Saturday, February 06, 2016

Heading home!

Wow, here we are again... another week down and on the way home!  It's amazing how quickly these weeks fly by... but usually not until after I'm really, really ready to see my family again so it all works out nicely.  We actually got here to the airport quite early for our flight (nearly four hours early, to be exact) since Duane had some errands to do before noon here in The City after flying us in.  Nick and Amanda were total rock stars on the bumpiest flight I have ever experienced in the Cessna 182 this morning, thankfully.

We are now sitting down to a nice lunch and enjoying free WiFi before heading to the gate.  We have about 4 hours in Miami and then get "home" to RDU just after midnight... Can't even begin to tell you how nice it is to live 10 minutes from the airport instead of two hours now!  Please pray for good weather for Nick and Amanda so they can get back to Wilmington safely.

Had a great couple of days in Canilla as usual-- It was so, so good to get my arms back around Katie Ficker after her horrific pregancy and surgery experience in December!  My arms could have wrapped around what's left of her (she's so tiny as she continues to recover from blood loss and bed rest) probably more than once and never let go if I had my choice.  Thanks to all of you who helped pray her back to health recently.  For those of you new to the story, feel free to check her out at -- but fair warning, don't start reading the most recent post if you need your mascara to still be in place for the next few minutes.  It's a heartbreaker...

It's amazing to see the new hospital under ROOF now... God has been so faithful throughout the expensive building process, and the workers-- under the leadership of Duane and his oldest son Ryan-- have done an amazing job.  It's mind-blowing to think of what will soon be happening there and the blessing that it will be to such a large and underserved area.  Until the completion of the hospital, the nearest one is about an hour away-- but the nearest one more-or-less guaranteed to be able to do a C-section is nearly two hours away!  Plus, they are both "free" government hospitals where Mayan patients especially are not treated very kindly most of the time.

As I post pictures of the new construction, I realize that I haven't really posted much of the hospital in Chichi-- the Good Samaritan Hospital-- where we worked this week!  I love the open-air design and courtyards there, which have been incorporated in to the designs for Adonai's hospital also.  So here are some shots of both...

Rooftop view from Adonai Hospital-- ready for the concrete roof/floor pour soon!

Walking around, touring the grounds-- note to the right where the roof is finished over much of the outpatient area!  We are standing in the (future) courtyard...

The view out the back of the hospital-- yep, cows and all!  It's a beautiful valley, though...

And the rooftop view over the side of the hospital, from atop the future ORs... Cloudy but beautiful day...

The clinic (prenatal area) in Canilla-- soon to move to the outpatient area of the hospital

And another one I can't get to turn the right way!  GRRRrrrrr... But this is the beautiful courtyard area inside the "Buen Samaritano" or Good Samaritan Hospital in Chichicastenango... the bottom floor is outpatient, and the upper floor is inpatient.  Love the open air feel!

The Emergency Room is also pretty open, though...

And the view from the rooftop is a little more urban in this location!

 We hope you've enjoyed following along this week, and thank you for your support and prayers-- Back the first week of May if you want to check in again!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Wrapping up at the hospital

Well, no major disasters yesterday, but we did manage to spend nearly five hours seeing about eight patients... and four of those were post-op patients from last trip who looked great!  One other was a young couple struggling with infertility who brought some lab results back for us to review and to discuss next steps.

My "favorite" patient (I know I'm not supposed to have those...) was the daughter of Anastacia, the patient who I operated on in August and who made me the personalized bag that I so cherish...

Her daughter is 23 weeks pregnant and was here for prenatal care.  The more surprising thing, though, was that Anastacia herself was carrying a 2 month old baby with her... and said it was hers and not a grandbaby as I had assumed... Being fairly certain I had removed her uterus about six months ago (and then checking my records to confirm that before asking...), I was a bit baffled!  Turns out, of course, that this baby was not hers "by blood", but she had taken the baby in because the father had died and the mother had no means of supporting her.  So this beautiful little girl gets a new chance at life through adoption... just like we do when we are adopted in to God's family as His children.

Last night we had the third of four of us sort of get the "rest of the way" sick-- Amanda went to bed around 3 or 4 o'clock and hasn't really gotten up yet!  Thankfully Nick is here and has already had the virus that he shared with her, so I'm keeping away the best I can!  Turns out he has gotten to play not only Physical Therapist and surgeon (!) this week, but nurse as well... Probably not exactly as he had planned.

Yesterday we sent our first two surgical patients home, and we will hopefully send one more home today.  The one that we had to operate on abdominally has been predictably a little slower to bounce back (score another one for minimally invasive surgery!) and will probably be tomorrow or so and left under Tom Hoak's awesome care from here.

Today we will likely still see a few patients in clinic although we packed up all our supplies last night since we hadn't planned to, then hang out in market for a bit if Amanda's feeling up to it.  Then we will fly out to Canilla, Guatemala, to check in with our dear friends the Fickers there!  Seeing them is always a highlight of my trip.  Apparently the hospital they are building there is under ROOF now, which is just amazing.  Can't wait to see it!

Gotta share a few pics before I sign off this morning-- Dr. Johnstone with the granddaughter and namesake of our first patient, Rodas... (how many doctors does it take to figure out how to not display this sideways?!?!?  Apparently, more than one at least...)

And me trying to get the whole family to participate in a photo with Rodas... There is actually a good shot of this crowd floating around somewhere, but I'll have to find it on someone else's phone later it seems!

God bless you all and keep praying for these patients please!!


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

More people to love on and pray for!

Sorry we didn't get around to blogging last night; I got home from Tom's last case in the OR around 11, and after our two long cases for the day and a few clinic patients it just wasn't meant to be... ("it" being ANYthing other than crawling in to a nice, warm bed, that is!)

So we now have four gynecologic surgery patients in the hospital and four members of our surgical team-- and it is both a blessing and a curse to report that the patients are now officially less sick than WE are! Nick is feeling better from his cold, but he passed the cold part on to Amanda and the GI symptom part on to Skip, it seems!  No idea how I'm managing to avoid it so far, but you better believe I'm knocking on every wooden surface within reach when I say that ;-)

Both yesterday's and today's surgeries were awesome-- Despite the fact that poor Amanda was stuck operating between two dueling attendings who were literally making a sport out of disagreeing with each other!  I'm not sure I've ever laughed so hard in the OR before, and keeping it light definitely was great.  I learned a ton from Dr. Skip Johnstone with his vast experience in vaginal surgery, and he at least learned about how much he can do with WAY fewer and lower quality instruments than he is used to.

In all seriousness, though, we have done four awesome surgeries and both Amanda and I have gained valuable surgical experience.  More importantly, though, four women now have bodies that are in much better shape now gynecologically-speaking and should feel much more comfortable.  There are simply no words for the joy of realizing the privilege it is to serve these women in this way.

One of our patients, Rodas, can't speak much Spanish (only her native Mayan language), but each time I visit with her, she takes my hand and simply stares into my eyes smiling as if she will never let go.  She says more in those eyes than the largest dictionary ever could.  I deserve absolutely none of her gratitude or praise, and can only feebly attempt in Spanish words to redirect it to my God to whom it belongs... but it is still a sweet gift that He has chosen to give me just as a loving parent does with his or her children.  What a blessing.

All four are doing quite well and the first two will likely go home tomorrow.  It is amazing and humbling to know that despite the dirt floors and tired old pads-as-mattresses or cots or maybe even straw mats they are going home to sleep on, they would still rather be at home with their families instead of on a soft bed in the hospital with their pain controlled and their meals cooked for them.  Can you imagine getting on a public bus or in the back of a pick-up truck to go home from the hospital after your surgery?  And then getting out and walking anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes or so to get from the road to your house?  These ladies are tough as nails, my friends.  There is so much we could learn from them!

I do covet your prayers especially, though, as I post about once a year or so, for guidance and vision for the mission here in Chichi or in Guatemala altogether.  This week has been very slow patient-wise, and that always makes me worry-- why are the patients not coming?  Did something happen that I don't know about that tarnished the reputation of my surgeries or the hospital?  Is God just trying to tell me I'm not needed here that much anymore?  Or is He just getting ready to send something CRAZY in the door tomorrow that He knows we will need all day to deal with?!?

Patients in clinic-- though few in number-- have definitely kept us busy and on our toes!  As usual, I'm glad that many specific patients that have come in came in specifically this week when I have the specific expertise on the team that I do.  Dr. Johnstone's strong background and experience in urogynecology has been invaluable for both Amanda AND I this week in clinic~  not to even mention the patients!

Tomorrow we only have clinic patients and Tom's surgical patients scheduled so it "should" be a little more low-key of a day.  We will try to let you know tomorrow night, but I somehow kind of doubt it... Let's just say I've spent enough time here to know better! ;-)

My very favorite picture from today is this one-- Not many people in the world have a picture of themselves with their spouse in the OR, scrubbed in for a case and praying over the patient before starting.  Photo cred to Skip, who I encouraged to "play heathen" during the prayer in order to snap the shot.

Also, the "obligatory", traditional "uterus selfie" from yesterday-- thanks to Erin for taking a break from PT student duties for a bit down at ASELSI to join in our OR phone also!

Also, our last patient from today, who we will most likely do a hysterectomy for in May (long story, but she is just not ready yet for this trip...).  SHE asked at the end of the consult if she could get a picture with US on her phone-- so of course we said only if we could take one with ours, too!  Another Guatemalan "first" for me this week.  She and her husband are adorable and were so much fun, even after waiting over eight hours to be seen by us today!  Again, puts things in to perspective some and very humbling.

God bless you all tonight or whenever you are reading this, and remember, "IT'S ALL GOOD"-- according to both God in The Bible (Genesis) and my favorite catch-phrase and Spare Change song!!