He wasn’t breathing on his own, his heart only weakly beat once or twice a minute and his eyes were dilated and not reacting to light (suggesting brain damage), he was almost dead when I first saw him in the ER and I was called to help.
Just minutes before, I had been sleeping when the phone rang and the nurse said a patient had been vomiting and collapsed. In my half sleep like state, my brain started to ask questions: Who was the patient? Why were they vomiting? What causes one to collapse from vomiting? I got dressed and saw Orion was protecting the early morning sky as I made my way to the ER.
10 adults huddled around a 9 yo boy on the first bed in the ER that early morning. The nurse and security guard are trying to do CPR when I arrived. Finding no spontaneous breathing, I put a tube in his throat and ask the security guard to continue to squeeze the bag to expand his lungs and breathe for him. At this point, his heart has stopped completely, so I ask one of the family members to push on his chest, in an effort to artificially pump blood through his body like his heart would, while the nurse starts an IV to give him medicines to get his heart beating again.
The questions have never left my head: Why is this boy dying in front of me? What happened? I start to ask the family, and they can only tell me he vomited a few times, collapsed and they rushed him here. More questions going through my head, mostly: 9 yo boys don’t vomit and die, is there anything else? They started talking amongst themselves and I heard the word BEAN and thought I had my answer.
There is a wild bean that grows here in PNG, that is poisonous as it contains cyanide. Cyanide prevents our body from making energy with oxygen, so as an alternative, we make energy and lots of acid as a byproduct, which is harmful to our bodies and kills us, if something doesn't stop the process. There are antidotes to cyanide poisoning, which prevent the cyanide from interfering with the energy process, but the medicine isn’t easy to come by. 18 months ago, my sister, a physician in the US, was able to get some of the antidote and sent it to us. We have used it a number of times since she sent it, but never on own so sick, but I was thankful we had a little left.
Once the family confirmed the kid had eaten the wild beans, I set out to find the antidote and prayed that we weren’t too late. This kid was practically dead, would he respond? The IV was in, the heart medicines had been given and his heart was now beating on his own, but his eyes were still not responding (suggesting brain damage) and he wasn’t breathing on his own, but I gave him the meds and prayed God would work a miracle.
His 2 yo brother, who came on this early morning family outing, had also eaten the beans, and vomited a few times, so I gave him meds as soon as his brother got his. Ten minutes after giving the meds, I checked back on the first kid and found him unchanged - not breathing on his own, eyes not responding. I talked to the family, explaining all that had happened and we prayed, hopeful, but not knowing how much of a recovery this guy would make. 30 minutes later, his eyes were no longer dilated, they were smaller, and he was starting to move his arms. Shortly after that, I saw he was breathing when we weren’t forcing air into his lungs, so we took the tube out and he continued to breathe on his own. Optimistic, I went home to read more about cyanide poisoning to see if there was anything else I could do, other than wait and pray.
I returned an hour later, and he was moving more, breathing on his own and heart still going strong. The brother had completed his meds and was sleeping comfortably with mom watching close by. 2 hours later, I checked on him again, this time when I called his name he opened his eyes and my heart soared. I asked him who was next to him and he said Papa, bilong mi (my dad). Tears streamed down my cheeks as I praised God for this Christmas blessing to this family (and to me) just days before Christmas.
Christmas is the time where we remember the gift that God gave us in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us. Our world is full of darkness, but hope remains. As the song (I heard the Bells) reminds us:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth,: I said;
"For Hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
God was not dead or sleeping in the ER that early morning. He was right there among us, breathing life back into this little boy, and giving them hope this Christmas. Hope in a Savior, hope in the life they can celebrate, hope in a life beyond this one. Christmas came a little early for this family, and I pray you will all find the hope, joy and peace that God intended for each of us this Christmas season.
We are almost out of the medicine we had to save this kid. It costs a couple hundred dollars for each vial of medicine that we use. If you would like to make it possible for others to continue to enjoy life, even after eating the wild "poison" beans, you can give money to: Global Treasurer, Church of the Nazarene, Memo - Work of Kudjip Nazarene Hospital - Pharmacy, and send it to 17000 Prairie Star Parkway, Lenexa, KC 66220. If you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know, you sent in money, we can easily make sure it goes to toward this medicine.