Sunday, October 29, 2006


Friday morning, the Maine Eye Team headed back to Antigua, and from there to The States. So we spent the rest of the day Friday doing a mountain of laundry and cleaning the house. Friday night we called out for pizza (you can actually do that here). The funny part is that when we call, they recognize Heidi's voice (or her accent, probably) and know exactly who it is and where to deliver the pie. And we've probably only called a half dozen times!

Saturday morning, we got up and drove 2 1/2 hours to Canilla for clinic with Leslie. We got to share with her the news that someone from Matt's parents' church has donated 1600 glucose test strips (for diabetes). This is fantastic news to us!!! Those strips are hard to get here and are crazy expensive when we can find them. Then we had to drive back to Quiche because we had been invited to the graduation at the Colegio Methodista Utitlan (the local Christian school we work with a lot).

They had 196 graduates in fields such as Bilingual Teacher (Spanish-K'iche), Bilingual Secretary (Spanish-English), and Computation. We were especially impressed with how many bilingual teachers graduated. And over half of the students at this school are Mayan. What a great way to make a sustainable change in this country!!!

This morning, it was back on the road to clinic in San Andres. Near the end of clinic, we had stepped outside for a second and there was a mom trying to find her 6-year-old daughter's other shoe. The little girl was wandering around with only one shoe on and they couldn't find the other. No big deal, we thought. Surely, they'll find it. Half an hour later, after clinic, the mom was still desperately trying to find this shoe. So Heidi scooped up the little girl and she and Leslie walked a hundred yards or so to the Market in town and bought her another pair of shoes (one that actually fit). The mother was stunned. It's amazing how $2 can make such a big difference! Of course, that amount of money is probably half of what her dad can make in a day in the fields.

Also after clinic, we got to walk down to our translators' house. Rosa and Manuela's dad makes cortes (the skirts that the Mayan women wear). Heidi had ordered one from him two weeks ago and he wanted her to see it on the loom to make sure it was okay. It is absolutely beautiful! Hopefully, she'll get it next week!!!

Oh, and while we were looking at the corte, Leslie got a call to walk to someone's house and see a guy who had been hit by a motorcycle. He's just a little banged up, nothing serious. Just another day in Guatemala!

The first pic here is of the Fickers' new plane in the partially completed hangar. We're shooting from the other side of the "runway", which is really just a dirt strip - or rather two dirt strips with grass in the middle. Duane had to circle the runway four times the other day while on the radio with the local police so they could come out and chase the cows and kids off the runway.

The second pic is of Heidi with our first patient of the day. She had a pretty nasty venous-stasis ulcer on her heal (and she's diabetic). It was Heidi's first foot-washing of the day. It's hard to get more biblical than that!

The third pic is of a little girl with her sister on her back. Her mom has the other twin on her own back. The girl has a bit of a silly look on her face because she was a little confused by the camera. In the background you can see Rachel Ficker and our friend Craig, who is living with the Fickers again to help out around the farm and in clinics.

The last pic is a partial shot of Heidi's corte on the loom with Rosa and Manuela's mom standing on the working side of the loom. We promise some more pics when it's finally finished, but you can see how pretty the colors are!!!

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 27, 2006

Maine Eye Team - Last Day (Post 2 of 2)

Four more pics of the Maine Eye Team from the past week. Oh, and PLEASE scroll down to our post from yesterday entitled "A Request and Some Good News (Maybe)". We have some very important news to share with you and we wouldn't want you to miss it for some pictures. (We like pictures, but this is super important!!!!)

Thanks and God Bless!

 Posted by Picasa

Maine Eye Team - Last Day (Post 1 of 2)

The Maine Eye Team leaves today. Over the course of their visit, they saw nearly 1,000 patients in clinic and performed almost 100 surgeries. Yesterday, they had a day of R&R in Chichicastenango and Atitlan. Those of you who know them will get all of the adventure stories when they get home so we won't ruin the surprise!

With every surgery, there is the risk of complication. We did have a few of those this week and there will be some follow-up and some more things going on there. Please pray for all of the folks that the team saw - that the vast majority of them will continue to have uneventful recoveries and that the few special cases will feel the comforting hand of God on their shoulders.

Heidi and I have this afternoon to clean up, do about 15 loads of laundry, and get ready for four clinics in four cities in the next five days. Then Matt's parents come into town for about two weeks.

 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Request and Some Good News (Maybe)

Okay, it's official. For the first time, we are asking for money.

There are seven babies we are working with right now who have cleft palates. In about two weeks, we are taking a trip with these babies to Antigua for evaluation for surgery, hopefully in January.

For both trips (November and January), we will be putting momma, daddy, and the baby on a bus to Antigua and following them in our truck. (Usually, Mom does not speak Spanish and Dad does.) In addition to the surgery and the transportation, they will need food, diapers (they normally just use a rag here and that won't do on the bus!), lodging in the city, and other assorted supplies.

The cost for each child is between $500-$700. You may be thinking that this is pretty cheap for surgery. It is. We are working with the Hospital Hermano Pedro, which is a mission hospital. However, this figure multiplied by seven is a rather significant number.

We have offered to help these families, trusting that God will provide funding for us as we go. We are coming to you, our families and friends, asking you to prayerfully consider sponsoring one of these children. Below are pictures of two of them. With the sponsorship, we will provide you with the full name and information for "your" child and lots of pictures from the trip and some Before and After shots.

The first child here is Osni. Osni is about 6 weeks old. When we first met him, he was placed into the milk program at ASELSI, a mission we work with in Chichicastenango. (Cleft palate babies cannot take breastmilk because they can't suck.) ASELSI provides the mothers with formula and special bottles for them. After a few visits, Osni started losing weight. When the workers started asking Mom some questions, she said that she didn't want to get too attached to him because everyone in her village told her that he was going to die. The workers showed her some pictures (before and after) of other babies that they've worked with and she got encouraged. He has since put on 2 1/2 pounds (including half a pound in the last week!).

The second child here is Ricardo. Ricardo is less than a week old and has a double cleft. He is a twin. His mother took the "good" twin and abandoned him. The woman holding him here is a local woman who offered to take him in. We don't know how permanent that situation is, but she is a very sweet lady and we're going to help as much as we can.

So if you feel like you're being led to sponsor one of these children, please let us know and we'll help work out the details of how and where to send the support. Again, please pray about this. We don't like to ask for money unless it's really needed for certain specific situations, but here are seven of them.

In other news, some of you may remember the two women we had with molar pregnancies. We saw them both today. Jacinta, the second one, came to our clinic today for a follow-up visit. We are going to work with her in the following weeks to ensure that everything is going well with her. Laura, the first one (who spent 10 days in the hospital here for a 10 minute surgery), has not been coming to our clinic. So we went to her. Cecy, our translator at ASELSI, knew where Laura lived and took us there. Ambush medicine at its finest!

We brought our ultrasound (which gets quite heavy when you lug it far enough up a mountain) and checked her right there in her one room house. We then convinced them to ride into Quiche with us to get her Beta-HCG test to ensure that all of the mole is gone. We paid for the test, since they are obviously a little resource-limited, and should get the results in a day or two. Pray for her results to come back ZERO!

The third pic is Cecy and Heidi walking towards the house (which was up a pretty significant incline, then across a field, through a cornfield, and down a little hill).

The last pic is Heidi and Matt next to Laura's house. This was Cecy's first time taking a picture, we think, since she initially pointed the camera at herself... Not bad, huh?

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Before and After"

Well, several of you will recall a blog entry from several weeks ago when we told you about Tomas, as man we met at clinic in Aselsi who had complaints listed on his chart of, "headaches, leg pain, and tumor on his back". Here's a reminder picture of that THIRD little complaint of his! And yes, you're reading the "Hmmm... wouldn't it be great to actually know what this thing is?!" expression on Heidi's face correctly!

One of the most amazing blessings we have received during our time down here is our ability to communicate and work together with several other medical missionaries in the area. Tom Hoak is a general surgeon who moved down here almost a year ago from California with his wife Jana and two teenage girls. They have been doing amazing work at the Hospital Buen Samaritano in Chichicastenango, and we were very thankful to be able to refer this patient to Dr. Hoak for evaluation. He saw him Monday in his office and admitted him for surgery on Tuesday.

So the first picture is our friend under anesthesia waiting for his surgery to start. The next one is during the surgery, which Dr. Hoak was kind enough to let Heidi assist with. It's really great to get such good follow-up on patients sent for referral!

The last picture is the promised "after" picture, which shows this man's much more normal-looking lower back post-operatively. Can you imagine being able to sit back in a chair or lie on your back for the first time in 20 or 30 years? It's very exciting to be able to get this done for him. We'd also like to mention here that Dr. Hoak and his wife have taken on the project of starting a Benevolence Fund at the Hospital Buen Samaritano in order to help patients like this pay for the surgeries that they need. The Hospital there is a private, mission-based, Methodist Hospital built with donations from the States. Dr. Hoak offers his services for free, but the nurses, pharmacists, scrub techs, administration, ETC... are generally not missionaries and must be paid in order to keep the hospital running. This means that without the Hoak's fund, patients like this would have to continue waiting for the government hospitals here to maybe someday finally start doing "elective" surgeries such as this again. If anyone's interested in more information about his fund or how you can help, we will-- of course!-- be happy to pass that along to you!
We are sending the tumor off for a pathologist's diagnosis, and expect results in about 2 weeks, by the way. There is no reason to believe that it is cancerous, but we are sending it to be 100% sure and to satisfy the curiosity of many-- as well as prepare ourselves in the rare event that we run in to another one of these in the future!

Our apologies to the Maine Eye Team and their families for monopolizing our blog space with our own story today. We'll try to post some more pictures from the team either tonight or tomorrow... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maine Eye Team

Today Heidi and Matt were invited to go down to the Operating Rooms. Apparently, some family members at home have only seen pictures of the clinic. We want to promise you that the ORs are running, too!

It was our first time to witness any type of eye surgery. Our first impression was that the instruments are CRAZY small! Also, there is no type of sedation involved here. The patients are fully awake and alert the whole time. A little different from abdominal and vaginal surgeries!

The first step is a pair of injections to numb the eye. One goes right underneath and the other goes right above. The needle actually goes back behind the eye and fills that cavity full of medicine. That part was a little creepy to watch. Normally, Americans have to be sedated for that step. Our Mayan patients just lie there. These people are TOUGH!

We won't get into the whole bit, because it sounds a lot creepier than it looks. The whole thing is done through a microscope, which the doctors were gracious enough to let us use to take peeks once in a while. This type of surgery (cataract surgery) is fascinating. Again, very, very different from abdominal and vaginal surgeries!

The first pic is of some of the OR team members before surgeries started this morning.

The second pic is of a fully draped patient, ready for her surgery.

The third is a shot of the crew during the surgery.

And the fourth is what a really bad cataract looks like when it comes out. (We showed the uterus pictures, we had to show the cataract!!!)

This afternoon, Heidi and Matt are going to Chichicastenango to operate with Dr. Hoak on a patient with a huge tumor on his back. We told you about him earlier this month and Dr. Hoak is going to do that case today.

Oh, and there's a huge festival going on in town this week. There may be a slight conflict (read: major conflict) with the use of our clinic room tonight. It tried to happen last night, but after seeing nearly 300 patients in one day, it really wasn't the best night for that. Please pray for everybody to work together and to try to understand both sides' points of view on this.

Note for future reference: when a team is scheduling a trip, we should try to avoid national holidays and town festivals on the calendar!!!!

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

Maine Eye Team Day 3

Well, it's only taken us an hour to get to where we could post pictures again and we'd like to suggest that any software engineer who "improves" software by making it impossible to use should be eligible for a very severe punishment.That being said, we woke up this morning and looked outside and saw an AMAZING line of people!

As Matt was standing outside taking pictures of this line, a woman walked up and asked if the team that was here could operate on her foot. Matt explained that this is an eye team, but she was in luck because his wife loves to cut/poke/prod/etc. people. The first picture is of Heidi draining an apparent ganglion cyst on top of this woman's foot. She was ecstatic!

The second picture is what it looked like from the end of the line this morning. As of noon local time, the clinic team had already seen over 100 patients. There are probably 300 to go.

The third picture is what the inside of the clinic room looks like. There are a half dozen or more stations, each with people working. We don't know anything about eyes, so we don't have any idea what any of the stations are for, but this team is amazingly well organized and so talented!

The last picture is what an eye exam looks like here. Most people are illiterate, so the old letter sign isn't going to work. We have pictures. Some people are so blind that the skip the entire chart and go straight to counting fingers. If that doesn't work, then we start waving our arms and ask if they can see THAT! Sometimes the answer is no. It's sad that people have such severe vision problems, but that's why the team is here.

The residents from the Guatemalan Eye Team are here and are assisting in the Operating Room. They have also told the team that they can refer patients to them that the team couldn't finish here. What a tremendous blessing that is! We're hoping to invite the residents to dinner tonight so the rest of the team can get to meet them and hang out with them some.

Please pray for the clinic team to get finished seeing the huge line of patients before midnight tonight!!!!

 Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Maine Eye Team - Day 2

Today was the second day that the Maine Eye Team was in clinic and in surgery. They tied their previous record of 14 cataract surgeries and saw a ton of people in clinic again! We (Heidi and Matt) actually parted ways with them for a few hours and went to a clinic of our own. We were in San Andres today with Leslie and Katie. We saw just over 60 patients today.

The most exciting news (besides that their plane got here safe and sound) was that Katie got to deliver a baby in the back of their 4Runner on the way to the hospital last week! It was her first delivery - a footling breach - and in a bouncing truck. YEEHA! Hopefully, that will not be a regular happening, but still very exciting!

The team has been a tremendous joy to have around. They are very fun people, easy going, and are getting along famously with the hospital staff. And at night, we've had some wonderful conversations - including the "small world" tidbit that one of the team members is an Alaska native (like Carrie) and we found out that he ran track with one of Carrie's brothers. Go figure.

In other news, Jacob (one of our very close friends and the president of the board of our mission organization here in Guatemala) came by to let us know that the bank that all of our money is in went belly up this week. Luckily, most of our money lives in the US and we wire it down as we need it, so there were only a few hundred dollars there, but the nation is a little panicky right now. They do not have an FDIC-type system, but the government has promised to cover the accounts that were in that bank. He has a lot of contacts in the banking business and told us that he would be able to get some more info by Wednesday.

So, basically a normal day here in Guatemala. Please continue to pray for the team that they may have a great rest of the week and that they can continue to be a blessing to the people they encounter here!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Maine Eye Team arrived!!

Great news to share from this week... Yesterday brought us the safe arrival of the 24-person team from Maine, and today they started up their (huge and impressive!) clinic and began operating on some cataract patients. We are thrilled to have them here, providing a service that is so desperately needed in this area! Today we stayed home from our usual clinic in Canilla on Saturday (Sorry to leave you on your own there, Leslie!) to play host/-ess and to do what we could to help the team get started here. Little did we know how self-sufficient and resourceful they were, though! They hardly needed our help, and did a wonderful job of getting things up and running this morning...

They are already seeing record numbers of cataract patients, and have full surgery schedules for today, tomorrow, and Monday already! They are also helping lots and LOTS of people with eyeglasses, sunglasses, and other eye health needs. I hope they are enjoying their time here as much as we and the people of the area are enjoying having them here.

Our post for today is short, because we are not as directly involved with patient care during the eye surgeries (An OB/Gyn is, as it turns out, pretty useless when it comes to anything that far up on the body!) I did manage to upload a few pictures to tie you guys over until we have better stories to share, though...

The first two pics are from clinic today... one inside and one outside, showing the large numbers of people waiting to be seen. I'm not sure how much detail you can make out on these photos, but the set-up inside the large multi-purpose room is basically a separate station for each stage of the process of evaluating/examining, testing, treating, and otherwise triaging or pre-opping patients appropriately. There is a lot of planning involved in pulling this off, and it seems to be working beautifully so far.

The third shot is from dinner last night, just showing the transformation that our living room undertakes when we have 26 house guests! We are enjoying Gencha's cooking for dinner. (Those of you who have not met Gencha-- pronounced "HEN-cha"-- and sampled her cooking really need to get down here soon and amend that situation!)

The last one I couldn't resist... although it's pretty much a dead give-away about who is and is NOT writing the actual blog entry today... It's taken at the end of the day, when Matt (left couch) and Lance (Carrie's fiance, right couch) had apparently had enough excitement for one day! They were enjoying a well-deserved rest after running errands for us all morning and getting up early to help fix us all breakfast.

More news later... For now, please continue to pray that we are efficient and effective at providing vision-saving care for as many patients as we safely can this week. Tomorrow we're back on our clinic schedule, leaving for San Andres to meet Leslie and Katie there early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Clinic in Chicabracan

Well, today was clinic in Chicabracan again, which I think we mentioned already this morning. In the last two days, we've seen just over 100 patients... We're exhausted, both feeling like we're starting to get a little sick again, and really wishing we had a day or two off before the Maine Eye Team gets here on Friday afternoon. But alas, that time is not to be had-- So we could really use some prayers for rejuvenation and energy. Surgical teams (especially for eyes, as we've mentioned before cause big problems here...) are such a blessing to these people that we are here to serve, so we are thrilled to know that one is on the way so soon!

Clinic today was fairly standard stuff, except that we met yet ANOTHER cleft palate baby... This one born just 40 days ago. It was nice to be able to give mom the specifics of when and where to be at our home for the upcoming trip to pre-op these kids in Antigua November 5th-7th. It's also nice to have the support that we have-- That is to say, support that is generous enough that we can tell this lady to bring a little bit of money for food along the way for the trip, but the trip, lodging, medical care, and eventually the surgery are all "un regalo de Dios" (gift from God) Free medications, 26 cent medical consultations, and the like make small differences in many lives daily... but what a wonderful opportunity we now have to show God's love in such a memorable way to these families!

Tomorrow, Heidi goes to Aselsi here in nearby Chichicastenango, while Matt drives to the city to pick up Carrie and Lance (Congratulations on their recent engagement, by the way!) and do the shopping for the team coming in Friday. It's a very rare day when we part ways for the day, and will actually feel a little weird. Every young married couple should have the privilege of working-- and particularly serving our God-- together daily for a while. We are so blessed to share this experience, and cannot think of a better way to start out our marriage.

We remain filled with wonderful memories of the new friends we met here in the area and from the States this past week working and visiting with the team here in Chichi... It is so great to know that there are so many of "us" gringos here in the area, working more and more together every day to bring Love and the Gospel to this population.

Please pray for safe travel for Matt, Lance and Carrie, and the members of the Maine Eye Team over the next few days. I tried to post some pictures today from our "archives" (no new ones from today), but we're still having software issues in that department... So maybe next time!


Okay, the software was more cooperative today. Here are three more pics from yesterday. The first is Heidi walking through a cornfield to a house call. The second is the supposedly 110 year old woman we went to go see. The third is of HALF of the waiting area yesterday.

Today was clinic in Chicabracan. We were EXHAUSTED, even when we got there. Forty patients later, we headed home. Now it's to bed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


We had the opportunity today to go out with a team of Americans to clinic in Xepocol (pronounced "SHAY-poe-cole"), a very poor aldea (village) just outside Chichicastenango. Xepocol is where two of our cleft lip babies are from. The team had two pediatricians, so we took the side room where the adults were. Between the three doctors, we saw 183 patients. Heidi and I saw 65. Yes, it was a VERY long day.

Most of our patients needed a Walgreen's a lot more than they needed a doctor. The most common diagnoses were muscle pain, headaches, and gastritis. Of course, there IS no Walgreen's in Xepocol, so we made a pretty big difference in quality of life for most of these patients.

We did have one woman who was pretty sure she wasn't pregnant because she doesn't have a husband (that assertion USUALLY holds here - a whole lot more than in the US). Unfortunately, she IS pregnant - it turns out that the baby's daddy is her ex-husband, who she says she doesn't have a relationship with anymore. Well, maybe a little. Around here, that is a pretty big deal (think what it was like in the US 50 years ago). So we prayed with her and gave her all of our contact info in case she gets tossed out of the house or needs help in any way.

We also got to make a house call on a supposedly 110 year old woman who couldn't come to clinic. 110, you say? If you saw this woman, you might believe it. She's older than any 100 year old in The States, I can tell you that! She had a yeast infection under the fold of her breasts. 110 years with no bra and Lord knows how many breast feedings can cause a bit of saggage. Under all that, you can get things like yeast infections. Her grand-daughter had about the worst case of Athlete's foot I've ever seen, too. So she got treated, as well.

Then it was back to Chichi, dinner with the crew at the fabulous Casa Del Rey Hotel (owned and operated by American missionaries), a movie (with surround sound, I might add) and a drive home. It's now after 10:30, Heidi is repacking our stuff for clinic tomorrow, and we have to get up in not NEARLY enough hours, and do it all again. Whew!

We tried to post more pictures, but the lovely software we are using is not cooperating and we're too tired to try again. So you get one. No whining!!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Just in case you were wondering....

This is what it looks like when you're driving down the road to Canilla and all of a sudden, there's a chicken bus broken down in the middle of the road.

You might notice that there is not enough space to get around this bus and there's a rather steep dropoff next to the bus on the side we would have had to try on. So we waited.

After a few minutes, the men standing there brought a jug of water and a hose, did whatever it is that you do with a jug of water, a hose, and a chicken bus, and then they were off.

Also in case you were wondering, this is what a 100 year old woman looks like here. Of course, many of our patients don't really know how old they are, but she was pretty sure she was 100. And I believe it. She's less than 4' tall and is sporting a pretty impressive hernia she says she's had for 50 years.

She wanted a blood test to tell her if she could survive the surgery. We suggested that pain management might be a better course of action. She's never had a pain med (according to her), so she'll probably like the Tylenol we gave her. We wanted to go with Ibuprofen, but she also has gastritis. Not bad for 100 years old!

Also in case you were wondering where Alaska is, here's a picture of about 2/3 of it. Being from Texas, we always hear about how much bigger Alaska is. We're not buying it anymore. Texas is at least twice as big as that.

Anyway, SOMEONE has been bugging us about pictures so here they are. Truth be told, many days we are too busy to even get the camera out. But today we took a few. When that certain someone comes to visit, she can take all the pictures she wants. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Great Weekend

We have had a fantastic past few days. This post will probably be short, since it's past 11pm local time and we have to get up in a few hours and head to another clinic.

Thursday we were in clinic at ASELSI. Awesome experience, as usual. Friday we were with Roy Espinsa at his church in Chinique. We always enjoy spending time with him and as an extra added bonus, we went to Pollo Campero (think Chik-Fil-A but not quite) for lunch. Our bill for lunch was about what you'd expect to pay in an American fast food restaurant and it really struck us that it was about three times what the average field worker makes in a day. Just makes you think...

Saturday we were up at the crack of dawn to head to Canillá for clinic with Leslie and Katie. Leslie just got back from the US (her son's wedding) a few days ago and it was great to see her again. Craig, a friend of their family, came back down with them and will be staying indefinitely. Craig is a very strong Christian and a true pleasure to be around. We are very glad to see him again, too. (He had been here earlier and returned to the US for a little while.)

Clinic was good Saturday with one of our key patients being a lady with severe pre-eclampsia. She's about 36 weeks along and really needs to get to a hospital. We offered to call an ambulance for her but her husband said he'd take her. The problem is that she doesn't FEEL that sick. We're not really sure they believe us when we tell them how serious her situation is, but we hope they took our advice and went to a hospital.

Duane, Aaron, and Joseph (the dad and two of their sons) are on their way back to Guatemala from the US with their new airplane! That's the good news. The bad news is that they were supposed to be here a few days ago and have been experiencing weather delays. Please pray for their safe return. We know that this airplane is going to be such a huge blessing to the people here!! Thank you, God, for making this long-standing dream possible for them!

Sunday (today) was clinic in San Andrés. Again, clinics with Leslie and Katie are always great and this one was no different. Nothing terribly earth-shattering. Lots more of the same things we've seen. One woman mentioned to us, quite non-chalantly, that a few months ago she threw up and some worms came out. Yes, we do have medicine for that and yes, she is in possession of this medicine now!

Tonight was a special treat. There is a medical team in from the US that is staying in Chichicastenango and we were invited to go have dinner with them. They have two pediatricians and we will be joining them on Tuesday for clinic in Xepacól (pronounced "shay-pa-COLE").

As you may know, we've been praying for some guidance on the possibility of Heidi taking a part-time position at the mission hospital in Chichi. We really, really want this to come to fruition for lots of reasons. We've prayed that if this is not what God wants for us, could He please close some doors because otherwise we're going to pursue this possibility. Well, He opened some more doors tonight. It's too late at night to get into details, but it looks like this is going to be an awesome opportunity for Heidi. Please continue to pray for us to know God's will here.

Okay, it's nearly 11:30, Heidi's already asleep, and I have to go join her. This didn't turn out to be as short as planned, but whatever. More later!!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness...

Today was another day in clinic, and an overall good one, but with not many terribly interesting patient stories to share. (How could we hope to manage anything good enough to follow-up our football-sized back tumor with, though, really?) I guess we should really thank and praise God for no major catastrophes or new diagnoses today!

Thought we'd take the opportunity, though, to answer some questions people have been asking...

The biggest one is almost always, "What can we do?" or "What do you need?"-- Last time we posted a list of stuff the hospital needed to try to answer this, but apparently, no one seemed to have many EKG machines or dopplers just laying around that they wanted to send down... So consider this the newer, more user-friendly list of things that you might not think of, but that we can use to help plenty of individuals at a less "institutional" level:

One is, you know that drawer full of tiny soaps, lotions, sewing kits and shower caps that you have collected from different hotels over the years? Well, we don't have much use for shower caps or sewing kits, but the bars of soap and lotions/moisturizers can come in quite handy. Many people here use laundry detergent to wash their baby's skin, which tends to lead to a lot of eczema and other skin problems. Telling them to go out and buy "skin soap" is one thing, but we've found that actually handing them a sample serves as a helpful reminder to do so! Ditto with the lotions.

The second one has to do with how many pairs of sunglasses you also might have hanging out in drawers, garages, cars, etc... There are a LOT of eye problems down here, from overgrowth of irritating tissue (pterygium) to very bad cataracts, even in quite young people. The biggest reason, most people agree, is the lack of use of UV protection-- especially this close to the equator, and at higher elevations to boot! We're trying to encourage the wearing of sunglasses, but this again requires people to go out and buy something... unless we hand them a pair along with the recommendation. It remains to be seen, of course, if we can really get the idea to catch on-- but as with everything else, we can only try our best.

If you have any of these things that you would like to help us out with, or any adult or children's vitamins or cough and cold products that you found on sale and couldn't resist buying just in case any Guatemalan missionaries ever asked you for any... Well, we'd love to collect them, of course. (If you're really interested in more information on that kind of stuff, we have a list in Word format that we can forward of the meds we can most use-- just let us know!) The best way is probably just to get them to our any of our parents so we can pick them up over Christmas when we're in the States.

OR, if that's not the easiest thing for you, I'll go ahead and answer the second question, which we haven't addressed in a while... "What's the best way to send you guys stuff?" We do now have a P.O. Box here in Guatemala, which hopefully is a little more secure than our mail having to go through the hospital as before. We are told that boxes are "iffy" and might be opened, but for some reason, just about anything in a manilla envelope seems to get through okay. Please do not try to question the logic of that-- it will most assuredly lead to undue frustration, as does trying to ascertain the logic behind many things Guatemalan, as we are slowly learning!

Anyway, our address here is:
Apartado Postal #27
Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, CA
14001 Codigo de Area

Things have taken, on average, about 7 days to get here. The other option is to send stuff to the mission group in Houston-- at P.O. Box 230, Porter TX 77365-- for us to pick up when we're in the area, or for them to hand-carry down when they come. Trips are getting fewer and farther between after this month, though, so if it's important you're better off taking the chance on Guatemala probably. If you do send anything down and don't get a timely "thank you" from us, though, please let us know so we can investigate the possibilities of disappearance... Or so that we can thoroughly thrash each other for being terribly rude and inconsiderate!

That's all I have for now... Please let us know if there's anything else we can help clear up for you about life down here. Thanks for all of your continuing prayers!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Back to Work

Well, it was back to work today after a wonderful vacation at Lake Atitlán. Of course, this is why we're here, and it was nice to go to clinic well rested. We got to see several of our previous patients again, which is always a good feeling. Osni, a little boy with a cleft palate (and one of possibly FIVE), is doing better after a long discussion the ASELSI people had with his mom last week. He is in the milk program there and started losing weight. This is quite a problem, since he only weighed six pounds to begin with.

The people in the milk program found out that his mom had basically given up on him because some people in her village told her that her son was going to die. The ASELSI team convinced her that that was NOT the case. Cleft palates can be repaired, but he's never going to survive long enough to get the surgery if he doesn't eat. This week he was back up over six pounds again. Pray for his mom not to lose confidence in him!

We had another patient today whose chart indicated that he had a tumor on his back. We fully expected this to be a mole or a small cellulitis. Nope. This guy has an irregular shaped tumor about the size of a football (American football, that is - not that anybody on the Michigan State football team could identify one right now - but that's another discussion entirely) in the center of his back in the lumbar region. He's 73 years old and says he's had it for 20 years but that it's been growing in the last year. Dr. Hoak is out of the country for another week, but we'll be referring this patient to him with the hopes that we can help him out.

We also had a 11 month little girl with what the mother says is hydrocephalus. She's been to the capital (with ASELSI's help) once for a CT scan but needs another one now. She's not growing well - she's only 12 lbs at nearly a year old. She also gets kinda blue when she cries (not B.B. King blue, smurf blue). Sharon and John from ASELSI return tomorrow from a furlough in the US, so we'll work with them to get this baby some further treatment, too.

Also sad was a two year old boy who is not gaining weight. He's basically been the same weight for about six months now. He was doing well until his mother had another baby and then she couldn't take care of him anymore - she had the baby. He was basically left unattended most of the time and started eating dirt. Ever since, he's had diarrhea and can't gain any weight. We have drugs to help with a probable case of worms and with the diarrhea, but we can't help much with the other, more obvious problem. Pray for this family, too.

Well, that's it for today. Tomorrow we have clinic in Chinique, some work to do to organize this trip to Antigua for what we now believe is five cleft palate children, and prep work for clinic this weekend and next week!

I wanted to leave you with a C.S. Lewis quote I found on someone's blog on MySpace. C.S. Lewis is one of our favorite authors and this quote is a perfect example of why.

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." - C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anniversary Weekstart

It wasn't really a weekend, it was more of a weekstart. We left our home here in Quiche on Monday morning for a few days at Lake Atitlan to celebrate our first anniversary. It's only about 60km from here but it's like you're on another planet. Lake Atitlan was formed by the implosion of a very large volcano a few years back (on a geologic time scale, that is). There are three volcanoes around the lake: Atitlan, San Pedro, and Toliman. The lake itself is over 1,000 feet deep and is at about 5,000 ft altitude - a bit lower than Quiche (6,700 ft).

We stayed at the Hotel Atitlan, which is absolutely spectacular. The landscaping on the grounds is so amazing that they actually charge admission for people to come in and gawk. Anyway, we spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning there and can't wait to go back when Matt's parents come in November.

The first picture is of us on the hotel grounds, looking across the lake at one of the volcanoes. That's about as much of the mountain as we ever got to see. Pray for better weather when Matt's dad comes down with his super-duper camera.

The second picture was taken on the nature preserve hike we took. Heidi is on a swinging bridge in front of a spectacular waterfall. I don't know how clear the pic will come out on here, but you can clearly see the scale of this thing with Heidi in the middle.

The third pic is of Heidi sharing "a moment" with one of the dozen or so monkeys there in the jungle. Lots of other cool critters, too, like Coatis, but monkeys have always been our favorite, so here you go.

The last one is of us at dinner one night. You can see that we just about had the place to ourselves, which is one argument for taking your vacations during the week instead of on weekends. We took around 100 pictures and shot a few movies, and maybe we'll share some more later - or maybe you'll just have to come visit and see for yourselves!!!!

Tomorrow it's back to reality with clinic at ASELSI in Chichicastenango.

 Posted by Picasa