This is long – I’m trying to finish my story.

We have been in France for some time now and I haven’t even written about it yet.  But I have posted lots of pictures of our time here.  And from those, it certainly doesn’t look like we’re here for medical reasons!

I’m going to try and speed this up.  I’m getting to a good part.  Unbeknownst to me, Tanika went to bed Wednesday night after having a conversation with God – telling Him that she believed she would wake up the next morning without a headache, and that she would be able to see.  Because of her faith.  Thursday morning we woke up and said,  “Mom, I don’t have a headache”.  Now anyone who knows me knows I’m not a morning person.  But that woke me up.  So I handed her my Bible and asked her to read it.  She opened it and began reading.  Up close, without her glasses, just as she could before.  We thanked God and decided that we were ready to go home.  Today!  Not so fast.  Not much moves fast around here.  Dr. Isaac called sometime that morning and I told him what had happened.  He said, “See, I told you it was 60% prayer.”  “No,” I replied, “It was 100% prayer!”  I hope I didn’t offend him — him being a doctor and all.  But they really didn’t do anything.  It was all God.  He later picked us up to go and talk to the Ophthalmologist about the CT scan, and have a few other eye tests done.  Her vision was tested exactly as it had been before.  The doctor said that the CT scan was normal – everything where it needed to be and nothing that shouldn’t be there.  He said he did believe she had inflammation of her optic nerve that could have been caused either by a virus or by stress/strain.  Let me make it clear here that Tanika, along with the rest of us, are expecting the complete restoration of her sight.  So we don’t want to let up just because it’s back to what it was.  But we are thanking God for what He’s already done!

Things weren’t able to be pulled together quick enough that day to move us to a guest house, but we planned on that happening on Friday morning.  Thursday night we went again to our friends house, and also made plans for a pastor friend of ours who had just returned back from Nigeria to pick us up at the guest house on Friday and have lunch together.  Tanika and I had our tea and went to bed.

On the home front…Plans were being made to get Neal and Trae on Thursday night’s flight to Paris….

Here’s a funy side note—When it looked like Tanika and I would be going to Ghana, we realized both her and Trae’s passports were expiring a few days from then – while we’d be in Ghana.  We had new applications filled out and pictures ready, but hadn’t gotten ourselves altogether yet to get them to the American Embassy.  Neal talked to an embassy friend who put us in touch with someone who may be able to help us.  This was a Saturday.  He told us that it would be possible to get an emergency passport on Monday, but at this point it looked like a possibility that we’d leave Saturday night or Sunday.  He told me he really didn’t think it was possible to get the passport on the weekend, but he’d see what he could do.  That process started at about 3pm on Saturday.  By 7pm, Tanika had an emergency passport that looked every bit like a regular one.  We thanked the guy profusely and he just kept telling us that’s what he was here for.  Almost as if we were doing him a favor for letting him do this.  What a guy!  As it happened, we didn’t leave until Monday, so Neal and I decided to meet Trae at the Embassy during his school break that Monday morning so we could get his turned in before we forgot.  It was a quick procedure but I remember saying something to Trae how it’s a good we’re doing this, but it’s not as if he’s going to need his passport anytime soon.  That evening he was hit by a truck.  Wednesday or Thursday Neal realized that we don’t have a passport for Trae in possession.  Back to the embassy he went.  They were able to issue Trae’s emergency passport in a couple of hours.

At first, our insurance said there were no available flights to Paris.  Neal’s Dad was not to be deterred and he went direct to the Air France office and discovered that yes, there were available flights.  So he reserved them.  Back to the insurance to give them that info.  Things were finally set and it was confirmed that they would be flying commercially – economy – to Paris that night.  I wasn’t there for the preparation phase, but I know Neal and he is very good at packing.  In fact I’m sure he did better in a crunch than I would have.  They weren’t expecting to be gone long, so didn’t even check any bags.  Just brought 2 carry-ons.  Neal would be carrying both of those, due to obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, back in Accra…

Friday morning dawns and this is the 2nd day in a row we have our suitcases packed and ready to move to the guest house.  Tanika, however, was not feeling great.  She had a serious case of the trots.  “Tanika”, I told her, “You need to get over this quick!  Dr. Isaac is not going to let us go if you’re not well.  Snap out of it!”  We had been in the hospital too long and I was getting crazy.  She continued to make frequent trips to the bathroom.  She was also the color of the sheets on her bed.  And breakfast held no interest.  Dr. Isaac walked in and asked how we were doing.  “Good”, I said – glancing sideways at Tanika, willing her to pinch her  cheeks a bit and smile.  I finally decided I better mention this little issue to the good doctor.  His reaction was exactly as I expected.  “What?” he said.  “How many times this morning?”  “Seven”, was Tanika’s attempted cheerful reply.  It was here that I began to beg.  I thought about getting on my knees.  I explained that this was just a little bug – nothing.  And that the best things was for us to get to the guest house where we could rest.  After all, they had been bringing our breakfast for some unknown reason every morning between 5:30 and 6.  Who eats then?  And the cleaning of our rooms- that starts at 6am.  Just release us and she can rest.  He let me know what a medical fool he would look like if he discharged her and she had to come back.  He would not be responsible for that.  “I understand.  She’ll be fine.”  He reluctantly agreed and did the discharge.  He was the one driving us to the guest house so we walked down with our bags and waited at the door for him to bring the car up.  Tanika starts vomiting right there at the entrance to the hospital.  I hate to admit it but here’s what I said to her.  “Tanika, hurry up and finish, here comes his car!  We don’t want him to see you like this.”  Too late.  He gets out of his car and it is pretty obvious what is going on.  We still attempted to leave, but not before she had to rush to the lobby toilet twice, and visit 2 trash cans on the way.  Dr. Isaac is looking at me like I’m out of my mind, and I just grabbed a suitcase and headed back into the hospital.  We were so close!  They had already stripped our beds so we were readmitted to a different room.  At least we got a little change of scenery.  They re-inserted the IV, drew blood for tests, gave Tanika an injection to stop all her bodily fluids from forcefully escaping, and began rehydrating her.  I called Pastor Theo and let him know that we didn’t need to be picked up for lunch at the guest house.  But he and his wonderful wife came the hospital to visit, and even brought me some lunch.  Tanika mostly dozed the day away, and I went to Pastor Theo & Monica’s house to get some email done.  By that night, she was feeling much better and we had our dinner and tea together, did some reading and went to bed.

Whatever attacked Tanika that day, attacked me that night.  I didn’t sleep a wink.  I was too busy making trips to the ceramic throne.  I was very tempted to ask for something, after all I was in a hospital.  But the last thing I wanted to do was become a patient.  So I prayed and imagined us in that guest house.  Morning couldn’t come soon enough that day.  A different doctor walked in and asked Tanika how she was doing.  “Good” she said.  He then said that he would let Dr. Isaac know and he would begin making plans to discharge us.  We were surprised, but beyond thrilled.  This time it was Alex, the paramedic that transported us to the long awaited guest house.  Very nice place – a guest house of the ministry our friends have in Accra – Agape Gospel Mission.

Next step was to make arrangements to get back home.  This was also proving to be quite a challenge.  I’ve already explained what it would take to fly commercially from Africa to somewhere else in Africa.  We would have to fly from Ghana to Ivory Coast to Burkina Faso before reaching Niger.  It’s about 12 hours – if all goes well with the different flights.  And to have all of them do what they’re supposed to do is not a very high probability.  I had been telling all involved from day 1 about SIM AIR – a mission that could fly from Niamey to Accra to pick us up and take us home.  Dr. Isaac was all in favor of that, as he said he told our insurance company that there was no way he would approve for us to fly commercially the way it would need to be done.  He’s an African so he knows what that would mean.  I was sure thanking God for him!  But the final decision was not his to make.  Frugality won out.  In the end, SIM AIR actually ended up being cheaper than a commercial flight.  And it was a 3 hour direct flight.  That was settled, though they couldn’t come and get us until Tuesday.

Over to Paris…Neal and Trae had a good flight to Paris.  It’s only about 5 hours.  They ate on the plane, then slept, then woke up and they were there.  It was 6am Someone was there with one of those plaques with their name on it, and they were taken to the hospital for admission.  And x-ray was taken immediately.  The doctor later came and put a strap on Trae – saying that if it looked like the strap would hold things in place by the x-ray the next morning, surgery would not be necessary.  Sounded good.  The next morning’s x-ray came and it was found that no, the 3 part break was not going to stay in place to heal on its own.  Surgery would in fact be necessary and a metal plate would need to be inserted.  They would have, however, some days to enjoy Paris because the doctor said that due to Trae’s other accident injuries, he would not do surgery until he had been on an anti-biotic for 10 days.  That was still a week away.  And then recovery would be another 3 weeks after that.  In France.  That would bring them home on the Sunday after school was out.  This was a lot for us all to digest.  At this point Tanika and I had been in Ghana for 5 days, Grama and Grampa were with Tobi who seemed to handling everything really well, and Neal and Trae were in France, looking at a month stay.  That would take Trae to the end of the school year.  That was one of the biggest disappointments.  He, as the Student Council President, had been really involved in school all year.  So to have to miss all of the end of the year stuff, including saying goodbye to friends that he’d have no idea when he’d see again, was a major bummer.   We talked to the doctor and explained the above and he agreed that if all went well, he’d release him earlier.  Though I’m not to the end of the story, I can say here that all went well and Trae, Neal and I will be returning to Niger on Tuesday, June 3rd.  Tickets are confirmed.  He will be there for the Senior banquet, put on by the juniors.  That’s Tuesday night.  The student council dinner was supposed to be earlier but I reminded him that he, as president, had every right to change that.  So that will be Wednesday night.  Graduation is Thursday night so he will be able to see his friends.

Tanika and I had a couple of nice days in Accra.  We went to church with our friends on Mother’s day.  I was still struggling with digestive (or something) issues, but was able to make it through the service.  It was in English, and in an air conditioned place.  That was pretty great.  We enjoyed the mild weather, while everyone there was talking about how hot it was.  It’s all perspective!  I continued to keep in touch with everyone through phone, since it was so cheap in Accra.  I have a funny story of one of my attempts to get a phone card, but I’ll have to save that for another time.  I finally decided to take some Cipro for my ‘condition’, and it helped greatly.  We managed to get out of the hospital and were now completely focused on getting home.   Accra is a beautiful city, complete with beaches and shopping malls.  And as much as I love those things and don’t have anything remotely close to them in Niger, I had no desire to do anything like that.  We just wanted to get home.  It was kind of a strange feeling.

Given Trae’s situation, we decided that I would fly to Paris to be with them, and to bring Trae’s books so he could finish his school.  In light of that, I was really counting on leaving Ghana on Tuesday so I could be at home a couple of days and make Thursday night’s flight to Paris.  (There are only 3 flights/week to Paris) I really wanted to be there for the surgery on Saturday.  Really wanted to be there.   I received a phone call on Monday night and that because of the weather, the plane was not going to be able to take off from Niger on Tuesday.  I already had my bags packed again.   Tobi was ready for us to be home, and Grama and Grampa were ready for us to be home.  I was ready for us to be home.  That was a point that I felt really discouraged.  I called Neal to whine to him because now I didn’t know what to do.  This wouldn’t put me home until Wednesday earliest – and how would I manage to be ready to leave again on Thursday.  He assured me that everything would be ok, and that he and Trae were both fine without me there for the surgery.  I guess that was good…  This was one of those points that I really had to encourage myself.  I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do.  I wanted to be there for surgery, but I also wanted to spend some time with Tobi.  God mostly speaks to me through peace, and I felt that the most when I considered staying until Sunday night’s flight.  I would miss the surgery, but I would have 4 days with Tobi and everyone else.  So in the end, that’s what I did.  I was still frustrated that I couldn’t be there with Neal while surgery was going on, and it was nerve wracking waiting for him to call after it was over, but I felt right about the choice I had made.

Tobi really did seem to be doing fine.  I don’t know what we’d do if Grama and Grampa weren’t there for him – he’s just so comfortable with them, and I’m quite sure I will get called ‘Grama’ a lot when we first get home.  He asked a couple of times why I had to go, but that was only after prompting him to talk about how he was feeling about all of this.  When I told him it was ok to feel both happy and sad at the same time he said ‘really?’

Back in Accra, Wednesday morning came and with it our ride to the airport.  Kevin, the SIM pilot was on his way to Accra.  We made our way through the airport and waited for him.  It was great to see him walk in the door.  He explained that we would need to go through immigration, then we’d meet him outside at the plane.  I asked how we’d know the plane.  “It’s the smallest one out there.”  Alrighty then.  Followed his instructions, looked out and saw a tiny plane.  A very tiny plane.  I had never seen SIM’s plane before.  It almost looked like a toy from my vantage point.  I was thrilled with it.  We were going home.  And Kevin and SIM AIR had helped make it possible.  We walked out to the plane and Tanika got in first.  He said I could sit in the front if I wanted.  Of course I wanted – I could pretend to be the co-pilot!  Tanika got buckled in, then Kevin, then I followed him by climbing up the wing and into my seat.  I was suddenly thankful that I had taken the Cipro and my tummy was doing well at this point – this would not have been a very good position to have issues.  I could just imagine…”Ummm, excuse me.  Is there any way you could make an emergency landing?  I need to use the bush.  Now.”  The flight was 3 hours and 20 minutes and it was amazing to see the changes that took place as we flew out of the tropics and into the desert.  Pretty cool.  I had to laugh when I saw Niamey from the air.  Though it’s our capital city there wasn’t much there when compared with other cities we passed over.

We landed and drove right up to the hangar where Grama, Grampa and Tobi were waiting.  It was good to see them!  Tobi was pretty impressed with the plane we rode in.

Tanika went to school the next day and was amazed at how happy everyone was to see her back.  It had been awhile since she’d missed a week of school before we even went to Ghana.  She was so blessed by all the praying that had been done on her behalf.   The teachers were all so gracious in helping her get caught up with all she had missed.

Now I was ready to debrief in Niger, and plan for a trip to France.

God is good and we have the victory.

Another installment

Tanika wasn’t allowed any breakfast due to the upcoming CT scan, so I fasted with her. Unfortunately our ride didn’t come until 10:30. Traffic in Accra is atrocious but we were in an ambulance van and Alex, the paramedic that was on the plane with us, couldn’t resist using the siren to get though it. Tanika ended up having to lay down for the trip. We arrived at the specified location and were ready to get the test done with. What we were told is that they were sorry, but the machine broke down that morning. I must admit I felt like I was reaching my limit. This was, after all, the reason we came to Ghana. Specifically for this test. And we just wanted to go home. But again, I reminded myself that God is good and He was going to work this out for our good. Fortunately, Alex had some clout (as did we, as Americans) and the director came down and told us they were working on it. At one point they got it working for the neck down. We didn’t think Tanika needed to be scanned in any of those areas. They kept working on it. Finally, at around 3pm, the nurse walked out and said “you’re next”. As if we had just arrived and were waiting in line for our turn. I must admit that around 2pm, Alex convinced me to eat something small so I didn’t end up a patient. Tanika, trooper that she is, said she didn’t mind. Or maybe I thought that’s what her growling tummy was saying. She went in for the test and I had a great opportunity to share Tanika’s testimony with Alex. He’s from Peru, trained as a paramedic in Germany, working for this German Company in Ghana. He’s just a kid. 23. But really a nice guy. He actually started the conversation by telling me what a nice person Tanika was. He asked me lots of questions and I was basically able to share the Gospel with him. He smiled and nodded alot. Tanika was done about 40 minutes later and we were on our way. We realized that hospital lunch had long been digested, so Alex suggested we stop at the food court in the mall. In Ghana? A food court? It really was. We got chicken sandwiches and ice cream. That evening, our old/new friends picked us up at the hospital and brought us to their house for dinner. That’s when I was able to send my first email update. It was very encouraging to see for myself the prayers of our partners and friends. It’s hard to describe at a time like this what that really means. Back at the hospital, I read to Tanika from Matthew. All about the miracles Jesus did. And we found a consistent theme with many of them. It was because of the faith of the person in need of the miracle that Jesus healed them. “Your” faith has made you whole. I had really been feeling that Tanika needed to begin to take ownership or responsibility for her miracle. Ask God to really give her a revelation. A ‘know that she know’ moment. She was very aware of all the prayer going forth on her behalf, but now she needed to dig in her heels and believe for herself. We had our tea and went to bed. Back in Niger…. Talked to Neal throughout the day. He took Trae to see the Belgian bone doctor. That doctor looked at Trae and told them that he would need surgery. The xray he looked at the previous night was not a good one. He also said that although he could do the surgery, that he would not recommend us having it done in Niger. He didn’t trust the anesthesiologists or any of the other support staff. Infection risk was extremely high – particularly in this heat. So…we again contacted our insurance. They were not going to believe this! By we, I mean we. Both Neal and I were in touch with them – as they were looking into Ghana as well so they were communicating with Dr. Isaac – our Dr. Isaac. Donna, our missionary friend said the same thing about Ghana as the Belgian doc said about Niger. Support staff not likely up to par. And getting to Ghana on a commercial flight was kind of like getting to Kansas from New York via California. It only took us 3 hours on a direct private flight – but they weren’t considering that for Trae. So that’s what was in the works. Figuring out where Trae would be evacuated to. It was looking like Paris – as that is only a 5 hour commercial flight – direct. He was at home, and we talked several times – in between his busy visitor schedule. I still couldn’t believe that my son had been hit by a truck and I’d yet to see him. I continually reminded myself that God is good and victory is ours. More tomorrow.