The Story of Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob & Peter

One day Uncle Bob looked unwell. Uncle Bob was a rooster we kept as a pet while we were living in Lusaka, Zambia. He had been eating less and was starting to get weak. The children were worried about him, and asked us if we could do anything to help him. My husband and I are medical doctors. We were used to treating humans, and we could take care of cats and dogs, but we had absolutely no idea what to do with a sick bird. When I talked with my husband about it, he suggested that I take him to the veterinary department at Zambia Medical University, which had been built by the Japanese government. I decided to take him there with the help of a man called Kabesa.

We arrived at the college, and asked if there were any bird specialists. An Indian professor and a short gentleman arrived and began to examine Uncle Bob. At first he asked me, “Does the chicken have a cough?”

“A cough?” I replied, a bit surprised, “Can chickens cough?”

The professor smiled at me. He opened Uncle Bob’s beak wide and took a good look. “Looks like mycoplasma pneumonia,” he said without hesitation.

“Mycoplasma pneumonia?,” I said to myself in wonder. “Can chickens get mycoplasma pneumonia?”

I had actually had mycoplasma pneumonia, suffering from a fever and coughing up sputum. I was diagnosed not only by my symptoms, but also a blood test. How could he have made such a quick diagnosis based purely on a physical exam? Anyhow, he was a professor, so I believed him.

He wrote up a prescription for an antibiotic called tetracycline, which later I bought from a pharmacy at the market, and administered to Uncle Bob via syringe twice a day for two weeks. Uncle Bob made a miraculous recovery, and went back to being a cheerful husband and father! So the professor’s diagnosis had been accurate after all. I was suddenly acutely aware how little I knew about veterinary medicine. Thinking back on that professor, he kind of looked like a bird. Maybe that’s what happens when you spend too much time with birds.

Uncle Bob continued to wake before five o’clock every morning and lived to see a ripe old age. When he died he left behind two wives and many children. I was worried about what would happen to his flock once he was gone. I thought we might need to buy another rooster. Soon, however, one of Bob’s sons, Peter, seemed to succeed his father’s position as head of the flock. He was small and white, and his little chirp could be heard squeaking first thing in the morning, right around when Uncle Bob used to crow. As the days went by, Peter grew more and more confident. We were all very moved, watching him grow.

We have a tendency to be attracted to people who are nice and strong, and have talents and abilities. Our pet chickens taught us the truth that with enthusiasm, commitment and affection we will have a greater impact on our society. They will forever be treasured in the hearts of our family. God blesses and helps each of us grow, doesn’t he?