On Friday, February 20, just after Bayo had his seizure at the hospital, I called my parents in Arizona. I knew I would be waking them from their sleep, but this was a life-and-death situation. I was crying and telling them to pray for Bayo. They immediately called their friends, also waking them, and asked them to pray for Bayo.
We continued to communicate throughout the day. At one point, my mom said, "Do you want us to come?" Without missing a beat, I said, "Yes." And then with a little fear, I added, "Do you have visas?"
Mom said, "Yes! Do you remember that the last time we applied for visas, we were given 2-year multiple entry visas?" Oh wow. That's right. We all thought it was a 'mistake' back then. They had applied for single entry visas, but were granted 2-year multiple entry visas instead.
In case you don't know about Nigeria and visas, let me give you a little tutorial. A traveler has to apply for a visa at least a month before the planned travel date. It might be possible to get it expedited within 2 weeks, but it's always best to allow more time than that. It is never a rubber stamp process; many visas are denied. If my parents did not already have their visas, they would not have been able to help us in this situation.
(A side note: when we arrived at the airport in Kenya, we got our visas within 10 minutes. Cost: $50 each. This is normal for a Kenyan visa; the visa is issued at the border or international airport.)
My mom called a travel agent at Menno Travel and asked him to get them a flight on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. He called them back and said they were booked to fly out of Phoenix on Saturday at 10 a.m.! Amazingly, the fares were the lowest they have paid in years! Normally my mom takes about 9 months to prepare for a trip to Nigeria. This time they did it in a day. Some of their friends and relatives pitched in and helped. My aunt and uncle took my mom's shopping list and went to the store to buy goodies for the grandkids. I don't know the rest of the stories...but I'm sure she'll fill me in when we meet face-to-face.
When some of our friends heard that my parents were coming, they thought my parents were going to join Bayo and me in Kenya. I said, "No, I need them in Nigeria for the kids; I can handle Kenya." Knowing that they were with our kids and being a stabilizing factor for them made all the difference in the world for me. I was really able to focus on Bayo in the hospital without worrying about how our kids were doing. In fact, I knew the kids were probably having a great time enjoying their grandparents and all their goodies.
Although the Atlantic Ocean separates us most of the time, my kids have actually spent quite a bit of time with their grandparents. We get to spend time with them every other summer in Minnesota, and then during our off-years, they come to see us in Nigeria. Because of this closeness, I knew my parents could walk in the door and pick up right where we left off.
I will always be grateful for their help and presence during our time of great need.
At 69 & 70, my parents still have a lot of spunk--as long as Grandpa gets his afternoon nap!
Bayo's MRI on Wed night (checking something near the gall bladder) did not reveal anything abnormal so he was discharged as planned today. Unfortunately the discharge process took about 5 hours, and that was even after I had run around a couple of days earlier trying to line everything up. It was too much of go-here, go-there, check-this, check-that. I had to tell one of the administrators that their discharge process does not match the otherwise excellent services we have received at the hospital. It felt like an archaic system that they are all used to, but to a newcomer, it was terribly frustrating and convoluted. This is the only bad mark I would give the hospital. Otherwise, we were both completely impressed with the level of care Bayo received.
Bayo was loaded up with an arsenal of medication. The blood thinner (for blood clot prevention) is the most important medication. We need to be very faithful with him taking it every 12 hours. The doctor said he needs to be on this medication for at least the next year.
I said good-bye to two of my main hospital friends. They were so sweet and encouraging. I really enjoyed my visits with them and the things I learned about Kenya from them.
The ride from the hospital to where we are staying was a chance for Bayo to catch a glimpse of Nairobi and form some impressions. That will probably be his main tourist outing! He doesn't have the energy to see any of the sites or animals of Nairobi.
We are still talking about when to fly back to Nigeria. We both want to get there soon, but I want to make sure he has the strength for the journey.
Thanks for joining us on this journey! I hope to have a few more stories to share on Caring Bridge before I slow down my activity here. I'm hoping that I'll be able to carry the momentum back to my blog Establish the Work of Our Hands atwww.marybetho.blogspot.com.
Well, we are hoping to be discharged on Thursday. That's the plan from the docs. Bayo had an MRI about 5 p.m. on Wed to check for something near his gall bladder. If we get the all-clear on that, then we'll be able to be discharged as scheduled.
I've been looking at flights from Nairobi to Abuja. I think I'll give Bayo a day or two to adjust to life in the real world before we make that flight. I want to be sure he's strong enough for it. At least he'll get to start wearing 'civilian' clothes tomorrow. But actually, we can't complain about the hospital attire. He's been given a clean set of blue pajamas everyday--at least it's not one of those gowns!
That's all for today. Thank you for your continued prayers.
So, what led up to the drama of Friday, February 20?
About a week before that Bayo was not feeling well. He had a blood test at the lab, and it was positive for malaria parasite. The doctor prescribed treatment for malaria.
Let me give some background on malaria in Nigeria. Malaria is the main sickness that everybody gets. If it's caught in time and properly treated, the body will resolve it very quickly. Bayo probably has malaria about four times a year. I refer to his own cases as 'walking malaria' because it's never bad enough to keep him down. He still goes out to work as usual, but he may go to bed earlier than usual.
I remember hearing Bayo comment at least twice during his treatment, "This medicine seems too strong." It was the usual medicine; there was nothing unusual about it. I think he was making that comment because his body was not responding as it normally would.
On Thursday afternoon, a doctor prescribed a stronger malaria medication for him. After Bayo took that, he ate and then fell asleep.
By morning, I knew that he was really sick, but I didn't know how sick until someone took a good look in his eyes and said, "He's semi-conscious." Finally something clicked in my brain, and I said, "Let's go!" About 4 people struggled to load him into a car; he couldn't walk or talk by this time. I sat in the backseat with him and thought it strange that he couldn't lean against me. His body was rigid; his neck and arms splayed at stiff angles.
In the emergency room, they got an IV into him, and then they started wheeling the gurney to the ward so they could place him on admission. And here's where the real nightmare began. While he was being pushed on the gurney over the bumpy sidewalk, he suddenly went into a seizure. A friend of ours told me later that when I called the name of Jesus, he looked at Bayo's face and saw a moment of calmness come over him.
The continuation of this story is in the CaringBridge story of Feb 22--The Power of Prayer.
Initial diagnosis and what we know now:
*The doctors in Jos were focused on cerebral malaria or meningitis at first and then later said possible viral encephalitis.
*The doctors in Nairobi saw no sign of malaria in the past two weeks--so maybe Bayo had a false positive on his initial test.
* Bayo had a CT scan, MRI, EKG, EEG and a whole host of blood tests in Nairobi. Basically everything came back clean except for blood clots in the lungs.
*The Nairobi doctors could not test for meningitis and encephalitis because they had already determined that Bayo had some blood clots on his lungs, and doing another lumbar puncture could result in a blood clot at that location. Since Bayo arrived with a diagnosis of possible encephalitis, the doctors are continuing to treat for it.
* The big question is: when did the blood clots occur? Were the clots the cause of all the drama on Friday, Feb 20? The neurologist told me that blood clots in the lungs could potentially cause a seizure if the brain is not getting enough oxygen and this could also cause the brain to lose the ability to speak.
*Or did the clots occur after we arrived in Nairobi? Generally clots can occur if someone has spent a long time being bed-ridden, but that was not the case for Bayo. He was only bed-ridden for 3 days before the clots were detected.
*The high fever (104) in Jos would not have been related to blood clots, but most likely to some infection.
*If he had the clots in Jos, then how did he stabilize when none of his medications was for treating blood clots?
There is some mystery in Bayo's condition and diagnosis, and I'm ok with that mystery; I don't have to know all the answers. I truly believe that God heard the prayers for Bayo from around the world and chose to allow him to stabilize overnight. Bayo was still very, very ill at that time, but nothing like the night before.
Medical mystery? Miracle?
Well, I have had a front row seat in this drama, and I will have to say, "Miracle!"
Bayo's team of doctors came around this morning. One of the head doctors said Bayo will be discharged on Thursday. It seems that some of the junior doctors were calculating Bayo's days in a different way. This head doctor wants to make sure Bayo gets his full 10-day dose of medicine. Ok, so we'll plan for Thursday.
I've made friends with a woman I met in the lounge where I nap a few days back. We had a great talk about Kenya, Nigeria and life in general. Her 19-year-old daughter is in the female ward recovering from meningitis. She was on admission back in Nov/Dec and basically recovered, but then in February, she lost the use of her legs--a residual effect from meningitis. So now she is undergoing physiotherapy and learning to walk again. She's really making good progress. We have developed a pattern of visiting each other on a daily basis--one day we will visit her, and then the next day she will visit us.
I've met a handful of Kenyans during our time here--mainly taxi drivers, doctors and nurses. It is always so interesting to hear their impression of Nigeria and Nigerians.
For starters, they simply can't believe that we have come from Nigeria to Kenya for medical treatment. I have heard this from the doctors, nurses, casual acquaintances, and taxi drivers. This just doesn't fit with their view of Nigeria as the "giant of Africa." They feel they are far behind Nigeria in many areas. They are largely influenced by all the Nigerian movies that air daily on their TV stations.
I've heard a few of them refer to Nigerian women as being very strong and powerful. Once again, they are seeing a lot of this from the Nigerian movies, but I really feel that this is true. Nigerian woman are incredible leaders--and this skill increases with age.
The women here love Nigerian clothing--and especially the beautiful headties. One nurse was talking about all the beautiful colors of headties that are available to Nigerian women, and how they find the perfect matching color. In general, women don't wear headties in Nairobi on a daily basis--maybe just for a special occasion.
Well, that's all for today. I'm tired so good night!
Bayo continues to improve every day. The doctors told us that they expect to discharge him on Tuesday. We're happy about that! In general Bayo doesn't have much of an appetite--or is it just that he's tired of hospital food? Rice, rice, every day. Honestly, we can't complain. Bayo is just someone who likes lots of variety with his food. I made some guacamole for him this morning which he devoured with corn chips--and asked for more. So I'll make some before heading to the hospital in the morning.
Now that he's in the general ward, the visiting hours are shorter than when he was in the other wards. Visiting hours are 12:00-1:30 and 4:30-8:00. They are very strict! In fact, at the closing time, the guard comes around and kicks you out--even if you're sitting quietly behind the curtain. It's actually good because then everyone on the ward really gets a chance to rest. But that means I have 3 hours to kill every day. Sometime I rest in one of the lounges that has lots of couches, but recently I've been walking to nearby shopping centers. It's just fun to see what's available here. They have a lot of really beautiful malls. I even got my hair cut one day. I have also enjoyed going to an outdoor vegetable market right near the hospital. They've got all the same fruits and vegetables that we can get in Nigeria plus a few I've never seen before. Today I bought roasted corn from a man who was roasting ears over a charcoal fire. In Nigeria, only the women do that.
Bayo and I were both thrilled to have a family from Jos visit us in the hospital today! I had not remembered that they were living in Nairobi, but they heard in a round-about way that we were at Aga Khan in Nairobi. The man even wore his Yoruba cap in honor of Bayo. Guess what they discussed most of the time...Nigerian politics! Bayo needed that connection today.
All of the doctors and nurses have been calling him Adebayor because they are fans of Togolese soccer player, Emmanuel Adebayor. I was surprised that he has been Adebayo and now Adebayor--and they say it easily--I guess because they have a frame of reference for the name.
The neurologist wants to meet with me in the morning so I'll be heading over earlier than usual. I guess the neurologist was asking Bayo questions about his sickness, and Bayo said, "I don't know. You'll have to ask my wife." He's definitely missing a few days from his memory. And that reminds me, I still need to fill in the back story to Bayo's illness...stay tuned.
When we arrived in Kenya last Sunday night, the doctors went right to work on Bayo with all kinds of tests as well as a CT scan. By the time they finished all that and shared their first impressions with me, it was well after midnight. The doctors told me I could go and then we would continue tomorrow. I’m sure they saw the confusion on my face. In Nigeria, we are used to sleeping in the hospital with our loved ones. That’s not an option here—unless you are in a private suite, I suppose.
So, they explained some places I could go—they said there was a guest house just 200 meters from the hospital, but under no circumstances should I walk there during the night time. They said it is only safe to walk from 8 a.m. til 6 p.m. Oh yes, what was it I had heard about rapes and robberies in Nairobi?
Well, the next problem was how to get a taxi because walking outside and flagging one down was just as dangerous. One of the nurses called a taxi driver that is known by the hospital. He took me to the guest house, but the guard said there was no room in the inn. So I told the driver to take me to a well-known place. He took me to a place called Mayfair which was nearby.
It was gorgeous—and expensive. I’ve never paid even half that price for a hotel room in the U.S. But it was almost 1 a.m., I was in a fairly rough part of town, and my husband had just survived the most harrowing experience of his life. This was not the time to go bargain hunting around Nairobi. I handed over my credit card without a second thought.
The room was beautiful and peaceful. I had deep peace in my heart from the miracle I had just witnessed. God had strengthened my faith through the experience. I put my head on the pillow and slept.
The next morning I made a connection with my friends who used to live in Jos and have enjoyed their hospitality immensely ever since.
Health update: Bayo continues to regain his strength. Thanks for your prayers.
A week ago at this time, I briefly passed through one of the darkest times of my life. I knew it would forever be a watershed moment--but at that time, I didn't know which direction the water would flow. Bayo is incredibly humbled that God saw fit to give him more time. Bayo is quite overwhelmed with emotion when he thinks of what God has done for him--and for the tremendous outpouring of love we have experienced.
We have experienced the Body of Christ in a wonderful way during this past week. Different people with different gifts have provided for our needs; some have even anticipated needs that we didn’t know we had.
The most amazing thing to me during this medical journey was the concerted prayer around the world that asked God to spare Bayo’s life on Friday/Saturday.How else did all of those out-of-whack vital signs stabilize over night?
There are so many stories of prayer that I will never know,but allow me to share just a few that I heard:
Late afternoon on Saturday, one of Bayo’s relatives called,and we told her Bayo had stabilized. She said she had just come down off the mountain where she and her pastor had been praying for him all day.
I know that Bayo’s siblings prayed all night long for his life. When Bayo was coherent on Sunday, he spoke briefly with his senior sister on the phone. She said she was not going to stop praying that prayer until he comes home from Kenya.
One of Bayo’s friends from young adult days told me he prayed in tongues for about two hours in the night for God to spare Bayo’s life. He said it’s been a long time since he’s prayed the way he did that night.
So many people have shared that they contacted their own network of friends to pray for Bayo’s life. Many told me they did an all-night prayer vigil for him that Fri/Sat night when his life hung in the balance.
The Body of Christ lifted us up in prayer and also met our physical needs. I can’t list them all, but let me mention a few.
Some went without sleep, running here, running there in the middle of the night to help us make plans for the evacuation.
Some showed up at the hospital with the plan of staying overnight with me in the hospital. And they anticipated the things we would need to have in the hospital.
A family in Jos gave us dollars for the journey. I sent them a text that they are “too much.” They responded that we are family. We are not actually related—not even tribally. What kind of family is that? That’s the body of Christ.
A friend gave me more phone credit than I have ever put on my phone at one time. I thought it was excessive at the time, but now that I’m out of the country, phone charges are very excessive, and I discovered that she anticipated needs I didn’t even know I would have.
My neighbors are just "too much." They literally jumped in and did anything they could to help us. On Saturday when I was preparing for the evacuation, one of them just sat in my living room and answered my phone so I could take care of some details.
We had not seen the people I am staying with in Nairobi for 18 years, but they opened their hearts and home to me at a moment’s notice.They now have some other visitors who just arrived so I have moved to a different apartment on their compound. Unbelievably, a woman I have never met before said I should come and stay in her beautiful apartment while she is out of the country for awhile. Oh God, look at how your people take care of each other.
Another family that I have known from years back loaned me a phone to use while I’m here. It’s much cheaper to call Nigeria from a local Kenyan line than on my Nigerian line that I have here.
The family of the old Kenyan grandmother in the bed next to Bayo prayed for him and encouraged him yesterday. They struck up a conversation with me, and when they discovered that we are strangers here, they asked where I was staying. I know that if I didn’t have a place, they would have offered me a place to stay.
I saw Bayo with a pair of bathroom slippers/flip-flops and just assumed the hospital had given them to him. Later I learned that the mother of Grace, a patient in the HDU ward, had allowed him to wear them.
People in my mission that I have never known before have come to encourage us and support us during our time as “strangers in this land.” They are genuinely concerned about us and strive to meet any needs that we have.
My parents have been well taken care of by my neighbors and so many in the Jos community. So many meals have been brought to them that I don't even know if my mom has cooked yet. Someone else brought them a phone to use so they can keep in touch with us as well as people in Jos.
My sister-in-law got the CaringBridge site started—I just had to login and take over.
Those who have the gift of giving have given generously to help us with the weight of expenses not covered by insurance.
Friends in Jos temporarily covered the Jos hospital bill until I can get back to clear it. They anticipated that it would be difficult to scrape together that much cash on a weekend, and they didn’t want anything to delay our medical evacuation on Sunday morning. (In Nigeria, the patient can’t leave the hospital until the entire bill is cleared.)
For things I have forgotten to mention or don't even know about, God has seen, and is surely pleased that the body of Christ is alive and well.
Health Update: Another great day. Still making progress. Pray for his appetite to return.
Life has taken me from the Midwest to Africa. Africa was firmly planted in my heart at age 17. I realized that dream when I landed in Nigeria at the age of 26. Currently I am doing the hardest work I have ever done, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Every day is full of challenges. At times life is too painfully raw, but I like living on the edge of real need.