Monday, January 2, 2012

Bernice's Story

Bernice is a special name for me. It is my late grandmother's name as well as my sister Jackie's middle name. It's also a name I'll remember from my time here in Nalerigu. 
It was about 7 pm when Elaine, a visiting medical student, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston knocked on our door. She said that Bernice, who had been in labor and formerly had been screaming in labor, now lay on the floor unresponsive and with a barely palpable pulse. I'm not a brain surgeon, but something told me this was not a good sign. 
Elaine and I arrived at the maternity suite at the hospital to find Bernice pale and not responding to questions. The nurse midwife had send a red blood cell count or hematocrit which was 3.7. A normal value is 40-45 or so, so she had lost the majority of her blood. She was not bleeding externally so we assumed she was bleeding internally from a ruptured uterus. The baby had pushed thru her uterine wall into her abdomen rather than the usual way. 
I really did not feel like she would live. We prayed for her and set about looking for some blood. Baptist Medical Center does not have a blood bank. The patient is responsible for finding blood donors from friends and family. Bernice obviously was not in a condition to be looking for blood. One of the nurses graciously donated a unit of blood. Elaine also was a match so she donated a unit also. With two units of blood we decided to take her to the operating room. James, our nurse anesthetist, did a great job of managing her in the operating room. We proceeded with surgery and as we expected she did have a ruptured uterus. The baby had died and was floating in a pool of blood in the abdominal cavity. Elaine, the visiting medical student, assisted with the surgery. Having just donated blood, seeing a lot of blood at surgery did not sit well with her, and she fainted onto the OR table. I was able to grab her surgery gown across the table and gently let her down to the floor. She rested while I finished the surgery. The patient survived the operation. By this time, Dr Tim, a visiting dentist who had grown up at BMC had heard about the patients condition had donated another unit and the family was able to round up some more. At BMC, the blood we give is whole blood, rather than Packed Red blood cells which are given routinely in the states as they store easier. In this case, this helped, as whole blood contains clotting factors which help stop bleeding. 
By God's grace, Bernice did well and this picture is of her follow up visit to the hospital. We used this opportunity of others giving her blood, to tell her of the good news of Jesus giving His blood for us. She told us she was already a believer. We told her that God must have great plans for her after healing her from this sickness. 
Of note, Elaine did fine. She recovered and like a good medical student finished her on call rounds that night. Never a dull moment at BMC.

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