Meet Jema. I know the picture is quite disturbing, but look closer, look beyond the tumor and see the little girl hiding inside. Jema is 3 yo. I met her and her grandma when they first came to our clinic just in mid-December. They had been to others hospitals in their area - Goroka, and had even found a way to go to Port Moresby where they had a CT scan done, but no one was able to help her with her tumor. They came to us seeking help, any help.
When I first saw her, my heart melted. She was hiding behind a wool cap so people wouldn't be frightened by the tumor, but it didn't hide enough. I quickly ushered them into my room out of the busy OPD waiting area so they could have some privacy as I finished up another patient. As I walked into the room, I heard Jema moaning and having difficulty breathing. Her grandma shared with me how they were looking for help. The doctors in Port Moresby suggested comfort care, but it didn't seem like the family wanted that. I spoke to the radiation oncologist on the phone and he suggested trying chemo since he was very busy and wasn't sure if radiation would do any good. I talked to the family about trying treatment and they were willing to try anything. I really wasn't sure how she would do, the tumor was so advanced to start with and she seemed to be just barely holding on.
Jema and her grandma moved into one of our isolation rooms on the pediatric floor as I took care of her. Initially she moaned in pain, but once we got that controlled with medicines she turned into a normal kid. She cried when we tried to place an IV to give her blood, cried when she was hungry, and cried when she didn't get something she wanted. She was a fighter, the little girl I first met who seemed close to death had been transformed and was fighting to live. Just before Christmas we had our missionary dinner. At the auction, I bought some coloring books and crayons for her and took them to her the Sunday of the live nativity. Her grandma wasn't there, but I took her the books and the bear and explained what they were. I wasn't sure if she understood Pidgin very well as she wasn't really responding to what I said, so I turned to see if I could find her grandma but when I looked back I saw her struggling to take out the coloring books and to look at the bear she got. I went back and helped her and she quickly started coloring. Later that day we did our live Nativity and although her Grandma is a Christian, she hadn't heard the gospel story of the PNG flag, so I got to share it with her.
I was pleased to meet her dad one day as I went to see her. Jema's eye sparkled as I watched her color and play with her dad, his presence seemed to energize her. Another day I went in to find her dad on his knees praying for her as she slept. It was quite moving as I saw the love of this father for his daughter pleading for help from our heavenly father. A heavenly father who hears his prayers and knows his pain as God's own Son suffered on our behalf on the cross. A God who gave them both a Christmas gift in Jesus, and who gave them this Christmas together to enjoy as a family.
You are probably wondering how she is going to do. Most likely she won't do well, but seeing her enjoy this Christmas, the time with her dad, and the presents she got was quite special. Her grandma thinks the tumor has gone down some with the chemo and as long as they feel it is working and want to keep trying, we will keep going and praying for God's mercy.