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.