By Krystle Esch
From the Philippines:
Today an eight year old boy named Marvin died. I never actually talked to him, I don’t really know much about him, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget him.
When I first saw Marvin four days ago, he was lying limp and half naked in a hospital bed that smelled like a mixture of sweat and urine. His mother sat by his side, holding his tongue down with a padded depressor while his body shook with fever. We visited him with his pastor, having been told he had a UTI, but I knew that it must be more complicated than that. I saw the anguished look in his father’s eyes as he fought back tears, and I was moved to tears as well. We didn’t stay long, but even later as we drove home I could barely think about Marvin without wanting to cry. We’ve heard a lot of sad stories, met a lot of hurting and needy people, but for some reason this boy got to me in a way that no one else had.
The next evening we heard that Marvin’s condition had worsened, and he was transferred to a hospital here in Bacolod. Yesterday morning our team decided we would help pay for Marvin’s hospital expenses, since we knew his family didn’t have much money. A few hours later we were told that Marvin had died, and my heart broke. It turned out to be a miscommunication, Marvin was alive, but the doctors told the parents he had little chance of survival. He was not receiving the medications he needed because the family could not afford them. We agreed to buy them, and I was elected to go while my team left for our ministry. I accompanied two ICM staff workers to the hospital a short walk away. I wasn’t sure what my purpose that afternoon would be, so I just told God that I was available, and prayed for His direction.
As we approached Marvin’s hospital bed, I saw that he had been intubated. His cousin was erratically hand pumping oxygen to his lungs, his eyes red with tears. I gently reminded him to keep a steady rhythm.
Marvin’s father was leaning against the wall, the same anguished look in his eyes as before. Occasionally he would gently pick up his son’s hand and let it fall back to the pillow, as if willing him to regain life. His mother wiped the sweat from his forehead with a dirty rag.
I learned then that Marvin had bacterial meningitis. The medicine he needed, Phenytoin, was to keep him from having seizures. We took the prescription to the pharmacy across the street, and returned with $50 worth of medications and IV fluids. After praying with the family I returned to the base, fell down on the nearest bed, and sobbed.
A few hours later I returned to the hospital to check on Marvin. The medication had still not been given. A doctor was there now, and she said that the first dose needed to be a larger amount. We would need to buy three more $25 vials, and two more every day after that. The doctor told me again that his condition was very critical, and even if he survived he would have permanent brain damage.
I knew that we didn’t have money to buy the first dose of medicine, let alone the following doses.
I also knew that it wouldn’t cure him; he would likely still die. I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing as I talked this over with the doctor. I hated being put in the position of deciding how much care Marvin would receive. I knew that the family would purchase the medicine if they were able to, so that’s what I decided to do.
The pharmacy across the street was out of Phenytoin, so we spent 30 minutes walking in search of one that did. When we finally found it, it was even more expensive than the previous ones, but by then I didn’t care. I came home exhausted and tearfully tried to explain the situation to my team. They reassured me that I did the right thing, and we would somehow get the money we needed.
This morning I went back to check on Marvin. All night long his family had taken turns manually pumping his Ambu bag. His father was tired, and seemed distracted as he did it now, so I offered to take over.
I watched his tiny chest rise and fall with each pump and stared into his unblinking eyes. Now and then a tear would slip down his cheek. I wondered where his mind was, knowing it was far from his deteriorating body. His doctor came by to see him, and she estimated that he had no more than 72 hours to live, regardless of any treatment he received.
This afternoon we learned that his family decided to remove his breathing tube and take him home so that he could comfortably pass away. He died before they could.
The past few days have been emotionally exhausting. I don’t really know why God brought me into Marvin’s life so near to it’s end. Maybe for his family. Maybe because I’ve been praying for brokenness. In any case, I’m still thankful for the chance to be part of this story. I couldn’t help but smile tonight as I imagined Marvin being welcomed into the arms of The Father.
If you liked this article, check out: Three Stories from the Streets of the Philippines
Krystle was born in Alaska and grew up in New Mexico. At 22 years old, she is the middle child of her family, with two brothers. She has had the “travel bug” as her mom calls it, for as long as she can remember, traveling to places such as Thailand, India, and Russia on mission trips. This past September she left on the World Race, an 11-month trip around the world, to see and show God’s love for the poor.