Rick Gregory, Writer

Translating Messages From Heads To Hearts

OK, so now I’m going to post some more information I sent to some email friends, but thought it might be good to have available for the whole world to see . . .

So much has happened since we returned from Uganda. Some good . . . and some not so good. I’ll see if I can give you a quick recap.

1. We got back in late July, confirmed Sherry’s nursing school and she started Aug 15th at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona. That was good.

2. After a tough 4 weeks, we leased our house through December 2006 to a wonderful couple that loves living there. That was good.

3. We moved into the “Beef Unit” at Cal Poly Pomona and I started working with the cattle�on Sept. 6th. That was good.

4. In late September, I started to get sick; cycling fever, chills and fatigue. We weren’t very attuned to the symptoms, so it took several weeks for them to diagnose my malaria. The malaria had lain dormant in my system for nearly 3 months. That was bad.

5. I started the 7 day treatment of really high doses of quinine and doxycycline. The doc here doesn’t see malaria very often and got his information�from a dated textbook, so I ended up with too much of both medicines and by the 6th day, I had really severe diarrhea. That was bad.

6. At the end of the 7 days, and then another 4 days waiting out the diarrhea, he (the doc) wanted me to start another medicine, primaquine, to destroy any latent malaria in the liver, but primaquine is only effective for 2 of the 4 strains of malaria. He didn’t know which�species I had, but still wanted me to start the meds. I refused to start until we knew the strain. That was bad.

7. In the process of blood tests, the doc asked me if I’d ever had hepatitis because he was concerned about the effect that primaquine may have on my liver if it had been compromised in any way. I told him that I had “non-A, non-B” hepatitis about 20 years ago, which I got from some bad food from a Mexican restaurant. After a Hepatitis screen, I came back positive for Hepatitis C. That was really bad, especially since it looked like I’d had it for about 20 years.

8. One of the characteristics of Hep C is that it causes chronic fatigue, so they recommend a lifestyle that doesn’t involve extreme physical work. Guess what kind of work I do at the Beef Unit? Extreme physical work, sometimes moving up to 100 bales of hay a day, each of which weighs 100 lbs or so. That meant I couldn’t continue working�there, which meant we couldn’t continue living�there, which meant we had to move right away – and we couldn’t go back to our house because it was leased until December 2006. That was bad.

9. Sherry’s mom and dad have a condo in Sunset Beach they let us use until an apartment was to come available�at the Western University campus. We expected that to be about end of December or 1st of January. We moved to the condo�just before Thanksgiving. That was good.

The doctor was unable to get the malaria typed, so I finally took matters into my own hands and began working with Scott Kellerman (the doc we were with in Uganda), who happens to be here in the US through January. Scott and I both talked extensively with the CDC in Atlanta and got them involved. We had the hospital send my slides to the CDC’s malaria division. Finally, the chief malaria doc from the CDC called and said that I was one of the 1%-3% of people in whom prophylaxis fails – and additionally, the malaria I had was the first in 50 years from the part of East Africa�I visited! Also, this particular strain of malaria did not require the 2nd course of primaquine treatment, since the parasite resides only in the blood and doesn’t “hide” in the liver. So, a single mosquito found the single white man in the remotest part of Uganda in whom the anti-malaria medicine would be ineffective. Now there’s God’s sense of humor for you!

As far as the Hepatitis C, I was waiting to find out the viral load in my system and the species (there are 6 different strains), after which I was to see a liver specialist for a biopsy to assess the amount of damage to my liver from the disease.

So, at this point we were wondering what God could possibly be doing with (or maybe to) us. What is interesting and amazing as I look back on it, is that all these “negatives” served to crystallize our focus – and to reaffirm our intent to return to Uganda – only now to do so as quickly as possible. If it turned out that my liver was damaged severely and they limited my lifespan, our plan was to pack up immediately and return as soon as we could get it done. If the damage was minimal and would respond to the treatment, we decided we would stay in school, finish the course of Sherry getting her RN and me getting the Animal Science degree, and then return to Uganda somewhere around the first quarter of 2007.

Then the surprise. The day before we were to move to the condo, the doctor called to ask if I had received the test results from the hepatitis viral load and RNA genotype tests. I hadn’t and he said he had them, but he was confused. I clearly had (and still have) the antibody for Hepatitis C . . . But there was no virus. It was gone. He said there was no medical explanation for this, but it sure was good news! AMEN to that!

Now, the malaria is gone, the Hepatitis is gone and we just needed to find a place to live. Oh and there’s the little detail of income. During the malaria, the company I worked for�was unable to maintain�my health insurance,�so we had to go on their COBRA policy. That meant we had to find about $20,000 extra income while I’m taking 20 units a quarter and Sherry is buried in the equivalent of Medical school. We continued to pray and then just last week, I found out that the guy the Beef Unit hired to replace me had quit. I asked the farm manager about it – and she offered me my old job back – and said we could move back into the same place from which we moved just a few weeks ago!

The result? We spent about 6 weeks on the beach, were available for our daughter and son-in-law as they brought our 2nd grandson home, recovered completely from all the sickness, don’t have to find a place to live and only need to supplement about $8,000 to pay for health insurance instead of the $20k we originally thought.

So now we’re rejoicing in the goodness of God and preparing to get right back on course as if nothing had happened, except that He used hard circumstances to reaffirm our calling to serve Him as Jesus’ hands and feet among the pygmies in Uganda!