Monday, April 30, 2007

Still Disconnected

It's a dramatic saga. We still don't have internet in the house. It has been a LONG time, or so it seems. We are completely addicted to it and it is HORRIBLE to not have it. We are at an internet cafe in town again. It seems to have very bizarre hours, though, and we were just happy to find it open.

With any luck, the phone company will send someone out tomorrow. We have very little hope that anything will actually be fixed tomorrow, since getting anything DONE seems to require several trips here in Guatemala. Pray that we're wrong.

We were in Nueva Santa Catarina this morning. Apparently, word has gotten out that a doctor comes once a month. The entire world was standing outside. We saw around 50 patients, which in that place is a lot. Translation goes quite slowly and it seems like every little thing takes a very long time to explain.

Then we had to drive back to Chichicastenango and check on one of Heidi's patients there. She operated on this woman last week to remove a molar pregnancy and found that the woman's uterus was just plain rotten. It came out, too. The bad news was that a chest film discovered that the mole had turned into cancer and spread. The woman now has cancerous lesions in her lungs. And today in the hospital, she's turning yellow. So, some more tests were ordered, and Heidi will probably go into the hospital tomorrow to check on her, even though it's her one day off for the week. So it goes.

In other news, please pray for Leslie and Rachel Ficker to have a safe trip to the US to go to Hannah's graduation and to bring her back to Guatemala for a month or so.

Also, there was a bit of vigilante justice that went down in San Andres last week during the week that left one drug dealer/murderer dead and two more beat up pretty bad. The rumor is that there will be more this Wednesday. While vigilante justice might seem needed sometimes, it would be better if the town didn't just erupt into full-scale anarchy. Please pray for peace there.

Well, that's it for today. Our time here is running out (at the internet cafe). Maybe we'll write from home tomorrow.... or not....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Today was our first day back in Quiche. Yesterday was our appointment with our doctor in Guatemala City. Everything still looks good with the baby. Yes, he's still a boy.

As time gets closer, we will probably look to schedule something, since waiting for Heidi to go into labor then trying to drive 4-6 hours to the hospital is probably not the way to go.

Heidi was at Buen Samaritano today and one of her delinquent patients showed up, bleeding. She was admitted and will be operated on tomorrow, even though Heidi isn't really scheduled to work tomorrow.

In the morning, we'll be at ASELSI, then Heidi will go operate and Matt will continue some studio work he started this morning. He would probably work some more tonight, but studio work and Heidi's current headache don't work too well together!

Thanks to some "above and beyond the call of duty" work by Virginia at ASELSI, both Osni and Fredy got their cleft lips repaired this week in Antigua. We can't wait to see them and we'll definitely post pictures!!!

The internet is still out at the house - maybe it'll get repaired later this week. We're not holding our breaths, but we're down the street at an internet cafe right now. Yes, even here in Quiche, there are hi-speed internet cafes...

Well, time to go cook dinner. More later!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ken and Suzy's Wedding

We have just a couple pics of the wedding here. How does this tie in to Agape In Action? Well, Ken and Suzy surprised us with a wonderful gift.

You're familiar with the "Dollar Dance" where guests at the party will give a dollar to dance with the bride or the groom. Ken and Suzy told the guests that they would be having a dollar dance, but that all donations would be given directly to Agape In Action. Five songs and nearly $300 later, that part of the reception was completed. Three hundred dollars goes a long way in Guatemala. Thanks SO much to everyone who participated and also to Ken and Suzy. What a really great surprise!!!!

Today, we got to hang out with some more friends who came in for the wedding at a brunch at Suzy's parents' house. It was good to see all the DuPont and Faithwalk people again, too. Thanks so much for all your interest and prayer support of this mission!

Matt's mom and dad were amazingly helpful (again) with lots more baby clothes, packing help, and driving around. It was nice to see them again, too.

Tomorrow, we catch a cab at 3:30am to get to the airport and start the long journey home to Guatemala. Tuesday, we have Heidi's doctor appointment in Guatemala City, we'll buy some much needed groceries, and head home. It's been a great trip to the US, but it's time to get back to work!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Out of Office Auto Reply"

Okay, not really an auto-reply, but we are, as some of you are aware, essentially "out of the office" this week! Sorry for the lack of updates, but y'all ALL know how much busier life gets in the States sometimes, we're sure.

We flew in to St. Louis for Ken and Suzy's wedding on Tuesday, and have been having a great time ever since. Today is finally the "Big Day" for them, and we couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of it! Heidi's dress actually still zips without alterations, which is pretty miraculous at almost 27 weeks, we think. God probably just knew that we could certainly use that alterations money for something else, though, right?

Anyway, all of the clothes, sleeping apparati, monitors, changing tables, and diaper bags that Heidi has been ordering off the internet seem to have arrived on-time and in good condition, which is another huge blessing. Now the next step is figuring out how to fit it all in to the alloted number of suitcases for air travel... Wish us luck!

Also, any of you who forgot to wish Heidi's Dad a "Happy Birthday" yesterday might need to call him today! We are so happy that he has his cast of and is able to walk again in normal shoes. Many thanks to the excellent staff of Lexington Orthopedics for their care of him during the last six weeks. (And of Daryl's broken arms, and of Heidi's broken arms and Ganglion Cysts, and of everything else that our family has injured on 2-, 3-, or 4-wheelers in the last two decades!)

Happy Wedding Day to the soon-to-be Dr. and Mr. Ken Schulte!

We will be returning to Guatemala very early Monday morning, then staying overnight in the City for another OB/Gyn appointment on Tuesday. Our parents have our cell phone number here in the States if anyone needs to get in touch with us, or you can email us for it if you can't find them...

Wedding (and hence, new "Heidi's belly") pictures to follow soon, so keep tuned...

Monday, April 16, 2007


We had clinic this morning in Chinique, where we saw about 25 patients, and then headed home to unpack the grey truck, pack the green truck, drop the grey truck off at Martin's shop (preventative maintenance - he told us that there are four very specific bolts in the steering system that always break on Mazda's. He'll replace them for us before that strands us somewhere) and head to Guatemala City.

We had a quick stop in Chichicastenango to leave some money with the folks at ASELSI. They will be taking another trip to Antigua this coming week with two more cleft palate kids. We can't make it, but the money that was donated for these kids will be making the trip (Osni and Fredy are the two - assuming we can find them to advise them when to be where - neither family has a phone).

When we got to our hotel here in Guatemala City, we were delighted to find that our hotel has wireless internet (unlike our house, now) and were horrified to see what had happened in Virginia today. Our hearts go out to every family that has a loved one at Va Tech. Not knowing whether your child or friend is okay must be heart-wrenching. People are suffering all over the world, not just in our particular corner...

Tomorrow, we catch two flights. One to Houston (for not NEARLY long enough) then another to St. Louis. We can't wait to see Ken and Suzy!

Well, wish us safe travels and pray for everyone in the Va Tech community...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday the 13th

I know we're not supposed to believe in things like this, but the evidence is pretty strong this time...

First, Heidi had a patient come into clinic with a spontaneously aborted pregnancy - never good news. Second, Matt had a pretty major computer error with the recording he's working on. The drums will have to be completely re-done. Big pain.

Then, the workers at the house broke a PVC water line inside the house and couldn't find the outside valve to shut it off. They quickly broke a hole in the outside wall near the leak and started routing the water outside, but we still mopped up around 15 gallons. We did find the valve, but it took about an hour and a trip to the builder's house to pull the plans for the house.

In the meantime, a freak electrical storm hit and blew out our modem and answering machine.

If it wasn't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all!!!

Thankfully, today is Saturday the 14th. No matter how bad the 13th is, it's only 24 hours long. Or so we thought.

One of our last patients today came in without a number - she had told Salvador that she was "muy mal" (very bad). She came in complaining of lower abdominal pain and acted like she was very sick. She had told Salvador that she had been to a local nurse earlier. She told us that this nurse told her she had cancer in her uterus, but hadn't really done an exam. We did a pregnancy test to rule out an ectopic pregnancy, and when we got her back on the table for a second look, she passed out. Not just a little sleepy, she went completely unresponsive.

We checked everything we could think of and she was completely fine - blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, respirations, oxygen saturation, everything. Just out to lunch. She had no family and no friends with her. We didn't even have her name yet. So we loaded her in the truck and drove to this other nurse's house. She said she knew her but hadn't seen her recently.

We dug through her purse and found nothing but a cell phone and some cash. We started calling numbers in her phone and reached a sister who came back her to our clinic to meet us. After about an hour of being unconscious, she woke up (slowly, but surely). After a few minutes of talking with her and her family (we are SO not getting the whole story), she left to go home.

So, here we sit. We'll make lunch, check our email (since we can't do that at home anymore), and help around the house. Heidi has to alter her bridesmaid dress for the wedding, since she ordered it before she knew she was pregnant (she'll be 26 weeks tomorrow - not quite the same size as before).

Tomorrow, we'll do another clinic in San Andres - hopefully a little quieter than today...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day Off

Today was a bit of a surprise day off. We KNEW we had the day off, we hadn't remembered. We don't go to ASELSI the first Thursday of every month because a pair of local doctors covers that day. Since Semana Santa was the first week of the month, the Drs. Valilla are at ASELSI today and we're here at home.

We have some workers in the house doing a bit of an improvement project, but we're just hanging out.

Jake, on the other hand, has been uncharacteristically busy. He's eaten three lizards and a rat that we've seen so far. Watching that cat is pretty entertaining. You just wonder what's going through his mind. And if we think THAT'S entertaining, wait until we have a kid running around! (Guess that's what happens when you don't have TV.)

Heidi had one surgery scheduled yesterday but the patient didn't show up. Another patient arrived in clinic who NEEDED a surgery, but waffled on whether to do it yesterday. She was supposed to come back to the hospital today, but we haven't heard anything about her yet. (Both are molar pregnancies. Waiting is not really the best course of action.) But what can you do? We can't go kidnap them.

Tomorrow, Heidi is back at the hospital and Matt will work some more in the studio. The weekend is in Canilla with the Fickers. Monday is clinic in Chinique, then we drive to Guatemala City to fly to the US on Tuesday for Ken and Suzy's wedding.

Monday, April 09, 2007


We had our normal clinic in Chicabracan this morning. Everything was pretty routine, including Juan Diego. He has been such a blessing in that place. Probably one of the best decisions we've made out there was to hire him to evangelize to the people who are waiting for their consults.

This afternoon, we had our American Medical Missionary meeting. Another great meeting. Just about everyone brought some extra meds they had, and just about everybody left with something they needed. Loaves and fishes!

The bad news we got was that the baby Heidi delivered just over a week ago died. The baby and mom had been here at the hospital in Quiche. The hospital originally told Mom that she'd have to be here for at least three weeks - which sounded about right to us. But, after just four days, they told her that she had breastfed once and that she should go home for Semana Santa.

Mom brought a very dehydrated baby to Leslie a few days later and it died.

Of course, we're receiving this story third-hand, but it can be SO, SO frustrating to deal with local healthcare providers. The value for human life is often not what we're used to. And training can be very inconsistent. We've seen some local doctors who are absolutely fantastic - they can do so much with so little. And we've seen some local doctors who are absolute quacks.

We had a few patients in clinic today who said that their local Centro de Salud had told them that they had arthritis in their lungs and needed an ultrasound from the gringos. Again, second-hand information, but GRRRR!!!!!

Tomorrow, we go back to Guatemala City to pick up our passports from Migracion. We could, technically, wait a week until we fly out, but if there's any type of problem then, we have NO time to deal with it and we could end up missing our flight. Not okay. So we'll drive four hours each way just in case... At least it'll be a nice day together and we'll get to satisfy a pregnancy craving or two!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

¡Feliz Pascua de Resurreción!

Happy Easter! Today is the day that makes every other day make sense if you're a Christian. This is the day that separates us from all other beliefs. Mohammed has a tomb and he's in it. Buddha has a tomb and he's in it. Nietzsche has a tomb and he's in it. Jesus' tomb is empty! What wonderful news for all of us!

We didn't have clinic in San Andres today, so we actually got to go to church. The American missionary community in Chichicastenango has a weekly church service in the Casa del Rey hotel there (run by Americans). So, for the first time here in Guatemala, we got to go!

Also, after church today, we walked up the hill to help dedicate the home of an American missionary who has been here for nearly 40 years. Previously, Bill lived in Joyabaj and had been working to translate the Bible into K'iche (Joyabaj version). Now, he's moved to Chichicastenango and will start over in the Chichicastenango dialect of K'iche.

We were lucky enough to have lunch with him after the dedication of his new home and he taught us as about much about the local people and language as we've learned in nearly 10 months here on our own. His background is in anthropology and linguistics, and when he moved down here in 1968, he started with literally nothing.

The Mayan languages, before the Conquest (early 1500s), were written languages, but in the style of ancient Egypt (symbols, not letters). All of that has been lost. For centuries, K'iche was a spoken, but not written, language. Bill had to start from scratch. He had to introduce the concept of an alphabet and start learning K'iche phonetically. He began to write it like that.
"His" alphabet was accepted by the president of the country as an official alphabet for K'iche (Joyabaj dialect). Since dialects of the K'iche language are so different (65-70% comprehension rate from Joyabaj to Chichicastenango), and since there is no standardized spelling for words, like in English, he has to start over again in Chichicastenango.

Think about this - this sentence can be read by anyone who speaks English all over the world, though the pronunciation will very greatly from place to place (i.e., Texas vs. Northern Ireland). But since K'iche is only written phonetically, it has to be redone for each accent or dialect. For example, the word "wash" would have to be written "warsh" in Arkansas, "wush" in New York, and "waash" in Wisconsin.

We were a bit surprised that someone would take the time to translate the Bible into a language that is mostly used by illiterate people. Bill explained that he is fluent in English, Spanish, and K'iche, but since English was the language of his youth, when he prays, he prays in English. People have told him that they are much better able to relate to a God who speaks their language. When they pray, they want to pray in K'iche. What if we had no evidence that God speaks K'iche? Wasn't that a big part of the Reformation? The right of the people to have God's word in the language that they speak? People died for this. And, hopefully, people will live because of it.

Anyway, that's a lot on that topic, but please keep Bill and his work in your prayers. All of our dreams should be that no one is denied entrance to the Kingdom because they spoke the wrong language here on earth.

Tomorrow is clinic in Chicabracan, then we have our bi-monthly/quarterly networking meeting at our house. This time, it's still just medical people, but we're going to propose periodic meetings with non-medical people, too. There are still lots of English-speaking missionaries out there who are doing great work who do not have the benefit of this community. Some are from Ireland, some are from Canada, others from England, and many from the United States. Surely we can all benefit each other - we ARE all on the same team!

Just one picture today - of Heidi and Matt in front of Bill's new house (the view is spectacular!)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Last one - More Antigua Pics

Some pics of the floats...

More Pics

Here are some more pics of the carpets in Antigua...

Holy Week in Antigua

After spending Monday in a very quiet clinic in Nueva Santa Catarina (less than 12 patients, probably - which was okay with us - we were both tired), we drove to Antigua on Wednesday for the Holy Week celebration there. It was our first "solo" vacation since our anniversary in October, so it was very welcome.

Antigua, Guatemala hosts the second largest Holy Week celebration in the world, right behind one in Spain. It has been going on here since the early 1500s, when the Conquistators started the tradition. Over 125,000 people come in from all over the world. There are plenty of gringos, both from North America and Europe, as well as plenty of locals and other world travelers (we even saw groups from Japan and China).

The festivities started with the beginning of Lent, but really come to a head the last few days of Holy Week. Thursday and Friday are the biggest days. It's a good thing we showed up on Wednesday, because after that, the ability to drive on streets is not so good. They are almost all completely blocked off at one time or another for the carpets or the processions.

If you live on one of the parade routes, it is a common tradition to build an "alfombra" or "carpet" in the middle of the street. These are usually made with colored sawdust and plants. We'll put in a few pics here and in the following posts. They are absolutely spectacular. Many take several hours to make and are utterly destroyed by the processions. The goal is to finish just minutes before the procession comes through. Some families will work through the night to have their alfombra ready for an early morning procession.

The processions begin with literally hundreds of purple-clad men, all carrying spears, who start to line the streets ahead of the floats. The men are all parts of teams to carry the floats. They can take up to 80 men to carry one, as some weigh over 7,000 lbs. The figures on the floats are often 400-500 years old and often have real hair. The teams will switch out as often as every block. One of the standard bearers will have a placard with the number of the team currently carrying the float. Teams are organized by shoulder-height (for obvious reasons).

Following the main float will usually be a band. Matt cringed a little bit at each one - they're clearly chosen for enthusiasm and not musical skill level, but that's how it goes.

Following the band is usually a series of other banners and then a float with the Virgin Mary on it. This float will be carried by women. They aren't as big as the main floats, but we still saw some that required 20-30 women to carry them.

There are lots of Roman soldiers, priests, people carrying paintings of apostles, and many other participants, but the floats are obviously the big draw.

In the United States, we've sanitized Holy Week quite a bit. Mel Gibson's movie created a lot of stir and there wasn't nearly as much blood and gore in that movie as we saw on some of these floats (or in your typical action flick, but never mind that). Unfortuately, the biggest thing here is Good Friday with Easter itself being largely ignored. There are a few resurrection parades, but the vast majority have to do with the suffering and death of Jesus.

So we've got some pictures here and in the following few posts... The first is the obligatory self portrait - we had discovered a very cool Cuban restaurant with live music (great stuff) and the moment seemed right... Plus, Heidi's got her new glasses on that we just bought in Guatemala City.

The next few are of some of the alfombras. Note in the first alfombra pic that you can see people sitting on boards suspended over the carpet, still working on it. And on one, you can see that the Holy Week theme isn't necessarily a requirement... who knew?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Studio Pics

Since we're posting pics today, here are some pics of Matt working this afternoon and evening with the guys to record Paul's song...

To Get Y'all Off My Case!...

...And you know who "y'all" are!! Everybody's been asking for "belly shots", so here they are from just over 24 weeks. I'm wearing my favorite maternity top, which reads, "It started with a kiss", in case you missed that! Matt and I bought it in the City (Yes, here in Guatemala... You'd be surprised how hard it is to actually find shirts with Spanish on them, ironically) Anyway, hope you enjoy!

We are enjoying a day off today, and will actually go on vacation tomorrow, down to Antigua to be tourists during Holy Week. Yay for some R and R!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Another Interesting Weekend

We left early Saturday morning for Canillá, not knowing that one of us would shortly be back. Our first patient in clinic Saturday morning was a 17 year old girl, pregnant with her first baby. By all accounts, she was only 32 weeks along (two months shy of "full term"). Her baby was also breech (butt down, not head down, as normal). She was also in full, active labor and nearly completely dilated.

About thirty minutes later, Heidi safely delivered the baby and handed it off to Leslie and Katie, who were already set to take care of a sick, tiny baby. Good thing, too. The baby was small (less than five pounds) and not breathing well. Leslie and Katie got the baby stabilized and we quickly loaded Mom, Baby, Grandma, and Grandpa in the truck for a high-speed run to the hospital in Quiché. (This included mounting an oxygen tank in the back of the truck for Leslie to use to keep the baby breathing well.)

We got to the hospital and everything seemed like it was going to turn out okay. We got the baby into the hands of a pediatrician and Mom into the hands of the woman's health area (she was still bleeding just a little bit). All of the hospital's ventilators were in use and they couldn't tell us what they were going to be able to do for the baby, but we left them here and we pray that they were able to get the care they needed. We'll try to check on them today or tomorrow.

By the time Matt and Leslie got back from Quiché, it was 4pm. Heidi and Katie had finished clinic and most of the work for the day was done.

Today was clinic in San Andres. Nothing too spectacular, except as we were closing up and cleaning up, a woman showed up with her son and had his face wrapped in a towel. On unwrapping his face, we saw that he had a horribly infected molar that had one entire side of his face swollen so bad he could barely open his mouth! We gave antibiotics to treat the infection and some pain meds. Most of the country will shut down in the next day or so for Semana Santa (Holy Week), so hopefully he'll be able to take the medicine. Please keep him in your prayers.

Today is 24 weeks for Baby Boy Bell. Just thought you'd like a reminder!

Tomorrow we're in clinic at Nueva Santa Catarina, then we take the rest of the week off for Semana Santa. (No one would show up to clinic, anyway.) We'll spend a few days in Antigua to see all the festivities there and we hope to have some cool pictures to show.