The Missionary Doctor's Consultant

The challenging and difficult situations of an overseas physician.

By J. JOHANNES, M. D., Superintendent, Gopalganj Hospital, Bengal, India

There are times when a physician is confronted with difficult and trying cases. In the homeland he has access to the best diagnostic equipment and can call upon spe­cialists for consultation and have them share his burden with him. But the situation is quite different in the mission field. The doctor is entirely isolated from the medical world, and is not privileged to call upon his fellow prac­titioners for help and consultation. However, the situation is not hopeless. He has access to the One who can help him more than anyone else, the Great Physician.

 The majority of the patients who are brought to the institution for treatment have been tam­pered with by the quacks and the village doctors. Often much time has elapsed since the person became injured or ill, and frequently the appli­cation of mud, cow dung, and weeds to wounds as poultices greatly complicates conditions. At times one wonders if he should treat the case at all, but as the mission doctor and hospital are the last resort, something must be done in order to relieve the pain and suffering.

Even though precise surgical technique and strict asepsis are followed in treating the case, nevertheless the patient's condition is often highly critical. This is a time when implicit trust and confidence in the Master Physician brings results.

All medical missionaries have had clear manifestations of divine intervention in behalf of their work. Out of many such experiences, I would like to mention two cases that will illustrate the point.

A man was brought to us with a severe pain in his abdomen of several days' duration. The initial trouble had started six weeks before. Physical examination revealed signs of peri­tonitis, probably following a ruptured appendix. This is not unusual, as typical cases of acute appendicitis very seldom come in on time. Al­though his condition was very critical, we did the best we could with the meager facilities at our command. The floating gangrenous appendix was removed and the pus was evacu­ated. As usual with these people, he was poorly nourished and weak, and could not be expected to have much resistance. Humanly speaking, there was nothing more that could be done. During these critical periods one learns to have full confidence in God. Earnest prayers were offered on this man's behalf. Soon afterward a definite improvement was noticed in his con­dition, and he made an uneventful recovery.

One day a delegation of Hindus with their village headman came to our house and asked the to go and see a sick man in his home. When we arrived we found a large, noisy crowd mourning frantically. Since they thought the young man was dying, they had put him in a cowshed, on the damp mud floor. He was reduced to a skeleton, and had been uncon­scious for several days. The village doctors had been treating him, and his head was being bathed by a constant stream of water flowing through a rubber tube attached to a can. For a pillow he had banana leaves. The wall of the shed had been cut out, and a ditch had been dug so that the water would drain away.

This seems to be the routine treatment given by these so-called village doctors here, no mat­ter what the disease. They think that if the head is kept wet, the disease will subside.

Whatever the patient's original sickness was, neglect and this type of treatment had brought on bilateral lobar pneumonia. Treatment in the home amid such great confusion and filth was impossible. It took a great deal of faith to take a man who was in a dying condition to the hospital for treatment, and a great deal of persuasion before his relatives would allow it. Every time we tried to move the patient, it-seemed as though his respiration would cease. After giving him a heart stimulant, we man­aged to get him to the hospital on a stretcher. Divine help was earnestly sought in treating this case. Prayers were offered on his behalf both at his bedside and in our meetings.

At that time the newer therapy for pneu­monia had not yet made its appearance out here. God, however, blessed the simple treatments administered, and within four days the patient began to regain consciousness and to recognize people. The day before he was discharged, the patient and his father attended our Sabbath meetings. At the close of the service I stated that we were happy to see the young man whom the Lord had healed attend our meeting. Tears of joy were shed, both by them and by the congregation. Although this man was a heathen, the Lord heard our prayers on his behalf.

We have learned to depend upon divine help not only in treating the most difficult cases, but in our routine work. Jesus is the Chief Con­sultant, and He never fails if we go to Him earnestly.

I would admonish my fellow practitioners in the homeland who have a difficult case to seek counsel of the Great Physician. Call upon Him at any time. Have full confidence in Him. His consultation fee is faith.

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By J. JOHANNES, M. D., Superintendent, Gopalganj Hospital, Bengal, India

September 1941

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