The right place, the right time...


Have you ever had an experience where you know - you just know - that someone was just in exactly the right place at the right time?

So, that's how it was not too long ago for a friend of ours. And it just so happened that the right place was Malumghat, Bangladesh.

Rewind a bit - our friend went to the same medical school (sort of) that we did, so we got to know him years ago. At that point, Bangladesh wasn't on either of our radars. We decided in 2014 to come to Bangladesh, and a short time after deciding, we got a random call from our friend, with whom we had regrettably fallen out-of-touch. "What?! You're going to MALUMGHAT? I've been there!" he practically screamed into the phone. He was excited. In fact, he still had dreams of possibly going back long term.

2016 rolls around, and our same friend - now a very well trained pediatric oncologist, doing training also in palliative care - has decided to spend a month checking out the palliative care scene in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And if you travel half-way around the world, you have to visit friends there, right?

He comes to our hospital for a week, and he is very interested in getting plugged in, seeing what variety of patients we are treating, what our resources are, etc. Granted, he HAD been here as a pediatrics resident years ago, but things have changed, and he has a new perspective with his years of additional training. Anyhow, this was the right place. And the first day was the right time.

My clinic is the first day of the week. I get a list of all the patients who need to see a surgeon, and my day quickly filled with seeing patients.

Ahmed in Ward

And then, it just might have been the last patient of the day, I met a little boy named Ahmed (name changed). I had given him a ticket for what was described as "lump under eye" without giving it much thought.

It was not a lump. It was a massive tumor, taking over the entire left side of his face. The somber, scared little boy didn't even try speaking. He just looked at me from his one good eye.

I immediately called my friend, who agreed to come see the boy with me. Turns out, once we got all the paperwork together from his previous tests, he had Burkitt's lymphoma - a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, often caused by a virus, and most commonly seen in Africa. (PS: we're not in Africa!!) And it's treatable by chemotherapy, even in the developing world!

So, Google it if you want.

  • But Burkitt's lymphoma is not treated by surgery.
  • It's not common in Bangladesh.
  • And Memorial Christian hospital doesn't have a pediatrician, much less a pediatric oncologist.

In fact, that day may have been the first day ever since the hospital opened 50 years ago that a pediatric oncologist set foot in the door.

Ahmed in hallwayBut on that Sunday, God had brought Ahmed to our surgery clinic in Bangladesh, the very same day He brought our friend. What are the odds of that???

I will skip the boring medical mumbo jumbo (but that was exciting, too! Respiratory arrest, emergency surgery, and so on!). Ahmed is at our hospital, getting round after round of chemo, orchestrated by our friend, who has long-since returned to the States. And the tumor is indeed melting away. It's not all-the-way-gone, but a huge difference. And little Ahmed is the happiest little 6-year-old, shouting "hello" (in Bangla) to me from down the hall, showing me his coloring book, telling me all about "his" cellphone (that he stole from his mother and refuses to give back).

Ahmed and his mother took a few days to go back to their remote village between cycles of chemo a few weeks ago, and the people in the village didn't believe that it was the same boy. But the woman proudly told them that God was making his tumor disappear through the medicines he was getting at our hospital. God brings the right combination of people together at the right time, and then the mother gives Him all the credit? So cool...

Dr. Jonathan Egle, Fall, 2016