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  • Susan Brown

One of Those Weeks — or Two

Two disappointed girls trailed after me, out of the cool, clean hospital and into the hot, muggy air of the parking lot. It seemed we did a lot of traipsing back and forth to the hospital last week.

I should hurry and say that going to the hospital isn’t the dire event here that it is in the US. The doctors work from the hospital, so if you need to see a doctor, that’s where you go. We gave up on the regular, public hospitals after a couple of bad experiences and so we go to the “fancy and expensive” Bangkok Hospital. It does cost quite a bit more than the government hospitals, but to us it is worth it. It LOOKS like a hospital – modern, clean and efficient — and the doctors all speak English. Best of all, we’ve had excellent care there, and the price is still a fraction of what it would cost at home.

I was the first victim of the week. I was feeling a bit wonky when Paul left for Mae Ai. We ran over the usual possible causes of stomach ailments. Food poisoning? We ate in one of the villages the day before and they had killed a pig in our honor. Trichinosis from underdone or poorly prepared pork? Twelve of us ate there and I was the only sickie, so probably not. Virus? The same was true. No one else was sick.

Instead of getting better it got worse as the week wore on. On Wednesday I told William, “I’m going to bed. Please see that the kids eat dinner and do their chores. And send them to bed at bedtime.” I departed, deciding that unless I was miraculously better I would call a taxi and go to the hospital in the morning. I read up on my symptoms and decided it was either appendicitis or a gall bladder attack.

The kids came through like troopers. I’ka cooks our meals every day and brings them to us, so they only had to heat up the food and put it on the table. The older two boys took care of everything and the younger ones cooperated and did their part. It was a great comfort to me to find that they could – and would – carry on without me.

The next morning I was better and decided against the hospital. When Paul got home he overruled me and we went to the doctor on Friday. Lots of tests that ruled out anything horrible, like blockages or tumors. Also, the appendix and gall bladder looked fine. Come back to see the gastroenterologist on Sunday afternoon, they said.

Then on Saturday we were back to fulfill a promise I made to our girls. When Jan came to live with us she had a nasty-looking sore on her cheek. I gave her antibiotic ointment and kept an eye on it. When Molly started getting a similar spot a few days later, I went into investigative mode. It seems that Jan was putting acid on her mole to make it go away. She had generously shared with Molly so they both were eating their faces away with acid and herbs. It was, indeed, taking off the moles, but I was afraid it would continue to burn a hole through their skin. I confiscated the bottle and promised we would take them to a dermatologist to see about having the moles removed. They counted the days until the appointment, sure they would come home with clear skin.

We were greeted at the dermatology clinic by a pretty young doctor whose English was made harder to understand by a slight lisp. She examined the girls and gave the bad news. Jan’s mole is unusually large – too large to be zapped with a laser. It would require surgery by a plastic surgeon. Even at Thai prices, it was too much for us to consider (about $1,000 USD) since it wasn’t life or health threatening. Perhaps, the doctor said, at one of the other hospitals we could have it done more cheaply. We promised Jan we would look into it.

Molly’s mole is small enough for laser treatment, and our personal budget would take care of it, but the laser wasn’t set up yet in this new hospital. Maybe next month. They will call.

On Sunday we were back again. This time I went away disappointed. The gastroenterologist didn’t think any further tests would reveal any problems and that it was “functional” – which evidently means something isn’t functioning right! The last time a doctor in the US told me this, about 20 years ago, I did a food diary and discovered for myself that I was lactose intolerant and saved myself years of discomfort. I decided to do the same now and see if I can figure out what sets off these pesky attacks.

We had services here on Sunday since I had been so sick and Paul was sure they were going to admit me to the hospital. I certainly wasn’t up to traveling in the mountains, although they could have gone without me. It was a good service, although we had only our kids and staff and their families.

I slowly got better over the next week, but Jan was the next victim to illness. They called from the school to come pick her up. She had a bad earache. I’ve treated her with eardrops and antibiotics and she seems better. I’ve given my new otoscope a workout, checking her ear a couple of times a day, and checking everyone else’s ears so I’ll recognize normal when I see it. If she isn’t completely well by Monday, it’s back to the hospital again.

But for now we are all okay and we plan to go the mall for our weekly outing instead of to the hospital. Tomorrow we will be back to the mountains again. The kids get tired of the long trips each week, but Paul and I love visiting the villages and doing what we can to serve them.

I should mention that Paul had a good couple of weeks while I have been lying around pretty much worthless. The training with the men from Laos was tiring, but such an encouragement to him. The men are so eager to learn and so excited about spreading the Gospel. He also sent water filters home with them, which thrilled them. We are praying that the Lord will work it out so that I can help by teaching English again. Doing all the teaching himself without a break is wearing for Paul, and I love to teach.

I’ve been teaching English in the evenings to our kids here at home, using the “Learning to Speak English” program from ACE.   We are thankful to the American Academy in Oklahoma City for their donation of materials. The kids are doing well and are picking up English quickly.

Next week Paul will be gone again, this time to teach the Thailand LaHu and LiSu preachers. We are praying that soon another week will be added for the preachers from Myanmar. And we are fervently praying for property so that he doesn’t have to travel and be away from the family while he teaches.

I’m feeling fine now, so no worries about my being here alone. Anyway, now I know that the kids will carry on if I do get too sick to oversee things. Speaking of overseeing – time to make sure the Saturday chores are being done before we head out to our family outing. And I hope to have more interesting things to write about next week! God is good!

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