When They Say No
SCH has had 13 emergency admissions to the hospital so far in 2018.
We’ve accrued a total of 100 days and counting of ICU care. That’s over 3 full months of critical medical care that our children have received. And this says nothing of the many Emergency room visits that did not end in admission. Or the times that children were recommended for treatment in the general ward but were able to come home and be successful cared for by our staff nurses.
It’s sometimes hard to see the importance of money for our general medical fund. Often times we’re petitioning for money to pay for things that’ve yet to happen. Much like insurance, it’s paying into the “what ifs.” And that’s difficult in the face of “right now” needs. In the face of children who lack sponsorship. Or medical and therapy equipment that needs to be replaced. School fees that need to be paid. Provisions that need to be purchased.
So I invite you into my world, where medical care isn’t guaranteed. Where funds are short, but needs are great. To a place so hard to imagine from an office in Atlanta or a couch in San Francisco. A place where hospitals, emergency rooms, and doctors have a greater right to say no than a duty to treat.
It’s late summer, 2017, Ongole, India. A young woman has been suffering from decreased appetite, lack of energy, and fatigue for a couple of weeks. Visit after visit to the local hospitals reveal no answers. Though we have funds for testing now, we haven’t always. Our reputation is known. A lack of compassion. An unwillingness to see beyond the stigma. A misunderstanding of the value of a human life. Finally, after weeks, our sweet young woman is too sick to keep pushing. Our nurses are overwhelmed. Our accounts are empty. Weeks of appointments without results have wrung us dry. A bus to Hyderabad seems to be the answer. Here we have more funds. Access to better hospitals. An American nurse. As we prepare in Hyderabad, our young ward boards a bus. 8 hours later, anxiously awaiting her arrival, I message the nurse who’s meeting her at the station. I get one word in reply, “expired.” A life too quickly taken. To easily brushed aside. All because the doctors, the hospitals have more of a right to say no, than she had a right to live.
Months later, a nine year old girl struggles to breathe. She’s rushed to a local emergency ward where she is turned away. Phrases like “too sick” and “needs intubation” are thrown around, but no solutions are offered. With no medical care received she’s rushed to the next hospital and then the next. Resources exhausted. No hospital to admit. No one to see past her disabilities, to look into her eyes and see a life worth saving. She’s sent directly to Hyderabad via ambulance. I have 7 hours to prepare. I spend the first two vomiting and the next crying in my nurse’s room. “I can’t do this again. I can’t. I can’t. I won’t.” I call ahead to a local hospital, one who always says yes. I meet this precious girl in the hospital at 2:00AM. She’s sick. Dying. This hospital, this admission, this doctor, her only hope. Cassia spends two weeks in the PICU. Two weeks we probably can’t afford outright. Two weeks we may be paying on for two months. But two weeks that gave her health, hope, life.
A few months later the story repeats. I’m trigger happy and scared. I will not lose another person to a broken system. I will not lose another person to a doctor’s whim, a hospital’s greed. I’ve become a pro at middle of the night ER meetings by the time Annie comes to Hyderabad. I’ve called ahead and spoken to the duty doctor. I’ve emailed records, lab results, consultation notes. By the time she arrives, this doctor knows more about her than kids he’s been treating for years. Admission. Treatment. Healing.
It amazes me the difference between a simple yes or no. That one means life, or at least the chance to fight for it, while one almost certainly means death. Coming from an American ER where we had to jump through fiery hoops to refuse treatment of a hangnail, I am heartbroken each and every time I’m reminded how quickly those no’s can come. That a doctor could look in the face of a dying child and close the door. That treatment is denied simply based on prejudice, ignorance, finances. Denied without repercussion. Denied at the cost of so much.
Thankfully, SCH rests in a comfortable relationship with a local, competent, compassionate, pediatric hospital. FOR NOW. Every day that our debt goes unpaid, every day that our bills accumulate, the tender fibers of our relationship stretch and strain. Already their compassion has affected their bottom line. Already they’ve blessed us with a discount beyond their competitors. Already they’ve given us months to clear a debt that others wouldn’t give us weeks to clear.
It’s hard to live in the land of “what ifs.” It’s hard to plan for a future that is so unknown. It’s hard to prepare for the worst. In some ways, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that we’re prepared. Knowing we have a hospital to admit to. Knowing my nurses are well trained for an emergency. Knowing right now SCH has a system in place to respond when the “ifs” happen. Because they always happen. 136 children and young adults in our care. 136 chances each day for an emergency to strike. 136 opportunities to hear the word no.
We would like to invite you into this beautiful story of redemption. With our gracious and generous family of supporters we know that our story doesn’t end here, but will continue on. We have seen countless miracles happen time after time and we know that this is no different, so we invite YOU to be a part of this story.
You can help us prepare for the "what ifs" by becoming a monthly medical sponsor - where your donations literally impact the lives of our children.