by Dr. Gregory Bartha

September 28, 2016


On July 22, 2016, I was in Mt. Elgon Hospital in Mbale obtaining a chest X-ray and echocardiogram on a two year old child who had chronic cough and shortness of breath.  The child had a rapid heart rate and signs of fluid overload in the lungs.  While we were waiting for the test, I received a call from the Cross Emergency Medical Clinic stating that a young man had taken some kind of poison.  The bottle had been discarded and could not be found.  The young man was in a very bad shape; semiconscious with labored breathing.  The clinical officer and Pastor Simon Peter were preparing to transport him to Mt. Elgon Hospital.

Pastor Simon Peter drove at a very high speed – the fastest he’s ever driven.  The patient was in extremely serious condition when he arrived at the hospital –limbs jerking, gasping, having secretions come out of his mouth, and eyes moving back and forth rapidly.  The emergency team at the hospital irrigated his stomach and suctioned the secretions from his lungs.  He was given atropine to dry out the heavy discharges from the lungs.  Then, he was transferred to the ward on intravenous fluids.

My impression was that he would not survive this episode.  His kidneys and liver most likely would have been damaged and he would have eventually developed pneumonia.  Late in the afternoon, he was somewhat calmer and more alert but still had very labored breathing.  I still thought that his prognosis was very poor and said that it would be a miracle if he survived.  The clinical officer, however, was confident that he would be fine.  The next day we saw him, and to my surprise, he was sitting up and looking strong.  He still had some lung congestion, but the miracle had occurred.

The story was that he was staying with an uncle and conflict had arisen.  He was accused of stealing a phone.  We later heard that he had taken poison in the past.  Certainly, some mental and spiritual intervention was in order for this young man, and we will follow him closely at the clinic and try to arrange for some counseling.  The Chinese say, “If you save a person’s life, you are now responsible for him for the rest of his life.”  So our work really begins.

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