1. Diggins, Kristene

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I CONCENTRATED on each step as I climbed the shaky ladder toward the room where the baby was crying. I could tell from the cry that something was seriously wrong. As I crept through the tiny doorway, I was struck with how narrow the entrance was to the small shack.


The baby's family surrounded me as I made my way toward the screaming child. Everyone in the family was anxious to tell me the details of the little girl's symptoms. I listened carefully to make sense of the three people speaking at once, discovering that the little baby's name was Lidiane.*


As I listened to the various accounts of the baby's illness, I glanced around, noticing that the room was tidily organized with all the family belongings. The room held only the bare essentials of daily living: a bent comb lying on a ledge in one corner with a metal cup beside it, a bottle of water next to a plate on the side of the baby's cot in another corner. Approaching Lidiane, I saw her mother swaying back and forth, holding her tightly in her arms. Lidiane appeared to be about 10 months old.


The closer I got to Lidiane, the more I realized the gravity of her situation. Her mouth and nose were dry from lack of fluids. She held her neck stiffly, and as I tried to lift her, she screamed in pain from the change of position. I knew then that little Lidiane probably had meningitis.


After examining her, I decided to administer the injection of penicillin I'd brought with me. I wondered if the penicillin, which I was hoping to administer every 4 hours, would be enough to save her. Holding her feverish body, I wondered what difference my little effort would make.


I was awake much of the night wondering about Lidiane's condition. When I awoke the next morning and biked over to her small community, I discovered that her neighbor had found someone who owned a battered vehicle, and the family had made the 1-hour trek to the closest hospital. Lidiane had been admitted to a public hospital. I could only hope that this time the public hospital had the intravenous antibiotic necessary to save her life, because many times rural Amazon hospitals run out of bare essential antibiotics.


Two days after Lidiane's admission to the hospital, I was told the physicians were able to obtain the necessary antibiotics, and Lidiane had not gone into a coma. All indications were that she would recover completely from meningitis.


In cases such as little Lidiane's, I may never know if my small effort makes a difference. Working in a rural setting, with so many needs, many times I have felt I was working with five loaves and two fishes, trying to feed a crowd of thousands. Yet, at the same time, I often have been reminded that the same God who used those five loaves and two fishes to feed thousands can multiply my efforts.


I've discovered it isn't that different in North America. My responsibility is not to try feeding what seems like the thousands of needs I see before me, but, instead, to give completely of the gifts and resources God has given me and leave the multiplying in his hands. When we are short staffed and have too many patients, unexpected admissions, or discharges, God asks us simply to give what we have: a caring smile, a warm touch, a sincere glance, an empathetic moment, a word of encouragement or instruction to a patient or family, a hug, a prayer. When my resources dwindle and my energy waivers, Jesus alone can use my five loaves and two fishes to make a world of difference!!


*The name of the patient has been changed to protect her privacy. [Context Link]