Friday, June 29, 2007
Monday we were in Nueva Santa Catarina for our last clinic there before the baby comes. We gave all of our chronic patients two months worth of meds to get them through the month we'll take at home with Isaac. They were all very excited for us and can't wait to see the baby in August.
Tuesday was our "day off". We ended up spending some time at the hospital, bringing them some gifts that the teams brought down. It took an entire pickup load (the bed and the back seat) to get all that stuff down there, but they were thrilled!
Wednesday and today, Heidi was at the Hospital Buen Samaritano taking care of some clinic patients there. And Thursday, we had a really nice clinic at ASELSI in Chichicastenango. They had a team of intercessors down and they were nice enough to pray with us for Isaac.
We also saw a couple more kids that we've been following and all of them look better. In addition, we saw a second patient with an imperforate anus (this is when the baby is born and the plumbing inside doesn't reach all the way to the anus - that's bad). We have another patient (really, he's Leslie's patient) in San Andres that Dr. Mercer is going to operate on in August, so this little boy will also go on the list. Dr. Mercer has been kind enough to offer to bring down all his goodies that he needs to fix these two kids. Since their tubing isn't properly connected inside, they both have colostomies. That isn't too fun in the US, but you can imagine what it's like here when the families can't afford the bags...
Anyway, Matt has been really busy recording, Heidi has worked on a paper she's getting ready for possible publication, and we're finishing up some of our "nesting". All basically getting ready for Isaac.
Next week, Russell, Bethany, and Tye Leatherman come down to host a construction and VBS team and we get ready to head to the Hospital in Guatemala City...
Monday, June 25, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Then it went south. And fast. We saw a spina bifida baby who was born about 36 hours ago. The back of her skull is not completely formed, the entire spinal column is open, and the bottom of the spine is open to the air. Cerebro-spinal fluid is being contained with a gauze pad. Mom and Dad both came in as they had just left the hospital in Quiche (where they took the baby immediately after birth). They were told that they needed to go to Guatemala City for treatment and that they would need about $500, which they don't have.
We contacted the social work office here at the hospital, where we have some good friends, and they said that they had seen the family and were trying to get them some advice as to where to go, but communication did not really seem to be happening very well. The family left the hospital against medical advice. We spent over an hour with the family, discussing their options, the fact that we were willing to pay the $500, but letting them know that the prognosis for this baby is pretty limited. She's probably never going to walk and she's in for a very long road with lots of surgeries, lots of time in the Capital, etc. The family has six other children at home and neither Mom nor Dad speak very much Spanish.
We offered to send them to Guatemala City, on our dime (or ASELSI's dime, as the case may be), with a translator and everything, but that one of the parents would have to go - and thus not be at home for probably several days. This puts them in a very tough spot. They do not live with extended family and therefore would be leaving the six kids to fend for themselves while Dad was working in the fields and Mom was in the City with the baby. In the end, they decided to take some antibiotics from us to try to stave off infection, to take the baby home, and pray that her little back heals over enough to prevent her from dying very, very soon. She's a beautiful little girl and you could clearly see the pain in her parents' eyes as they were contemplating this situation. She's in the second picture.
The third picture is of a child that we think is hydrocephalic (water on the brain). She's 11 months old and can't even roll over. We'll send her to Antigua this coming Tuesday for evaluation. We probably have a long road ahead of us with her, too.
The fourth picture is of a child who had spina bifida (already repaired) and is hydrocephalic and has gotten two shunts already. He is a twin. His twin sister is perfectly normal. He is about a year old and has already had several surgeries, but it's pretty obvious that he has a lot more to go. He will be entered into the physical therapy program at ASELSI, since he is very stiff and guards a lot. We will also be working a lot with his family to see what more we can do to help them.
Not pictured is a little girl we saw whose ear did not completely form and we'll try to get her operated on. Also not pictured is a widowed mother of three who was just raped by the son of the family she lives with and works for as a maid. Her first fear was that she was pregnant. Her second fear is that this rape is the beginning of things to come. We put her in contact with a woman who is a graduate of ASELSI's Bible School and has a lot of contacts in her village. The hope is that we can get her out of that house and into another one very soon.
We also saw a woman who thinks she's 85 but looks more like 185. She's diabetic, anemic, and complains of a lot of stomach pain. She can barely walk. We're referring her to Dr. Hoak for a look into her abdomen as she just "looks" like she has cancer.
Also in clinic were a couple of kids we're looking after who are just tiny and weak. One is a Down's Syndrome baby and another is really yellow. We're counselling the moms on how to care for underweight and sick/weak kids.
And if that weren't enough, we learned this week that Dr. Hoak operated on a girl we sent him from San Andres with some malformation problems in her leg. He did his best to repair her leg, but was unable to sort out the tangled mess of veins and ended up having to amputate her leg above the knee. She's only about 10 years old but had never been able to put any weight on the leg. Her mom has been carrying her on her back since she was born. The bad news is that she lost her leg. The good news is that now she might have an opportunity to walk. We'll end up helping her get a prosthesis at some point - probably in the neighborhood of $1000 - but how much is your mobility worth???
So it was a long, stressful, tiring day, but this is why we're here. It's a little more fulfilling to help people who are truly in need than to hand out a bunch of tylenol and tums, but a whole lot more exhausting (and never underestimate the ability of tylenol and tums to really improve your day!)
Anyway, please keep all of these families in your prayers, as well as little Isaac. Plus, tonight is the last night here for this VBS team. We haven't really been able to spend much time with them, since they're out working all day every day and when they come home they basically collapse, but they have been a real blessing to us even in just the few minutes that we've had with them. Pray for their safe travels home and for their abilities to kick this virus that's running through the house!!!
Tomorrow night will be our first night alone in the house in about three weeks. Then in less than two weeks, Russell, Bethany, and Tye come down to host another team that'll be here in the house while we're in Guatemala City trying to have a baby!!! Remember - every day an adventure!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
What we didn't know was that a good chunk of that drive is off-road. We're with Dr. Street. We don't think we'll ever seek out off-roading again when we move back to the United States. We think we will have had our fill of that by then. Especially with a pregnant passenger! (Those roads are SOOO easy on the bladder!)
Anyway, we got safely to the City, got our oil changed (big event here!), found an English language bookstore, then had our appointment. Those of you who are following along know that we aren't always getting the best news with the ultrasound measurements. Well, none of that has really changed. So we're still praying very fervently for a perfect, healthy baby. Please join us in that pursuit.
On our drive home, David Ficker called to let us know that the wreck had still not cleared. He and Martin were working on it (apparently the authorities wouldn't take "no" for an answer). So we took the same detour we took Monday. This particular detour goes through some pretty rough terrain on some very bad "roads". A mile or so into the detour, a truck coming the other way told us that there had been a wreck on this road, too, and that we couldn't get through. So we called David again. He said that Martin had been through earlier and had been able to get his wrecker past it. So we gave it a try. We eventually got through, though it was a little tricky.
Anyway, today, Heidi was at Hospital Buen Samaritano, and Matt was home. Several of the team members have been passing a virus around amongst themselves, so we're doing our best to help them and not get sick ourselves. Carrie and Lance are really an amazing help. Without them here, we would be completely buried. Yet another thing that we still can't figure out how Jim and Kathleen did by themselves!!!!
So, like we promised, here are some pictures from the baby shower the team threw for us. Isaac will be the best dressed person for 100 miles around here (including his daddy, which is somewhat of a cause for chagrin!!!) Guess we might as well get used to getting shown up early.
Monday, June 18, 2007
After clinic, we came back home, unloaded the truck, reloaded the truck, and headed to Chichicastenango for a meeting with some of the area medical missionaries. We've started networking with this group to share ideas, inspiration, patients, advice, and medicine. This time we got ambushed with a baby shower (before the meeting). We didn't know we were going to have a baby shower at all, so we had bought a bunch of stuff on eBay. It's amazing how much stuff you can still get that you want/need even when you think you have everything you need. We got some VERY cute things for Isaac. So much thanks to Sharon, Virginia, and the girls at ASELSI!
Leaving ASELSI and heading for home, we got within about a mile of Quiche and all of a sudden, traffic was stopped. Matt walked up a ways and asked what was going on. Just past a small bridge, a semi-truck full of crude oil had turned over and blocked both lanes of traffic. Foot traffic (from unloading chicken buses) was passing, but no vehicles. We called our friend Martin, who has a semi-truck wrecker, to see if he was on his way to the scene. He told us he had already been and that they needed more equipment than he had. His advice was to go back and take a "back road" to get home. Back road, indeed.
So we were originally about a mile or two from home. An hour later, we came rolling back in to town. However, we have to go to Guatemala City tomorrow morning for our OB appointment, so we're a little concerned about how we're going to do that. Martin's original opinion was that that truck could be there for at least a day. We'll see...
When we got home, the VBS group was unwinding from their day of work in San Pedro. Heidi had gone to our room to relax and unpack a few things when they started redecorating our living room with more baby stuff. Our second ambush baby shower of the day!!!! We lucked out! Isaac has more cute clothes than any 10 kids in this entire country now! We promise to post lots of pictures (well, not too many - maybe) of him wearing all the cute stuff he got from a group of experienced parents and grandparents. Lots of special thanks to all the very generous people from this group. It was wonderful and completely unexpected!!!!
Anyway, the first pic is from ASELSI and the second two are of the redecorated living room. Clearly we didn't take too many pictures of ourselves, but there are plenty to go around, so we'll have to swipe some from the team members and post them later!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Matt and Carrie drove Abby to Antigua to meet up with the exiting team, then went to Guatemala City to get some groceries for the incoming team. They left Quiche at 6am, spent about 30 minutes in Antigua, about an hour and a half in Guatemala City, and got home at 8pm. In other words, about 12 hours on the road, for what should have been about 8. Traffic was AWFUL! Matt prays about every 8 minutes that we don't have to endure any of that while Heidi is in labor!
Saturday morning, we went to Canilla for clinic, as usual. As we were driving in, we saw a small plane heading towards the airstrip there. Since nothing that happens out there surprises us any more, we thought maybe Duane had gotten a new plane. Not quite. He was simply giving another local pilot his biannual checkout.
However, along with this pilot (an American), came some other Americans who are taking Baby Sarah to get her adopted by an American family. So no more Baby Sarah. It's a little sad - we'll really miss her - but she will have an opportunity for a wonderful life in the U.S.!!!
So we did clinic, then dealt with a tremendous rain all afternoon and evening. We got some more work done on the plane and some more work done around the house. Duane, Craig, and Hannah all had to pack for their trip to the U.S. (today). Duane is helping Hannah move to Houston to start Physician's Assistant school (Matt is only a LITTLE jealous that she's moving to Houston) and to take care of some business items. Craig has some business to take care of in the U.S., too. Please pray for everything to go well in the U.S. for all three of them.
Today was clinic in San Andres (we saw the boy in the first picture here - an obvious referral to Dr. Hoak). It was actually slower and more calm than normal - quite a blessing, since we were all quite preoccupied. We had a Vacation Bible School team come in Saturday night (hosted by Carrie and Lance) and Leslie just had the population in her house decrease by half for at least a week.
The second picture is of Heidi's Fathers' Day gift to Matt. It says "My Daddy's a Rock Star"! We're in the process of trying to call our fathers and grandfathers in the U.S., but since 10% of the Guatemalan population is in the U.S. (and disproportionately male), all of the circuits are busy. Dads, if we don't get through to you today, Happy Fathers' Day and we'll try again tomorrow!
Please continue to pray for our son, Isaac, that he will be born perfect and healthy. As many of you know, there are a few concerns about that - but there have been tons of prayers sent to request a good outcome. Also, please pray for things to smooth out in Chiminicijuan. It's a long story, but there is some spiritual warfare going on out there that the Fickers are caught right in the middle of.
Tomorrow is clinic in Chicabracan - the first one there in a month (usually it's every two weeks) - and a meeting in Chichicastenango with the American Medical Missionary network.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
We got to see several patients today that we've told you about before. We saw Osni, who continues to look great. The mother who had moved out of her husband's house because of the abuse, then moved back, then got upset because her sister-in-law told her she was pregnant with a toad finally gave birth. And the baby? A beautiful little girl. Not a toad. WEE!!! She was positively GLOWING! How awesome! (3rd pic)
We also saw two or three little babies that we're watching very closely because they are so tiny. One was born a month or more early at only four pounds and is up to seven pounds. He's a Down's Syndrome baby, which hits pretty close to home right now, and doesn't look GREAT, but is continuing to gain weight, even though it's pretty slowly.
We found out today that the baby we worried about so much year (born at about 32 weeks and when we saw him, only weighed 3 lbs 11 oz) died. We don't know when, but it was probably a while ago. You don't win them all.
We also saw Maria, our little cleft lip baby who was always SO cute and fat (4th pic). She wasn't too happy with Matt when he took her picture, but take our word for it. She's still as cute as a button!
And the good news, at least for us, was that the team was running behind. They were planning to leave at noon, but when we got home at 1, they were still here, so we got to say some more good-byes. We are really looking forward to seeing them again over Christmas when we're in Houston, and then hopefully again as soon as possible next year.
Today and tonight we'll be doing a mountain of laundry and cleaning to get ready for the next team who comes in on Saturday. Tomorrow, Heidi will be at Buen Samaritano and Matt and Carrie will take Abby to Antigua then go to Guatemala City to do some grocery shopping for the team.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The team had another busy day in the operating rooms. They operated on a 25-year-old girl who had not one, but TWO 25-30 lb tumors in her abdomen. Yesterday was a 14-year-old girl with one 25-30 lb tumor. Also on the docket today was a woman with a precancerous lump in her gall bladder AND a hernia. And, of course, a few other surgeries.
We weren't sure if the team was going to operate tomorrow or not, but a few more people turned up that they want to help, so they're going to operate in the morning instead of relaxing and getting ready to leave.
In other news, Heidi was at the Hospital Buen Samaritano today and ended up bringing one patient back for the team to examine and referred another to be operated on.
And, so here are some more team pics... The last one is of the 14 year old patient the team operated on yesterday along with the doll they gave her.
We'll write more tonight when we have more time, but we're all still here and there was no damage.
Oh, and Jake ate another rat....
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
On another front, this team has been FABULOUS so far! We took six of them out to San Andres with us yesterday and had a wonderful teaching experience. Since we usually have over 80 patients there, it's not usually the best place to do teaching (at least from a time perspective). Since we had three extra physicians, we had extra time to learn a lot from several experienced OB/GYNs.
Last night, Hannah Ficker called with some disturbing news. A woman had shown up at their house in labor but with a dead baby. And it was stuck with a foot hanging out. So Heidi had to talk them through the delivery - there were some more advanced techniques involved. This was the 9th delivery for this patient but she only has three living children. We didn't ask 1,000 questions, since she clearly wasn't having the best day anyway, but she's obviously had a pretty tough life. Leslie said she didn't cry, didn't scream, didn't complain, or anything, but at the end of the entire ordeal, simply asked if she could go home. They gave her a ride home (which she hadn't asked for), then she wanted to know how much she owed them. No matter how smart we are, we still have a lot to learn - and the people here could sure teach us.
Anyway, back to the team at our house. They have had the best attitudes about everything. A few minor glitches have come up (like Continental losing two of their bags and not being very cooperative about getting them here - looks like their 24 hour promise doesn't hold much water) but there have been no complaints. They are improvising and making due like true professionals. Of course, Gensha's cooking helps with all of that!
Oh, and our clothes dryer finally died today. It's been trying to die for some time, but today the drum finally froze. The bad news was that some of our clothes got melted. The worse news is that Heidi only has a few pairs of pants that still fit and now she has one fewer.
And Martin got to do us another favor today. Since we had such a great response to our offer to go to clinic yesterday, we had to take both trucks. The hood latch on the green truck didn't survive the trip. So Martin got to help us fix that today. It really only took him about 20 minutes and he refused to charge us, but we did find out that we might be able to finally return a favor. His mother-in-law is in need of a surgery but is, at the moment, too scared to get it. So we've offered to help her out with that if she ever changes her mind.We've taken a few pictures, but since we've gotten complaints in the past from our friends with weak stomachs, we'll only post the boring ones. Which leaves us with two. The first is of Goran and his wife, Dr. Jubilee Brown, and Jake. That cat is the most spoiled creature on the planet. It was Goran's birthday (18 again) and we had three cakes to celebrate - sounds about right, huh?
The second is of Dr. Chavez and Dr. Brown in one of their cases. None of the good pics will make it to the blog, but we have some!!
Friday, June 08, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Our house has been descended on by 20+ teenagers (which makes it seem like a good time for a vacation!) from The Woodlands United Methodist Church. We've only been around them for about 20 minutes now, but they seem like a really neat group of kids. They're here with our friend, Pastor John Hull, who is great at keeping an eye on them.
Also, Carrie and Abby (friends from Houston - Carrie is part of our support group) are here to help host them, too. Otherwise, there would be no baby-moon...
We need to get our passport stamps, we need to celebrate Heidi's birthday, and a short vacation before Isaac invades seems like a good idea, too...
Anyway, we have dinner in about an hour or so with Gensha (WEE!!!), then we drive to a church in Chichicastenango to check out a band who wants Matt to record them, then we go to Guatemala City to spend the night in a hotel before our 8am flight tomorrow.
With any luck, we'll be able to post some pictures and stuff from Costa Rica. If not, we'll just write when we get home!