Elliot Tennpenny moved to Impfondo, Republic of the Congo, in January with his wife and two sons to serve as an emergency medicine physician at Pioneer Christian Hospital.
“She’s not responding to us anymore, doctor,” the nurse said.
“I’ll meet you in the OR,” I said, trying to muster up all the confidence I had.
This was my first day on call at Pioneer Christian Hospital in Congo. We had already done a number of difficult procedures, and now, a 5-year-old girl had just arrived after having been run over by a motorcycle while crossing the street. We could tell she had a shattered skull on exam.
When someone has an injury like this, it often causes bleeding near the brain. The blood, having no other place to go, pushes down against the brain, which can quickly lead to death if surgery is not done.
“I’ve only ever seen one of these before, so I’ll be assisting you,” the other doctor said as we headed to operating room.
“Sure!” I said fearfully.
I knew I hadn’t done many more.
The little girl was totally unresponsive when she arrived at the operating room. We quickly gave her a shot of anesthesia, prayed together that God would bless our efforts and work in her life, opened her scalp, elevated her fractured skull, and removed the blood and pressure on her brain.
When we finished, she was still alive and stable but still wasn’t responding. We were worried.
The next day as I entered her room, there was no one in the little girl’s bed. Here, that’s usually a terrible sign. It means that the patient you were caring for died during the night. Feeling terrible, I saw her mother in the corner and tactfully asked her what had happened. Looking rather confused, she just pointed to the floor. Rather dejected, I looked down to see the little girl, not dead, but sitting up, smiling, and eating breakfast.
Over the next few days, we watched her recover miraculously and start running around and playing with other children. Her smile was an encouragement to everyone at the hospital. When she left the hospital, she was able to function normally.
We had many opportunities to speak to and pray with her family and tell them that their daughter’s recovery is a miracle. Sometimes it’s hard to describe to the family exactly how badly injured someone is, but this mother understood, thanked us all for what we did for her daughter, and gave thanks to God, who really did the healing.
Dr. Tennpenny is serving through the World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program, a fully funded two-year program for Christian physicians and their families who have been called to medical missions.