“Ghost Night” and the Roadside Delivery
One afternoon, a patient was brought into our clinic on a stretcher. Lasa was having difficulty delivering her baby. Since my co-worker Clara was on home assignment in Wisconsin, Aneswaty, our national nurse, and I were the ones caring for patients.
I examined Lasa and found that she seemed to be in labor but not yet ready to deliver the baby. She was also extremely agitated and possibly psychotic—moaning and screaming. I could not get her to stop yelling! Her abdomen was very swollen and tight, which made it difficult to determine the position of the baby.
Another complication was the fact that her first baby was by caesarian-section. It was not a good situation for her to deliver the baby without a doctor present.
Aneswatty stayed with the patient, and I went back across the road to my house. I needed to see if I could contact the Baptist Hospital by radio to get advice. The doctor asked me if I had any injectable valium. He then told me the dosage I could give to her without harming the baby. The doctor also suggested that I find a way to transport her to the hospital.
Because of the lateness of the afternoon, it would not be possible for the MAF pilot to come to Anik. That left finding transport by road, about a four-hour trip.
One of the local shopkeepers offered the use of his pick-up truck. The back of the truck was fitted with a bench on each side and an empty space in the middle. It also had a wire framework and a canvas canopy. It was used to transport people along the dirt road that connected various villages in both directions.
I would make the trip with Lasa, along with some family members. I brought my bag of instruments and medications in case the baby decided to be born along the way.
We loaded the patient into the back of the truck along with her husband, mother, and one other man. In the cab of the truck were the driver and two other men- probably relatives. I told the driver that if I banged on the cab window at any time, he should pull over to the side of the road immediately. By the time we left for the hospital, it was already dark, but it was a bright, moonlit night.
While all this was happening, the patient continued to moan and yell. The valium dosage that we had given was not strong enough to completely quiet her down. We could not give any more medicine because of the effect it could have on the baby.
Part of our journey took us through the larger town of Darit, about 10 miles from Anik. This town is like the “county seat” of our district. I did not want the town residents to be startled or upset by a truck going through with a screaming lady on board! Just before Darit, I spoke very clearly to the patient. I told her that she could not scream anymore while we were going through this town. Amazingly enough, Lasa got quiet—until we got to the other side of Darit. Once we left the town and were back on the road through the jungle, she started yelling again.
Shortly after that, as I was examining her, I realized the baby was coming. I banged on the cab window, signaling the driver to stop. We were not near any other villages, just jungle on both sides of the road. I had a flashlight, but no one else did. The mother of the patient was almost as hysterical as her daughter and refused to hold the flashlight. I asked her husband to please help. He held the flashlight for me (sort of) but was only looking at me and not his wife.
I quickly realized that the baby was in a breech position and would be born feet first! I had only done one breech delivery ever, and that was earlier in Indonesia, quite a while before this event. I prayed and asked the Lord to give me wisdom to remember how to deliver the baby and to keep mother and baby safe.
God answered prayer, and soon, I was able to deliver a baby boy (who later at the hospital weighed in at almost four pounds). The next step was to give an injection to help with the completion of the birth. I only had one syringe, and it still had the rest of the valium in it. I decided to empty the valium out on the side of the road. However, as I did so, the needle went flying into the jungle! I then discovered that I had not put any extra needles into my bag. But even this was God’s hand at work.
At the time that I lost the needle, Lasa began to scream more loudly. I felt her abdomen, and it was very swollen and hard. My first thought was an internal hemorrhage or possibly another baby?? I asked the husband, Jumi, if she could possibly have another baby.
He answered, “Yes, I’m sorry I forgot to tell you that.” Before bringing his wife to our clinic, she was seen by a government midwife in another town. Jumi was told that it was twins. Remember that in my initial exam, because her abdomen was so swollen and hard, I could not feel the baby or its position.
I wrapped up the first baby and gave him to Lasa’s mother to hold. She, in turn, was yelling at me to finish the delivery. Now, I had a screaming patient and a yelling mother. And yet God’s intervention was evident. Losing the needle kept me from giving the shot of Pitocin that we would normally give. This would have caused serious problems for both the mother and the second baby. I immediately told the driver to get moving again towards the hospital.
Thankfully, we soon came to a road that was paved. However, the last part of the journey was up and over a mountain with a few scary hairpin turns. It was now close to 9:00 PM, and I had not had anything to eat or drink since lunchtime. This winding part of the road was really affecting me. Suddenly, I got sick out the side of the truck. So, I had a crying baby, a yelling mother and a patient not only screaming but pulling on my leg. And I was not feeling well.
As we pulled up to the entrance of the hospital, Lasa got quiet and asked me if we were at the hospital in Serukam. I said yes and that the doctor would soon care for her. She thanked me and remained calm. We were met by Dr. Bert Farrell, a couple of staff nurses and three or four student nurses. One of the student nurses asked me if this was the patient they had heard about on the radio who was agitated and yelling. I said yes- but was not sure if they believed me because she had gotten so quiet.
However, as they lifted Lasa out of the truck and onto the stretcher, she once again began screaming. “Was she doing that all the hours you were on the road?” someone asked me, and I said “Yes”!
After getting the mother and baby admitted, and the rest of her family settled, I stopped at the Farrell’s house to see Dr. Beth. She had saved supper for me, but all I could manage was a cup of tea and a piece of toast!
Since the second baby would not come for a while yet, the others who were with me decided to make the return trip to Anik. At least now, I was sitting in the front of the truck with the driver.
Based on the phases of the moon and other factors, there is one night in the year that the Dayaks believed that the ghosts were out roaming- and this was that night. Villages had to be protected, including several that we would drive through on the way back to Anik. That meant that the men in each of these villages would be out guarding against ghosts and spirits.
From the middle of the night until dawn, these men would stop anyone coming along the road because of the possibility of a ghost or evil spirit. The village men carry machetes, knives, shovels, rakes, scythes, and other implements. They were quite fearful of the spirits. What a reminder that was to me that we needed to continue in prayer for the people in these villages who yet needed to be reached with the gospel.
Each time our truck was stopped, I was immediately recognized. After profuse apologies from the village men, we could drive on through the village! We were stopped no less than seven times on our way back to Anik. I was very glad to get home and very thankful for the Lord’s guidance and protection all along the way.
The next morning, I had the radio on at 9:00 AM to get an update on my patient, Lasa, and the other baby. It was another boy and a very difficult birth. The skill of the doctor and the instruments that he had available were needed to safely deliver the second twin.
When the family finally arrived back in Anik, they came to my house to say thank you and let me know that they had named the twins Jacob and Esau!
This was an opportunity for us to share with them about God’s protection for both the mother and the babies. For a short time, Jumi and Lasa came to the Anik church service each Sunday but eventually stopped coming.
Sometimes, we do not know the outcomes in the lives of our patients. All we could do was share with them about God’s love and provision of a Savior, Jesus Christ. There were many lessons of faith for me along the way. I simply had to trust God to continue working in lives.