Sunday, May 17, 2009

Looking For Esteban

To My Most Amiable Readers...

We closed our Bibles after an engaging study of Acts chapter 2 with the rowing youth. The usual pandemonium broke out as the children flooded back into the cramped living room (they'd been playing in one of the bedrooms) and Yenny and Angelo (our hosts) set out delicious sopaipillas (fried breads) and a tomato/avocado topping. Glasses of nectar were poured and cakes were cut as we laughed, talked, and the boys tackled one another now and then. All the while little one month-old Esteban slept blissfully unaware in a bouncy seat on the table.

About a half hour later we kissed goodbye and headed home on that rather frigid night talking with joy about the questions the youth had raised and the happy surprise that two of them had read the chapter ahead of time to be prepared. After putting our over-tired children to bed we collapsed into our own and had just begun to get warm under our down comforter when Dustin's cellphone rang. His Spanish came out in staccato; a sure sign that he was taken off guard by whatever the caller was saying.

He put down the phone and while whipping his coat on he rapidly explained that baby Esteban had stopped breathing and they needed Dustin to come and take them to the hospital. My mind buzzing with incredulity, I thought, "But we just held him an hour ago and he was fine!". As Dustin flew out the door I collected my senses and began praying. Remembering to recruit others I posted an update on Facebook asking for immediate prayer for little Esteban, then dropped to my knees and begged the Lord for his life.

I got a call about twenty minutes later. Dustin said that the ambulance had arrived just before he did and had taken Esteban and Yenny to the hospital. Angelo stayed behind with their 18-month old daughter Natalia, my friend Yoya, and their recently arrived mom, Irene. For those of you who follow our happenings in Chile, you'll remember that the week before Irene and Yoya's homes, along with Yoya's sister Rosita's home, were swept away by a mudslide. This is a whole lot of deal with in the space of two weeks!

Apparently Esteban had started to vomit yellow fluid and then started to choke on it, turning various colors while the panicked family tried to find the number for the ambulance (they don't have one emergency number like the States). In their panic they called us, one of the only families they know with a vehicle. Right after calling us they found the number and called in the ambulance. All they knew was that Esteban was breathing again and in stable condition (praise the Lord!). Dustin stayed with the family, being a support to them. Irene looked helpless and wondered aloud why all these things were happening to them. Angelo wept.

The next day I took a taxi to the ancient cavernous maze of corridors which is otherwise known as the Puerto Montt Hospital. From previous visits I was prepared for the frustration ahead. Approaching the front information desk I was pleased to see that there was only one person ahead of me in line. Perhaps today would be different!

Not so. I realized a good five minutes into their discussion about reading glasses and other trivia that I would need a full measure of patience and courtesy to make it to Esteban's side. After a while the woman left and I approached the desk, hoping my irritation didn't show as I asked, "Hola, me gustaria visitar un paciente se llama Esteban Bustos Lopez que llego anoche como emergencia. En que parte estara?" (Basically, I'm looking for Esteban Bustos Lopez, who arrived as an emergency last night. Where might I locate him?). I say this as I had to repeat this same thing to at least ten different people within the next forty-five minutes.

She had no idea. She looked through a print-out of the hospital's patients and did not find his name, but explained that it might be an out-of-date list. Right. She then waved me to the side and gestured toward the Maze with vague references to "Pediatria" and "over there". Okay. It would give me morbid delight to bring an American doctor into the Maze. And watch their eyes glaze over as he realizes that the passages to certain departments, say surgery, if marked at all, sometimes end in a dead-end hallway with locked doors. No information desk, no information period. That there is no heat and you can always see your breath. That anyone you ask to help you will invariably view you as a nuisance. Security is laughable.

There was one helpful exception, a young medic who took me up and down three flights of stairs to three different wings where we received three different answers. He finally gave up, due to time constraints or the fact that I emphasized my married state, one never knows. Close to giving up, or kicking a trashcan across the room, I spotted a small desk where sat a nurse who was retrieving hand cream from her purse for a whining doctor who was complaining about his dry hands. Sigh. I asked if she might have an updated list of patients. Regarding me wearily, she nonetheless surprised me by calling the various departments looking for Esteban's whereabouts. She located him in the pediatric wing. I had already been there three times asking, but at least now I had confirmation that he was somewhere there.

Arriving I marched past the "No entrance without pass" sign and resisted the urge to send it flying frisbee-style through the air. I found no one to stop me (not surprising). Poking around I finally saw Yenny through a window, holding baby Esteban. Coming into their room, which was shared by two other babies and mothers, Yenny looked at me in surprise and said, "They let you in? It must be a miracle!" I grinned inwardly as I replied, "Yes, they let me in". Technically by not stopping me, that is. Yenny took advantage of the break and went to talk to a friend of hers in the hallway while I held and prayed over little Esteban. I looked with awe into his little peaceful face, thanking God for his life. For about a half hour I stayed there with him, marveling at how he kept his pacifier in place by extending one long finger up to it. What a beautiful little man.

Laying him down, careful not to disturb his heart monitor, I passed into the hall and talked with Yenny. She said that the doctors had confirmed a severe case of reflux and that they would need to keep him always elevated while sleeping. Her face showed weariness and the stress of the ordeal. Hugging and saying goodbye, I found my way out of the Maze.

I ask your prayer for this family. Not only has the mom and two sisters lost their homes, but also Yenny's daughter Natalia's legs may need to be put in braces as she has a genetic bow-leggedness common among Chileans. She's only 18 months old and I cannot imagine how she would react to that. Stress, worry, and depression all threaten this family who is very close to our hearts. Please lift up Yoya, Irene, Rosita, Yenny, Angelo, Natalia, and Esteban in your prayers, asking for God's peace, healing, hope and joy. Thank you!

Your Most Devoted,