Oct 26, 2004
Last year I accepted an invitation to speak on calcium deficiency rickets at a meeting of the European Society of Pediatric Endocrinology in Basel, Switzerland, which just took place in September. Because my airfare and accommodation were paid for, Rosie and I planned for her to accompany me for a few days of vacation time together after the meeting. About 1700 doctors interested in pediatric bone diseases, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and growth problems from 75 countries attended the meeting. My presentation on rickets went smoothly, and because it was on the first day, I could relax and enjoy the remaining three days of the meeting without anxiety. Interaction with other colleagues was stimulating, and I made constructive contacts with doctors interested in collaborating in research on rickets and providing training of pediatric endocrinologists in Africa.
In the early morning hours of the second day of the meeting, Rosie and I awoke to a call from Rosie’s family that her mom was in the hospital and not expected to live for more than about 12 hours. Rosie’s mom, a previously healthy 84 year-old, had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in March and had completed chemotherapy without a hitch. She had been undergoing radiation treatment, all in an effort to prevent recurrence of her cancer. During her radiation treatment, she developed chest pain resulting from inflammation of the lining around her heart (pericarditis). She was hospitalized in her home town in Florida, but had to be evacuated during the approach of hurricane Francis. Rosie’s sister, visiting from Virginia, helped her parents evacuate first to Orlando and eventually to Richmond, Virginia. Rosie’s mom was re-hospitalized in Richmond with heart failure, likely resulting from her previous chemotherapy and radiation.
Rosie had an encouraging phone conversation with her mom from Switzerland one last time, before she slipped into a coma. Yet we saw God’s hand at work in the days that followed. We booked a flight for Rosie to join her family in Richmond the next day. Rosie’s mom died eight days after Rosie arrived. Rosie was able to be by her side in the hospital, encourage her family, and be present at the funeral and burial, all before she had to return to Nigeria due to her expiring visa.
After completing my meeting in Switzerland (and 3 days of vacation alone), I flew to another medical education conference in Ghana, where I gave three lectures on medical ethics, obtaining a psychosocial history, and nutritional rickets. The conference was organized by the Navigators, primarily involving physicians from the Mayo Clinic. The aim was to provide continuing medical education for African doctors and address some of the spiritual issues involved in patient care.
Despite this difficult time, God has brought comfort and reminded us of the hope we have in Him.
With our hope in Him,
Tom & Rosie