Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moses Deste Berg?


I often post pictures on facebook or on this blog about a few special boys here.  Well, all the children here are special, as all children everywhere are special.  God has formed each one, uniquely and delicately and specially - so of course, they are all special. We are all made in the image of God, but these three are specifically special to ME, and that's why I end up writing so much about them.  These three boys are Pierre, Jules, and Moses Deste, formerly known just as "Deste".

Pierre, in his home

Pierre's brother
in their home.  

in the hospital last year


Jules - love that smile!
I haven't seen Jules in a long while.  I still dream about him sometimes and want to see him again, but I haven't.  Pierre, or Peter, a 12 year old with terrible elephantitis of his lower leg and foot, had disappeared for months.  I just reconnected with him two weeks ago through a chance sighting while getting some groceries in Kamembe, a town 1 1/2 hours away from Kibogora.  I ended up getting to drive him and his friend to their home.  So, now that I know where they live,  maybe we will be able to begin to help him and his family by helping the Mom and Dad start a goat raising business and by sending the boys to school, all because of a generous donation for this project made by my sister months ago.  
Deste (in the pink hoodie) - last year, while still a patient in the hospital, but
when his health was much improved.  He stayed in the hospital 6 months
or longer last year.

But this post is about Moses Deste, a little boy Ruthie met last fall of 2012, and who has had all our hearts wound around his little finger ever since.

This is a scary post to write, because it involves some pretty big hopes on my part, and I don't want to risk putting them out there when they might not come true.  But, I haven't posted in ages, and I may as well just do it and post one of the things that has been on my mind and heart lately.  If it happens, it happens - if it doesn't, we'll just have to trust God with that.

To say Moses (Deste) has lived a hard life so far is such an understatement, it sounds so very trite to even try to express.  I will let Dr. Mike, the doctor who saved Moses/Deste's life two years ago at our hospital, give you a bit of his background.  Mike recently gave me permission to reprint this excerpt about Moses from his journal, which he shared with us recently when we'd written to give him Moses/Deste's most recent news.  The pictures I've included are RECENT, happy pictures - definitely not the way he looked when he was first in the hospital when we first arrived in July 2012.  I thought it more interested to juxtapose the nice, healthy pictures of who he is now with the words of where he was 18 months ago - 2 years ago.  Anyway, here is Mike's journal entry:

Poor Little Destin

“Have you seen the child with pus draining from his chest yet?”  I was finishing an operation in the latefternoon and the question came from one of the nurses in the operating room.  “No this is the first I’ve heard.” I had been looking forward to finishing this operation and wrapping up for the day.  But somehow I knew this was going to be a complex case that would put those plans on hold.

I found Destin, age 4, on the ward.  He had a high fever.  When we examined his chest we found an area on the left side draining pus out into a dressing.  An X-Ray confirmed he had a horrible chest infection with a lot of infected fluid around his lung.  He had recently been in hospital with the same problem.  The more I examined the more I realized this was not going to be an easy case to manage.  

In addition, Destin had two big problems.  The first was that he was an orphan.  His entire family had drowned the previous year in a dugout canoe crossing Lake Kivu.  Now he was cared for by a young woman who was a cousin. 

His second problem was that he was from the Congo.  We received a lot of patients from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and when they arrived their disease would be quite advanced.  With all the upheaval and unrest in the Eastern Congo, finding quality healthcare there is a real challenge for most families.  Often a disease is left untreated until it gets bad enough to warrant a long and potentially perilous journey to a hospital in neighbouring Rwanda.

It’s likely a myriad of factors – extreme poverty, malnutrition, no access to healthcare, political upheaval – all conspired against Destin and his left lung.  As the pneumonia settled in, his little body was unable to fight back.  He couldn’t access antibiotics when he needed them, when they could have made a difference and stopped the disease in its tracks. 

Unopposed, the infection spread through his lung and into the lining around it.  Ultimately this caused the lung to collapse and the space around it to fill up with infected fluid.  At this advanced stage, antibiotics would no longer be able to cure the problem.  He would require an operation.   

Our first step was to insert a large drainage tube into his little chest cavity.  The goal was to remove all of the infected fluid.  This was done with him asleep in the operating room, and as the tube went in there was an immediate gush of thick infected fluid. 

We felt a degree of success knowing this would at least bring down his fever and allow the infection to drain out.  But we also realized this was a temporary fix.  We knew as soon as the tube was removed the infection would come right back.    

It was hard for Destin in the days after having the drainage tube inserted.  Having a tube inside one’s chest is very painful, the pain made worse with each deep breath and each movement.  Destin would lie in bed – often all alone as his caregiver was off preparing meals – whimpering in pain throughout the day and night.  Poor little Destin I kept saying to myself. 

We all did our best to manage his pain and to help cheer him up.  Our kids would bring in little toys for him, and other staff would visit with him.  Still, he remained a saddened and sullen little boy; lonely and in pain.  Gradually he got better and he was able to get up slowly with the drainage tube.  For the first time in weeks, I saw him smile. 

But we knew he would need another operation on his chest  
to try to keep the infection from coming back after the tube would come out.  We studied his X-Ray films and agonized over which procedure would be best given our limited expertise in chest surgery, particularly in small children.  Via email and cell phone I discussed the case with several other surgeons including a chest surgeon inEurope

Ultimately we felt he would be best served by an operation known as the Clagett Window Thoracostomy.  This would create an opening in the chest that would slowly heal over time and would allow continuous drainage of the infection without needing the painful drainage tube.

But it would involve breaking several ribs in multiple places in order to remove a segment of the chest wall to create the opening. We discussed things again, discussed it with his caregiver and we all decided to proceed. 

The operation went well, but Destin’s spirits were sunken afterwards.  I tried to imagine the pain from having multiple ribs broken in multiple places and we gave him the best pain killers we could around the clock.  I pushed back feelings of guilt as I examined him on the ward each day afterwards.  Here was this poor little orphan boy, sickened and diseased through no fault of his own, now whimpering in pain after a barbaric procedure we had done to him, albeit with the aim of helping him. 

Again, it would hurt for him to breath, to move.  Even lying still, I could tell he was suffering.  The team did their best for him, but his little eyes would look up from the bed and meet mine as if to say, “Why, why did you do this to me?”  I did my best to comfort him, to try to make him smile.  We’d hold his little hand and pray for his recovery, all the while he would be looking at us with understandable suspicion.  Each night I’d pray with my 5-year-old daughter for Destin’s recovery.

Slowly, very slowly Destin started to get better.  His appetite came back, and he started to get out of bed.  One day I came to see him and his bed was empty.  “Where’s Destin?” I asked.  “Oh he’s outside playing with the other kids,” the nurses told me.  Sure enough, I found him on the sidewalk outside the hospital building with the little gang of hospital children.  He looked up, saw me - then promptly screamed and ran away.  An appropriate response given what he’s been through, I told myself.  Maybe he thought we’d come to take him to surgery again. 

Little Destin kept getting better.  The pediatric doctors put him on a long course of antibiotics and we kept dressing his wounds.  He eventually stopped running away from us on rounds.  One day I came into the ward and I saw him peek his little head around the corner at us.  Then he flashed us a mischievous smile and ran off laughing.  Then came the day when he started running towards us instead of away from us.  He’d run up to us laughing with a big smile, and give us a high-five. 
I thanked God that Destin was recovering.  That he was starting to look and act like a normal, playful 4-year-old again.  Thanks to generous donations from the hospital foundation, the full cost of his hospital stay was covered.  Not only that, but his cousin was supported with funds she needed to buy and prepare food during his long hospital stay.

As I left Kibogora I paid one final visit to Destin, one final high-five.  He’d need to stay to finish his treatments, and Dr Berg, a surgeon with WMM had now arrived and would help look after him for the rest of his hospital stay. 

I know Destin will face many more challenges in his life.  At the age of 4 he has already had to deal with the loss of both parents, a complex disease and recovery from major surgery.  I am glad that at Kibogora he found hope, healing, and a community of people who helped nurture him back to health. 


The news we'd wanted to share with Mike was that, due to the love and care and help of some very good friends of ours from Boston, along with even more love, care, work and help from another very good friend of ours from the Congo, Deste, and his Aunt Jeanne, who has cared for him since he was a baby, now have birth certificates AND "la passes", which allow them to travel to Rwanda legally.  Whoop!  Whoop!  Also, our friends are working on getting passports for our friends as well, so Moses or Jeanne and Moses can travel to the United States with us this summer, and so we can work on adopting Moses.  The papers below signify a lot of work on our behalf, lovingly done by others.  They also signify God's love and care for Moses and Jeanne, and also they signify HOPE to me.  Hope that maybe we can have a lifelong relationship with these beautiful people, and that maybe we can help them.

In case you wonder what in the world is going on with Moses or Deste's name, it is this.  All our kids have names of folks from the Bible, and they all have a story that goes with their name.  We wanted Deste to have that same experience, of having a special someone from the Bible to identify with and to want to emulate. Also, we didn't want him to be the only kid who didn't fit our Bible name theme and therefore cause him to feel left out later.  I bought a Bible story book for Moses at Christmas time, and in it is the story of Moses.  He loves the story of him being found in a basket in the river and of the lady taking him and taking care of him.  Since Moses' (Deste's) family drowned in Lake Kivu, but he was spared, I thought it would be fitting to give him the name of Moses, especially since he likes that story so much, which means, "drawn out of the water".  Besides, Moses is a popular name here, so it feels kind of "cool" for him, too.  After asking his aunt and him about it, the name was used on his birth certificates and passes, but of course, it will be a while before any of us get used to the new name, especially Deste, even though he thinks it is pretty cool that he will have a Bible name just like his new brothers and sisters. (If indeed they get to officially become his brothers and sisters, which is a HUGE unknown right now.)

The story of Moses being saved by being placed in a home made basket, made by his mama and watched over by his sister, has become Deste's favorite Bible story.  I guess that makes Ruthie the daughter of Pharaoh?  Which makes me and Tim....Pharaoh?  Ewwww.  Oh well.  Hmmmm.  Well, anyway.....we are excited, and I sure hope many of you will get to meet him someday.  He's a real cutie pie.  God must have BIG plans for this Moses, or for Deste, or for whatever his name is (smile).  He's already overcome some amazing obstacles.

Deste's birth certificate and Jeanne and Deste's "La Passes"


  1. What wonderful news! I know you have been hoping for a closer relationship with this child for a long time. I'm praying you get to adopt, but regardless, I know you'll have a lifelong bond.
    I don't comment often, but I look forward to all your posts!
    -Melody Ryan (pharmacist from Haiti)

  2. So exciting! What an amazing story! We can't wait to meet Deste, and will be praying for all of you in the mean time!

  3. I cannot put into words how wonderful this all is. I have happy tears knowing that love is growing in your family. Prayers for a united family. xo