It’s 2am…

By Ted Watts, who is serving with SIM UK at the Good News Hospital in Mandritsara, Madagascar

It’s 2am and the lights in the new surgical building start turning on one by one. The team are arriving – woken from their beds by a phone call, followed a few minutes later by a knock on their door from the hospital driver.

As the team gathers, we exchange tired smiles. All of us have worked all day, and not spent enough time in our beds so far tonight. But no one complains – not even a hint, because we all know why we’ve come – we’re here to save a life. 

 The anaesthetic machine is checked, drugs are drawn up, surgical instrument trays are opened – there’s no time to waste. Moments later, a young pregnant lady arrives on a trolley from the maternity ward. She is cold, drowsy and afraid.

Learn more about the Good News Hospital providing for Mandritsara’s population of 250,000 – as well as patients from across northern Madagascar – where staff share the gospel, as well as provide life-saving, compassionate care.

She’s in shock – bleeding inside her abdomen. After a day in labour, unable to push out the baby, her womb has split.  The life that she had nurtured for the past nine months slipped away at some point in the last 24 hours.

It’s desperately sad, but for the team, this isn’t the time for emotions – they will have to wait. For now, it’s into action.

The lab work to find a blood donor, but we know this will take up to an hour. So we need to stop the bleeding straight away – this lady needs an urgent operation to remove her bleeding womb. One of the anaesthetists puts a compassionate hand on the lady’s shoulder – there is time to quickly pray for her – a moment of calm before the rush of activity resumes.

What happens next might look to an outsider almost like a choreographed dance. Prep is applied, drapes are laid, instruments are passed from hand to hand. The injury to her womb is worse than we feared – she has also badly injured her bladder. But right now, the priority is to stop the bleeding. Clip, clip, cut, suture, clip, clip, cut, suture goes the rhythm.

At the other end of the patient, the anaesthetists treat her shock. They are relieved when the surgeons announce that the bleeding is controlled, and even more, so when a knock at the door signals the arrival of a bag of blood.

Moments later, a message arrives in theatre. There’s another lady who needs urgent surgery – this time a pregnant women in her 40s with eclampsia. She is unconscious after fitting multiple times. A key part of the treatment of this condition is to deliver the baby, and for this lady, that means a caesarean.

Click on the image to watch a video about plans for a new maternity unit

The theatre team look at each other and we exchange a little smile – not of delight, but of determination – let’s get ready to do this all again…

A while later, the second lady is wheeled out of theatre to the intensive care room. Equipment is washed, floors are mopped, the table is made ready for the next patient, whenever he or she arrives.

It’s been a hard night. Although two lives have been saved, two lives were also lost before they properly began. Lives that should have been lived. Lives that in the west would have been lived.

There’s been so much pain in and around this room tonight. You might take a moment to reflect on the brokenness that brought these women to this place – poor or non-existant antenatal care; stunted growth from chronic under-nutrition; primitive farming techniques; lack of education; lack of healthcare infrastructure; traditional healthcare beliefs; lack of skilled birth attendants – I could go on.

Sometimes my whole field of view feels so full of brokenness, but out of all this brokenness, something beautiful also happened.

In this obscure corner of rural Madagascar, God has been gracious to these two women and gracious to bring together everything that’s needed to save their lives.

SIM UK surgeon Ted Watts and the surgical team

He has shown his power through the small sacrifices and service of those who call him their Lord; he has been at work, using broken, weak, sinful human beings to make something that’s truly beautiful.

The effect of all of us working together creates not a triumph of achievement, but a triumph that displays what God can do through his broken people.

We pray that the brokenness that’s brought these women to Mandritsara, might also bring them to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel as they recover and have the opportunity to hear the good news.

Give thanks

That at the Good News Hospital:

  • Suffering is erased
  • The lame walk
  • Lives are saved and,
  • The good news is preached to the poor.

This was posted on 18 July 2023 in Compassionate ministries and Medical Mission and Ministry stories.

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