Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wrapping Up Here in Chichi...

Our week has certainly continued to be awesome here.  The first two surgical patients went home this morning, and the three from yesterday (Maria, Sebastiana, and another Maria!) looked great today and should go home in the morning.  Today was absolutely gorgeous weather-wise, and we finally got a chance to walk around some after seeing patients in to the early afternoon.

Oh wait-- forgot that we didn't blog yesterday.  That might be because we didn't get out of the OR until nearly 10 pm!  Might have been worth mentioning that is why we appreciated today's restfulness so much!  As usual, though, our anesthesiologist arrived about 2.5 hours after she said she would, so we didn't start until nearly noon.  With our two "vag-a-thons" (both of which really, really apparently wanted Julia to have the fullest learning experience possible-- they helped quite a bit by bleeding from everything we touched to really test and hone her troubleshooting skills!) and one just plain old vaginal hysterectomy, plus Tom's leg amputation closure (don't ask), it was a more than full day.

We called a few patients back to see if they were at all interested in going ahead and getting their surgeries done this week since we had today open, but no takers.  So I guess today's rest was just a much-needed gift from God.

Here is my new favorite picture from the hospital-- Julia with two of our post-op patients (both of the Marias) who were making their "laps" around the courtyard balcony.  Many of you have heard me say that I will never be able to prove it scientifically, but I swear that the sun and fresh air help these patients to heal better than our dark and cooped up hospital rooms at home!

This evening we were able to walk around Chichi and enjoy two of my favorite restaurants (the first one isn't going to start offering the desserts that are on their menus until tomorrow-- one of the many stories that helped coin the often-used phrase "Guat-EVER!") and some shopping.  Just being able to sit and visit Latin America-style-- unhurried, unscripted, and destressed-- was really nice.  

Now clinic is all packed back up in the "bodega" (storage room) for the next few months, and after rounds tomorrow we will head up the road a half hour or so to meet Duane at the closest airstrip.  He will fly us out to my second favorite place on the planet-- the Ficker "compound" in Canilla'.  (When my family is there with me it's probably my #1 favorite place!)  I can't wait to introduce Julia to one of my "other families" there.  

Friday we will see whatever gynecology-type patients they have found in their clinics over the past few months, and get to see the progress on the new hospital firsthand!  God is doing some amazing things there, and it is a privilege to even know the folks whose hearts and hands He is using in His work.  

I'll leave you with another fun picture of Julia and I outside the hospital-- note the prominent display of my "Dra (=doctora) Heydi Bell" bag that a surgical patient from August presented me with this week. Yep, I totally cried!  What an amazing gift.  It has her name on the back, too, to remember her by.  The patients themselves here are such gifts and such a privilege to work with that when they give you a gift on top of that, it is deeply touching.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Clinic and OR Adventures!

Wow.  I'm not sure we could ask for a better two first working days!  Clinic yesterday (Sunday) looked like a pretty packed house in the waiting room, but there were only 15 patients so it wasn't too bad.  We scheduled four for surgery, had two that we sent for other exams to come back later in the week with results, and have at least two that want surgery on a later trip.  Today we scheduled one more surgery for tomorrow for a "grand" total of five.  But it's never about the quantity...

We are blessed to have had fantastic results on both of the "vag-a-thons" we did today (that is our "term of endearment" for a long-- like, marathon-long-- vaginal surgery.  Also known as a TVH with repairs and high uterosacral suspension for you gynecology geeks out there ;-))  As long as recovery goes as expected, these women will feel SO much better!  I'll spare you the goriest details of why, but trust me... life will be more pleasant!

You all know that I love to teach, and it's been awesome to have Julia here to make me feel useful!  (She's probably just humoring me-- she truly needs very little direction, but is definitely gaining valuable experience.)  It really kind of makes it a "win-win" situation.  I love the way God works that.
I have a few pictures to share-- and maybe a story or two... we'll see how it goes.

Here's some of Julia's pictures of our clinic set-up, both sides of the room.  She especially made sure to include the "bucket system" for speculum storage-- the red bucket is for the dirty ones to make it easier to remember ;-)

OK, most interesting patient stories:  We did get to explain to a patient and her husband today that the "urban legend" that is popular here-- that if you don't have your menstrual period for a while because of using birth control, it will eventually come out of your ears, eyes, and nose!-- is decidedly NOT true.  This episode of "myth-busters" brought to you by a couple of OB/GYN residencies ;-)  The man and his wife actually took time to specifically thank us for explaining to them why that cannot be true.  Honestly, that felt great.  THAT, my friends, is the essence of truly practicing the "art" of medicine-- working together with patients to find a solution that works for them is such a privilege.

Please pray for Tomasa.  She is a 45 year old mother of TEN who I'm pretty worried might have cervical cancer.  Her biopsies have been sent and follow-up arranged, but prayer is definitely the most powerful treatment that she has good access to, friends!  She continues to weigh heavily on my mind tonight and is etched deeply in my memory... (It probably doesn't hurt that she has an adorable 4 year old granddaughter who happens to be named "Heidi", either...)

Also pray for Paulina and Santa, our surgical patients from today-- and the three ladies we will operate on tomorrow.  Oh-- and you might also want to send some prayers of thanks that our sweet anesthesiologist, Dra. Iris, was able to catch the OR door before it feel straight on to Julia's head at the end of the first case!  Seriously.  It fell off of it's top hinges-- Yep, we broke the OR.  It will be interesting to see when it gets fixed.  In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the slightly better air flow from the missing door ;-)

One last photo-- this is sweet Santa, who we operated on today, and her adorable husband-- He must be quite proud of those dentures, because you never see him without a smile!  I met them in August and commented on how lovely her "traje" or traditional dress was.  He was in western clothes that day, but said that he often wears his traditional dress also.  I asked him to wear it when he brought her back, and he did!  I am totally smitten by this sweet couple, so here's a quick reminder of what it is all about in this photo:

Actually, I lied-- THIS photo here is REALLY what it's all about!  I know it was probably inappropriate to snap the photo, but I was so. very. touched. by this man!  He is the husband of Paulina, our first patient in the OR today and first patient in clinic yesterday.  As soon as we put her up on the exam table to do her exam, he hit his knees.  Right there in the middle of clinic on the hard tile floor, he prayed for her until after we were done.  What an example of what a husband is called to be!  May we all learn from this man-- most likely illiterate, but he knows what is important.  Sometimes, that's all you need to know...  God bless him and all who are reading this tonight!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day One ~ Just travels!

Thank God for a smooth travel day so far!  Our 4:00 am scheduled taxi showed up about 8 minutes early and patiently waited, loaded our 200+ pounds of luggage in the car and cheerfully drove us up to RDU airport.  Then the most stressful part of the morning:  weighing in the bags!  One *might* have tipped the scale at 51 pounds, but the very nice lady who had been called in to help as the computers were having issues cheerfully let it slide.  As a bonus, she was scheduled to work our flight and knew it would be overbooked—so she went ahead and checked our carry-ons through to our final destination for free and we were all kinds of LIGHT weight going through security!
Both flights have been smooth, and we are excited to get our shoes on Guatemalan ground in the next hour or so at time of writing!  I’m also super-extra-excited that Dr. Tom Hoak will be there to pick us up—I haven’t seen him since February and it always feels weird being there when he is not like we were in August…

Guess I should tell you who “we” are.  For the new readers, I am Heidi Bell—I had the privilege of living in Guatemala with my brand-new husband Matt from 2006 – 2008, and delivering our firstborn son there in 2007!  Talk about a place that gets in to your heart and never lets go!  Since moving back to the U.S., I have had the unbelievable privilege of being able to continue women’s health surgeries about once a quarter for a week each time—now going on well over twenty trips since 2008 and counting!  I love the continuity of care of having patients I have been seeing for years and years, as well as the ability to really follow-up on patients and how they did after surgery—a privilege often not afforded other short-term missions teams.  I do OB and Gynecology care, and mostly surgeries for pelvic prolapse most weeks.  I love The Lord, my husband Matt, kids Isaac (8) and Micah (4), and especially my in-laws who come down from Michigan to help take care of them during these trips for continuing to make them happen!

I was given an unexpected gift from God a few months ago when I put out some feelers with local NC OB/GYN residency programs for interested travel partners.  I couldn’t believe it when the Wilmington/New Hanover (SEAHEC) program said they had a fourth year resident that they could send!  Julia Posey showed up at the house last night cheerful and calm after a long night shift and day, and her very sweet and easy-going spirit is sure to be a blessing to many this week.  I’ll pray that she has a GREAT surgical as well as personal/spiritual experience this week and hopefully can encourage others from her program to come in the future!  I’m sure she will be missing her husband Darrell and four-year-old son Landon this week, so prayers for her and her young family please!  Also, she is in the process of interviewing for jobs all over North Carolina right now so I’m sure she’d love some guidance…

Now the plan is land in Guatemala, hope to get all our luggage through customs unimpeded (there’s a new political party in power now after recent elections, so hopefully they won’t throw us any curveballs!), and drive on up three hours or so to home, sweet home for the week in Chichicastenango.  We’ll then probably grab some groceries and pay-as-you-go cellphone and internet time and then likely crash. Hard.  Both of us are running on fumes sleep-wise, so hopefully tonight will be very restorative before a long day in clinic tomorrow!

Monday, August 10, 2015

God makes me laugh!

What a day!  Today God sent me Dr. Luis Aquino and Don Allison from Canilla' to help in the OR and the clinic-- huge, huge blessing to get to work with these guys and get to know them better! Great help in the OR, great help in the clinic, and great company.

Our three surgeries today went quite well, and we just saw the patients before bed and they all look good so far post-operatively.  Tomorrow we have two more vaginal surgeries.  We saw 7 more patients in the clinic today (more difficult than it sounds since we just had to hurry and see them between surgeries!) but didn't schedule any more surgeries.  We did unfortunately have to send one lady to the National Hospital up in Quiche for her gallbladder, though... bummer to be here without Dr. Tom!!

Here's how God made me laugh today, though-- At least two of our patients were "gentle" reminders of how sometimes He just has to shove me out of the way to get His work done!  (Or just hide my passport from me, maybe... ;-))

First one:  A lady who has been seeing both me and Tom for years now for non-descript pain and complaints-- always wanting surgery but never with any real indication for surgery or reason to believe that it would help.  In short, she was a patient that I had grown somewhat frustrated with and wasn't very fond of.  I know most of the other medical folks reading this can relate, but it's the simple fact of having a sinful heart-- some patients (or people) just rub you the wrong way, you know?

So-- some of you will remember that I arrived late to my last trip because I lost my passport.  Kelly Pieh-Holder, a chief resident at the time (Now GRADUATED!!!) did clinic by herself on Sunday and Monday.  When I arrived Monday night I went through the charts to see what she had scheduled and came across this lady's chart.  I seriously thought, "HOW did she manage to talk you into a hysterectomy, Kelly?!"  But it seemed that some of her prolapse had worsened and it seemed more reasonable-- plus Kelly had some concerns about some spots on her cervix and actually took biopsies before the patient talked her in to just going ahead and doing the hysterectomy.

Turns out (of course!) that it was a good thing that both the biopsies AND the hysterectomy happened-- this lady had carcinoma-in-situ in her cervix on her pathology report!!  For those of you non-medical folks, that means she had CANCER that just had not "invaded" past a certain level yet!  It could have progressed any day to a much bigger problem.  And now-- because God got me out of my own way long enough to get His work done-- she is cured.  Humbling.  And beautiful.

Oh-- and the pathologists only found the CA-in-situ because we "accidentally" sent the biopsies off separately from the uterus-- If I had realized we were sending them both, I would have thrown away the biopsies since we had the whole uterus and not paid for two pathology specimens.  They initially read the uterus as negative in the lab, but then saw the CA-in-situ on the biopsies and took another look at the uterus.  They had to call Tom and send an amended pathology report with this finding!  Again, "solo Dios".  I would have messed that one up, too, if left to my own "wisdom".

The other story is slightly less striking but still funny and exciting in its own way-- Back in 2009, Chris and I (I think it was her first trip down here?!) went to remove what we THOUGHT (by ultrasound and physical exam) was a large fibroid kind of hanging off the top of the uterus (pedunculated fibroid).  Turns out, we opened her up and found, unfortunately, that the fibroid was inside the uterus and basically taking up the whole uterus.  We were afraid to remove it because if too much bleeding happened, then she would have ended up with a hysterectomy.  She was in her late twenties and not married so had no children at the time so that was not a risk we felt like we could take.

Well, over the years a few things have happened-- (1) the fibroid has continued to grow to the point that she was ready to remove it even if it meant a hysterectomy and sterility, and (2) she got married.  In June she came to Dr. Tom to ask for the hysterectomy and he set her up for surgery.  So guess who showed up with a positive pregnancy test on her surgery day?!?!  Today we confirmed a live, 13 week pregnancy that appears to be situated below the huge fibroid and will hopefully grow normally.  Please do pray for sweet Eva, though, as this pregnancy will likely get uncomfortable for her quite quickly as the baby grows.

Tonight at dinner, I was so blessed to be able to hear more of Luis's story about how he and Naomi met and ended up in Canilla'.  What an amazing instrument God has in him!  Also loved hearing more of Don's testimony and just sharing the amazing things that are happening in our lives.

Hope you all are having half as great a week as I am~  I would still love to have some feeling back in the side of my left hand, but so far surgeries have been okay anyway so just keep praying!

Thanks and good night,


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Fun day in clinic! (Something you do NOT hear me say very often... ;-))

Definitely felt the presence of The Lord today, as it is not within MY power to see 22 patients with patience and without losing my good attitude at some point!  Actually finished up by just before 5 pm to boot... a miracle for sure.  Most of the patients were pretty straightforward, thankfully, and here are the stats for the day:

22 patients, six surgeries scheduled, 4 in-office procedures done (biopsies and polyp removals), just over nine hours.

By far the best part, though, was when one family finally told me why they looked so familiar to me-- they were there with the grandmother of one of our cleft lip babies from back in 2007 or 2008!!!  Maria Buchan was one of the group of 10 or so babies that we took down to Antigua for surgery over the course of a few months when we lived here.   Dad didn't have a photo with him, so he went home and got her to bring to me!  I was hoping he would bring her sometime this week, but there they were knocking on my door just as I finished with the last patient...  She is now 8 (must be nearly 9?)  and has two healthy little brothers.  Isn't she beautiful?!  (First picture before repair, too bad I don't have one on this computer from the front, but you can appreciate that she had a pretty gaping cleft even so...)

What a blessing to see her-- What other short-term mission workers in the world ever get an eight-year follow up on one of their patients?!!  Just another reminder of how awesome it is to be a part of what God is doing here in Guatemala.

I also couldn't help taking my first ever Guatemalan selfie with one of our operative patients for tomorrow... I actually got her to smile a little!

Tomorrow we will see whoever shows up in the clinic in between three major surgeries-- an abdominal one to remove a large abdominal cyst (Dr. Luis sent her to me, so he will get some good follow-up on that referral for sure!), then one "vag-a-thon" as we so lovingly call them (vaginal hysterectomy with repairs for prolapse) and one just plain old vaginal hysterectomy.  "Theoretically" should be pretty striaghtforward, but stay tuned.

Can't wait to have Dr. Luis and Don helping!!! Today did get a bit lonely... plus, I have to wash the speculums all by myself ;-)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Team "YO"

Well, typically my first blog entry on these trips is just letting people know that we got here safely and introducing the team for the week.  This trip is a little unique in that I am travelling by myself!  Can’t complain at all about the provisions God has made so far to help me, though.  I had 148 pounds of checked luggage to deal with, but not once did I have to lift more than one of the bags myself!  Matt got home from work this morning just as I was getting up to go to the airport, so he was able to drive me, park, and come in to make sure all of the bags made it under weight limits.  HUGE help.  Then here in Guatemala, there’s always luggage porters trying to make tip money so I gave in and let a guy help me today.  For around five bucks, he helped me load everything on a cart and get it outside (without being X-rayed; double bonus and thanks be to God!), where Don Tono, the Hospital Administrator, was waiting!

Sweet Aaron Ficker had apparently been way more concerned than I was about me handling the extra luggage weight (in fairness, nearly 60 pounds of it was airplane and car parts he had requested ;-)) – So he had arranged for a friend from Canilla’ to meet me at the airport and take two of the bags off of my hands right then and there.  “Easy-bo-peasy”, as four year-old Micah would say…

Now I’ve had a lovely time getting to know Tono and his wife a little better (we are usually too busy to get very far past polite greetings at the hospital!) on the drive.  Absolutely fascinating to hear about the times of the Civil War here (the early 80’s were the worst) and how the hospital got by with just two nurses and no supplies.  They had little to offer and brought in very little money on which to live.  This is just one of hundreds of thousands of families that have stories like this in the current generation, and was a great reminder of where some of our patients are coming from.  The burdens they carry with them are barely imaginable to a North American who has never truly wanted for anything. 

These gentle reminders from God to have a little extra compassion, spend a little extra time offering anything positive that I can, and to focus a bit more on appreciating what I have been given are all evidence of His grace.  Another HUGE gift is that I will be joined Monday by two of the best helpers I could even imagine having—Don Allison and Luis Aquino are coming to join me from Canilla’!!  Some of you will remember Don as a PA that has spent quite a bit of time down here off and on for the past five years or so, and is currently committed along with his family to at least two years (I think) serving in the currently-under-construction hospital in Canilla’.  He is a great clinician and a great man.

Dr. Luis is someone many of you have heard me talk about—He is such an answer to such a specific prayer that it is nearly mind-blowing!  In order to open the hospital, there must—by law here—be a Guatemalan native Medical Director. There was much anxiety for a while over who that could possibly be—where would we find a Guatemalan physician with a heart for the Lord and their people who wasn’t already neck-deep in their own work or ministry?  Enter Luis—A man to whom God had given the vision of serving Him in a Guatemalan valley for many, many years during his journey to become a physician.  He did his residency in Spain, so has first-world medical training also!  Apparently, when he first drove in to the valley where Canilla’ sits (photo below), he immediately recognized it as “his” valley (he had assumed the vision was more of a “generic” Guatemalan valley prior to that.  The rest is history, and he and his wife (from the UK) Naomi and their two sons Joshua (3) and Isaac (~18 months now?) are now here for at least three years!  You cannot be around this man without seeing his genuine love for the Lord and for the Guatemalan people, and I truly feel honored to know him and his family.  Can’t wait to spend more time with him this week~ just wish that Naomi and the boys were coming, too!

Tomorrow will be a long day, as I will do clinic all by myself—no small task, as most of you are aware!  (Ask Kelly Pieh-Holder about that from the last trip; poor thing!!!)  Please pray for patience for both me and the patients, and that God can use me to provide each of them what she needs.  Also, a strange but URGENT specific prayer request tonight: 

Since falling asleep on the first flight this morning, I’ve had the pinky side of my left hand go numb.  I assume I’ve ticked off my ulnar nerve somehow (from a position I slept in, etc…)—But I would have expected it to be better by now!  Operating with two numb/tingly fingers would obviously be sub-optimal, so I’m very much hoping and praying for full recovery – hopefully even before clinic tomorrow for patient exams!

So that’s all the news from Chichi for now—(I’m typing in the truck on the way up the mountain, actually—ETA around 20-30 minutes)  The country is beautiful now during rainy season—green and full landscapes and lush countrysides and gardens.  All the more evidence of God’s grace, my friends.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wrapping up and continuing prayers needed

Wow.  What a trip this has been!   I think I last wrote on Tuesday or Wednesday, so a quick update is in order of course.  We finished up the surgical week with the vaginal hysterectomy and laparoscopic tubal removal for sterilization on Wednesday, then stuck around to help Tom with several more cases (hernias, gallbladders, and a thyroid) Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.  ALL of our patients looked fantastic Thursday morning and were discharged—even Aura, who had a major surgery on Wednesday morning, was asking to go home!  We felt comfortable sending her knowing that she lived near where we would be doing clinic this morning (Saturday), so off she went.

Sweet Micaela, the lady we operated on twice, may have looked the best of the bunch.  God’s grace and provision, clearly, since it could in no way be accounted for by the “perfection” of surgical performance.  It is so humbling to see families of patients bring us gifts on top of the financial offerings they are making to the hospital—from apples (ironically, imported from the USA!) and avocadoes to hand-embroidered hand towels since they know we “have to wash our hands a lot”, they are such sweet and generous thoughts. 

Truly, though, what really makes it worth it is the smiles we can occasionally even catch on camera like this one from Marta—she stayed one day longer than “usual” after her Monday surgery, likely due more to the fact that on Tuesday, she got the news that her brother had passed away.  He had been sick for a few years, but the news was still quite hampering to her recovery.  Wednesday was the funeral, and then a large group of family and friends descended upon her in the hospital that evening!  What a gift it was to be able to get this sweet smile after all that from her when I asked her to pose with “Flat Stanley” from my second grader’s class ;-)

Thursday afternoon we flew out to see firsthand ALL of the change and excitement that God is bringing about to His people in Canilla’ where our dear friend the Fickers live.  There are no words for how amazing everything is that He is doing there!  From a full-fledged university-affiliated nursing school (with 37 students enrolled!) to footings and walls being poured for a full-fledged HOSPITAL, to doctors and other health care providers coming out of the woodwork to volunteer faster than housing can be found for them all, to EIGHTEEN kids currently under age 10 running around the compound, to another airplane that has been donated and may be able to be flown down soon, and all around in everything in between, nothing is short of miraculous.  And yet all of it is just a tiny reflection of His Glory and Grace.

I’ll share a few more pictures to leave you with for the week—mostly just for fun. 
There’s the one of “Flat Stanley” taking a rest on some lovely coasters or doilies that one patient’s family gave to us, then him getting ready to go in to the OR with me…

Then Brittany enjoying the view of Guatemala from Duane’s Piper Aztec, en route to Canilla’ from Chichicatenango.  She was so carefree and easy-going this whole week!  What a great travel partner…

Then several of the hospital grounds, including one of me playing (and losing) “king of the mountain” with Jacob and Joshua Ficker (Ryan and Katie Ann’s boys), and one of the well drilling rig that is due to start drilling any day now (it was promised in January…), and the final hospital plans for any who are interested.

We then move along to the nursing school to see Katie’s first day of TEACHING CLASS in the newly-built “wing” of the school dedicated to the nursing program…

And the last are just for fun:  Chris, Tony, and Caitlyn playing on the swingset, Abi and Grace posing for us with “Flat Stanley”, “Flat Stanley” getting ready to take off in the Cessna, and the hospital grounds from the air…

We will leave you finally with a few shots of the volcanoes seen from above the clouds on our way back down to The City this morning—I will never tire of that view!

Please continue to pray with us for healing for our patients, and spiritual growth and renewal for Chichicastenango, Canilla’, Guatemala, the US, and the World.  God bless you all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Long Day Today

So it's 10:15 and Tom just started his second-to-the-last case of the night!  Suffice it to say it has been a long day... We had two add-on surgeries in addition to the four major cases we had scheduled, so it really has been one of those days.  God is good, though, and it is a still a privilege to serve here with people who tirelessly continue on anyway!

The first bit of good news is that our patients from yesterday looked great this morning... Here they all are, hanging out in the sun and getting some fresh air on the hospital balcony.  I can't prove it scientifically, but I swear that it must be healthy for healing!  We'll hope so in their cases anyway...

Aaaaaannnd Chris got to visit a bit with Caithlyn also... even for lunch and a consult or two!  I love the "more the merrier" attitude towards everything-- even a medical consult and ultrasound-- here in Guatemala.  They really are a close and loving people, and couldn't be more pleased especially to welcome a cute baby girl in on the action!

The good news in this picture here is that we are doing a successful laparoscopy here in Guatemala!!  The bad news, though, is that the bluish hue you see in the upper right of the TV screen is the radiopaque string of a laparotomy sponge... You medical types will know a bit more about what that means, but suffice it to say we had to go back and fix a boo-boo.  Praise God-- as always!-- for sending such a clear word through the Holy Spirit that we had left the sponge in the first patient as we were operating on the second... and God bless sweet Anastacia's family for being probably less upset about it than we were... Yes, complications happen.  Even mistakes.  Doctors are human-- and I think that goes double for me sometimes.  But thank God-- again-- for the resources to deal with them safely and for recognizing them early.  Didn't help the surgical schedule any, though...

Going to check again on the patients now as Tom finishes up a laparoscopic (!!!) gallbladder, then will see if he needs help with an emergent amputation that came in today.  A young man had some type of unexplained injury while drinking on December 22nd.  His foot was badly injured and there were some fractures in the leg bones.  He spent two weeks at the National Hospital here in Quiche, but then left AMA (against medical advice) when they recommended amputating some of his toes.  He has since tried to go back for treatment, but the clinic has not been open since the doctors have been on strike.  (I'll refrain from offering commentaries on free government healthcare at this point... ;-))  Anyway, he now unfortunately has a completely more-or-less mummified foot that will need to be removed in order to clean the injury to a point that it can be managed and heal!  28 years old.  

We also saw six or seven patients in clinic today, and a little drunk man that approached me in the pharmacy across the street asking for help with some prescriptions.  His wife had a C-section Friday and was discharged with prescriptions from the hospital.  He was "responsible" for getting them, but had apparently drank the money for them at the local watering hole before bothering to pick them up.  What a mess he was!  He is in a Baptist Church here (or was at one point...) and knows The Lord.  He knows he is in sin and needing a change.  We pray that he will bring his wife to see us tomorrow since we gave him a free appointment for her, and that there will be reconciliation in his life and in their marriage.  

Again tonight, we are thankful for so many, many things.  We hope you are, too!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Eclectic Mix Today!

So today was a busy but productive clinic day!  And I even had another new "first" even in Guatemala-- a rarity these days really...  Started the day off with a phone call from Dr. Chris, letting me know that their flight had been cancelled because the Guatemalan airport was apparently CLOSED because of volcanic ash from "Fuego" in Atitlan... So they are rescheduled for tomorrow and it looks as if they will be clear then!  Never had a trip delay for a volcano before...

Anyway, we got up and even got a few minutes in the market before getting started, saw 18 patients (3 more had signed up but left before we called them even though we were done by 4:30 which is pretty early by my usual Sunday standards!)  So we even got to get in some hot chocolate with guacamole and a side of great people-watching as they packed up the market for the day, and a gorgeous dinner with Tom and Jana. 

Today’s patients, as usual, were quite an eclectic mix… maybe even more than usual today even.  We happily scheduled six surgeries though.  (For those interested, four “vag-a-thons” and two simple vaginal hysterectomies—definitely a theme!)  We also saw a couple of young ladies for cysts and what-not, a middle-aged lady with a mass in her butt cheek (not a gynecological problem, but who’s keeping track?!), and a sweet little 75 year old whose family is convinced that all of her problems started when her uterus “fell out and hit the floor” with the birth of her second son about 50 years ago… as you can imagine, I had to do a little translating for Brittany on that story!  Other than that she kept up nicely ;-)

Please pray for our surgical patients for the week:  Tomorrow we have Anastacia for a vag-a-thon (unfortunately caught her with her eyes closed!)  Her sweet daughter-in-law was tearful after our prayer with her and very anxious for her safety!  She has 9 children, but they are apparently all daughters!  So yes, definitely pray for Anastacia… ;-)

Second up will be Micaela, a sweet patient that Leslie sent that is a “frequent flyer” at their clinic asking for help with her heavy bleeding.  Apparently a few weeks ago she felt weak from bleeding and called the ambulance.  Four hours later when they showed up, they took her to the health center and gave her a shot of vitamin K which supposedly helped some.  Probably time to go ahead and get that uterus off her hands, don’t ya think?  Please especially pray for her husband, who is NOT in the Church or willing to go/hear about Christ although she is.  As a matter of fact, it was the ladies in the Church who apparently told her that she definitely needs her uterus out.  Occasionally those Church ladies get it right ;-)

We will round out the day with Marina, who Tom has been seeing for similar problems and who is ready for surgery!  Her husband was actually quite sweet trying to talk her back in to it when she considered backing out, reminding her how long she’s been miserable with this!

Also remember to pray prayers of Thanksgiving for the lives that we all have been blessed with—not like Manuela, who only has 3 of her 10 children still living and needs surgery which we will hopefully be able to do for her in April (her tissues need some preparation and her diabetes needs some better control first!)  Or like the men and women we watched carrying ridiculously heavy loads after market today—only to do it again on Thursday and next Sunday to try to make a buck or two.  Also pray that Manuela and another patient with a very similar story will find their way back in April so that we CAN help them surgically.

The last picture is of our future rising ER doc posing in the doorway of the “Emergency Room” here at the hospital—it’s actually a single room equipped mostly with some stretchers and a couple rolls of gauze!  Not exactly your level 4 trauma center, but we do what we can…

Thanks for your prayers.  God is good.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Safe arrival and meet the team

Always, always thankful for safe and uneventful travels, but this trip was even BETTER than usual because now I live 10 minutes from the airport!!  Beats the dirt out of getting up to drive at least an hour and a half to the airport.  I didn't even have to leave the house until 4 am, so I got to see Matt when he came home! Bonus.

So tonight there are just two of us here in Chichi, but it's SOOOOooooooooOOOoo nice to have Tom and Jana in the country and upstairs again!  They are doing a back-and-forth from Guate to the US schedule these days and my dates haven't lined up with theirs in a while.  Praise God for that joyous reunion!  (And double-praise him for their cooking skills; they are amazing!)

I'm travelling this week with Brittany Walsh, a fourth year medical student from ECU-- She is actually going in to Emergency Medicine instead of OB/GYN now, but we kind of bonded and planned this trip back during third year when she thought she would go in to OB.  Her continued strong interest in women's health, though, as well as great attitude and easy-going personality, will hopefully lend itself to a great week all around!  Here's a selfie we tried to take, but I really stink at taking selfies and we're also pretty much in our PJs for the night already, so we hope you'll excuse our travel-weary look...

Tomorrow afternoon or evening we will be joined by Chris, Tony, and Kaitlyn Schwering from South Carolina, who our regular readers will remember as the OB/GYN, her husband and baby girl that have been coming down with me and/or on their own since Chris was a resident at ECU!  I'll have to get her to tell you how many trips; I've lost track even of my own but I'm pretty sure it's in the 20s since moving back to the US in 2008.  Wow.  God is good.