Touch Of Angel Hands
David Duffie, his high fever in its second day, had just asked Daisy to get down the big medical book and look up under bubonic plague.
Daisy looked at her young doctor husband in terror. “Bubonic plague! You don’t think it’s bubonic plague, do you, David?”
She read aloud from the book her voice trembling: “Bubonic plague may be carried by infected rodents….Incubation period, one to six days….Onset of illness is sudden, usually accompanied by high fever….The first swelling appears on lymph node nearest site of inoculation….Generalized swelling throughout lymphatic system follows….Disease is endemic to Lake Titicaca area—.“
Everything fitted. On Monday David had finally secured permission to remove his medical books from the rat-infested warehouse in Puno where they had been stored. Friday afternoon a slight swelling under his left arm. That evening a temperature of 104 degrees. Just a bad case of flu, he thought. Saturday night, the swelling now general, he first noticed the tiny telltale scratch on his hand and remembered the rat-infested warehouse. That’s when he became suspicious.
Daisy read on silently through stinging tears. “A crisis to be reached the fifth or sixth day after onset of illness….can expect either improvement or turn for the worse….Little hope after patient is in coma stage….Coma deepens until death. “She knew that bubonic plague was usually fatal. But then, as she read on, there was a little hope: Sulfadiazine in large doses sometimes helpful….Antibubonic serum, if given early in the course of the disease.”
Of course! Antibubonic serum! She fairly leaped to her feet. She would start the sulfa immediately. She would cable Lima for the serum. Dr. Potts would come from Lima. Everything would be all right!
The cablegram was sent. It read, “Dr. Duffie. Bubonic plague. Send antibubonic serum. Urgent. Please reply.”
Then she waited. Waited for the serum. Waited for the fever to drop. Waited for Dr. Potts to come. Waited for everything. Sunday passed, and Monday. Tuesday morning and still no word. In the meantime she did everything she could. But nothing brought down the fever or relieved the pain.
On Tuesday afternoon, however, there seemed to be a change. David was quieter and in less pain, he could even sleep some. It seemed the crisis had passed. Daisy was relieved—until she realized what it all meant. The change was not for the better at all. David was beginning to slip into a coma!
Now she sent a second cablegram, this time paying extra so that it would be delivered to Dr. Potts’s home and signed for. (Later she would learn that the first cablegram was never received at all. The second was promptly delivered to his home and signed for at the door by the maid. Dr. Potts was not at home, and the maid put the urgent cablegram in a top dresser drawer where the doctor found it two days later.)
Wednesday morning David could not take food or swallow. It was difficult to arouse him. Soon he was completely unconscious.
At 2:00 p. m. the clinic personnel gathered for special prayer for their doctor. And then, Noel, the Argentine nurse, started out to his little ford for the secondary school seven kilometers away. He would bring back a group of ministers and teachers for a special service of prayer and anointing.
Daisy, at two o’clock, was sitting at David’s bedside. She could scarcely discern his breathing, and she noticed that fluid had begun to form on his lungs. The words of the twenty-third Psalms flashed into her mind: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” But in her despair she couldn’t help asking silently, “Is God with me in this hour? Does He hear? Why, oh, why, has He not sent help?”
At that moment there was a knock at the door. It was Marcilino with word of an emergency at the clinic. A patient was hemorrhaging, and Noel was gone. Could she please come?
She told Mariclino to sit by the bed with his hand on David’s pulse and let her know instantly if there was any change. She hurried out. The emergency was serious and took longer than she had expected.
Forty-five minutes later she rushed back into the house, Marcilino was sitting on the sofa in the living room, nonchalantly leafing through a National Geographic magazine. She was indignant, and she was terrified. Both at once. Why had the usually dependable Marcilino disobeyed her instructions? Why was he in the living room? Had the terrible moment come while she was gone?
The boy was utterly mystified at her outbreak. Hesitatingly he tried to explain why he had deserted the doctor. “The doctor told me to go out” he said simply.
“The doctor told you?” she choked now. “The doctor hasn’t spoken for two days!” She couldn’t say another word. Tremblingly she pushed open the closed door, terrified at the thought of what she would find.
The bed was empty. In front of the dresser stood David, fully dressed, his stethoscope in hand!
“David Duffie, what are you doing?” she gasped.
“Oh, thought I’d better go over to the clinic and make rounds,” he said pleasantly. “Haven’t seen the patients for several days, have I? What day is it anyway?”
When the troubled little group of teachers arrived at three o’clock for the special prayer and anointing service, they were ushered into the clinic consultation room for a special time of thanksgiving. Dr. Duffie sat at the desk.
A look at Marcilino’s careful notes revealed this: “2:20, doctor turned over in bed, 2:25, he asked me what I wanted and told me I could go.”
It was at 2:20 that Noel had reached the school with the sad news. The men had dropped immediately to their knees.
In the case of David and Daisy Duffie, all human help had failed. Cablegrams had been no help. The medicine had not come. The Doctor from Lima had not come, but the unconscious doctor and his despairing wife were not alone. They were not without help. The touch of angel hands, directed by the Great Healer, had restored David instantly to health.
M. L. Lloyd