Goodbye Gallbladder!

Wanna hear about my hospital experience over here in Africa?  No?  Well, I’m gonna tell ya anyways!  HA!  I must admit that overall, it was GREAT!  But let’s start back from the beginning so you can see how cool of a God we serve!

I didn’t want to have this surgery.  I was bound and determined to KEEP my gallbladder!  I didn’t want to part with my beloved bile-spitting organ 😦  I consulted many friends (thanks to facebook) and found that many of you had done cleanses to help rid you of the gallstones, allowing you to forego surgery.  Sounded like a plan to me!  However, after speaking with a fellow missionary here, she really encouraged me to at least have an ultrasound done to see get an idea of what was going on.  Actually, she asked me to promise that I would.  We had all of our bags packed and ready to go.  We’d even done a “practice” car packing 😉  We were emotionally, mentally, and “organizationally” ready to hit the road for the next 8 months to do our people group assessments.  Well, God was about to say, “You’re not PHYSICALLY ready, Stef.!”

Out of obligation to my friend, I went to see a dr. Monday morning, the 10th.  Since I didn’t have an appt. I was determined to be the first one at her office.  I was surprised to find out that she didn’t open up shop until 9 am.  Well, I was first and she gladly worked me in.  She was very polite and spoke so soft, I found myself leaning forward to listen.  Seeing her diplomas from Paris, France made me feel a little more at ease 😉  After the initial medical history questions, she proceeded to do the ultrasound.  When she asked me if I had gas (since obviously the gas was clouding the view on the ultrasound) I almost lost it!!!  I just responded…”Well, I don’t really notice.  But I think it runs in the family!”  True statement.

The result of the ultrasound…lots of tiny stones.  Her opinion…remove the gallbladder.  Well, I wasn’t convinced.  I know, I’m stubborn.  As we started to pray, I told the Lord, “You’re gonna have to convince me.  I’m partial to my gallbladder and if You want me to take it out….You’re gonna have to give me a 2nd and possibly 3rd opinion….AND I’m gonna need to trust my surgeon.  I need to have confidence in the one holding the scalpel.”  Some of you may think I’m crazy, but I believe God is a personal God who is interested in our needs and desires.  I knew He could handle this.

So, I made an appt. to see the surgeon expecting to have the typical visit with an African professional.  Usually you get a sense of “my way or the highway”, questions are unacceptable because they appear to contest his/her authority, and credentials begin flying around the room which is further proof that all the knowledge belongs to him/her and I have no need of knowing what’s gonna happen to my body.

Well, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by our consultation.  Professor Diouf didn’t once raise his voice, demand that I have surgery, flaunt his diplomas, or refuse to discuss alternatives to surgery.  He was extremely polite and his only request was, that if I decided not to have surgery, that I NOT leave Dakar.  Traveling in country would be foolish.  He even drew a diagram of my insides to explain all the possible complications of choosing not to have surgery.  Wow!  God is amazing!  But….I’m stubborn.

After seeing the conditions of the hospital and finding out it could take 6 weeks to have the surgery, I asked Daniel if we could look at a clinic instead.  He said, “Let’s go!”  So we drove to a small clinic, mostly ran by Lebanese doctors.  I fell in love immediately.  I walked right in and asked for a “3rd” opinion.  Again, the dr. took his time with me and handed me the same verdict.  Take it out! Don’t fool around with something like this!  That’s when I said, “Ok, Lord!  You convinced me!  I’m comfortable with the surgeon (who I later found out was the best in Dakar!) and I’m confortable with this clinic.  Let’s do this!” Who would’ve thought the following Tuesday I’d be having surgery?!?

And there you have the pre-surgery story.  I must admit, I’ve had many “nay-sayers” along the way who have told me to not trust an African dr., don’t have the surgery done here, GO HOME!  But when God gives peace…why would we change our minds?  We truly felt that this was the only way to address my health issues AND continue on with our ministry.  If we left to go home, not only would we have paid a TON of money, but we would have missed out on an opportunity to do these surveys which God called us to in the first place!  His calling didn’t change in our hearts, so we knew that He would see us through this trial.  It was never a detour…only a speed bump 😉

So, I show up at 7:30 am, expecting to be out of surgery by 9:30 am.  Well, I didn’t even get taken to the operating room until 9:30 am!  Then the surgeon was on the phone for about 30 minutes ordering medical supplies…walking circles around me as he negotiated on the phone.  Then he hooked up my heart monitor and said, “Do you like the beautiful music?”  I couldn’t help but smile.  Then I felt the Libanese dr. rubbing my cheeks telling me that I’d be going to sleep in a few minutes.  “Do you know how to cook Ceebu Djen (a local dish)?” asked the surgeon.  I began to spin.  “Sort of.  But I like the white, not the red kind,” I responded.  “With pepper?” asked the surgeon, wondering if I was still hanging around.  “Nope.  You know us white folk don’t like it spicy.  Well, my husband does a little.  Now, everything’s spinning.  Tchau. Tchau.”  And those were my last words…

Later I found out what should have been a 30 minute surgery turned out to be a 2 hour ordeal.  My gallbladder was badly inflamed, although this didn’t show up on the ultrasound.  I PRAISE GOD FOR A PATIENT SURGEON who took the time to work on me.  He said he had to keep pumping me full of air so he could work the gallbladder out.  He said the other option would’ve been to cut me open and he didn’t want to do that.  THANK YOU LORD!

I took me about 4 hours to come out of the anesthesia.  That’s some mean stuff!  And then they took me to my room.  I was very happy to see a spacious, clean room with AC!  YAHOO!  The tub was rather interesting…more like a seat…for small people…not Americans.  But they even had 2 English TV channels 🙂  I didn’t like the fact that they wouldn’t give me ANYTHING for the first 24 hours…not even water, much less ice chips!  I was parched!  And to my surprise, instead of beginning slowly with my diet, they served me full course meals.  I was nervous about eating…but thus far other than some initial cramping, my food seems to be digesting well.

Most of the nurses were very polite and gentil.  All except the one who discovered my IV had gotten blocked and decided it was my fault.  I told her I didn’t realize I was a nurse!  She got hold of a syringe and started trying to push the blockage through.  Next thing I knew she was smacking the head of the syringe with the palm of her hand….and boy did it shoot through…like a burning comet up my forearm.  I let out a squeal to which she replied, “Yep, That’s what happens when your IV gets blocked.  Next time pay attention and call us if it happens again.”  Ok, thanks….I guess.  Welcome to Africa.

Seriously though…that was the worst of my experiences (other than a weird looking stitch in one of my 5 spots that’ll leave a nasty scar)….I feel blessed.  We can look back and see the hand of God in each one of our encounters with medical professionals, friendly counsel, and just Him speaking to our hearts personally.  What an encouragement to spur us on to share this personal God with our neighbors.  I long for the day when we witness someone we care about trust our God who cares not only about our physical needs, but who wants an intimate spiritual relationship with us as well.

Thanks for hanging on to the end.  I’m too tired to proofread, so excuse any errors 😉

                                 Sad to leave you AC, but happy to be back home with my boys 🙂

                                            Probably close to 100 stones from a 4″ gallbladder!