Monday, November 15, 2010

Home safely... but please keep praying!

Sorry we are a little late with this update, but we did indeed make it home safely-- although quite late!-- on Saturday night.

Please continue to pray especially for those patients that we operated on this week who do NOT know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... If you want/need names, here is the rundown for your prayer lists:

From Monday, Satornina who had vaginal surgery

From Tuesday, Gregoria who also had vaginal reconstructive surgery

Also give thanks to God for the other five gynecologic patients that we operated on, who have accepted His salvation. Specifically I was uplifted on this trip in learning that at least two of our patients have accepted Christ through the Catholic Church here, which I generally do not hear any members of the Guatemalan Catholic Churches say. Many of our regular readers know that the Catholic Church here, unfortunately, has suffered really since the days of the Conquistadors from a lot of "syncretism" or blending/melding with traditional pagan religious customs... To the point that the MOST common answer that we are given to the question of "Have you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior" from a person who goes to a Catholic Church here is, "No-- We're Catholic; we don't do that". Very sad and confusing... and so encouraging to know that maybe-- just maybe!-- there is a positive movement growing in that area here! Two patients don't necessarily make a whole trend, but I will continue to choose to be encouraged by it.

Until next time-- and until the world is reached,

I am signing off.

Thanks again to all of you for your prayers and support this week!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cyndi is showing off Angelica's MUSC scrubs! Angelica is one of the nurses that has been working with us in the OR for quite some time now and is being trained to eventually take over (most likely) as the head scrub nurse there...

Our clinic room... looks just like your OB/GYN's office, right? (Well, maybe except for the fact that they usually change the bed covering there more than once every two days or so...)

"Meet the Team", continued... (Sorry, these keep kind of posting in random order and I'm scared to mess with them once I finally got them up successfully!) This is Pat with Dr. Calvin Williams, his wife Latrice and daughter Brittany, from the St. Louis area.

Another couple of views of the operating room, for those who haven't seen it before...

I just talked to Cyndi a few minutes ago who happily reported that almost all of our patients have now gone home for the week post-operatively. We will keep an eye on one more (via telephone, local doctors and nurses, and--most importantly-- with the help of Dr. Tom Hoak) until we are sure her incision is okay and not getting infected. She is otherwise doing very well, though, and we expect a smooth recovery. Glory to God for the smooth recoveries that all of our patients have had so far this week!

Pictures Finally!

The first picture is just a general favorite... Cyndi Lawton holding a baby for one of our patients on Sunday in clinic (only after "winning" the dash to help by outrunning Keith to the mom's bedside to help ;-) WHAT a sweet picture and a sweet baby...

The next one was supposed to be posted last Sunday or Monday, as a "meet the team" picture... Heidi Bell, Cyndi Lawton, Keith Nelson, and Pat Peabody (with a little cameo appearance by my three-year-old, Isaac, there in the front)

Here is one of us relaxing outside the operating room between cases with Dr. Tom Hoak.

And an "action shot" in the operating room-- fairly modern for local standards, but it probably looks a little bit different than any operating rooms any of our readers have been visiting lately!

And a view of the Hospital Evangelico El Buen Samaritano (The Good Samaritan Evangelical Hospital) which was our home base for the week...


Another (failed) attempt at pictures!

Okay, okay... it took me being up in the middle of the night and not being able to sleep (yes, it is 3 am here...) AND Cyndi hinting that her family was continuing to ask about the pictures, so here they are finally! Thanks, Cyndi, for some great shots from the week.

I will report briefly that all of our patients were doing very well at my last checks on them, and I am grateful to Dr. Nelson and Dr. Lawton for finishing up rounds on them in the morning and likely discharging them all since I have come out to the Fickers's farm to fly out to do a little bit more jungly-medicine in the morning.

Also some quick follow-up on our cervical cancer lady-- she did go home yesterday after receiving a bag of blood from a family donor and feeling a bit stronger for it. Thanks again to God for her supportive extended family, which is all she has right now... may they continue to be a light to her in a way that we can not as we walk in and out of her life ever so briefly during such a difficult time. She really personifies many of the struggles of very short-term missions and it hits hard emotionally, but I thank God still for the constant reminders of how very, very blessed we all are to live such wonderful lives with our health, our homes, our supportive spouses, and our medical care system in the U.S.

Now I'd better get to pictures before waxing too political or being too completely cheesy (After all, it is 3 am and a blogger is NOT to be trusted at this hour!) so here goes... Enjoy!

(Okay, four hours later here... the internet connection is NOT cooperating for posting pictures, so it appears as if I have lied and let you all down again... SO sorry! Will try again this afternoon...)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few more long but wonderful days!

Well, I finally got a couple of pictures to post... but unfortunately I still keep forgetting to get Cyndi's camera card to get the better ones! She has really been the photographer of the week...

The first picture is of a couple whose mother we operated on earlier this week and sent home yesterday. She did great post-operatively, and the family was very supportive and gracious. They were also very nice to let us take some good pictures of them... I explained that I wanted the picture because the "traje" or traditional dress that they wear-- from their hometown area near Solola-- is my favorite in the whole country! Especially since the men are more likely to wear their traditional dress there. I wish we could see more of the men's traditional dress from other areas, but they have mostly been converted to used clothes from the U.S., sadly.

The next picture doesn't do the scene justice, but we really enjoyed a few minutes of watching these young Guatemalan kids playing with bubbles and Isaac. They were waiting on their mother, who I think was waiting to be seen by the local doctor, and had been sitting perfectly still and stone-faced for at least an hour before we remembered to break out the stash of dollar-store wedding bubbles that we had brought down! That certainly livened things up in the courtyard of the hospital, and brought quite a bit of joy to both us and them. They went through every bottle of bubbles I brought before the end... then it was on to Play-Doh! (Thanks, Tana, for sending down your Halloween leftovers...) I had almost forgotten how much fun-- and how cheap-- it is to give small playthings to children here. It is ridiculous to think that Isaac has more toys in his little backpack that we traveled down here with than many of these children will ever even see...

Yesterday's OR cases went very smoothly-- Three vaginal repair surgeries that Dr. Nelson and Dr. Lawton really did with minimal help from me (My favorite kind of day in the OR, for those of you who know me!)-- I learned some new tricks from watching them, and got to take care of paperwork and checking back in on patients and organizing and tying up loose ends and such, which was a huge blessing to me.

We also were asked to do an inpatient consult on a lady that one of the local docs had admitted the night before. In the interest of time I will spare the details, but suffice it to say that telling a 30-year old, mother of four, whose husband left her for another woman during her last pregnancy, that she has inoperable cervical cancer is NOT one of our favorite things we have had to do... Please pray for Juana to be able to get the care that she needs to survive for a while to take care of her children. She has accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, thank God!, but her struggles here on this Earth are very significant right now. We are also grateful that she has a supportive family here with her. They were looking for family members that could donate blood to her to help with her weakness from anemia when we left yesterday without any complaining or arguing, which is a minor miracle down here... so please be sure to also thank God in your prayers for them and ask for their continued support and patience.

Now it's off to the hospital to see what else the day holds in store for us... We hope that the patients are doing well and that a few are ready to go home, and will continue to pray for their recovery and salvation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Breaking my Promises...

... to readers, because I don't have any pictures to post this morning! So sorry... I will try to get some up tonight. We have really, truly been so busy trying to make and keep as many promises to patients as we can that there has been very little time for anything else so far this week. This is, of course, good news, because it means we have been busy and able to (hopefully) help a lot of people... but please pray that our minds and bodies hold out for the week on little rest and lots of pressure.

Sunday was a huge clinic day, starting at about 1:00 in the afternoon after Church and not ending until about 10 minutes before 10 p.m.! Yes, we were tired... drained physically, mentally, and emotionally... but God is good and did give us the patience and wisdom to make what we hope were decisions pleasing to Him for each patient that came in. We saw 18 new patients, setting five of them up for surgery this week and several more up for other procedures that we got done in the office Monday. That may not seem like a lot of patients to many of our readers, but believe us when we say that though the numbers might not be impressive, the complexity of problems this time was unbelievable! I am so very grateful to have two other strong gynecologic minds with me on this trip-- I would really be struggling without their insightful help. Once again, God shows us sovereignty in sending the right patients to the right team, though... simply amazing.

So some of the more interesting patients so far...

Alejandra and Satornina both got their surgeries on Monday for problems with their uterus and/or bladder prolapsing or "falling out", after being nicely prepared pre-operatively either by me in May/August or by Dr. Tom Hoak in the months in between. Both surgeries went very well and we were pleased with the results immediately post-operatively. Both ladies looked great last night, and we are anxious to get down to the hospital to check on them again this morning.

Manuela is a lady that we will operate on today (It is about 5:30 am on Tuesday, for anyone wondering...) She came in yesterday, referred by Dr. Hoak to us, for a diagnosis of blocked ureters (the tubes that go down from your kidneys to your bladder) which are thought to be due to the very significant prolapse (It is turned all the way inside-out, basically, for the non-gyn people, and a complete procidencia for you others!) of her uterus. A urologist in Guatemala City recommended that she wear a catheter in her bladder to try to relieve the pressure until it can be fixed, so she's been walking around with that for over a month now. Despite our best intentions and hormone therapy, her tissues are still very weak to support most types of surgical repair, so today we have opted for a major abdominal procedure to try to correct her problems. This is a surgery that I have never done before so I will once again be thankful that especially Keith Nelson is here, since he has much more experience than I do with it! And again, thanks to God for His provision for her this month.

We also have two other surgeries scheduled for various levels of pelvic prolapse today, so it should be quite a long day in the OR.

Somehow we have also found time to see some ladies with problems other than these, and I remain very encouraged by the handful of women that come back to see me so often-- even though they still don't want surgery for their problems and I am doing little for them, they faithfully seek me out almost every time I am here. Definitely one of the best parts of the job, and one that makes me even more thankful that we have been able to have a continued presence and continuity here for the last two years now!

Thanks to all of you for your continuing prayers as we look forward to another long but hopefully fruitful day today. Our patients that we are operating on are averaging about 50% that know The Lord and 50% that do not, so please join us in continued prayer especially for those who do not know Him-- that they will see a little bit of His love in our hands and work and smiles and hugs and sign-language communication when we don't speak their language this week, and that they ultimately might come to know Him as we are so privileged to...

"Until the world is reached..."

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Meet This Month's Team!

Today was our typical looooonnng travel day from Greenville, NC, to Chichicastenango, Guatemala— praises always to God for safe and smooth travels! Today ended in a special treat for me, of course (that would be Heidi, for those of you whom we have confused over the years with mixed blog authorship!) in that I was reunited with Matt and Isaac after being away from them all week! They’ve had a great week out at the Fickers which I am very jealous of, but I am really looking forward to getting to work with Matt again a little more closely in here in Guatemala! It is sure to bring back many amazing memories…

So our group this time is a little bigger than usual, and I am feeling very blessed to be a part of it. I am travelling with Pat Peabody, who regular readers have come to know by now and who will be running anesthesia for us again. She is joined this time by a special surprise in the form of Dr. Calvin Williams, who joins us from the St. Louis area (a friend of the Ficker family and from their home church) with his wife Latrice and daughter Brittany. Cal is an anesthesiologist with a long-term interest in medical missions, and we of course pray that he has a great trip and wants to come back and help out with anesthesia plenty of times in the future. As most of you know, providing anesthesia for surgeries is a major expense if we don’t have someone with us to provide that service, so I continue to stand in awe of the way God provides in this and so many other areas.

Also travelling with me this trip are Drs. Keith Nelson Cyndi Lawton, both co-workers of mine in the OB/GYN Department at ECU. Dr. Lawton is in her last year of residency with us and will be joining a practice next year in her home town outside of Charleston, SC. Please pray especially for her as it is the first time she will be spending any significant amount of time away from both her husband and her one-year old son, Beau, since he was born. Dr. Nelson is a member of our faculty who has quite a bit of experience leading mission trips of his own, mostly to the Dominican Republic over the last several years. He and I work together on medical student education in the department, and he is also very involved in surgical education and administration of the residency program. He is highly regarded as one of the best surgeons in our program, and I look forward to operating with him this week! Many thanks to his wife, Megan, who is once again graciously staying home with their two children while he travels the world to help those in need.

Tomorrow we will start seeing patients in the afternoon and set up surgeries for the week, so we will see what the week brings our way! We will continue to pray that God sends those our way who we most can help, and that we are able to help each and every patient that comes through our doors even if they don’t need our specialized medical care specifically. We are looking forward to a great week, and will keep you posted! Pictures to follow, of course… We were all feeling a little more travel-weary than photogenic today…