Needing a Wheelchair in the Mission Field

I retired to my apartment and slept like a baby that night, only to wake up in the morning to the shocking realization that I couldn't move!

Waking up in the morning to terrible pain is not anything anyone wishes for, let alone not being able to walk!

In the laboriously vast yet geographically small mission field of Ebeye in Marshall Islands on the morning of the 109th day (February 12, 2019) since my arrival here, I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance to the Emergency Room (ER) of the only hospital here. I was in pain, terrible pain – my knees felt like they had terminated their life-long hearty service of bearing my weight – I couldn’t move, couldn’t walk! What had happened?

The previous day, Marshall Islands was celebrating Liberation Day – a national holiday when the Republic celebrates the day when the United States liberated them from Japan during World War II. Ebeye marked this memorable day with a marathon and a number of community events at Ebeye Wilmer Bolkeim Community Center ‘Gym’. A few days ago in one of the early morning marathon preparation runs, I sustained an injury and stayed for days without the morning runs and the knee healed. I participated in the marathon but couldn’t make it even to half of the almost 6-miles-long marathon stretch – my left knee had pain which worsened as I ran.

After some distance into the marathon, I couldn’t run anymore and called onto the First Responder who was on a motorbike! I was shocked to learn that the First Responder had nothing in his beautifully decorated first aid box that could clear the pain in my knee; he could only offer a bandage – yes a bandage! He stopped one of the double cabins that had water for the athletes and bundled me onto the back carrier as he called the ambulance! I needed an instant pain balm to carry on with the race. The ambulance came and only offered to carry me to the only hospital in Ebeye - they had nothing like a first aid kit! I politely objected being taken to hospital because I wanted to at least finish the race – I could walk; only I couldn’t run. So the paramedics had me carried on the double cabin to the ‘Gym’ where I competed in another game – ‘Musical Chair’. ‘Musical Chair’ was not as strenuous as the marathon – it only required the participants to go round a number of chairs arranged in a circle at the sound of music and when the music stops you sit on a chair. If you miss a chair, you are out of the game! And indeed the chairs were always one fewer than the number of participants! I won this game! After this win, I felt like the pain on my knee had waned significantly! So I retired to my apartment and slept like a baby that night, only to wake up in the morning to the shocking realization that I couldn’t move! I sent an SOS, and the ambulance was called to rush me to hospital. I have never sat on the wheelchair before and this morning at the hospital parking lot, I was put on the wheelchair and wheeled into the ER. The thought of sitting on the wheelchair made the 2-minute wheeling into the ER seem like an eon! I have before been a champion of special needs even grandly publishing how invaluable wheelchairs are to the physically-challenged, and have even wheeled some of the physically-challenged! This day – my 109th day in a foreign land – I was wheeled on a wheelchair! One never really knows the power of the limbs, until they lose it!

At the hospital ER, I sat on the wheelchair waiting for the doctor on call. Wild thoughts ran through my mind – thinking of the vow I made to God when I accepted His call to labor as missionary in a foreign land! Before leaving my motherland, I made a mutual covenant with God that I selflessly and wholeheartedly labor for Him in this mission site and He shields me from the inability to engage in missionary work. Here I was in pain on a wheelchair in a hospital about to be admitted! The doctor on call finally showed up and I went through physical examination and answering some to-do questions as he drew a diagnosis! At this point, I thought he would send me for radiology and book me in to a ward! The hospital here is not really 24-hours so the radiologist was not in! And I got ‘relief’ when the doctor said it is best for me to be booked in as outpatient. He prescribed a dose of tablets and 3-day-total-rest at home. After day 3, I was to go back for radiology if the pain persisted and couldn’t regain walking.

Today is the 3rd day of resting and medication. My knees greatly improved on the first day of medication – this was a wonderful miracle experience! Given the vast mission work here, I still engaged in light mission duties for the love of mission as I took special care to rest as advised!

My experience – wheeled on the wheelchair in the mission field - on he 109th day of mission will forever remain etched in my memory and I will eternally be grateful to God for raising me out of terrible pain without the sophisticated medical procedures I may have required to fully regain health!

I really appreciate the kind-hearted nature of the inhabitants of Ebeye and the wonderfully diverse team of missionaries!

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