Candace and I had the privilege of attending a Rend Collective concert in Evansville earlier this month. Rend Collective are an Irish Christian folk/rock/worship band, and one of their more well-known songs is My Lighthouse. We really enjoyed this fun band's music!
The band plays a huge range of musical instruments.
Here's the second installment of Candace's story. Part One is below this post. Disclaimer: the details were not spared!
Everyone slept soundly for several
hours. Suddenly I awoke and instantly realized that I was
hemorrhaging. I woke Murray and calmly but urgently told him, “Go
get Mom, I'm bleeding badly.” He rushed downstairs and came back
with Mom hot on his heels. I told her to call for an ambulance.
Neither she nor Murray understood at that point how much I was
bleeding. I hadn't used the word “hemorrhage” with them. Mom
asked if I was sure I needed an ambulance or if one of them could
just drive me to the hospital. I knew that time was precious and I
couldn't spend it explaining what I knew was happening. I said, “Hand
me the phone.” Mom punched in 911, hit send, and handed me the
The next while is a bit of a blur, but
I maintained consciousness up until Dr McCarthy put a mask on me in
the OR and told me to take 3 deep breaths. While waiting for the
ambulance, I felt the familiar rush of warmth through my body – my
clue that I was seconds away from passing out. I threw my feet in the
air as high as I could and sternly told myself to keep it together. I
prayed and prayed. Mom saw what was happening and held my feet up for
me, sending Murray to grab a cold, wet washcloth for my head. I
closed my eyes and prayed. I had a sense of peace, but also a sense
of urgency. I kept my eyes closed and took deep breaths and prayed
that Mom and Murray would also maintain consciousness. (Neither of
them are very fond of the sight of blood and here I was with blood
pouring out of me, completely helpless.) I prayed for the ambulance
to hurry up. They arrived promptly – I'm sure it wasn't more than
5-10 minutes, but it seemed like such a long time. Mom stayed by my
side and phoned Dad. Murray rushed downstairs and turned the lights
on, unlocked the door, and put our dog Rusty outside on his chain so
that he wouldn't be underfoot when the ambulance arrived.
I recognized both EMTs. I answered
their questions correctly. Nick took my blood pressure and announced
that it was not compatible with life. (If memory serves me correctly,
he said it was 60s/40s. That's insanely low, and I knew that, but
didn't let myself dwell on it too much.) Mom let out a soft wail in
the background. I prayed even harder for her to be okay. I think she
sat down on the floor and Alex talked to her from my side. They
started an IV in each arm – the most painful sticks I've ever had
due to my low blood pressure. Nick originally called for a
helicopter, but decided it would be faster to drive me via ambulance
to Daviess Community Hospital – the hospital where I work. He
called for help from the volunteer first responders to get me down
the narrow stairway. I remember my dad giving me a kiss as we stopped
for a moment downstairs. I thanked Mom and Murray and told them they
had done an awesome job.
I sang and prayed and recited Psalm 23
in the back of the ambulance. I was in so much pain, and so cold, and
I knew things were bad, but I still had that sense of peace. As I was
thinking of different songs to sing, a few “funeral songs” came
to mind and I said aloud, “No, I'm not even going there” and
tried hard to think of different songs. This happened more than once,
but I refused to even entertain the thought of dying. The song that I
remember singing was “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.” Nick
prayed with me as we flew down I-69. I kept track of each turn we
made and therefore had a general idea of where we were. I listened to
Nick on the radio with the hospital's ER. He was originally told to
start dopamine. Then they radioed back immediately and said never
mind, just keep fluids going wide open, they would have blood ready
and waiting for me. I think I had a liter bolus going in each arm.
Not sure...I didn't have my contacts in, and my glasses were still on
the bedside table at home, so I couldn't really see much.
Jessica was the first nurse I saw upon
arrival to the ER. It was right at shift change, so she wasn't there
long before giving over to Joan. I was quickly surrounded by nurses
and lab techs. Nurses were starting the blood transfusion and
attempting to start IVs and lab techs were drawing what little blood
they could get from me for lab work. I was placed in trendelenburg
and denied pain medication until my BP was stable. I yelled out a lot
from the pain – it felt like labor all over again, and from the
needles. We joked later that I looked like an IV drug user when they
had finished with me.
Murray and Dad arrived shortly after I
did. My Aunt Hazel and Pastor Carmen followed soon after. Carmen had
already sent a phone tree message, waking the entire Bethel church
family to lift me up in prayer. Murray brought my phone and I had him
text a few people for me to ask them to start praying. There were
others that also came to the hospital that I didn't even know of
until later. They brought coffee and food and sat and prayed and
supported my family.
Dr Frances came very quickly and
ordered a CT scan to be done so he could see if the bleeding was
contained in my uterus before he took me to surgery. His plan was to
put a balloon in and stop the bleeding long enough to stabilize me
and send me to a bigger hospital in Evansville. The balloon worked
long enough for him to tell Murray and my dad that it had worked, but
while he was still talking to them, a nurse came to tell him that it
had started again. They opened my incision from the c-section with
intentions of doing a hysterectomy. It was then that they found the
source of the bleeding – my left uterine artery. They ligated the
artery and still thought long and hard about doing a hysterectomy.
The decision was made to save my uterus.
When the nurse came to tell Murray
that they would be doing a hysterectomy, she was teary-eyed and
started with, “We were unable to stop the bleeding.” Murray's
heart sank as he thought the next words were going to be that I had
died. Thankfully she was just telling him about the impending
hysterectomy which never had to be done! Many people were praying
specifically “Stop the bleeding and save the uterus.” Those were
then the exact words that Shawna used to tell Murray and my family -
“They were able to stop the bleeding and save the uterus.”
The next few days were tough. I had to
spend extra time on the ventilator. They extubated me in PACU, but I
couldn't maintain on my own, so they had to re-intubate me and keep
the machine breathing for me until that evening. I remember that –
being awake in PACU and realizing I was intubated. It was the worst
feeling ever. I felt like I was suffocating, but couldn't talk. I
thrashed my head around and fought it, biting at the tube. It was the
only thing I remember until I was extubated at 6:20pm and my sweet
nurse Lourdes kept telling me to take deep breaths. I kept thinking,
“I am breathing! What are you talking about?” I only fully woke
up at around 11:00pm.
I was moved to the Ob floor the next
day where I received the best care imaginable. The nurses were so
gentle and compassionate and they listened to me and spent time with
me. I ended up needing two more units of blood on Thursday as my
hemoglobin had dropped back down in the 6 range. My nurse Erica sat
down and had a talk with me on Thursday to help talk me out of my
funk. I was so depressed and angry that my hemoglobin had dropped
again, causing me to be very weak and tired. I wouldn't make eye
contact with anyone. I just laid there and stewed in my misery. I was
frustrated that I had taken a step backward instead of continually
Mom stayed in the hospital room next
to me and cared for Riaan. A friend provided us with some of her own
breastmilk that she had pumped for her baby but didn't need. What an
answer to prayer that was – I was praying and asking for someone's
name to come to mind so that I could ask them to provide breastmilk.
She had been praying for someone's name to come to mind so that she
could offer to share hers. I know God had that all planned out before
this even happened.
The next 5-6 weeks were not easy by
any means. We were discharged from the hospital on Sunday, December
20. We went and stayed with Mom and Dad until the 24th
when we went home to be our own little family for Christmas. What a
huge blessing to have family close by. I don't know what we would
have done without them. Murray was struggling with a cold and was
trying to get better without making Riaan or me sick. I couldn't do
much of anything without help. It took a long while to get my milk
supply back up to where it needed to be for our growing baby. I had
excruciating back pain, not to mention the pain from my incision. I
had a nasty cough, too – I tried to cough up all that phlegm and
not get pneumonia from being intubated, but it felt like my incision
was ripping open each time I coughed.
Through all of this, God proved
himself faithful. I struggled for a while with “survivor's guilt.”
Why was I born in a country where we have access to proper health
care? What about all those women in the countries I mentioned before
who would have been dead multiple times by now and would not have a
living baby to hold? There were so many things... I had an emergency
c-section when Riaan was stuck in my birth canal. Otherwise, he would
have died and I could have either had a fistula or died. I was given
blood in a timely manner – both right after giving birth, and a
week later when I hemorrhaged. It was clean and had been tested, and
there was plenty readily available. When I called for an ambulance,
they were there in a few short minutes, no questions asked. The ER
was ready for me. I had a clean room, everyone worked together. The
OR was ready for me. It was clean and well-stocked. Everyone caring
for me was knowledgeable and caring and did what they were supposed
to do to ensure I lived.
Why am I making such a big deal about
clean facilities, available blood, and quick ambulance service? I've
seen with my own eyes the conditions of some hospitals in other
countries. I've seen how poorly staffed they can be – one nurse for
an entire ward at a hospital I visited in Sierra Leone. Seriously. I
saw no other nurses or staff around. When we lived in the rural
Eastern Cape province of South Africa, we saw the struggle the
hospital had with the ambulance service not being reliable. Sometimes
the ambulance would arrive within an hour, sometimes they would show
up the next day! When blood is needed, they send someone to the
nearest city – an hour's drive one way – to get the blood because
they don't have the facility to maintain their own supply.
I truly am blessed and am so thankful
for the prayer warriors who lifted us up when we needed it most. My
great-aunt told me at church, with tears in her eyes, “You have no
idea how many prayers were prayed for you. You'll just never know.”
So I say thank you. I know there were literally friends across the
globe praying, including the very nurses and doctors caring for me.
There were people I have never met who were praying. There were also
people who gave to us financially that we never expected it from. My
heart is full.
Today is a Tuesday, and it's March 15
– exactly 3 months from when I hemorrhaged. I even sat down to
start writing this today at about 5:30am. At 5:30am 3 months ago, I
was waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Such interesting timing...
I'm now back to working full time, I've got a healthy, happy baby,
and a loving husband and family. There are so many loving people in
our lives who poured out to us in ways I haven't even mentioned here.
You know who you are – THANK YOU!
Back on January 8th, I alluded to Candace's story and the trials we went through during our son's arrival. Well, I'm happy to say Candace is ready to share her story today. But please note this disclaimer: the details were not spared! So with that said, it's over to Candace.
When we served with Mercy Ships, I met
some ladies with VVF (also referred to as obstetric fistulas) for the
first time – VVF stands for vesicovaginal fistula. A fistula is a
passage or hole that has formed. A vaginal fistula that opens into
the urinary tract is called a vesicovaginal
fistula. These fistulas can also open into the rectum, colon, or
From WebMD: In developing countries
where women have no health care nearby, vaginal fistulas are much
more common. After days of pushing a baby that does not fit through
the birth canal, very young mothers can have severe vaginal, bladder,
or rectal damage, sometimes causing fistulas.
In the countries where Mercy Ships
serves, there are many, many women who are forced out of their homes
due to fistulas. They leak urine and/or feces and, besides the smell,
they are thought to have a curse or are being punished by the gods
for unfaithfulness to their husbands. But it's not that at all! In
December, after giving birth to our son, I realized how blessed I was
to be in a developed country with a skilled, caring, competent Ob-Gyn
caring for me in a hospital with a clean, functional, well-equipped
operating room with a team of excellent nurses and anesthesia
providers. So many women do not have ready, affordable access to a
trained doctor. If I had been in one of those countries we served –
Sierra Leone, Togo, Ghana, Guinea, etc. – I could be either a VVF
patient waiting for corrective surgery, or I could be dead. Either
way, my baby would not have survived. Here's my story.
When I went into labor with Riaan, I
was waiting for a.) my water to break, or b.) my contractions to
continue steadily at 3-5 minutes before I went to the hospital.
Neither of those things happened, but I began bleeding. I had been
texting a friend who has given birth 5 times herself and is also a
trained doula. She and I both felt that I needed to go quickly to the
hospital. Upon arrival, I was only 2 cm dilated. (I was really hoping
for at least 3 or 4. I mean, come on! I had already been having
contractions for 24 hours.) The only reason they kept me overnight
was due to the bleeding, but there didn't seem to be a logical
reasoning for it. Riaan was doing fantastic, and my lab work looked
great. It didn't seem to be my placenta, but they wanted to observe
me just in case.
Fast forward to the next morning,
Monday, December 7... Dr Frances broke my water when I was at 8-9 cm
and I began pushing when fully dilated. I pushed and pushed but
didn't seem to be progressing well, so my nurse Marietta had me lay
on one side, then the other, to continue pushing. Still not much
progress. She could see Riaan's headful of hair, but that was it.
After two hours of pushing, Dr Frances came and tried suction. No
luck. He told me I could either push for a half hour longer to see if
I could give birth naturally, (but he wasn't optimistic) and then go
for a c-section, or just go straight for a c-section right then and
there. Either way, Riaan was doing awesome in there, but he needed to
be born. I cried from sheer exhaustion and a bit of frustration and
disappointment that all that pain and pushing didn't work, but
decided that if he wasn't optimistic, then there was no way I was
putting myself through another half hour of pushing. The room was
quickly filled with OR nurses and the nurse anesthesiologist to prep
me for surgery.
The c-section went very well, and our
healthy baby boy was born. I was so tired and also drowsy from the
medication, that I could hardly keep my eyes open and was
disappointed that I wasn't more awake and excited about Riaan's
arrival. But Murray's excitement was enough for both of us. :) I
slept during most of my time in the recovery room, and was only
allowed to “hold” Riaan with very close supervision. He was laid
next to me because I was too weak and sleepy to really hold him. Thankfully, he was very content. He had his eyes open and was taking
everything in while sucking on his beautiful little hands. I heard my
parents, sister, and nephew Lincoln in the background meeting Riaan,
but didn't even roll over to look at them.
Two hours after surgery, I was wheeled
to my post-partum room. By then I was a bit more awake and could
finally hold my precious baby boy! He nursed amazingly well for the
first time. Then I suddenly felt very hot and nauseated. I passed
Riaan to my mom as quickly as I could, then she handed me an emesis
bag. I said, “Never mind, I'm gonna pass out.” The next thing I
knew, I was waking up to at least four nurses surrounding my bed. I
had puked on myself and had also bled a lot. They did some lab work
and found that my hemoglobin had dropped significantly. I received 2
units of blood that evening.
The next day, things looked good. My
bleeding appeared normal, and I was finally allowed out of bed. I was
terribly sore and pretty weak. My catheter was removed, but I was
unable to urinate for about 6 hours afterward. The nurse got
permission to straight cath me because I was in so much pain from
needing to pee and being unable to. Very early the next morning,
maybe 2:00 am, I was able to pee on my own. What a relief! (It's
amazing the things that I took for granted up to this point.)
When my day shift nurse came in, I
told her there was a clot in the toilet that she needed to see. I
recall thinking it was the size of a baseball. She came out and told
me in no uncertain terms that I would not be going home that day,
even though it would be 48 hours since giving birth. I asked her if
it was normal to pass large clots like that. She laughed and joked
with me that nothing about my delivery and recovery so far had been
Thursday rolled around and I felt good
and we were released to go home! Those were some very difficult days.
The lack of sleep, the pain of my incision, the painful swelling in
my feet and ankles (they were huge!), the newness of this sweet
little baby who needed me 24/7... The crying that started anywhere
from 10:00pm to midnight and lasted for 2-4 hours regardless of what
we did or how we held him... Learning all about this new baby - his
ways of telling me when he was tired or hungry, the way he preferred
to be held, his sweet face with those big eyes... The incredible
amount of food I ate around the clock to hush my growling stomach.
(Breastfeeding definitely made me far hungrier than pregnancy ever
had!) Murray was so helpful! But he couldn't nurse Riaan for me, and
he couldn't sleep for me. I had a few meltdowns. My mom kept telling
me that if we needed her to come over, even if it was in the wee
hours of the morning, to call her and she would hold him while he
cried and try giving him a bottle if needed so we could get some
sleep. I was stubborn. I didn't want to bother her, and I also was
uncertain why he was crying. Was I doing something wrong? What if he
stopped crying as soon as I called her?
Tuesday, December 15, I called Mom at
about 2:30am. Riaan had been screaming for hours and I was in tears.
I hadn't been to bed at all that night. I had just laid down when
Riaan started crying and he hadn't stopped. As soon as I hung up from
calling Mom, Riaan pooped loudly and the crying stopped. It had been
another belly ache and he finally had relief. I called Mom back, but
she didn't answer. I sent her a text to let her know she didn't need
to come. She returned my call a few minutes later and said she was
already up and ready so she would come anyway in case his crying
began again. I sit here now with tears in my eyes at what a blessing
that was. None of us had any clue what was about to happen. Mom came
over and settled in on the couch with Riaan in his rock-and-play next
to her. We made sure a bottle of formula was handy – I really
wanted to breastfeed exclusively, but at this point, sleep was more
important, and I had already given him one bottle of formula on
Sunday when he had been nursing basically non-stop for hours and
hours and didn't seem to be getting anything. I grabbed a snack and
headed upstairs to bed.
We've been blessed with a really mild winter - with some absolutely beautiful weekends. We went and walked around the East Side Park in Washington after church one Sunday in February. There's a lovely lake and lots of fun things to do here. It was a really relaxing way to spend some family time!
Candace and I drove through Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest on our way back home. Brown County State Park is Indiana's largest state park and the scenery resembles the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. There is also a really tall fire tower perched atop the highest ridge in southern Indiana. Candace climbed all the way to the top!
One of the entrances to Brown County State Park.
The North Lookout tower in the State Park.
Looking down at Candace below.
View over the rolling hills, ridges and valleys.
Prevent forest fires!
The 1930s-era fire tower.
View looking down towards me.
View over the trees.
More rolling hills in the distance.
Driving to Yellowwood State Forest we drove past this sad-looking bridge.
It's just a frame now.
Yellowwood State Forest.
Canada Geese on the lake.
Driving home we saw this cool cloud - somewhat reminiscent of a tornado!
After spending the Saturday in Nashville, Candace and I went and explored the two covered bridges in the area on Sunday morning, 7th February. The first one we visited was Bean Blossom Covered Bridge and it is about ten minutes north of Nashville. It dates from 1880 and is in a rural area of Brown County.
The second covered bridge we visited was Ramp Creek Covered Bridge, a two-lane covered bridge that is only one of four in the whole United States. It is also the oldest covered bridge in Indiana, being built back in 1838. It is located just outside of Nashville at one of the entrances to Brown County State Park.
I am a 32-year-old South African whose journey with Mercy Ships began in 2007 when I joined the M/V "Africa Mercy" in Liberia. I met my wife Candace in Sierra Leone in 2011 and together we served with Mercy Ships until December 2012. We worked with Mercy Vision in South Africa during 2013, and are now settling into a new life together in the USA.
If you would like to support Candace and I, please send us an e-mail to the address listed on my profile. Thanks!
We are now no longer serving with Mercy Ships, so please don't send any more mail to Candace and I on the ship. Thanks!
I served with Mercy Ships. Everything here, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.