Saturday, February 11, 2012

Home again, home again...

Well, here I sit in the Miami airport, waiting to catch the flight back to RDU and trying to use my time wisely to wrap up the blog. The last two days were awesome! Friday morning we got up early to round on our patients and send the two from Wednesday home, looking great. That left only one for Tom to round on for us today, and he sent her home and said she looked great, too.

We then hopped on a van to Quiche and met Duane Ficker at the runway there to fly out and do clinic in Cruz Chich, a village about an hour from the Fickers. After seeing a few hundred patients there, we went home to their house exhausted but happy! It is always so good to spend time with them and catch up. What an amazing family. You can catch up with them at their blog-- there's a link over on the side of this page, I think, if you're interested.

Last night Leslie and I stayed up until nearly 9:30 talking, which any of you who have spent a weekend night out in Canilla with us know is nearly a miracle! I miss being near them so dearly, but am always encouraged by the amazing work that they continue to do with such love and patience and wisdom.

Joey split off from us at the airport this morning (after helping with another 15 or so prenatal visits in the clinic before flying out this morning) and will be in language school this week. She will then join another ECU team down in Nicaragua for another two weeks of mission work, so wish her health and patience! Chris and Tony should be home by now as I still await my connection, but at least I will get to look in on my babies in their beds before turning in to mine for the night.

Thanks again to all of you for all of your prayers and support-- we'll catch up again in May! I am hoping that Pat Peabody (from anesthesia) and one of the residents from our program, Sarah Gore, will be joining me then. Pray that things go smoothly for them to be able to join me please!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Last Day in the OR

Well, today we finished up the surgeries with Tom Hoak doing two minor cases and one major prostatectomy (which Joey and I had a great time scrubbing in on), and Chris and I finishing up an abdominal hysterectomy which went very smoothly. We sent all of our patients from earlier in the week home, and are hopeful that we will leave Tom with only the one from today to look in on and send home over the weekend!

We are thankful for what seems to have been a fruitful week surgically speaking, and just pray that there have been some seeds of God's unfailing love planted in the hearts of our patients and their families. Please pray for this, and for some healing as both Chris and Joey have been feeling a little under the weather with colds and such.

A few pictures that I finally got around to stealing off of Joey's camera-- first is Joey and Chris operating earlier in the week.

Then there's the "obligatory" uterus picture for Joey-- unfortunately not technically the first one she took out because we kept forgetting, but a nice shot nonetheless... one of my favorite poses and I love having so very many different versions of it with so very many different friends from over the years!

The last one is of Chris not being especially happy with me for catching her in a lovely pose as we were once again cleaning our own speculums from the week so they'll be ready for next time! Ah, the glamorous life of a missionary gynecologist!


Tomorrow we will get up quite early to round, hopefully send two more patients home, and then head up to Quiche. Duane will meet us there with the plane, and we will go pretty much straight from the Fickers's runway out to Cruz Chich to see probably a few hundred people in clinic there! Wish us more patience to minister to these people tomorrow as we near the end of our week here. Especially as it will be particularly painful for me to be out there with Leslie, Katie, and likely Rachel and definitely Don Allison and won't really be able to visit with them until clinic is over! That will be a little tough, quite frankly. But at least we will have some time to visit after we are done! I can't wait to meet little Ethan and hang out a little bit in my "spiritual haven" (also known as the Fickers's home) in Canilla!

Then Saturday, of course, we fly home (Well, Chris, Tony, and I do... Joey is staying in Antigua at language school for a week and then flying down to Nicaragua to meet another mission team for another week-- color me jealous!) I will be so glad to see my family again. These weeks away are getting harder and harder as the years go by, but are still a great blessing to us all.

Also from Dr. Chris last night...

Well once again, we are almost finished in Chichi and all of us are getting a little worn down I think. I believe I should be buying stock in Halls the way I am downing them, but made it through a couple vagathons intact and plan on heading to bed as soon a I finish writing this. Another good day. We had 2 cases and Tom (Dr Hoak) had 2 cases today. We decided to try and keep clinic light and asked them to give us 5 patients and then only the people with a referral note to see for the morning (Over the past few years, Heidi has developed a pretty good referral base with the local medical missionaries, the nice thing about the referrals is they are pre-screened by someone with some medical knowledge, so they are always people we can DO something for!)... of course those 5 turned into 10 very quickly so Heidi ended up covering the consultas while we got started in the OR. Thankfully (again) my superstar med student was an amazing assist and we actually finished the first case so quickly that Heidi's response when we asked for help talking with the families was, "Seriously? Already?" :-) The second case also went gorgeously... me and Joey had a lovely 3 clamp vaginal hysterectomy and Heidi finished with a gorgeous anterior repair/perineoplasty... nothing to put a surgeon in a better mood than a couple really pretty cases! ;-) We finished up, threw in a bonus consulta for the daughter of Chicki (sp?), the very sweet lady who cooks us lunch while we are down here (let me just say, the woman can cook... if I lived there I would weigh 200 lbs it is so good...), and helped out a little with Tom's cases before finishing off our night at my favorite restaurant in Chichi, Los Cofrades. They smoke everything... it is SO good!

So what is left?? Well tomorrow we have our add on surgery and then we start packing up again. Very early Friday morning, we will get up, round on our remaining post-op patients, and catch the microbus to Quiche to meet Dwayne Ficker. Those who have followed my trips before will remember me talking about the Fickers I am sure because I absolutely LOVE them! Dwayne used to run a private charter plane company and his wife Leslie was a nurse before they got called to Guatemala where they have been for more than 10 years now. They now have a aeronautics/agricultural/medical mission in Canilla which is one of my favorite parts of the trip! Friday we will meet Dwayne and fly to Canilla then drive up to Cruz Chich to do clinic... give me an ultrasound and a room full of pregnant Mayan ladies and I am a happy girl! And then we get to finish out the day with people whose company I truly adore! I am super excited especially to get to meet Katie Ficker's new little boy Ethan (who I had previously only seen through an ultrasound!) The perfect way to finish out a long week! Then Saturday we fly home!!!!

Prayer requests for today... mostly just pray for energy and focus... as we get more tired, it is sometimes difficult to give each patient the love and care they need and deserve. We really just want to continue to see each woman as the beautiful creation God sent to us because He LOVES them, and not just work through a number of patients. Pray that we would be sensitive to His leading with each of these ladies! And personally, pray for me to TRUST that this is all in God's hands... the way things work withour surgeries is that we generally tell them that we work for free, but the surgery costs the hospital X amount... and then we say, what can you afford to pay? They pay what they can and the rest is covered by a charity fund. Not unlike the US, while some are very honest, some I feel try to work the system a bit and don't pay what they are truly able... I tend to get irritated when I realize that is happening, because someone who truly HAS need could use those resources. I need to realize that I can't change their hearts, only He can... I am called to SERVE and show them His LOVE. God will handle the rest. He can convict and soften hearts and he can provide resources for others that need them. I am realizing a lot lately that I really struggle with trusting Him to take care of things. I just want to fix everything myself... I like the illusion of control WAY too much! Other than that, I have no requests, only PRAISE for all of His mercies on this trip!! He really has been SOOOO good and we've been blessed to be able to do a lot! Thanks guys for all your support and prayer! It means the world!! See you all soon~

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Stolen From Christina Again...

Thanks to Christina Schwering for posting the following blog tonight!
SOOOO, lets see how this thing holds up tonight... Its Tuesday night and we just finished a lovely dinner at the Casa San Juan with Roy and Jim, two of Heidi's awesome missionary friends (or "grandparent types to her kids" as she described them tonight :-)). Thoroughly enjoyed some limonada con soda, guacamole, and good conversation with great folks! And it was probably a much healthier meal than the ice cream we had for dinner last night... *lol*

The last 2 days have been BUSY!! Yesterday we saw 10 consultas and did 4 cases in the OR. Today we added on another 12 consultas and 2 vagathons (our 3rd OR patient never showed up... hoping she didn't think it was another day because we are FULL now!!) We actually added an extra OR morning Thursday to allow us to fit another case in! And even with that, the less urgent patients have been pushed to the next trip for their surgeries. That is always tough, but I am so grateful to have as many opportunities as God will give me to help out!! The cases have gone well so far. Both vagathons today were long... one complete prolapse that ran about 3 hours, and bled a little more than I would like (I think she must have been taking a lot of Aspirin or something... platelets were NOT doing their job for most of the case) but got a good end result and finally seemed to dry up a bit. The second case was about 2.5 hrs and went a little easier. Joey, our med student with Heidi, has been a Godsend... excellent assistant in some tough cases... bright, hard-working, and a fast learner... really has been a blessing.

A few prayer requests for tonight... First of all, Heidi saw a young lady during our first case that came in for no period and feeling pregnant for 8 months... lo and behold, she is indeed 8 months pregnant. When Heidi told her, she burst into tears... she is married and her husband is in the States and the baby isn't his apparently. The father of the baby doesn't want anything to do with it and apparently she is staying with her parents who will kick her out if they find out she is pregnant. She is terrified... Pray that God find a way to allow her to safely deliver this child and that He finds a place for this little one. I know that God can use the worst situations and some of our biggest failures for His glory... pray that this experience will do just that in her life and the people around her. Sometimes at our lowest point is when we are truly able to look to Him. Continue to pray for our patients and for the people we have yet to see... pray that in serving them, they will be able to see something different than the world around them! :-) A small praise is that 3 of the nurses at Buen Samaritano asked for consultas from us today. God has given us favor here and a good reputation with the locals allows us to reach so many more... people will come if they trust us!

Thanks again for the prayer... we are so grateful for it... and HAPPY BIRTHDAY again to Ashley!! If you see her today, shower her with lots of love!! 2 more days in Chichi, 1 in Canilla, then HOME! Love to you all!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Stolen from Christina...

So I'm totally just re-posting Chris's blog from her Facebook page tonight, since she and I are both too tired to blog again tonight! Here is at least a different take on yesterday-- Enjoy!

Briefly, today was a great day-- just busy. All four surgeries done successfully and ten more new patients seen. Had ice cream for supper and now it's time for a shower and a long nap ;-)

So we started off the day with an awesome word at the little missionary church down here... tough word but an important one all the same and one I probably need a reminder of far more often than I get it. Preached on Luke 13:1-5... Jesus was asked what he thought about an event where people had gotten killed by Pilate unfairly. Jesus (as he always did), read their minds and realized they were trying to justify the deaths and says, "Do you think this happened because they were worse sinners?" He then goes on to ask them about another tragedy where a tower had collpased on several people (one which had no bad person to blame) and ask if they also were worse sinners and that is why they died... and then he tells them (paraphrasing here a bit) that they were missing the point.... of course they were sinners (we all are) and yes, they died, but we ALL deserve death and will get it without repentance! The pastor preached it far more eloquently than I am re-expressing it, but I was just SO convicted about how often I miss the point... I get caught up asking why (or, sadly more often, why me?) when probably the better question is why not? I have sinned (far too often) and fallen short (WAY short) of the glory of God... I don't deserve to live an eternity in his presence. But I am so grateful that he loves me enough to forgive me and bring me to Himself for eternity... *sigh* I'm probably not getting this across well, (realize that reading it back now) but wanted to try... ANYWAY...

Picked up a couple gifts in the market and then headed to clinic for the day... its always a good sign when the crowd at the hospital is so thick you have a hard time getting in the door... *lol* We saw 21 patients this afternoon and scheduled 8 for surgery (and have 2-3 more coming back in 3 months that may need surgery then!). VERY productive afternoon! Lots of prolapse surgery, a couple big fibroid uteruses (aka "fireballs in their eucharist" for the Greenville, NC folks... ;-)), and a D&C for a random endometrial mass. Had a very sweet young lady try to convince Heidi that the reason she hadn't had a period in 4 months was because it was going into her feet (they were swollen, in her eyes it made sense), struggled through several interviews trying to determine if ladies were incontinent (yes, we KNOW you urinate in the bathroom, but does it happen other times?), and had our normal smattering (love that word) of back/leg/feet pain... for the most part though, lots of ladies we are actually able to help! ;-) Most of our patients have accepted Christ, but been in prayer for 2 ladies we are operating on who don't know Him! Hoping they see His love through this experience this week!

Finished off our day in an awesome little pizza joint near the hospital, yelling at a TV with 2 other tables of Americans who had found their way to the lone joint with football playing in town! Thoroughly enjoyed the second half of a GREAT game over some tasty pizza and fried plantanes (gotta have a little Guatemalan flare *lol*)! Wasn't exactly a GCF or TCWC SuperBowl party, but it did nicely in a pinch!

SOOOOOO... prayer requests... we have almost booked all of our surgery spots (remember, we share an OR with Dr Hoak, the general surgeon here) and haven't even gotten to Day 2... pray that we are able to utilize our time wisely to reach everyone God would have us be in contact with here. If today was an indication of the rest of the week, we could probably use some prayer for energy too! :-) Pray for restful nights sleep for all of us (ie: sleeping through the cat in heat/fireworks/rooster/noisy vehicles, etc that are not typically outside of my window in Seneca... *lol*). Pray for the sweet women we are serving that do NOT know Christ, that this begin to plant a seed in their hearts and pray that for those that do that we may be an encouragement to their lives!

THANK YOU to those who always take this trip with us in prayer! It doesn't work without all of you!!!! Looking forward to a great week!!!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Productive Sunday!

Wow. Today was long—but not nearly as long as I thought it was going to be when they told me there were 20 or 25 patients waiting this afternoon to see us! I can’t believe we actually got done before 10 pm, much less in time for the SuperBowl halftime show… cool.

Sundays are always long, because they usually start with an hour or two of market, then Gringo Church up at the Hotel Casa del Rey (sooooo nice to see so many of our long-term missionary friends there each time), then some kind of makeshift lunch and we start our clinic. We try to see whoever shows up, although I think some left today when they saw that the wait might be quite long. We at least didn’t turn any away, for which I am grateful.

So, twenty-one patients later, here’s the brief rundown: 13 patients referred and 9 that came on their own, 2 that we had given appointments to come back to see us from November, 1 from one of the nurses at the hospital, and 2 from local docs at the hospital. Eight surgeries scheduled, five of which are vaginal. Two of the patients we are operating on do not know Jesus, so I will focus on them and ask for prayers.

Rosa Tol Guarcas is 73 years old and has a pretty bad prolapsed uterus. She and her family are of the “traditional Mayan religion”, they explained to me. They kind of giggled when I said that I was glad we were operating because it gave us more time to talk about “mi amigo Jesucristo”, but at least they were warned ;-) She is pictured with her daughter, Chris, and Joey.o:p>

The second picture is Catarina Gonzalez, a 55 year old patient from one of the towns where the Fickers have clinic (San Andres Sajcabaja) and also has a significant prolapse. She came in with lots of family members, including her son-in-law who lives closer to Chichi and has accepted the Lord. His parents are still in the “Catholic” church and not interested in accepting Christ so far. We will definitely be praying for her this week. We are operating either Tuesday or Wednesday; I can’t remember right now.

Now it’s pretty much time for bed, as tomorrow will also be long. We will do 3 or maybe 4 surgeries and surely see tons more patients also so we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for all of your prayers—and good night!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Safe in Chichi!

We are always thankful to arrive safely here in Chichi, and always thoroughly exhausted by the time that we do! Today’s travels started around 3:30 am from Greenville and got us here to the apartment around 7pm.

Anyone who has been following along with us for a while will be familiar with Dr. Christina Schwering (used to be DeLuca) and her new Husband Tony, who are here with me again. We are also excited to have Joey Chow, a fourth year medical student from ECU, with us for this trip. She is planning to go in to a combined Emergency and Internal Medicine residency. After working with us in Chichi, she will stay in Antigua at language school for a week before flying down to Nicaragua to meet up with another group from ECU headed by Drs. Jack Rose and Harry Adams. What a great month to have just before returning for Match Day!

I wasn’t sure what to expect in customs with the new president in power, but hoped and prayed for the best as always. Chris, Tony, and Joey all went straight through (as soon as they were satisfied that Chris and Tony weren’t with the large medical group with bags identical to theirs and clearly marked “medical missions”, that is!) I got my bags X-rayed but apparently they weren’t bothered by the several hundred suture needles or anything else in there so that was good.

As usual, we have no idea what we will see when patients start coming in tomorrow. We are hopeful to have 3 or 4 patients that we asked to come back show up for the appointments we gave them in November, so we will see. One of the ladies that needs surgery for an ovarian mass is an old regular patient and friend of ours from the Chicabracan clinic—Felipa Lopez Vicente is the sister of our brittle diabetic friend Ana from there. Ana is the patient who had eye surgery by some team years ago and apparently was told that she should always wear the sunglasses they gave her then. So she does. Always. I’ve never seen her take them off. You’ve probably seen her in some of our pictures in years past. I really hope Felipa shows up.

The other big news from Chichi is that internet and phone services are no longer available, apparently for the next two years. Some kind of scuffle between the Latins and the Mayans somehow led to that; I’m hoping Tom can shed some more light on it when he comes up tomorrow! So our internet is going to be either internet cafes or by cellular modems that we can purchase here. Not sure how great upload speed is going to be so you might not here as much from us this week as usual. Pictures might not be plentiful either, but we’ll give it a try.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support—We’ll try to keep you posted!