Three months after moving to Burundi in 2014 to serve as a missionary I, Alex, got extremely ill. At the time, my temperature was 104F, I lost 10 pounds in five days, and had extreme pain in my stomach. I had many tests done, and several misdiagnoses, and an ultrasound revealed that my liver had undergone trauma. After 3 to 4 weeks of sickness, I was able to get treatment that helped and made me better, although the exact sickness was never diagnosed. However, I continued and continue to have pain in my stomach in the same area, even almost 4 years later.
Over the last several years I have had many tests done. You name it, I've probably had it. Endoscopies, CT scans, ultrasounds, and for a while I averaged around one blood test per month. Everything has been inconclusive and I am repeatedly told I have IBS and just need 'more fiber.' I believe this is a symptom rather than the cause of my issues.
Over the last year in particular, things have continued to be rough. Before I returned to Burundi in January 2017 I had a parasite called H Pylori and a urine infection. When I returned to Burundi I had so much acid refleux and stomach pain that I felt it throughout my back and down my arms and could feel at times like I couldn't breathe. After going for an endoscopy, they told me I had a hernia on my stomach and gave me some lifestyle changes and medicine to take, although it didn't help much. When I still had the pain, I got a second opinion from another doctor and endoscopy who told me that I didn't have a hernia, but rather the acid had made the closing to the opening of my stomach disappear. This has all changed within the last two years as my previous endoscopy didn't show any issues.
I've also had 4 stomach infections over the last year - H Pylori twice, another one that I don't know the name of, and one I assume was salmonella. With that one the pain was so bad I couldn't walk or move and was screaming in the hospital. Every time I go to the hospital, I still have the same urine infection I had a year ago, even after multiple rounds of medication. I get extremely tired and fatigued - I can sleep 7 - 8 hours a night, then still need a 2 hour nap to be able to make it through the day. I also have the MFTKR gene mutation as well chronic migraines which just add more pain on top of it all.
Why all say all this? Obviously, we are in need of some answers. I am not well, and have recognized the strength that comes from admitting it. Most of the medical help I've gotten over the has been a bit inconclusive and I've left feeling unheard. At times I've told a doctor my issues and have been told "you are healthy," even as I'm obviously in pain. After meeting with friends who have walked through similar situations and getting advice, I'm wanting to take a different route. I am planning to see a functional medicine practitioner at the end of March when I first get home. What is functional medicine you may ask?
"Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership."
And this is where you come in!
While I do have insurance through the state, it does not cover this type of doctor because it is considered 'holistic' or naturopathic. I believe that most tests can be covered by my insurance, but the office visits cannot. As missionaries, we live off of support, so we are reliant on the support of others to live. The initial visit costs $360 where I can first be seen and get started on any tests, and I've asked for a little bit extra to help with any tests not covered by my insurance. There will be more costs that will follow I'm sure, and as I know more I will update about it. I've seen so many doctors and am hoping that getting a new, fresh look can shed light on what I'm dealing with underneath it all.
We know I am not serving our students and staff at the best of my ability with these issues hanging over my head. Taking some time to step back and be well will help us to continue to bless those that we serve whole-heartedly and in the best way possible. We have seen growth in what we've done over the years even through all these difficulties. We ask that those of you who have stood with us over the years continue to stand with us during this season. We are in need your love, support, and prayers. If you feel led to stand together with us financially, we would be blessed by any contribution big or small. We thank you all for any encouragement you offer and have for us!
~Etienne and Alexandra Ndayishimiye
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