Friday, March 30, 2007

Busy, Busy

WOW! Seems like a lot has happened since yesterday. Heidi had another good clinic day today at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. Not too many patients, but good ones. At least one more surgery, too. And one of our patients from Chicabracan came to see Tom about her stomach problems. He'll do an endoscope on her soon.

Matt went with Paul (one of the medical students that Agape is helping) to a friend's house last night to do some recording. Paul had written a song a while back and they were able to get the money together to record it, but the recording was lost (don't ask - these things DO happen!). So we re-recorded last night. And since they're not paying by the hour, more and more ideas can make their way into the final product.

Matt spent the bulk of today doing production work with the tracks that were laid down last night. Believe me, there's a lot to do after the musicians stop playing. With any luck, this song will end up on a CD that will be available for sale here in Guatemala and in the US. Be patient, though, these things don't happen overnight. Plus, there's at least 10-20 more hours in the studio to finish this song.

This afternoon, we got our desktop computer back. Remember that it died a few weeks ago. Well, it wasn't exactly new. The design of this particular computer had the fan bolted directly to the processor. The fan died and everything underneath cooked. But we got a new motherboard, a new processor, new memory, and a new case (long story, don't ask) for about $150. Could be worse, right?

And this evening, Pam and Jose Munoz were coming over to pick up the green truck for a trip to the Ixcan area. They are doing some Bible School work about four hours past where we went with the Fickers. Matt went to go fill the truck up for them and on his way home, it died. Luckily, he was only about four blocks from Martin's house (our mechanic friend). Martin sent his helper over and we determined that the gas station had put diesel in the (gas powered) truck.

Martin towed us back to the gas station and informed them of their error. The solution is, clearly, to drain the diesel from the truck, refill it with gas, and be on your way. The problem is that the genius who designed this truck didn't anticipate this problem. There's no drain on the gas tank. So we pulled the gas tank (on a 4x4 truck, it's protected by some stuff, too), took it apart, drained it, reassembled it, put it back, pulled and cleaned the filters, and refilled the truck. Much of this was done after dark. Thank God for Martin (AGAIN!). Without his help, not only would none of this have gotten done, the gas station wouldn't have paid for it, which they did.

Anyway, Matt just got home and now Pam and Jose are on their way BACK to the house to get the truck. (They were sitting here waiting for the longest time while Matt was dealing with the truck - he didn't have a phone with him!)

Tomorrow, we're back to Canilla for what seems like the first trip there in AGES! We sure miss that visit when we don't get to go...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Clinic at ASELSI

Since we last wrote, our friends, Jim and Carolyn, have left for Antigua, then for the United States. They were a real joy to have with us for two weeks and we wish them a very safe journey home. They'll be back later this year - probably just to see our new baby - at least that's what we're telling ourselves!

Tuesday, our "day off", we left home at 4:30am to meet a patient in Chichi at 5am. This little girl is 13 months old and weighs 13 lbs. We (and some folks from ASELSI) took her to UNICAR, the cardiac hospital in Guatemala City for an evaluation. The doctor there took one look at her and guessed Turner's Syndrome (a genetic syndrome in which she's missing one of her X chromosomes). They also did an echo and discovered an atrial septal defect (a large hole in her heart) and a pulmonary stenosis (a restriction in blood flow coming from her heart). She will need two surgeries at a cost of about $12,000.

Clearly, we don't have that type of money to spend on any single patient, but luckily the hospital will do the work for her at a very deep discount (whatever donation we can afford to give). We'll be working with ASELSI to see what we can come up with. We certainly don't want to tell her mom that her daughter is going to die for lack of a few thousand dollars.

Also, we had to extend our 90 day visa that comes automatically with a passport stamp. We're coming back the US for a wedding in April, but our 90 days will run out next week. If you think dealing with government bureaucracy in the US is bad, try it here. We had to walk down the street to make a copy of a form that came from a pad that made triplicate carbon copies! We only had to wait in the exact same line about six times, though (four of those after the woman told us we only needed one more thing!).

And we had our own prenatal visit with our doctor in Guatemala City. Everything seems to be going according to plan. Keep praying for Heidi and Baby Boy Bell.

Yesterday, Heidi had another clinic at the Hospital Buen Samaritano and a surgery just after lunch. In case any of you are eating lunch right now, we'll leave out the description, but it was a female-type surgery. Two of her patients from clinic yesterday will need a surgery, as well.

Today we were in clinic at ASELSI in Chichicastenango. One of our patients, who you may remember from before, came back in for another prenatal visit. This particular patient is the one who is pregnant for the 8th time but only has four living children due to some spousal abuse. She had actually left her husband for a time during this pregnancy but is back at home again. This time, the problem is with her sister-in-law. Apparently, this woman got mad at her last week and told her that she's not pregnant with a baby, but with an evil toad. Must run on her husband's side of the family.
Luckily, our translator (the patient only speaks K'iche) was able to get the patient laughing about it, but she still wanted to see the screen on the ultrasound when we confirmed that there is definitely a HUMAN baby in there, not a toad. Very round head - dead giveaway.

In another happy moment, we got to see our little baby, Osni, again. If you'll remember, Osni was one of the cleft palate babies we were very worried about. He was SO tiny and we were afraid that Mom was not feeding him enough. Osni now looks fabulous! He weighs more than double what he did when we saw him first (over 11 lbs now), has good strength, color, and everything. His evaluation for surgery will be in April and, hopefully, his surgery will be in May.

The bad news is that Osni's mother did not bring him. Their neighbor did. Osni's mom was "muy mal" (very bad) for a week and then they brought her to the hospital a few days ago when she was "grave". Here, that could mean anything from a simple cold to having body parts falling off. The descriptive words very seldom have any real concrete meaning. We'll check on her at the hospital this afternoon.

We also saw a 13-year-old who we were afraid was pregnant last time (nope), our friend with the bad rash on her lip (getting better), and several other patients we've started to form nice relationships with.

One guy knocked on our door (without a number) and wanted to know what we could do for his friend who cut himself on the wrist with a machete two months ago and still can't use his hand. Apparently, he was told he cut some tendons (quite possible), but has not even attempted to use the hand since the accident. Luckily, our translator has been trained in some basic physical therapy and was able to explain the "use it or lose it" concept in K'iche.

Tomorrow is another Buen Samaritano day for Heidi and Matt will either go back go Guatemala City to get our passports from the government office, or will spend the day recording. He has a meeting with a local church band tonight to discuss a live recording session with them sometime soon.

Below are two pictures. One is of Osni when we first met him and the other is of him today. Guess which is which...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday Afternoon

It was a bit of an unconventional weekend. We had planned to get up on Saturday morning and head to Canilla for clinic, but Heidi ate something she shouldn't have and was up all night. So she took some drugs and got out of bed at 5:30pm. Matt got a lot of reading done - and spent some time adjusting the hammock that came down on the container - YAY!

Sunday we went to clinic in San Andres, feeling much better, and saw over 60 patients with Leslie, Katie, and Craig. Sunday afternoon, we came home and listened to a very disappointing UNC basketball game. It hurts when you're up 10 points with just a few minutes left and find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but sometimes that's how it goes.

Today, we had clinic in Chicabracan. We were fortunate enough to have Juan Diego (our evangelist friend) with us again. He said that he feels like there are a few people who are interested in his message there. Many of our patients are quite involved in the Mayan religion and really, really, really need to hear this news.

In addition, we referred three patients to the Hospital Buen Samaritano. We have two patients in particular that we're pretty worried about. We've been treating them for gastritis for a while, one of them even for an ulcer, but neither is seeming to get any better. Dr. Hoak has an endoscope and can take a look in their stomachs for us and let us know exactly what we're dealing with. One says she's 68 but looks about 90 - we're quite worried that she might have stomach cancer or something. Another patient told us that she wanted to come to the hospital on a day that Heidi's going to be there because she trusts her. That kind of thing really takes time and effort with the local people here and we felt so good to hear her say that.

Also on the good news front, one of our diabetic patients has achieved sufficient control that the hospital here is willing to do her hysterectomy. We've been working pretty hard with her to get her in control and it's wonderful news that the doctor here at the hospital feels good about her condition.

Tomorrow we will be taking a young girl and her parents to UNICAR (the cardiac hospital in Guatemala City) for an evaluation. She is 13 months old and weighs 13 pounds. She has a very strong heart murmur, probably indicating a hole or something. With any luck, they'll be able to help her there. If this situation isn't corrected, it's pretty unlikely that this girl has any shot at a normal life.

Later tomorrow, we have an appointment with OUR doctor to take another look at our son. Seems like our life is nothing but doctor's appointments lately - from one side of the table or the other!

Wednesday, Heidi has another surgery scheduled at Buen Samaritano. Time will tell whether Matt will need to be a surgical assistant that day - it's been a few weeks since he's had any recording time, but we'll see!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Last Day with Students

This morning, sadly, we had to say good-bye to our students. They are, at the moment, probably enjoying themselves in Antigua. As you would expect in a third-world country, one person's bag didn't make it. They called and called and called and it finally showed up this afternoon - about 8 hours after they left. Go figure.

The impressive part - no complaining - really. We're pretty sure we wouldn't have made a full week without our luggage and no whining.

We dropped everybody off in Chichicastenango this morning and Oscar picked them up there (actually, he pulled up the same minute we did). Then Heidi saw 12 patients in her clinic there (two more surgeries) and this afternoon, we collapsed.

We did get a new episode of "Grey's Anatomy" and right now it's halftime in the North Carolina - USC game. Go Heels!

Jim and Carolyn are here until Thursday and have continued to be great guests. Jacob came over tonight to bring them some info and to let us know what we have to do to get the trucks' registration renewed. You know, normal stuff.

Tomorrow, we leave for a weekend with the Fickers again. It seems like forever since we've seen them. This past week was fantastic (long, but fantastic) and we really hope that we can work with this school a little more in the future - maybe host some of these kids as 3rd or 4th year students.

Then Monday, we're back in Chicabracan. Tuesday is our "day off" but we'll probably take a young girl into the cardiac hospital in Guatemala City for evaluation and we have another prenatal appointment with our doctor there.

In any case, here are a few more pics of the students. We burned two CDs worth of pictures for them to take home, so hopefully they'll have some great memories of this trip!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More Student Stuff

Today we split up again. Two students went to the Hospital Buen Samaritano with Heidi and did clinic, both with her and with the ENT who's here. The other four stayed at the house to sort the medicines they brought and to take the donated medical supplies to the hospital.

The folks at the hospital were very excited to see what had come down on the container. There were lots and lots of very valuable gifts in the four truckloads we took down.

This afternoon, all of us ended up at the hospital. Things looked kind of slow, so Heidi and Matt and two students came back to the house for siestas. Four students stayed to observe some more surgeries and then caught a chicken bus and a tuk-tuk back to the house. We were told that that was quite the adventure!

This evening, Heidi gave an ultrasound seminar using our baby as the model. Everyone will get plenty of opportunities to see ultrasounds tomorrow, but we won't have an unlimited time to teach, since we have lots of patients to see and a finite amount of time to do it.

After clinic at ASELSI, we'll go to the tourist market in Chichicastenango, Heidi will round on her surgical patient from yesterday, and then we've been invited to watch a soccer match that some hospital employees here in Quiche are playing in.

Here are a few more pics - more tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Further Evidence

There is further evidence to how great this team has been this week. We asked them when they decided to come down if they could try to bring us some over-the-counter meds. They responded with four suitcases full of GREAT stuff! They did a really wonderful job of assembling all that stuff.

Also, they've been fantastic about helping to cook and clean around the house - as have Jim and Carolyn. It's nice to be able to have ten people eating and living in the house and not feel like we're running 24 hours a day just to keep up with the extra housework.

This morning, we split up a little bit. Heidi had to go to Buen Samaritano to prep her patients for surgery and to start the first procedure. We sent two students with her. The other four went with Matt out to the Mayan ruins here in Quiche (this has been a city for over 1,000 years). That group was lucky enough to bump into a tour guide that showed them all around the ruins and even took them to two Mayan religious ceremonies and showed them the significance of all the things they were doing.

It's a little weird to be a Christian missionary learning about Mayan religious ceremonies, but they really are interesting, at least from a scientific perspective. We know they have no power - at least no power that comes from the one, true God, but they're interesting, nonetheless!
After lunch, the second group went to the hospital. One student got to work with the visiting ENT to do some translating. He also got to do some neat exam stuff and assist on a procedure.

Three students got to scrub in on surgeries today. We hope to get the rest scrubbed in sometime tomorrow.

Jim and Carolyn offered to bring Gensha in to cook dinner for us tonight. That worked out great because we were in the hospital until after 6pm. Gensha is a local woman who caters wonderful authentic Guatemalan meals with American stomachs in mind. Great experience!

Anyway, here are some pictures from the day...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Medical Students

Our medical students arrived on Sunday evening following a little adventure involving some lost luggage. We're still missing one piece, but surviving okay.
They are here for a week from the New England School of Osteopathic Medicine (I hope I got that right). They are fantastic! We are having a great time with them.

Today was clinic in Chinique. We had about 35 patients, a pretty sizeable number for that clinic. We paired the students up and had two in the room with us and four outside doing "pre-screening" including blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks and some basic history on each patient. After a while, we'd rotate. Each student had a chance to actually do at least one consult by themselves. Heidi, of course, was in full-blown teacher mode. Go figure!

This afternoon, the guys went to the gym and the girls went to market. We had a wonderful supper with fresh fruit and vegetables from the market!

Tomorrow, Heidi has two surgeries scheduled at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. Three students will get to scrub on those and we'll try to find opportunities for the other three to scrub either on some of Dr. Hoak's surgeries or with the ENT who is visiting (ear, nose, throat specialist).

Below are some pics of us hanging out and sorting through the boxes of stuff that came down on the container. They have been a tremendous help.

Also, LOTS of thanks to Jim and Carolyn for really being awesome guests and unexpectedly wonderful helpers around the house with all the people here. They have been such a blessing to have around!! We'll try to get some pics of them up tomorrow...

Please keep David Ficker in your prayers. He has been involved in a minor "situation" that could escalate way beyond what it deserves to be if some peoples' hearts are not turned in the right direction. Please pray for peace and for everyone to be rational and reasonable.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Exciting Weekend

After a nice evening with Jim and Carolyn on Friday, we got up early Saturday morning and headed to clinic in Canilla. The day started normally enough with the standard patients - prenatals, diabetics, a machete wound - you know, normal.

Then a woman came in who had a tumor in her "parte" (you can figure that one out). It didn't SOUND like a classic presentation of cervical cancer until Heidi examined it. Then it started to act like one (read: bleeding). And not just a little - a lot - a WHOLE lot!

At one point, we had the patient on the exam table, Leslie was comforting the patient, Katie was handing Heidi supplies, Heidi was working very hard to stop the bleeding, and Matt was holding a phone to Heidi's ear so she could consult with one of her professors in Houston to make sure we hadn't missed anything. The good news is that Heidi was doing a great job - everything she possibly could.

The bad news was that she really needed to go to the hospital. We took the woman's daughter home to get the husband. He's a lot more concerned about his money than he is his wife's health, but at least he agreed to bring her to the hospital. Heidi went down to the hospital today to check on her and the patient is being given the "Guatemalan Runaround". The hospital is telling them they need to give blood, but are also telling them they need to send her to Guatemala City for chemo. Chemo is not free and they probably can't afford it - though they're in better position than most. Please pray for her husband to have a change of heart - to believe that his wife's health is really the most important thing in the world - and also for her health.

We didn't end clinic until mid-afternoon. We had sold a pretty fair amount of numbers and this one patient took well over an hour. Luckily, there wasn't a terrible amount of work to get done in the afternoon, so we were able to rest after clinic.

We did get a chance to watch part of the Michigan State - University of North Carolina basketball game, at least until our internet connection took a dive. The Spartans put up a valiant effort, but were eventually overpowered by sheer numbers of talented players on the Tarheel side. Next year...

Today was a very smooth clinic - probably a payback from yesterday! We were able to finish up before 1:00 and get back home where we are here waiting for our students to arrive.

Tomorrow we'll go to clinic with the students in Chinique - at Roy Espinosa's church. Tuesday, Heidi has two surgeries scheduled. Wednesday and Friday are Buen Samaritano days and Thursday is ASELSI. Sometime in there, we have to inventory and sort all of the medical equipment that came down on the container so it can be donated to whoever has the most need.

It'll be a busy week, but that's why we're here!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Almost the Weekend!

Thursday was another great day at ASELSI. They gave out 35 numbers again, instead of the 25 they used to give. We didn't have that many return "citas" (appointments) either, so we got to see several new patients. The hardest thing about that clinic is knowing that, even though many patients arrive before 5am, that some still get turned away.

Every patient we have knows how hard it is to get in to this clinic and they all ask us for the little slip of paper you give them as a return appointment. It guarantees that they'll get in again. Those who need one get one. Those who don't need one are simply told to come early when they come back. I guess it's good news when the people have so much trust in your clinic that they're willing to start arriving around 2am to try to get a number.

Our guests arrived on Thursday evening. Their names are Jim and Carolyn. They're originally from Ft. Collins, CO, but they winter in Arizona and are here from there, right now. They told us about one of the families they work with here and they have been so generous with this family. It's another young widow with several children. We hear that story so often here. And women have so few options when it comes to earning money to support their families. Folks like Jim and Carolyn really make a huge difference for the families they "adopt".

Today, Heidi was in clinic at Buen Samaritano. Her patient load is starting to pick up and is approaching a nice level. She could still use a few more, but the days are no longer spent wading through 1st and 2nd Kings in one morning! She has two surgeries scheduled for Tuesday, which should make a great opportunity for the students to see some of that.

We leave for Canilla in the morning for our weekend clinics there. Tomorrow is Katie's birthday. We're sure that Joe has done most of the cooking and planning - or will at least claim credit for it! Craig's mom and little brother are here, too, so it should be a very fun day!

Sunday, our students come in in the afternoon. We've had lots of email correspondences with them and are very excited about meeting them. They really seem to have a lot going for them and we can't wait to work together for the next week. Hopefully we can all teach each other some things!

Congrats to Michigan State and North Carolina for both winning their first round games in the NCAA tournament. The bad news is that we have to play each other tomorrow. If you'll remember, Heidi went to UNC and Matt went to MSU. The last time we played each other was April 2, 2005. Matt proposed after midnight (early in the morning) on April 2. He couldn't propose on April Fool's Day - Heidi knows him too well. And he knew that if MSU pulled the upset, she'd say "no".

This time, though, she's got the ring and is carrying his child, so he might cheer a little louder for the Green and White than last time. Of course, the Spartans are still underdogs and they're playing in North Carolina, less than an hour from Chapel Hill. We'll see.... (Thank God we have internet access!!!!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Midweek Notes

Wow - has it already been three days since we last wrote? How time flies when you're having fun!

Monday we were in Chicabracan and saw about thirty or so patients. We really feel like we are developing good relationships with the ten or fifteen regulars we have there, so about half of our patients are chronic and the other half are either first timers or less regular patients. We didn't have Juan Diego with us this time due to a conflict in his schedule and we really missed that. It'll be nice to have him back with us next time.

Tuesday was our day off. We spent most of the day relaxing around the house. Yes, two days off in one week! It was unbelievable. We both feel very much refreshed. We were able to get our desktop computer to the local computer guru and he hopes to have word in a day or two. The preliminary guess is that the motherboard is fried.

We also got all the materials delivered for Heidi's Valentine's present. Yes, it's late. It's not my fault - we've had a ton of stuff happen. She is getting a new bathtub. Juan Cuc will be out to start the construction maybe later this week.

Today, Heidi was at Buen Samaritano with a full morning of patients. She even scheduled two for surgery! Pray that her workload will increase to just exactly what she can handle - no more, no less!

Matt was home working in the studio. No real achievements in the recording arena yet, but lots of needed practicing, writing, and organizing. Recording can be a very long process - at least the way he does it!

Tomorrow, we have some surprise guests coming. Jacob had asked us a while back if we could provide a bedroom for a few days for some American missionaries from Colorado who come down to help out at the Utatlan School. Apparently we said yes. Well, he told us Monday that they're coming tomorrow for twelve days. We have six medical students coming in on Sunday afternoon for a week, as well, so it'll be a full house for the next week or so. God always has a plan, though, and it'll be nice to have a few extra missionaries around when the students are here. Some of the students are not Christians, and some even say that they are "searching". Well, search no more! Hopefully it will be nice for them to see the less physical, more faith-based or spiritual side of medicine while they are here.

Tomorrow we're back at ASELSI. Due to our recent request to increase the number of patients we see there (they turn SO many people away each week), it'll probably be another long day. That's okay, though. We see so many great patients there and we have super help in the front desk staff and our translator, Cecy.

In other good news, Craig's mom and 5-year-old brother fly in tomorrow for a week visit, so we'll get to meet them in Canilla this weekend. YAY!

Well, that's it for now. Time to make supper - spaghetti and salad. Heidi says our son really likes spaghetti - which really means that mommy likes it! Guess she's entitled...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Interesting Weekend

Friday, we had the opportunity to go out again with a really neat group of people from Atlanta. This was our second outing with them. They come down three times a year and stay at the Casa del Rey Hotel in Chichicastenango, run by our good friend Matt Capehart. The group had three pediatricians, a physicians' assistant, and some very experienced auxiliary folks. We did a clinic with them in Chulemal - just outside Chichi.

The vast majority of patients were typical clinic patients, but we did refer two women to Heidi's clinic at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. The pics below are from the clinic on Friday.

The following paragraph will describe, in detail, everything we did on Saturday.


Yes, it was wonderful. Neither of us changed out of our PJs all day long. We needed that very badly.

Sunday was another clinic day in San Andres. We had the day off Saturday because the Fickers were in Antigua to return their team of nursing students to the City. We brought a baby to the hospital here in Quiche after clinic because she was quite sick - probably with pneumonia.

This evening, we finally got a chance to meet Jenny Trigg, an American missionary who lives near Los Encuentros, Guatemala. We had heard so much about her, but had never met her in person. She brought a family with her who had just had a baby on Thursday and were worried about her umbilical cord. It had been tied off with a red string to ward off evil spirits, but it wasn't the cleanest tie or cut job in the history of the world.

Heidi tied it off a little closer to the baby and cut off the excess cord. The baby never flinched. We think the reason the mom really wanted some attention was because the dad drinks quite a bit and told her that he doesn't care what she does with the baby. His preference is that she dies because she's a girl. We don't even know what to say to that. Really. Where do you even start with that comment?

Of course, we prayed for them before they left. Mom is in a Christian church but has a husband who...well, we already talked about him. Plus, she's still superstitious enough to tie red strings around body parts to ward off evil spirits. God was definitely needed in that equation.

Oh, and Ernest Braren stopped by. He's back in town for a week and we were very happy to see him again. We're going to work with the local eye team to get the surgical microscope to them that came down on the container. He also had a few other things come down that will be donated to one place or another.

Anyway, tomorrow, we're in Chicabracan and will be working right alongside Ernest and Connie and the SOS team that came down. YAY!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Two More Days in the Life

Yesterday was a good day for both of us-- Heidi was at the Hospital Buen Samaritano and saw five or six patients, which is an improvement over sometimes not having any! Word is spreading slowly, and we're pretty sure that soon she will have more work there than we wished for. (A radio ad that the administrator is running soon probably won't hurt, either!) Matt had the chance to be home working with his studio for the first time since we packed it up last March. This was, of course, a happy time for him. He is working on a solo album and on re-recording some things, and hopes to also help record a local Christian band here in town that he has played with some.

Today we were at Aselsi, where we saw more patients than usual (about 40)-- We are trying hard to increase our services there, since we are often turning many patients away at the door due to lack of appointments. We did lots of prenatal care, saw several return patients, and got hit with lots of new problems also-- making for a long, but productive and meaningful, day.

One new patient was a 75 year old man who had a stroke about a month ago. He has lost all control over the right side of his body, and his family really struggled to get him in the building for his consult. There's not much we can do for him, of course, except show that we care and try to help the family as much as possible to deal with this tragedy. We did send him to the Hospital to pick up a walker from Dr. Hoak, which we hope will help him get around some. We're also trying some medication to help his severe tremors, which he has had since before the stroke. Pray for the best!

Another patient is a 13 month old who weighs just over 13 pounds. There are very few months in one's life when those two numbers should match! She has a very loud heart murmur and has failed to gain much weight at all despite being in the nutrition/milk program there at Aselsi. We are planning to take her and her mom to Guatemala City March 27th for a cardiac evaluation at the hospital there. Please pray that they are able to help, as it does not appear that this girl will ever do well without surgery to correct whatever defect she has in her heart that is using up all her energy just to keep her alive!

Our little girl with the severe dermatitis and impetigo continues to improve. You might recall she was initially brought in by a concerned teacher, but we're happy to report that her mother has been with her on subsequent visits and seems to be taking good care of her. Importantly, too, she is staying in school-- Many children with any deformity or facial rash would be kept home by their parents in order to avoid ridicule. In a society where school is not mandatory, this happens commonly. We are quite proud of her and her mom for persevering.

We had two new diabetics to teach about diet and the diabetic lifestyle and start on meds. This is a labor-intensive process that will need to continue indefinitely, but we pray that we can help these women to live longer and healthier lives by controlling their disease. One was diagnosed two years ago, but has not had access to medications or doctor visits since then! You can guess she was pretty poorly controlled. No one had ever even talked to her about changing her diet or even what diabetes means as a diagnosis.

On the home front, please pray for continued good health for us both. We seem to both have been sick a lot lately, but we thank God that nothing has been as serious as it always could be. The pregnancy still seems to be going well-- We're 20 and 1/2 weeks now! Just under 20 more weeks for us to agree on our little boy's name... wish us luck. Also, up until about 10 minutes ago, we were blessed with two computers in our home (the laptop we brought with us and the desktop that has been used by Agape in Action for several years)-- The desktop just died, and we're not at all sure at this point if we will get it back. Pray that we don't tear ALL of our hair out trying to re-do stuff that was only saved to that machine.

Tomorrow we will work in a different village with a team that is down from the States in Chichicastenango. It's always nice to work with new people, but days tend to be very long when you are trying to keep up with a team that is only here for a week! We've grown much more accustomed to the Guatemalan pace of life, so please wish us patience and endurance for tomorrow. We'll let you know how it goes, of course...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Interesting Day

The bad news was that we had to take Matt's parents back to Guatemala City for their flight home. The good news was that we didn't make a wrong turn. Not one time. That's probably a record for us in Guatemala City where the roads are not well labelled and where one wrong turn can lead to a pretty exciting adventure.

We got to do some shopping in The City to prepare for the impending arrival of some students in the next two weeks. We also got to buy some gardening supplies (pray that the spray kills the bugs and not the bushes!)

We got home in time to warm up some leftovers (the pork tenderloin was courtesy of Ernest and Connie Braren - a real treat in a country where the meat leaves a lot to be desired!) and watch another episode from season 1 of Grey's Anatomy (one of our vices - thank you, Carrie!).

About halfway through the show, Duane Ficker called and told us that a gringo friend of his called him on his way here to the hospital tonight and wondered if we could help. Apparently, there was an accident and a young man's foot was quite badly injured. Lamar (the gringo pastor) was driving as fast as he could to get here. He knows that the service here can be spotty sometimes and wanted a little help.

We live here, but we do not work at this hospital. We do have some relationships there, though, that might come in handy from time to time. We couldn't promise much, but we said we'd walk down and try to see what we could do. As we were walking down, an ambulance from San Bartolome pulled in with a car right behind it. (We've done some work in San Bartolome with the Centro de Salud there.)

They brought in a young man, about 15, with a very badly injured foot. Blood was everywhere. The ambulance driver was so stressed out from the drive that he was asking everyone he saw for a light. Christians here frown on smoking, but it was still pretty funny to us.

The pastor, Lamar, is a Mennonite who lives about two hours from here. He had driven this young man about an hour from the scene of the accident to the Centro de Salud in San Bartolome. From there, it's another hour here. We don't know what the roads look like between the accident scene and the Centro de Salud, but from there to here, they're horrible.

The accident involved an overloaded pickup that stalled out on a hill, then the brakes failed. It rolled backwards and smashed this kid's foot between the tailgate and a hill. It's pretty bad. He has at least three broken bones in his foot, the foot is ripped open quite badly on the top, and was spurting blood from an artery.

Luckily, one of the best surgeons we know at this hospital is on call tonight. They immediately addressed the situation, started an IV, administered pain meds, tied off the bleeding artery, cleaned the wound, and dressed it to prepare him for surgery later tonight. Whether he gets to keep the foot or not remains to be seen, but they are doing everything they can here at the hospital.

Now comes the matter of the police. We're not sure at this point (11:30 pm) whether the driver of the truck is going to be arrested or not. He's a member of the church, as is the young man who was injured. The police are being quite nice, though, and have agreed to at least let Lamar, one young man who came with them, and possibly the driver spend the night here at our house instead of at the police station. Their point is that the driver didn't just flee, he actually sought help for the kid and helped drive him here.

So we're setting up one of our six "guest rooms" for the pastor and these two young men he brought with him. They hadn't eaten in several hours, so we fed them, made some coffee, and gave them some jackets to wear - it's in the 50s now and they showed up in t-shirts (what they'd been wearing all day).

So Matt will be sitting up for a while to see what happens with this whole situation and whether or not we have some houseguests tonight. Heidi went to bed since she has to work at the Hospital Buen Samaritano tomorrow. We'll let you know what happened...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Slow Start

The weekend did not start well. We planned to drive to the Fickers' in Canilla on Saturday morning to do clinic and help out with the dozen or so nursing students who had come down to help out for a week.

We had gifts. Wood is very hard to come by here and there were some packaging materials from the container that we were going to give to the Fickers. Included were four big pieces of plywood and some nice new 2x4s. No, not very exciting in the land of Lowe's and Builders Square, but those stores don't exist here.

We also had a generator that had been donated by some friends in the US. We don't really need it, but the Fickers do.

Also piled into the back of the truck were all of Heidi's clinic supplies, several of her medical books (that had just come down on the container - they were for helping to teach the nurses), around 1,000 prenatal vitamins, some games, some parts for Craig's motorcycle, etc. You know, gifts.

About 1/3 of the way to Canilla, we saw that our tailgate latch had broken on the truck due to the bad roads and that we were spreading our precious possessions all over the road. We quickly turned around to go back and found some folks loading Heidi's medical books into their truck. We got those back but nothing else. By the time we made it back to wherever that stuff fell out, it was already gone.

Missing is Heidi's clinic vest, her odoscope, two blood pressure cuffs, a pulse-ox meter, her stethoscope (a Valentine's present from Matt), all of the vitamins, two glucose monitors, her doctor bag with all of her minor procedure tools in it (anesthesia, needles, scalpels, etc.), and a ton of other stuff we'll really have to work hard to replace. All because of a broken latch on the tailgate. Not a good morning.

As they always do, though, the Fickers made it a whole lot better. It's very, very hard to lose things that have sentimental value, but it's nice to know you're not the only one who ever has. And one of the nursing students was kind enough to donate her blood pressure cuff to us.

Plus, clinic went great and we sat down to a nice lunch with all of the students. (See the picture below).

In the afternoon, the guys went out to the airport to pull the clutch from one of the Fickers' trucks - it almost went out on them on their trip to The City to pick up the team. It took a bit longer than expected and pushed our return trip home into the dark hours (we usually stay in Canilla, but the house was a little more crowded than usual).

As usual, God had a plan. As we were finally getting ready to leave, a woman came to the gate with severe abdominal pain. Heidi, with the help of our ultrasound, was able to determine that she had some free fluid in her belly and really needed to go to the hospital. Everything happens for a reason.

Today was considerably better. We met everyone for clinic in San Andres and saw about 80 patients. Heidi, Leslie, Katie, and Hannah all got to do some teaching, and the students all did great. It's very hard to be out of your comfort zone and without most of the tools you're used to using (let alone trying to practice medicine in a language you don't speak). They all had great attitudes, were very helpful and knowledgeable. Good job, girls!

Tomorrow we're off to Nueva Santa Catarina. Then Tuesday we take Matt's parents back to Guatemala City after a great week's visit.

Here are some pics... It's a long story, but we're not sure what order they'll be in. Obviously, one is of 24 of us eating lunch at the Ficker house. Another is of Heidi and Matt giving a "consulta" in the street outside clinc while waiting for the others to arrive. Another is of some of the girls in the waiting area outside clinic after a long day. And the last is of Leslie, Hannah, and Heidi in the doorway to the clinic room...

Friday, March 02, 2007


We've spent part of the last few days resting and hanging out after a very busy Wednesday. Matt's parents are still visiting and will return to the US on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, we brought all of our personal possessions from the container into the house and put them in one pile. Medical stuff went in another pile. There were also a few "custom" piles made here, as well as probably 20 pickup truck loads of materials taken to other places.

Our "personal stuff" pile was basically taken care of yesterday. We rearranged the great room and unloaded all of Heidi's medical books, Matt's music stuff, and all of the kitchen things we just knew we couldn't live without (three months before we moved here we didn't know quite as much about the place as we do now).

We have two trucks here. The grey one (we named it "Grisita" - meaning "little grey" in Spanish) is our workhorse truck. "Verdita" (the little green one) is our back-up, loaner, and the one we use if we happen to be headed two different directions on any given day.

We had put new brakes and tires on Verdita in the last few months, but the suspension and steering systems were completely shot. We finally got a span of two days where we didn't need it and got it to our friend Martín for a checkup. After replacing all four shocks, most of the front bushings, some ball joints, and most of the bolts on the front end, he presented us with a bill for around $150. Now, mind you, $8 of that was labor. Try THAT one in the US!

We should say that Martín is the same man who travelled to the US with the Fickers in January to get the trucks they bought there. He's the same man who fixed the frightening metal-on-metal clanking underneath Grisita a few days ago and refused payment. He's the same man who brought his flatbed here when the container came and refused payment for that, too. (We snuck an envelope in his truck to pay him for spending about 1/3 of his workday here.) He is a good, Christian man who really believes in helping missionaries. In your prayers tonight, thank God for Martín and people like him.

We say all that to say that Martín brought the truck back to us last night. We thought that it would be nice for Heidi to have a vehicle to drive to Chichicastenango today so Matt and his folks could have the other one here. God had other plans. At 6 o'clock this morning, Leslie called and told us that David had been up half the night replacing the engine in one of their trucks only to realize that they don't have papers for it just yet.

Why does this matter? They have a team of around 15 people coming in today and they only had two vehicles that were running right and had papers. So we loaned them Grisita (it has A/C - and when you're spending 6-8 hours on the road, that matters). Since Martín had done a "rush job" on Verdita (even though we didn't think it was necessary), we were able to help out. See, God has this whole thing under control.

What even works better is that we're going to Canillá for clinic tomorrow anyway, so we can bring Grisita back with us and no extra trip is necessary. How about that?

More good news: Matt's studio is set up and appears to be working as well as it did when he last saw it 10 months ago. He'll start work on a solo album he's been waiting for 5 years to have time to write and record. He'll also be calling the band in one of the local churches to set up a time to start recording them. Details on both projects will be forthcoming.

Well, that's it for today. We'll probably have a few dozen pictures from this coming weekend. Along with the dozen or so nursing students, Hannah Ficker is visiting Guatemala for the week and we're excited to see her again, too!