In the early days of the work of Water for Life in Guatemala, my wife and I usually traveled there in early January and would spend two or three weeks with the drilling project. I stayed busy helping the project, usually be sorting and organizing things in containers that served as storage areas before we built the shop, while Annette visited with the children at the orphanage nearby.
This particular year, Annette and I were also dealing with the failing health of her father. He was living in his home in Northern California, but the prospect of having to find a placement for him in a nursing facility was looming closer and closer. He was still safe to be at home, but his needs were sometimes beyond what his wife could provide.
As the time for us to go came closer, these concerns seemed to take a front row in our thinking. We had purchased tickets some months before and we were excited to see our friends again. The things we had sent in the container had arrived and we were anxious to distribute them to the village children and to the orphans children.
In the week before we were scheduled to leave, John had what seemed to be another minor episode in the nature of a stroke or some disturbance in his mental ability for a few hours, but it passed without any seemingly lasting damage. This episode increased our hesitancy to depart.
We had been scheduled to fly to Guatemala on a Tuesday morning with a schedule of flying all day, spending the night in a hotel and then the next day flying on to Santa Elena which is about a ninety minute drive from our shop and headquarters.
Finally we decided to postpone our trip for about two weeks to see if John’s condition would stabilize. I made the calls to change the flights on Friday and paid the change fee, which was significant, but not terrible. Right after we made the decision to postpone the flight, our anxiety lifted and at the same time John seemed to become more stable and he had a good weekend.
I went to work as usual on Monday morning and had busy day finishing up the things that always needed to be done. My job was as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Spokane County was very busy and everyone was happy that I was not going to be gone for the next few weeks.
On Tuesday I went to work as I had planed but in the early afternoon I began to get a painful feeling in the upper right area of my abdomen. It got worse until finally I asked my supervisor if I could be excused and went to the clinic of the health group I belonged to. I had to wait an hour or more and then was able to see my primary doctor.
He examined me and then told me he wanted me to go to the Emergency Room of the nearby hospital and be evaluated. I called my wife and drove over to the hospital. I parked and walked in, feeling a little foolish, but concerned about this growing pain in my belly.
The Emergency room was busy and there was pretty good wait. Finally I was taken into a room and the physician examined me and determined that he wanted an ultrasound and perhaps other tests. I called Annette and told her what was going on and she decided to come down to the hospital with my brother to wait for the testing and results.
Finally, in the early evening, I was taken to the ultrasound and a scan obtained. The pressure on my belly from the scanning probe was painful, but I could not tell anything from the usual poker face of the technician as used the unltasound wand.
After the scan, there was another waiting time and then the doctor came in and said that he wanted to get CT scan because there was the possibility of a gall bladder issue and he wanted to rule it out. He said he thought it best that I stay in the hospital overnight and made the arrangements for my admission. Annette and my brother, who had joined us, took my car home and Annette returned with the things I would need for the overnight stay. The scan was scheduled for first thing in the morning.
That night I was ill. I began to run a temperature, and the pain in my belly increased. I was very uncomfortable and they ordered some pain medicine to help. Around midnight, the pain increased very much for about a half hour and then seemed to subside very suddenly. I was much more comfortable after that and slept pretty well.
In the early morning, I went to the imaging department and the CT scan was obtained. Very shortly after the scan, a physician who was new to me came in and said it was my appendix. It was in an odd place but it needed to be removed as soon as possible. He also told me there had been a cancellation on the surgery schedule and the surgeon was able to do the surgery immediately. I called Annette and she came down while I was being prepared for the surgery.
After the surgery, the surgeon said he had found the appendix was ruptured, but the contents had not had time to spread throughout the abdomen. He was able to get it out smoothly, but because it had ruptured, I needed to stay in the hospital and receive IV antibiotics for three days to make sure the infection was controlled and treated. I asked and he said the increased pain the night before was likely the appendix rupturing. I did as they instructed.
Several weeks later, Annette and I traveled to Guatemala. My activities were a little limited, but we enjoyed the trip and had a good time.
As we thought about the sequence of events, we realized the hand of God at work. If we had left on the Tuesday morning we planed, I would have gotten sick in the plane then in the hotel that evening my appendix would probably have ruptured. The next morning, with the cessation of the pain we would have traveled on to the remote area, where undoubtedly my condition would have deteriorated as the infection spread throughout my abdomen. The peritonitis that would have set in could easily have been fatal without the assistance of the appropriate IV antibiotics. Whether or not they would have been available in the region where we were, I never did find out. I just know that God kept us from traveling as we had planed and thereby saved my life one more time.