Sunday, 29 March 2015

Small steps forward

We take so many things for granted.

Caring for Dad has helped me appreciate anew the many, many daily activities that just flow into each other - action after action done without thinking, and usually without giving thanks.  

Waking up, rolling out of bed without a second thought, being able to read, eating food, preparing food, being able to help clean up the house, breathing, going to the toilet without problems, choosing my clothes, being able to go down and buy some vegetables from the vendours outside, and then being able to go back at once if I have forgotten something, being able to drive our beloved (and slightly dented) Papaya... all things done with so much freedom.

In fact, since I last wrote on Friday night - I have been to Delhi and back!  What a miracle to leave Dad's room No. 511 at Bethany Hospital at 4 AM on Saturday morning and walk into the CANA board meeting at 9.05 AM at civil lines in old Delhi - and then have an early morning meeting with Anna Ho of Reconciled World at 6.30 AM this morning and then walk back into Dad's hospital room at 1 PM and find him sitting on the bed, getting physiotherapy!   In the mean time, I had used taxi, airplanes, busses, metros, cycle rickshaws, Stefan's car, lots of walking and finally an autorickshaw too (I guess only horses and camels are not on the list).

For Dad, in the mean time, his daily walks are becoming a little longer and more independent each day.  He is still carrying various bags - and uses a stretch belt to support his abdomen - but each step is a step forward to recovery and healing.   We are so glad for every step he takes and cherish the earnest prayers on Dad's behalf for his innards to meld well.

These pictures are actually from Friday - today Dad walked independently.  We are looking forward to less external tubes - and more of his own living tubing to function fully.  Won't you take a moment and thank God for all the living tubes inside you that are busy doing their things well!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bhiwandi blues - and hospital news

Bhiwandi is one of those forgotten cities.  A dusty, grimy sprawl of buildings along narrow roads, clogged to the gills with all manner of goods lorries and various cargo carrying spawn...  Over the last decades it has grown to a city of 1.2 million souls - and the vehicular congestion stems from its being a thriving centre for logistics and various industries.  But to my jaundiced eye the whole city seems to be one long corridor of grime.

And I should know.  Today was the 4th time I drove over to Bhiwandi to meet the authorities at the Thane District Child Welfare Committee in our efforts to get legal guardianship for Yohan.   The first time we went the main person was not there.  The second time we met the members and were told that a home-study would be done of our place (which took place a week later).   After being told twice not to come because the members would not be there (and going through the gut-wrenching days of Dad's surgery and post-op) we were told to come on Wednesday.  Having reconfirmed in the morning, Sheba and I got into our Papaya at just after noon on a day that turned out to be 40 degrees centrigrade - and found ourselves being baked in an orange tandoori oven as we were stuck for over an hour in bumper to bumper traffic.   And when we got to the court at 4 PM, we were told that the members quorum was not enough.

And so today I left even earlier and got there at 1.20 PM - and found out that 14 people had come 'before me' - so that when the proceedings started at 2 PM, there would be 14 cases ahead of me.  I hunkered down to wait and heard the numbers being called out occassionally.  Worried, thin women holding small children, young men standing listlessly, others talking to each other in low voices.  Policemen (and women) in mufti - it is a children's court and the police officers are told not to wear uniforms so as not to make the place too scary for the children.  Case workers from social service organisations coming in an out.  A woman that I have seen at least 2 times before walking around, her eyes wide.  The hot air being redistributed by a fan.  The seating shifts as cases are called out.

Finally I hear number 15 being called.  I jump up with my bags and papers and walk into the main hall.  The two members are seated at the main desk.  I see that there are two folks ahead of me so I sit and wait till their issues are solved.  Then I meet up with the concerned officers.  The one who I have met before recognises me.  He looks through the report written by the social worker about our home visit - and then briefly discusses with his colleague.  He then pulls out a juvenile act book and they look through it for the format needed to write out the order in question.   "It's all ok" he tells me.   Relief on my part.  "But you will have to come back again on Monday, since this is a new section and we do not have a proforma for this.  We will type it and have it ready for you then - which you will then have to sign."

So it looks like another trip to Bhiwandi.  On Monday.  But we are going to do what it takes to get legal custody of our dear Yohan.

In the meantime, I stopped on my way back to participate in the Bhiwandi Positive Friends meeting.  Today was the last Friday of the month, and our indefatiguable staff member Mahesh along with his friend Nethaniah and church volunteers had organised the latest monthly support group meeting for the HIV positive folks they are reaching out to.  It was touching to be with the 25 odd folks there - and I was happy to see that there were almost as many men as women - since our Thane support group meeting is 80 to 90 percent women.

So when I zipped back to Thane, dogding the now normal array of traffic of all shapes and sizes, I was driving with a song in my heart.


As all of this was going on - Dad spent another day in the hospital.  After I had spent the night with Dad, Sheba came over and we were there when Dr. Stephen did his morning rounds.  "How are you uncle?" he asked, to which Dad was able to say that he had slept well for the first time in days.  The main difference was the merciful lack of beeping from the vital signs monitoring equipment that the ICUs are full of.    Stephen was happy that there did not seem to be any bile discolouring the bag that was draining from Dad's abdomen.  The really big need for Dad at this point is for the surgical stiching to 'take' and no leaking to happen.   If Dad continues to improve, then he may be discharged in a few days.  But if they find that 'leaking' has happened, then things get more complicated.

So far, so very good.  We are very grateful to the Lord for all the mercies and kindness that He has given us. 

I am spending the night with Dad tonight and making a lightning trip to Delhi to be part of the CANA (Christian AIDS/HIV National Alliance) board meeting tomorrow.  I will leave directly from the Bethany hospital here in Thane at 4 AM for my 6 AM flight - and hope to be in the meeting at Dr. Nalini Abraham's house at 9 AM... lets see if it all works out!  I hope to be back by Sunday 2 PM.

Amazingly, one of our brothers Narendra Kumar is coming to spend the weekend with Dad - and he arrives in Thane at 12 noon and will be with us till Sunday evening.   God is good.

Sheba has been doing so many things behind the scenes and is the reason everything continues to keep moving forward.  With Asha and Enoch having their final exams these days - and Yohan demanding much attention (and creatively stretching various parameters of patience) we have a full plate on our hands.  We appreciate so much the prayers of the saints on our behalf.  Our tired behalfs that is!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Back to the 5th floor

For the third time in three weeks, Dad is back on the 5th floor of the Bethany hospital.   We shifted him out of the intensive care unit at around 11 this morning - and he is now living in room no. 511 and blessed with being the bed next to the window.

It is blessedly quiet for Dad after the non-stop beeping of the vital signs monitoring equipment that formed the aural wallpaper of the ICU.  Dad is full of praise for the care that he has received and is in awe of the complexity of post-op care - with so many different folks doing so many things.

The sheer number of tubes and bags that Dad has continues to amaze us all.  Even after unhooking the ECG monitoring wires, Dad still feels that he is 'like a Christmas-tree' when he goes for the short walks he has been asked to start taking.

His pain medications continue to work well - and we have a real survivor who is in the process of healing.  Dad is tired and Mum has been their this afternoon fending off visitors by engaging them in conversation so that Dad does not have to summon up the energy to pour into their lives (which is his default option).   We would prefer no visitors this week as Dad is weaker than he looks (and feels at times).  Prayer is the most powerful tool - and God never tires of hearing us talking to Him!

Stefan flew back to Delhi today - a great blessing he was to us all!  Asha and Enoch had exams this morning and are blessed with a 'study holiday' tomorrow, so we are a bit more relaxed this evening as a family.  We just finished our evening prayers (we are reading in Ezra - and were impressed by a man who devoted himself to learning, practicing and sharing the word of God).  Before that Enoch and I dropped Asha off for her violin class and we read 'The Warden and the Wolf King" while waiting for her.  A shopping stop at our trusty D-mart and then home to a delicious chicken biryani that Sheba somehow whipped up (with the help of Yohan).

family prayers 2 nights ago - picture taken by Stefan

So I am off to relieve Mum and take the night shift at Bethany Hospital with Dad.  These are days of miracle and wonder...   We are so grateful for the many evidences of grace.

We continue to cherish prayers for Dad's full and complete recovery.  He is still very weak and needs much healing from 'the skillful wounds' that he received on Monday which were done to try and extend his life on earth...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Swirly day

Dad is in the intensive care unit of Bethany Hospital.  And life continues to swirl around.

When was that operation now... last week?  last year?  It all seems so long ago - and yet we are not even 100 hours past the major and what we hope and trust to be life-extending operation that Dad went through on Monday.

Since we are not allowed to 'stay' in the ICU (not even hide under his bed) - and Dad is quite stable in every way - Mum, Sheba, Stefan and myself take turns popping in for a few minutes during the day to see how Dad is doing... and are also taking part in the normal swirl of activities.

Stefan flies back to Delhi tomorrow - his stay much appreciated - as is Neeru's constant 'long-distance' support from Delhi.   One of our other brothers - Narendra Kumar just emailed to say he is coming in from Varanasi for 2 days over the weekend to help with Dad...  perfect timing as I need to be away for 36 hours over the weekend (God has his own wonderful ways of working things out!).

Sheba and I were back at JSK today.  We had our weekly staff meeting.  Good things to hear - about testing camps and different families who are going through very tough times.   Also much to pray about - how to effectively use our beautiful set up here... what directions JSK should take this year.  What do you want of us Lord?  We prayed together.  And need to keep hearing what God wants.

Then Sheba and I drove off in the heat of the day to the Child Welfare Committee in Bhiwandi.  We started off in a simmering haze, and then to our horror were trapped in bumper to bumper (and many of them big dumpers) traffic.  Massive, massive jam.  We saw a side road and skimmed along in the dust... till we got bottle necked there too.  2 hours being baked.  We tried to sing songs of praise.

And when we finally got to the office - we were told that we were (a) too late and (b) there was only one committee member there - out of the three who make up the committee.  One was sick.  One had another emergency.  The remaining one was not empowered to make decisions.  A quorum of 2 is needed for an order to be past.  4 PM in dusty Bhiwandi.  Hot.  Turn around.  Back to Thane.

And so instead of getting the order that we were hoping to get regarding our custody of Yohan, we will have to figure out another day.  A precious afternoon gone up in the hot haze... Asha and Enoch's final exams tomorrow.

But God is still in control.  I got back to Jeevan Sahara Kendra to catch the very end of our monthly Positive Friends meeting.  People were still talking.  Amazing to see people living with HIV and smiling and sharing and linking up with others.  God has been so good.  I saw a teenage girl who 8 years ago was on her death-bed in a govt. hospital with terrible TB meningitis.  She and her parents are positive but living their lives with gusto.  Met new people.  Saw old friends.  What an honour to be among these saints.

Now we are off to see Dad in the ICU.  As I write this the church women have a 1 hour prayer meeting (every Wednesday) with Sheba at our place.  Some of the men will come over tonight at 9.30 PM.  In the midst of all of this we will have supper and prayer and sleep a bit.

Thanks for being along for the journey!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Lessons in the ICU

Stefan and I met Dad this evening.  We had taken off our shoes to come into the Intensive Care Unit of the Bethany hospital and moved to bed no. 6.   The hum of monitoring equipment and the constant beeping that registered heartrate and other vital signs formed the background sounds to our encounter with Dad.

Dad was horizontal.  Eyes closed.  But as soon as we came close, his eyes opened a sliver and then he croaked "more angels have come."   Croaked, because Dad's mouth is very, very dry - making it hard for him to speak.

What a joy to have Dad speaking.  He was horizontal - strapped in and all manner of tubes and wires coming in and out of him.  And then he surprised us: "They made me walk" he said with a mock tragic voice.  "Walk? You must be joking?"  But he wasn't.  The nurses had actually had him do a small walk today.  He said he could sit up but that the tubes and wires were taped to the bed...

The good news is that Dad is largely pain-free.  Largely, that is, other then periodic short waves of pain that wash through him.  We asked how often these come, and he said that he gets about 3 an hour - but that as soon as they are over there is no more pain.   We saw Dad go through a number of them during our short time with him.  He would become quiet, close his eyes and let the pain pulsate through him.  Then he would open them and the familiar crinkly smile was there.

"I have learned two big lessons" said Dad.

"Lesson No. 1.  Whenever someone now will ask me to 'pray for so-and-so because they have a heart problem.  Or are admitted in hospital.  Or whatever else.  I now really know what they are going through and I will really be able to pray for them.  Normally we just 'say a prayer' and then get on with things - maybe eat lunch or something.  But now I now what it is like and I will really pray - just as people have really been praying for me."

"Lesson No. 2.  I always wondered what doctors and nurses do.   You see them in the halls, wearing their uniforms, but what do they actually do? Now I really know.  I have been cared for and monitored and looked after by these dear ones.  What a privilege to be here."

Dad went on to say how happy he is to be in the place where he is and to have had the surgery at the right time.   We reflected his happyiness.  Holding his hands.  Talking to our dear father as the vital signs monitoring machines beeped at varying frequencies in the background.  We were able to tell him the names of some of the folks who had sent emails or phones.  Smiles on Dad's face.

We know that there is a challenging road ahead.  One that is very new for us as a family.  But tonight - after 24 hours of ICU - we are swept with waves of peace and thanksgiving.  Another big thankyou goes out to God for all our dear friends who are sustaining us through these days of grace. 

pictures courtesy of Stefan Eicher of course!

Lessons from cancer: a letter from a friend

We have received so many letters where dear friends of Dad and Mum share their concern and assure us of earnest prayers.  

Here is just one of them:

Dear Andi and Sheba.

Thanks for letting us know about the sad situation of Ray having cancer. It is upsetting for Christa and all of you.

10 yrs ago I discovered I had cancer. By Gods grace I made a good recovery. But a close friend did not recover. We both benefited from the cancer in that God used it to bring us both into a much closer relationship. John died in a wonderful joyfull condition full of the Holy spirit.  That too was a form of healing in that he had no fear of death. In it he blessed all who met him and gave glory to God.

How was it possible? May I share a truth we learned? You must know it already, but it can be helpful to hear a testimony of its effectiveness to increase faith.

I thank God that I had a gift of faith to be able to give thanks ( and praise and worship) IN the situation and then FOR the situation.

Merlin Corruthers book Power in Praise helped. By thanking God for the difficulty we were able to turn the devils curse into a blessing. God changed me. I discovered that to fear something is a form of idolatry, like worship, and it allows the situation to have power over you. But to worship, praise and thank God in and for all things releases his power and authority into the situation.

It was one of the best things to happen to me in my life. I went on to discover my ministry.

God bless you all. We are praying for a great release of the Holy Spirit into the situation and for Gods name to be glorified and his love made manifest. 

Bill Owen.

Mini-update: Dad in ICU

24 hours ago Dad had just come off the table and was wheeled into the ICU.  When we met him this morning, he was ... cheery.  Though there seemed to be wires and tubes attached to every part of him.

We are grateful that Dad was able to get some sleep in the night.  He gave us a big smile and chatted a bit amidst the beeps and squawks of the monitoring equipment around him.

All the way my Savior leads me;
  What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
  Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
  Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well.