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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  19 February 1999
  Worried Parents
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We had a bit of a panic yesterday with Esther. She went to bed as normal at about 7:30pm, then she woke up at 11:15pm trying to cry. Her cries were more like whimpers as she was obviously have problems breathing. Each time she breathed in there was a whistling sound which came to an abrupt stop when she tried to take a deep breath. She was also trying to cough and clear her throat. We tried to guess what she could have swallowed in the cot, but we were convinced that there was nothing small enough. We turned her upside down and slapped her back a few times but this only produced disgruntled looks from her. I quickly put her coat on and rushed to a private hospital about a 10-minute taxi ride away.

Out of the thousands of taxi drivers in Cairo I just so happened to pick the only one who didn't drive like a maniac and was in no hurry to get anywhere. I politely encouraged him to go faster. He didn't know the way there either so I had to give directions. Unfortunately I had to keep my eye on Esther too, her laboured breathing seemed to be getting slower and slower. In the dark I couldn't make out her colour so I didn't know if she was falling asleep or passing out. Blowing on her face seemed to bring her back so I had to do this regularly. In trying to do two things at once I sent the taxi down a wrong street and soon we were lost! But only for a few minutes, I eventually got my senses together and found the right street to the hospital.

Because of the previous visits I knew exactly where the emergency department was . . . but had to wait about 10 minutes more for a doctor to become free. In the meantime Alison arrived after calling on an Egyptian friend to look after Hannah.

We explained to the doctor what the problem was, but by this time Esther was breathing very lightly and so there was no whistling noise in her throat. The doctor looked confused and told us that there was nothing wrong with her. We explained in both English and Arabic that we thought that there was something in stuck in her throat. Esther wasn't going to oblige by trying to take a deep breath either. We laid her flat on a couch and held her down, restricting her movement always provokes a reaction, and we soon got a whimper and a whistle. The doctor then wanted to put a stethoscope on her chest so we undressed her- this provoked more restricted sobs. I guessed that the next stage who be to take her to X-ray to see what the blockage was, but I guessed wrong.

The doctor told us that Esther had croup. What? Croup? What's that? The doctor explained- (I think I've remembered correctly . . .) It's a viral infection in the larynx that causes inflammation and swelling in the windpipe, consequently restricting the flow of air, sometimes severely. The doctor gave Esther a couple of injections to reduce the swelling (now THAT definitely provoked a reaction!) and a prescription for an oral anti-inflammatory medicine, and an anti-biotic. (Why an anti-biotic?, I thought it was a viral infection! It seems that doctors here always prescribe anti-biotics as a matter of course. There again, maybe there is a good reason and I just don't know it! After all I'm just a computer programmer!)

Esther was asleep in the taxi on the way back but it took a while for her breathing to return completely back to normal. Neither Alison nor me could sleep when we arrived home, so we watched a video and checked on Esther every few minutes. At 4am Alison went to bed in the girls' room, but when Esther woke up I took her in bed with me. It took me a while to go to sleep because I had to listen to her laboured breathing right next to me. I realise now that it probably just sounds bad, and looking back we probably hit the panic button a bit prematurely because at no time did her colour change from a health pink. (Although I couldn't see this in the taxi).

I can see it happening now, we're going to be the kind of parents that are over-protective and worry too much. When the children are older we are going to insist on knowing where they are and who they're with. We're going to watch the clock when they come in late and not go to sleep until we know that they are safe. Did I ever complain about this treatment when I was at the receiving end? Yes. Did I ever tell my parents that they worried too much? Yes. Maybe I didn't like it but now I see myself doing the same thing. OK, OK I admit it! MY PARENTS HAD EVERY RIGHT TO WORRY ABOUT ME! And I'm going to claim the same right with my children too! Ha, one day they will learn the same lesson, until then they will despise me in the same way!!

Today Esther has been fine, not a single whistle- and nice loud bellows when she cries. Ahhhh. The medicine is working great!

Everything else is going tickey-boo here. We had a pancake party on Monday, a day early because there were a couple of English guys leaving on Tuesday and so they'd miss out on the real pancake day. In fact we invited all of the singles that we know so there had to be enough pancakes for ten! We were surprised by the fact that no one else seems to celebrate pancake day; the other guests came from South Africa, Switzerland, Korea and America. Well that's their loss eh? We started off with Egyptian take-away food, then finished off with pancakes with a selection of the fillings: apple sauce, bananas, ice cream, honey, lemon and sugar. Yum!

Last week was busy with meetings. There's a poor area that I visit regularly called Hagaana. When the work started over a year ago there were about 30 children attending. Well the number of children attending has increased by quite a lot. There are about 90- and as a result the number of people attending the regular church services has increased also- the building is hardly big enough to fit everyone (I think over 200 adults).

We are desperate for more helpers for the Thursday meetings, what is really needed is to split the children into the different age groups for some of the time. All the children in Egypt only have two holidays in the year. The main one is the summer holiday which lasts from the end of June to October. Then there is the half year holiday which is two weeks usually starting at the end of January. This half year holiday is always a busy time for me because there are always special meetings booked. For Hagaana they had a party with a visiting puppet group then finished off with take-away food. The children all took the food with them out into the street, then we had Muslim children coming in to take the food that was left! It's really great to see so many more children coming along to the meetings but we really need extra helpers to cope with the numbers.

Another special meeting that I attended was for a brethren-type denomination. There was an inter-church gathering with about 300 children. I had half an hour to give my message, the main part of which was using modeling balloons to illustrate lessons from the word. The children really enjoy it and listen well, but they probably don't realise that I enjoy myself just as much! Ever since school days I have always wanted to show off and be the centre of attention. Now it's different because I'm doing it for His glory and not for my own. Sometimes something will go wrong and I'll end up looking like a bit of a prat! Yet since it's not for my own personal security I've always been able to laugh and learn from the experience know that He will continue to work out his purpose through me.

I've only booked a few meetings in the next few weeks because Alison's parents are visiting next Wednesday for two weeks. Let's hope we can all have a break and a good time! Looks like we'll be tour guides again . . .

Toodle Pip,

Jason, Alison, Hannah and Esther.

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Egypt


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