Author: Bender, Philip
Date published: May 2, 2011
Sometimes Mennonite Church Canada international workers benefit from the broad network of relationships that have been knit between us and our local communities. I learned this first-hand during a recent health crisis.
Last July 11, in Dazhou, China, I suddenly lost part of the hearing in my left ear. Three days later, I was almost completely deaf in that ear, so I sought a specialist in Chongqing, a large city three hours away. My wife Julie and I had taught there from 2004-09.
At First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, the doctor offered a grim diagnosis: idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss. The prognosis: limited recovery, if any. The treatment plan: a week of intravenous drugs, plus 10 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
I had never heard of this treatment, but I learned that it meant sitting with other patients in a chamber pressurized like an airplane cabin and inhaling oxygen through a mask for 70 minutes.
On my third day of therapy, one of the nurses addressed me in English. It turned out that Xiaomin Yan had studied nursing at Bluffton (Ohio) University as a China Educational Exchange (now Mennonite Partners in China) scholar from 1987-88. This is the organization through which Julie and I teach English as Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers. Thanks to the China-North America Mennonite network, my nurse was an extended family member!
Having worked for several years at First Affiliated Hospital as a neurosurgical nurse, Xiaomin today is head nurse of the hyperbaric oxygen department. Many of the patients she meets come for treatment following brain surgery, head trauma, carbon monoxide poisoning, and, like me, sudden hearing loss.
During my first week of oxygen therapy, Xiaomin pointed out that at least 15 sessions are usually recommended for my condition. So when the 10 sessions my doctor ordered were finished, I decided to continue for another five.
Two hearing tests showed progressive improvement. I ended up returning for an additional 20 treatments. While my ear has not returned to normal, I have regained far more hearing than the original prognosis offered.
My doctor pronounced me "very lucky."
When Julie and I were based in Hamilton, Ont., last fall for a Canadian assignment with MC Canada, I saw an ear specialist. Hyperbaric oxygen is not used to treat sudden hearing loss in Hamilton and the doctor seemed sceptical of the treatment I had received, but it certainly worked for me.
I'm very glad to have Xiaomin as a new Chinese friend and for the information she provided about a longer series of oxygen treatments. I'm grateful for the Mennonite Partners in China network that enabled me to meet her. And I'm grateful that God, more than we are aware, uses such connections to impart healing and grace.
STORY AND PHOTO BY PHILIP BENDER
Mennonite Church Canada