated it was impossible to get the needle in his veins. During this time two more boys were brought into my room, one laid in the bed with Macxon and the other on an opposite exam table. Dr. Blank told me to try my best to get rehydration salts in the three boys orally while he checked on the other patients.
In the room next to me, the smallest and most unresponsive boy, Mario, had six people working with him. George checked his pulse because he wasn’t sure he was alive. This little one would not live unless he received fluids. More than ten IVs were inserted into a vein but each one would eventually rupture. Every IV attempt failed – arms, legs, neck, and even the scalp. The final measure would be a “cut down.” This procedure entails cutting the skin open at the ankle to insert an IV needle into the saphenous vein. George had performed cut downs in the army, but many years ago and never on a child. Mario was so tiny, about the size of a three year old. He was practically comatose but jerked as George began the first cut down.
In the other rooms, screaming boys were poked with IV needles with only one success. Dr. Blank was finally able to insert a line in Kingsley. It was a moment of great relief that at least one boy was on the road to rehydration. That left us with six little boys who were declining quickly and we were beginning to feel helpless. We were all praying, some of us out loud at times, that God would intervene.
George worked with great care and precision on Mario’s right ankle while Katrina Courtright held Mario to keep him still. The first cut down was unsuccessful so George attempted the other ankle. It was unbelievable – the child’s vein was smaller than the IV needle. There was nothing else that could be done. Every one of us felt so helpless. At that moment, Dr. Blank began to pray. His prayer began with, “Lord, we need help here. This child is going to die and nothing we are doing is working. We need you to help him…”
We left Mario in Katrina’s arms and dispersed to check on the other boys. Within a few minutes, I heard commotion from the next room and Katrina calling that Mario was awake. We all rushed back in to see this child, who was near death just moments earlier, sitting up and conscious. Not only was he conscious but he began to drink rehydration salts from the bottle. This was surreal. God just performed a life-saving miracle in front of our eyes.
There was no medical explanation for this. A child this dehydrated and weak could not just wake up and start drinking. God showed us in that clinic in the wee hours of the morning that He was the Great Physician and He did not need any of us to do His work. He could have allowed the IVs to be easily inserted or He could have allowed the cut down procedures to be successful. We still would have given Him all the credit for saving these boys. But instead He chose to give us a miracle, to change our lives forever.
Over the next several hours the boys continued to improve as the rehydration salts renewed their bodies. By 3am we were comfortable to leave them in the care of their “Orphan Mommas.” Our weary team made the climb back up to the guest house. Although physical and emotional fatigue had set in, we felt a sense of renewal ourselves. We had seen the hand of God and seven precious boys would live to see the morning.
Miraculous Seven from Jonathan Schlemmer on Vimeo.
– Angela Quinn