It was a scorching hot day in South Sudan. My family and I were living in Nairobi, Kenya and we had come for a visit to see if maybe we would like to move to Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. My dad went up there every other week for his job and he was hoping we would love it. My dad works with an organization called MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship). MAF’s purpose is to share the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. Dad was the operations director for MAF in Kenya which included operations in South Sudan. He also wanted us to know and see where he went every other week.
We had left on a Saturday to fly up to South Sudan. We were half way through our visit when the unexpected happened. It was hot, the kind of hot when you feel the sweat rolling down your back even when you are standing still. That’s gross I know. My sister, Natalie, and I had the perfect plan to keep cool on this scorching day. We ran inside as quickly as we could, threw on our swimsuits as fast as lightening and then ran back outside. We got the biggest bucket we could find. We filled it with water to the top; it took both of us to carry it. Then we went over to the [homemade] playground which was so much fun. We headed for the slide. We poured all of the water onto the slide, which was made out of scrap pieces of metal. As we waited for the water to cool off the hot metal we slowly climbed up to the top to take our turn down the wet slide. Natalie had volunteered to go first. (I was a little scared) When Natalie had gotten to the end of the slide and jumped up the look of excitement had won me over and I was ready. But little did we know our fun was almost over. As I built up the courage to go down the speedy slide, Natalie had already made her way up to the top again. I honestly don’t know why I was scared as I usually jumped at the chance to try something first. Maybe because I had just turned 7, maybe you can remember being that age and having the feeling of fear and excitement all in one. I took the plunge and went down the slide.
As I was going down the slide my fear took over. As you have heard the slide was a homemade slide, and there were gaps on the side. The gaps were just big enough for a couple of my fingers to slip into them. As I built up speed the gaps on the side got tighter on my ring finger of my left hand. The rest of me kept moving downward and the tight space just pinched the first digit of my ring finger off. As I got off the slide I didn’t realize that I was bleeding excessively until Natalie pointed it out. I did not feel any pain but when I looked down and saw the blood, my brain registered the pain and the tears began. Immediately I headed into the kitchen where my mom was washing dishes. At this point I was really crying and didn’t realize what had even happened. My mom took the cloth she had in her hand and held it tight over my finger to stop the bleeding. My sister ran to the building where my dad was working with a few other coworkers. When my sister reached the building she went in and told them that I cut my finger off, but they misunderstood and thought she said, “Mom cut Courtney’s finger off.” My dad and the workers started to leisurely walk toward the playground not really understanding the urgency. My two other sisters met my dad and convinced them to come quickly. My dad remembered that one of the visitors staying there was a retired fireman-medic and that he had a huge first aid kit. The fireman-medic came as quickly as he could with his supplies. He bandaged my finger up. During that time my family was looking for the top of my finger in hopes a doctor could reattach it. My dad knew just where to look; he looked in the gap on the slide and would you believe it, there it was. After he found it they placed it in a container of ice to keep it cold. We drove to a nearby clinic. The clinic was packed with injured people and there was no doctor available that day so we decided we would fly back to Kenya. Since my dad worked for an organization that flew planes we were able to get a flight on a small airplane.
Before we could return to Kenya we needed to pack up all the things we had brought with us. While I was sitting in the hot car with my mom, I began to experience the effects of shock. When someone has something like a traumatic amputation happen they are in shock, and when you are in shock you frequently are cold. While my mom was sweating buckets in the sweltering car, I was shivering.
Finally we all piled into the car and headed off to the airport. Once we got to the airport in Juba we went directly to the plane and flew back to Kenya. My mom and I sat in the way back of the plane so that I could lean against her. As we climbed higher the air cooled off more and I continued to be in a state of shock. “Amazing Grace,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” just a few of my favorite songs my mom sang with me as the airplane droned on. We both dozed off and on during the 4 hour flight. Because we were coming from the country of South Sudan into Kenya we had to stand in line and clear customs. My dad was holding the plastic container that held the top digit of my small finger and actually got us through the line just a little quicker by telling the official that my finger was inside and could he please hurry so we could get to the hospital. From the minute I got off the plane I was skipping and singing, perhaps another effect of shock.
Traffic was a nightmare as usual but finally around 11 pm I was in a hospital room waiting to be called for surgery. By now I had asked some tough questions of my parents, “Will I be able to get married?” Since this was my ring finger on my left hand I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to wear a ring. Another important question on my mind, “Will I be able to do the monkey bars?” “Will anyone ever want to hold my hand?” All of these were important things to a seven year old.
After I slept for a few hours in the hospital room they took me into a great big room with huge lights. All I remember is that they told me to blow up a balloon and then the next thing I remember is waking up back in the hospital room with my mom and dad. My parents assured me that the surgery went well and that I would be fine. They had put in multiple stitches and I had to wear a big bandage for about a month and a half. At that time in Nairobi re-attaching the tip of my finger was not an option so that finger is shorter than normal. Some memories fade as we grow older but I will always have something to remember this by; I carry it with me wherever I go.