Friday, February 20, 2015

The Heart of a Man

Jim performing surgery
I was in the OR with blood all over my gloves and gown.  When I looked and saw the number of bloody sponges laying on the ground and in the women's open abdomen, I knew I needed help.  I was doing a routine Csection, my first in over 4 months, but it was turning out to be anything but routine.  It started out well, the baby cried and the placenta came out without difficulty, but as we started to close the uterus, I found myself looking at more blood than I was used to.  I identified bleeders and tied them off, I gave extra medicine to get the uterus to contract to stop the bleeding, but it wasn't working.  I asked for a second IV, for lab to come so we could give a blood transfusion, and I asked our staff to call Dr. Jim.
Jim praying with the young girl
For 6 months, when anyone dialed 665 on Kudjip station, no one answered.  Dr. Jim Radcliffe, the only surgeon at Kudjip, the one whose voice has answered that phone for over 30 years had himself become a patient and was back in the US recovering from his heart surgery.  Thankfully, Dr. Jim is back home now in Papua New Guinea, and willingly answers when 665 is called and rushes out the door when you say, "Please come."  He comes to the OR, to help the doctor who needs his surgical expertise, he comes to help the sick patient who needs the help that only a surgeon can give, and he comes because he was called by our Savior to help the lost and hurting in PNG many years ago. 
Upon arrival, Jim assesses the situation, gives us some instructions and quickly scrubs.  We pray and get started, he finds a bleeder that I hadn't seen, and quickly ties it off.  Then he starts sewing up the uterus, as only he can, and the bleeding slows down.  In the middle of suturing he says, "Guys, there is no place I would rather be than right here."  I almost started crying, knowing how close it came to him not being able to be there in the OR with me, to him not being able to come back to Papua New Guinea, to him not being alive. My mind raced back to 8 months ago, when Jim told me he had a cough, when I first examined him in my yard, hearing the water in his lungs, seeing the huge heart on chest xray, hearing a new heart murmur, his elevated blood pressure and telling him he couldn't work, he needed to go home to the US and that I wasn't sure what would happen.  Thankfully God knew what would happen and was with Jim and Kathy through it all.   
So I choked back my tears and we finished the case, ending with both a healthy mom and baby, something that wasn't going to happen without his help.  I could only say, "Thank You Jim," as he left the OR, those 3 little words seemed so insufficient, because I wanted to say so much more, but didn't know how or what to say.
Fast forward 12 hours, and Jim is anxious because his family is arriving today.  Not only is Kathy, who was away for 3 wks, returning but their oldest son, Ben and his family were coming home to PNG too.  Ben, Katherine, Simeon and Matthias were arriving that afternoon to start their missionary career.  Ben, like his father, is a surgeon and he and Katherine (a family practice doctor) have felt called to medical missions and PNG for a number of years now.   Their arrival has been anticipated for months, especially after being delayed by paperwork, but now it was finally here.  Jim, of course, wants to be there, and we want him to be there, but there are still patients that need his help.
Ben, Matthias, Katherine and Simeon Radcliffe
Jim was anxious and he didn't even know that I had admitted another appendectomy overnight and so he was going to have at least 2 surgeries to do, and who know what else the morning might hold.  He finished the cases before lunch, and we (the other doctors) were doing everything we could to make sure he left at 3pm to get his family.  At 2 pm, I walked into the ER and saw a young girl on the middle bed with a dressing over the R side of her abdomen, and as I pulled the bandage back, my heart dropped.  She had a huge laceration over her lower abdomen, I wasn't sure how deep it went, but it looked pretty bad and I knew Jim was going to have to be involved.  The words, "Please come to the ER," were exchanged over the phone between another doctor and Jim and soon thereafter Jim walks into the ER in real clothes (instead of scrubs), as he was ready to go to the airport.  He put his finger into the laceration and without hesitating, without stopping to think how it might work, to think how he could help the girl and get his family, he just tells the family, we need to take her to the OR to explore this and see how far it went.  Hearing this, my heart dropped even more.  I turned and asked him, "Can we just give IVFs and Abx and wait until you get back from the airport?" He looks at me and without hesitating says, "No, we need to do it now." 
Radcliffe family in PNG
Although he had been looking forward to this day for years, for his son to finally join him full time on the mission field and in the operating room, for the chance to teach Ben everything he has learned and seen in the past 30 years so Ben can continue to carry on the legacy, the tradition, the work, the service, the call and the love for the people of PNG, he was willing to miss that moment to care for a young girl who needed a surgeon.   He was willing to sacrifice his own desires, wants, agenda, just as he has done day after day and night after night, for 30 years, to be available when a patient needs a surgeon, when another doctor needs help in the OR, or just to see regular medical patients because the line is long.    
Jim's heart is bigger than most, both physically and figuratively, and that is why the people of PNG turned out in masses to welcome him and his family home when they returned in December.  His heart and the love that flows from it is why he is so loved by all here, and why it is such a privilege to serve and work with him day after day here at Kudjip.  
THANK YOU, Jim, for serving the people of PNG, for allowing your love and heart for God, and the people of PNG to be first and foremost in your life, and for the privilege of serving alongside of you. 

* Even with the surgery, Jim was able to make it to the airport just before the plane landed and got to greet his family as they arrived in PNG.  Thanks Scot P for making that possible.*