Monday, December 10, 2012

The Story of Marissa's Dengue Fever & Other News

Our Dear Friends and Family of the Mission!

We are so glad to be writing to you! We want to update you on our time in the D.R. so far, Marissa's Dengue Fever, and our (your and our) direction forward together. So without further ado, let's rock! BAM!

Our Time In the D.R. So Far

Marissa and I landed in the Dominican Republic on faith with a semblance of a small plan with big intent. 

We arrived in late August. We knew that our vision for the island is long term. We also knew that we want to support ourselves until our vision was refined.

So, Marissa went to work finishing her Dive Instructor certificate. I went to work making connections and networking with ministries already in motion here. (I also finished our book, got traction on our other tools for launching missionaries, and launched Rookie Missionary.)

Us meeting pastors in Higuey, DR.
For the first 5 weeks we were in the tourist city of Bavaro. We met interesting people and became acquainted with the country. Then, we moved to Bayahibe with little notice for the remaining 8 weeks of Marissa's classes. This was a move toward a more authentic, though not yet scary, Dominican experience.

We had two awesome visitors, Natalie Kale and Yvette Carrigan. We really got embedded with the local culture. We continued to discuss how God was shaping our vision for how to serve this island.
Natalie Kale visiting! FUN!
Marissa fought through her exams and my impatience to get ministry going, and finally approached her dive instructor certification. To do her final exam, she and her classmates rode the 50 minutes away back to Bavaro. When she came back, she was happy to accomplish this 5 year goal, yet she felt under the weather.

  • That Monday we reasoned that she was just feeling a release from all the pressure. 
  • Tuesday we were confident that she had a flu and needed to let it process. 
  • Wednesday we grew concerned, but, not wanting to panic and desiring to be those faithful missionaries who trusted God, decided to give it a day. 
  • Thursday she was shivering and blazing hot. I would place cold towels on her feet. The heat of her feet and forehead would warm up the wash cloth quickly to the point where it was warm to the touch. I felt weak and unable to relieve her pain immediately. 

We deliberated what to do as we had reservations to travel on Friday to the north of the island. She felt decent in spurts, but overall was just trying to be tough through the aches and extreme fever.

Friday we did, in fact, move. She showed few signs of the fever, kept a smile (probably for me!) and we made the 6 hour journey north. By the time we arrived at the bus stop, she was exhausted, and resting her head on our luggage while we waited for our new contact, Chantz Cutts, to pick us up.
Marissa being tough for me at the bus stop in Sosua, DR.
I was hopeful that her fever was breaking. More and more, all she could say was, "I just want to sleep." The more she said it, the weaker she got, and I was afraid.

That afternoon, we finally made it to our hostel. The owner was nowhere to be see, so we simply sat outside. Marissa was nodding uncontrollably, slouching, craving to sleep with no rest. I finally told her to pick an empty room and sleep until the owner showed. She did. The owner finally arrived, told us to stay in the room Marissa was already asleep in, and we crashed.

That night, she tossed and turned; hot, sleeping but not resting. The next day, she was extraordinarily worn. I woke up, got around and realized we had no food, juice or fluids for her. Reluctantly, I left for groceries.

It tore me to leave her in a feverish state in a strange place, but we had no cash for taxis or buses, no phone minutes, and I did not know where a hospital or ambulance was. Did I mention we barely speak the language? Regardless of these obstacles, I had not choice but to overcome them, and leave Marissa alone for a small time to do so.

So, I retrieved some juice and small items for her and a few apples for me. All the while my stomach was in knots about the increasing desperation of our situation. In tears at my inability to help her, I made my way back to the house.

I finally had to lift her to get to the restroom. I made a wet wash cloth and washed her with it. She kept drifting off with the phrase "I just need to sleep a little", not giving me permission to take her to the doctor, reasoning that it cost too much and where would we go.

As I washed her and tried to convince her to let me get medical care, I noticed that her back was breaking into an extreme heat rash. My fear took over, and I pressed her about going to the doctor.

She clothed, and I walked her to the corner. We were too far to a taxi or road for her to walk and I fretted to leave her again when some boys came by. They offered to find a taxi for us and to come our way, and left down the road. Time passed with no sign of them.

Seeing Marissa sitting on the curb, holding her head, trying to stay upright, knowing the pain she was in, I tearfully tore myself away to follow the direction of the boys to find the taxi. Halfway, a taxi came up with the boys in it and we made it back to Marissa.

I lifted her into the taxi-van and away we went. We pulled into the Centro Medico Emergency room and Marissa began to be afraid. She broke down, afraid I would be mad at her for getting sick, afraid of what the staff may do (with their needles), or concerned that the final bill would cause us to return to the States too soon.

These fears broke my heart. I began to be afraid and cry thinking that these fears were torturing her when she desperately needed medical care. I wept at her strength and will to endure. I wept to see her weep.
A deep, penetrating needle in the arm. Marissa crying out. The breaking of glass vials. The sticking of an IV. Thermometers in her armpit. Doctors asking us questions in Spanish. An English translator. The request for insurance. Insurance didn't work. Request for other form of payment. Credit card disappears. Request for passports (in case you try to leave the country without paying the bill.) Marissa weeping, falling asleep, shivering awake to start over again. Another needle that sends searing heat through her body. Panic. Temperature leveling off.

Finally, her temperature evening off. The shivers slowing. The doctors recommending admitting to the hospital for a few days. Blood tests return, indicating Dengue Fever. Doubts and distrust of these foreign doctors. Marissa showing small signs of relief.
Marissa finally unable to stay awake.
Phone calls to insurance. Discussion on costs to return to the States for treatment. Doctors saying she is not strong enough. Me doubting their motives. 
Finally, yielding. Giving up. Taking a risk with our other insurance. Accepting. Admitting. Marissa in a bed. Out. Me watching her ever so intently. Then began the long slow road to recovering.
All the next day she was checked every few hours. Her IV was injected with antibiotics, medicine for fever, and medicine for nausea caused by the medicine for fever. All hours of the day, the lights never went off. 1:30 a.m.: How is her temperature? 5:00 a.m.: Is she bleeding anywhere?

The next Monday nausea set in. Marissa spent the entire day feeling better from fevers, but then she began to vomit. She could not keep anything down. We began to watch massive amounts of television to distract from the discomfort. We could not sleep much, yet she was not feeling good enough to move around.

That night, however, the nausea lessened. Marissa finally slept for almost 5 full hours. I, finally realizing that I had neither slept nor eaten in a day or so, crashed. I slept whenever Marissa did, waking to listen to her breathing.

During the day we tried to stem the boredom by having her sit up. We took it one minute at a time. We rubbed her legs so they did not get stir crazy. I climbed into her mosquito netting (to keep her from spreading Dengue) to rub her back.

Marissa's mosquito net or, as I called it, our love cocoon.
Finally, Tuesday her nausea slowed down to waves, eventually disappearing entirely. We were able to talk finally. She was getting stir crazy, but still not hungry.

Wednesday, she woke feeling fine. The doctors cleared us to leave at 9 a.m. We waited for the final bill as the insurance company deliberated until 5 p.m. We paid the final bill ($2,500 USD). Marissa and I rode on the back of a 'moto' (motorcycle taxis). She left the hospital in a wheelchair and we rode home on a motorcyle!

Thursday, back our our room, she slept. As she slept, I thought about the miracle that she is to me. I also thought of the miracle of the cost. Even though it was high for here in the D.R. (the 'gringo price'), I think we were blessed to be able to pay it. I thought of the miracle that the clinic was even there and able to handle it.

The biggest miracle has been the people. Obviously, you all were praying for us. Yet, there were a string of unexpected, uninvited, but welcome visitors.

One man poked his head in. He was an American and a 7-year missionary here. His wife was a few doors down with their newly adopted Haitian baby. He just came by to pray and wish us well and introduce himself and his missionary family. It turns out that he is from the Lakeland area and knows, oh, about 3 families we know from Lakeland.

The next day his pastor came by. These were powerful prayer warriors. They had been on the island 7 months, though they had an established church in North Carolina and had been coming to Cabarete for years.
Chantz Cutts with his awesome ministry team.

Chantz Cutts of GoMAD Ministries has been indispensable. He took me to the local store while Marissa slept. He prayed with us. He introduced us to people. He took us to church to meet more of the local community people.

The nursing staff sat with us and talked. They would see Marissa watching her comfort-show, Ellen, and would come in quietly, sit and then leave when their 'jefe' yelled for them. Even our hostel manager offered to come down to the clinic to help with anything!

We were truly blessed. The D.R. was, like, "Hey, welcome to the mission field! Here's Dengue." The people were like, "Hey, we'll help you out." We have been so blessed in Marissa's recovery.

Now, she is resting up. We take walks to the beach to build up her strength. We walk and talk about the vision we have building for the ministry, and we think you are going to be super excited about it!

Currently we are in a hostel. It is rustic and owned by a Swedish-Canadian woman who is 70 years old but acts 50.

Marissa and I have committed to serving one of the several missions organizations here to continue to serve and become familiar with the area. During the month of December we will focus on shaping the long-term vision for the area.

We want you involved in that process!

A Sneak Peak At the Vision We Need Your Help to Shape

In the next 3 - 5 years we want to have established The PhilanTropic Village. This is a place where we have built 10 self-sustainable houses for the poor. Aquaponics, tilapia farms, and a permaculture garden/co-op will be up and running.
The sustainable house design we are working with.
This is the one built in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
We want to have a powerful educational system in the community, access to clean water and clean sanitation. We want to have a small local library, weekly courses on economics and civic involvement, and to be in the position to "export" the systems of our community to other villages in the area.

This month Marissa and I are shaping that master vision. From that we will derive a proposal for our first phase of fundraising.

It is a grand vision. We believe that we have the powerful network; this includes you. We believe that we have the skills, background, experience, and local connections to make it happen. We believe we can build it.

Part of phase one will include forming a strong advisory board, establishing a foundation (paperwork with the IRS), and setting up meetings Stateside for speaking and fundraising.

Our vision includes you.

We want you to feel like our project here is open to you to work and be involved when you can. When life in the States is too busy, we want it to be something that you are proud to be partnering with, proud to sharing with your friends and family, and confident in our integrity in serving the poor.

As our awesome support network of friends and family, we wanted to share this with you. We want you to begin to dream how you can help partner with us in your area of expertise. Some of you are doctors, educators, nutritionists or general missionaries. Your expertise and areas of interest will be an active component of our smart-growth village.

In Conclusion

I know this has been a lot to take in. We wanted to convey the story of what happened with Marissa and where she is at today, alive and healing up quite well.

Along with that, we wanted you to know that we are taking the next month to shape a comprehensive vision plan; one you can be proud to be partnered with and share with people.

We will keep you informed as this shapes up! Please contact us with any ideas or questions. We will be in touch soon.

With the Deepest Appreciate and Gratitude,

Grant & Marissa Nieddu (aka "The NiedDUO")

Marissa getting better, but plain ol' sick of being sick.

Our book, H.O.P.E. From Here To Haiti is now on! Learn more about our adventures in mission & how we learned about hope along the way.

We are on the island of Hispaniola, setting down roots to further our ministry in Haiti and Dominican Republic. Follow our blog, get free resources, or check out more about Grant and Marissa on the mission field on their website.


Jade Mazarin, MAMFT said...

First of all Grant, you and Marissa's vision and work for the DR is inspirational. May God bless it dearly.

Secondly, reading the compassion you had for your wife really made me think of God's compassion for us when we are suffering. It touched me and benefited me to meditate on His heart for me. So that was pretty cool. Not to mention that I thought you were being such a wonderful husband; and I thanked God right there for your heart and for bringing the two of you together.

So glad she is continuing to improve!

Grant Nieddu said...

Jade, you are the best! Thank you for your kind words a) of blessing over my wife, and b) regarding how great of a husband I am!! :) Seriously, though, I appreciate it. I don't know if it was me being a wonderful husband, or merely panicking over the one I love.

Thank you, though, for doing me the favor of actually meditating on something I had written! Blessings to you! Have a great day!