Well, well… its been a while hasn’t it. I have to say, its really REALLY good to be back. For those of you that don’t know, I was pretty ill for a while. Seems I had some issues. I got hit with a bladder infection, a throat infection and Dengue Fever all at the same time. Any one of those alone would make you sick… all 3 at the same time made me, for the first time in my life, actually afraid I might die. Dengue Fever is a virus that comes from the bite of an infected mosquito. High fever, severe headache and fatigue, rash, dangerously low white blood cells and platelets, internal bleeding, and too many other symptoms to list. Let me just say it has a nickname, “breakbone fever” and WOW does it ever live up to that. It actually feels like every single one of the bodies 206 bones is broken. It can be fatal… and believe me, feeling how I felt, I am certain it can be. Fluid fills your body in places that shouldn’t have fluid, like lungs and make you feel like you are drowning. I was afraid, my family was afraid, my doctor was afraid…. there is no cure… no medicine… just hydration, meds to manage symptoms, and lots of prayer was my protocol. I have to be very careful now. There are 4 strains of the disease. I had one and am now immune but only to that strain… if I contract any of the other 3 my chances of survival go down. Thats a bit daunting to me…. and I am trying my best to be careful now…. I have become a bit of a mosquito maniac to be honest. I sit in 95+ degree weather in pants and socks… and Im beginning to be a bit concerned about my over use of deet containing repellent but Im sure the paranoia will pass.

All of this has made me very introspective of things… Not in a cliche ‘near death’ way… but just some thoughts I had in my long hours of recovery…I had many hours of resting to just think.   It has firmed up my resolve to carry on our work here. Many people who survive dengue are told by doctors back home in North America to not travel again to dengue prone areas. Well, thats not an option. Im not going anywhere. It IS actually rare so don’t cancel your flights just yet… I just got ‘lucky’… And it is mainly present during rainy season. If anything, it has helped me see more purpose in what we do here and truly helped me get out of my whining thoughts of what I am missing back in North America.

Geoff called Dr. Milton’s personal cell phone several times with an emergency question and my amazing doctor stayed late or came in on the weekend a couple of times to provide meds or see me. One day in particular he met Geoff at his office to give him some medicine for my severe breathing difficulties. He knew we were scared… he knew we are foreign here… and he stepped up in amazing ways to help me and my family go through this as best we could at a huge inconvenience to himself. As I sat here with a breathing mask on my face, when Geoff returned with medicines for our nebulizer it struck me… How many people have access to a 24 hour doctor? How many people on this planet have a nebulizer… how many even know what the heck it is? (FYI- its a machine that uses liquid medicine for asthma and mists it into a breathing mask you wear on your face. Much better than an inhaler… much faster relief… If you go to the hospital for an asthma attack you will be attached to such a machine. We have one because when Zack was a small child, his asthma was so bad that we were in the ER regularly and we ended up qualifying for a nebulizer for our home.) Many times I had thought of donating that machine but for some reason I kept it all these years just in case… So glad I did.

I may live here but I still have the access to my North American lifestyle in ways I cannot fathom. I HAVE a nebulizer. It may have just saved my life… I don’t know. I have an amazing doctor with everything but an MRI at his office so any test to get an immediate diagnosis can be run (I didn’t even have that in Canada)…. It may have just saved my life… I don’t know. How many people that I serve here have those kinds of options? Um… none. Zero. They lie in bed (if they have a bed) and pray to get better. Now Im not discounting the power of prayer by any means…. but I hope you can see my point here. There is no money in their lives to buy food let alone doctor visits or medicines. I have options where others do not. Heck, I could have flown myself back to Canada if need be to get treatment… How lucky am I? VERY.

This experience like so many in my life has shown me so much. I think we all need to look at our lives at times and see just how darn lucky we actually are. We spend so much time focusing on what we DON’T have to take time to appreciate how truly lucky we are to have what we DO have. Even I, living immersed in a developing nation, surrounded by extreme poverty, need reminders once in a while… All around me I am watching people literally starve.  The canicula (a natural phenomenon of 2 weeks of no rain) has lasted longer than 6 weeks… Crops everywhere here are failing…  Men are committing suicide out of desperation and lack of hope. We are fast approaching a time where there is no food to harvest…. People are scared.  I am scared… my family is scared…. But we press on and adapt to the time.  Not much will ever change for me however because I HAVE.  Simple as that.  Two small words that mean so much…. I HAVE.    No matter how much time I spend here I am still one of the people that simply HAVE.  I am not sitting in a bus at a border, nor having to send my kids away and  praying they have a shot at life…. I am not at risk of death due to my faith…. I am not starving to death nor watching my children starve through no fault of mine just simply due to where I was born on this planet….  I need to recognize that and count my blessings each and every single day.  We all do.  We also need to always remember AND help those that DON’T HAVE….

I HAVE…. and I am going to use what I HAVE to help those that don't HAVE.

I HAVE…. and I am going to use what I HAVE to help those that DON’T HAVE.


Just one more quick thing before I sign off, I want to take a moment here to tell you what an absolutely amazing family I have. I have never in my life seen them step up to take such good care of me. I have to tell you I was scared… I was an absolute bi*ch at times. I was depressed and down and miserable. They understood… they loved me anyway… Thank you so much Geoff, my rock. As cliche as that sounds its so true. I am truly blessed to have you and you always manage to pull me out of whatever mess I am wallowing in. You worked so hard and took on so much during the weeks I was sick… but not just then, you always go above and beyond for me and our boys. I love you and I thank God every day for you… Zack, Luke and Gabe…. I could not ask for better sons. Thank you for making me so proud every moment. You all stepped up in so many ways to help me… to cheer me up… to love me despite my mood swings, to do my work for me despite how tired you all were from having to do so much extra every day.  You all also go so far above and beyond for me, for your dad, for each other and for others….  I love you 3 more than you can ever imagine and I am so VERY proud of each of you…


My awesome family… So blessed to have all these guys in my life. <3

My awesome family… So blessed to have all these guys in my life. ❤

I also want to take a moment to thank you all. From here I had food deliveries and visits from many dear friends. Made me feel so special and loved despite being a ‘gringo’. I know I have ‘family’ here and that means more than you can ever know. I received many prayers, well wishes, messages etc from friends and family back home and across the USA during this time. It was such a huge thing for me. Being far away… in a foreign country… so very ill…. scared…. not really understanding what was happening to me much of the time… not really knowing what medicines I was given etc etc…. Having all of you reach out to me was more of a blessing than you can imagine. Thank you and I love you all….

About ritadoppenberg

I am a wife, mom, missionary.... generally a human being who along with God, my family, friends and Commission to Every Nation (CTEN) Canada, seek to "Be The Change"...

Posted on August 13, 2014, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Greetings from Vineland!

    Rita, I had no idea how bad things were for you. I can identify with it, though. When I was first injured, it was extremely critical for me ffrom as soon as I was dragged from the water until my neck operation a few weeks later in Hamilton. Each step of the way God put people in place who guided, facilitated, interpreted, did whatever it took to help keep me alive. And just like you, I gained a new perspective on things, and had my purpose in life redefined. A couple of Bible verses help keep me focused, think they may help do the same for you.

    2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

    James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the *crown* *of* *life* that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

    Keep up the good fight, girl! Greetings to the ‘boys’ and blessings to you all.

    Love from Jayne and me


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