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!