Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 5 Lotubae and Elelea, Kenya

Emma died. She stopped breathing yesterday afternoon. We were not able to go see her yesterday and today we just ran out of time. The health center's director came to pay us a visit at Pastor Parks's house and informed us. Her picture taken less than 24 hours ago showed that maybe she might make it.

We went further into the bush today, crossing rivers and using 4 wheel drive the whole way. The Land Cruiser was packed high. We saw about 200 children. One of the last children we saw had severe conjunctivitis and a high fever. Oral antibiotics, paracetamol, and oral fluids was all that we had to offer. In the US she would have been admitted to the hospital for IV therapy.

There is much to be said and little to say. When you look at the pictures, what do they say? We can only begin to understand the meaning of all of this when we look at ourselves and ask whose are we, and to whom do we serve. We reach out our hands, and touch those who are reaching out to us. We gentle take hold, and hope that what we do will remain with them and us for a very long time. Because if it doesn't, we have lost the meaning of grace. This has been an incredible experience, one that will remain with me for a very long time. The faces, the places, the people, all of it, are now part of my heart and soul. It just keeps on getting better and better, and I can't imagine doing anything else. Let it keep growing. You've all heard it before: there is so much to do yet, and so little time.

In all things give thanks,


Day 4 Lokori, Kenya

This day is the day of reckoning. We have been around the bush, seen a lot of things that only we can see in our minds, and we are beginning to realize that we have been given a rare opportunity to witness life at a different level. What we do with that is what we are struggling with. Will it change our perspectives, our goals, our vlaues, our lives? We ask the questions of ourselves, waiting for the answers to appear. We know that we are here for a very short period of time. We have made a difference. we hope. We realize we have been changed, like it or not. The team members, Leah, Kelly, Sue, Bill, Candice, Yvonne, Hapi, Nicholas, Pastor Park, his wife Sungi, and Sam (a close friend of the Parks who joined us in Lokori) are bonded in faith, committment, and love. Here they are.

In all things give thanks,

Day 3/4 Lokwii, Kenya

A 15 kilometer ride into the bush and we get to Lokwii. A small isolated village in the middle of nowhere and we set up our medical clinic in a church that Pastor Park has built. 8 hours later we see the last of 300 children. We walked throught the village at lunch and saw how they lived.

We got a goat and a rooster as a gift. Not sure what to do with them, we give them to Pastor Park, hoping that these 2 will not be on the dinner menu very soon. This brings a whole new meaning to "medical insurance and co-pays".

We checked on little Emma and saw that she was a little better, but we still couldn't find any formula. She is weak. We are getting tired, and feeling very vulnerable. Can we do anything that will make a difference for her? Just how far should we go? The ethics of third world medicine are hitting home; do what you can with what you have, the best way you know how. No more, no less. We all sense that Emma will die.

In all things give thanks,


Day 3 Lokori, Kenya

300 lbs overweight and something had to stay back. Weighing all the medicne and the passengers for the MAF flight put us over the 1073 kg limit for the Cessna Caravan that we were going to use to get to Lokori. We went over the almost 2500 lbs. That's a lot of medicine and a moderate amount of people. Nicholas (he and Hapi are the country liasons for Kenya) is there with me as we sort out what is going to stay and what is going. We took 2 empty seats out of the plane and that gave us another 50lbs. We loaded up and made the 1:30 minute flight to Lokori through a little weather. Pastor Park, who is a Korean missionary, was waiting for us when we got there. We unloaded, claimed our individual tents which would be our place of refuge for the next 4 days, and off we went to our first clinic. 150 children later and a sick 3 month old we were done.

Let me tell you about Lokori. It is a very small village south of Lake Turkana, isolated and very remote. It serves as the base for Pastor Park and his wife who run a ministry to MoM children in 6 villages that extend out in a 32 kilometer circle around Lokori. We are to go to most of them over the next 4 days. There is nothing in Lokori. Nothing. A dirt strip is used for MAF to land, the nearest town, civilized town, is about a 10 hour drive, there is no electricity, water, nothing. And we are there. It is in an area that is potentially dangerous with bandits around, who prey on those who are vulnerable, and for that reason we had 2 armed guards with us the whole time we were in the region.

A 3 month old little girl, Emma, was brought to us
by her mother. The mother had no breast milk, the baby weighed less than 5 pounds. She was minimally reaponsive, extremely dehydrated and grunting with respiratory difficulty. I cut some IV tubing and place it down her nose as an NG tube and we gave her ORS down it as she could not suck. We took her to a local clinic where we did an old fashioned blood smear looking for malaria. There were none. The nurse James who ran the clinic found some old IV catheters and I placed one in her hand and we found some IV antibiotics which we gave her. The baby is staying the night there to get more NG feedings. We'll see how she is doing tomorrow. All in all, a very difficult day.
In all things give thanks,

Day 2 Emarti, Kenya

Two and a half hours south of Nairobi, we're in the bush. Everything is packed up on a Land Cruiser, our off road, bush running, hard core 4 wheeler, and off we go.Emarti is one of the MoM projects with 250 children, isolated in the bush, but surrounded by many who love them.

We picked up along the way, Julius, a nurse who runs a clinic in Kajiado, and Mary a community health worker. I had met them in May 2008 and wrote about the hidden haven for phyically disabled children that Julius runs. Julius is also physically disabled, having had polio at a very young age.

When we arrived we were greeted by a large throng of singing children

and Masai women who wore traditional beaded jewlery and dress. To see the contrast from us and them is beyond description, but one thing was clear - human dignitiy, personhood, and acceptance as one who is valued, is never to be taken for granted. We are those who ahve. They are those who have not. With little time to spare, we set up our exam stations outside and we started. And I mean outside. We had about 6 hours of day light to see a bunch of children, and get out of the bush before dark. Each of us had a small table from which we worked from, the children coming to us one by one, getting examined then off to pharmacy for meds.Hours later we were done. We had seen all 250 of the children and then some. Several children stood out: one boy with HIV/AIDS and 2 children who were mentally handicapped. Even with those limitations, and in an isolated environment, they were as much of the family of forgotten children as the rest. Well cared for, loved, and counted as persons.

As we wrapped things up we were gifted with song and dance, jewelry, and love. And on the way home we saw giraffe, gazelle, and zebras.

There is no better way to spend a day with God than to be doing what we did today. Giving, receiving, and living in grace.

In all things give thanks,


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day 1 Kenya

Fog. Early morning fog. We arrived at 5:45am after 26 hours of travel to fog. But as always, when we arrive anywhere, the good and the bad balance themselves out as we prepare to meet the obstacles and go through the open doors. The sun broke through the fog (that's good), and our hotel rooms weren't ready (that's bad). We have a lot to do. But first here's our line up:

Candice, Kelly, and I from Arizona. Bill from South Dakota. Leah from Arkansa. Sue from Illinois. Yvone from Singapore. And Hapi and Nicholas from Kenya. A major league team of 9! We're ready.

Hotel rooms finally assigned, and off we go to World Hope who graciously allowed us to use their large space to sort medications. And that's what we did for 7 hours non stop with help from World Hope.. We sorted over, ready for this, 5000 doses of prescriptions! Counting pills, stuffing little baggies, labeling them and packing them. Multiple 5000 times with an average of 14 pills per perscription and you've got around 75,000 pills we went through.! Can you see it? The team came together, focused and driven. Bonded, and ready to get up early in the morning for our second day in Kenya: a 2.5 hour drive to Emarti, south of Nairobi into the bush where 250 children are waiting to see us.

The fog lifted. The sun came out. And even now as I write this in the middle of the night (sleep is illusive on these trips sometimes), the night is bright with the glow of what we've did this first day knowing how it's going to help touch the lives and hearts of the children we see this week.

In all things give thanks,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dominican Republic: A week to remember

The first thing I felt was the heat and the humidity. The second thing was the sense of anxiousness that something was going to happen. The first was real, the second would eventually come. Tracee, Lauren, Shelby, Deanna, Krystle, Jessica, Sue, Kelly and I arrived and met with our local team members, headed by Dimas and the week began. In five days we saw just short of 2000 patients, traveled to 5 outlying projects, some as remote as dirt roads, no electricity, and little tin shack houses. The heat was unbelievable, the humidity sticky and unrelenting. But we prevailed.

We saw and treated many different types of diseases, from parasites, to flu, pneumonia, arthritis, breast cancer, HIV, and just old age. Each of us had our own experiences, shared and some not shared. What we did feel was an unrelenting need from the people we treated to be heard. Simple. But not really. With hundreds of patients waiting to be seen, and the heat taking its toll on us, the pharmacy backing up, running out of medicines, dealing with issues in Kenya, Ethiopia and Swaziland by emails coming through on my phone, it was a difficult task. This little 4 year old boy, mentally handicapped was brought to us by his father, also mentally hadicapped, and was the boy's only caretaker. All he wanted to know is if he was doing a good job taking care of his little boy. To this little child who was born with her intestines hanging out and the local physicians telling the mother that they could do nothing until the child was much older. And the child living with this everyday, on the edge, waiting for the loops of intestine to twist and get infected, when it could have easily been fixed at birth. There was not much to do for these 2 patients we saw, other than to listen. And it was like that for many. Simple complaints of "cold and cough", when really all they wanted was to have someone tell them that they were well. And we did that. Over and over again, almost 2000 times, with smiles on our face and love in our hearts. We were there as servants. And I for one am glad that we were. There was no better place to be in the world at that time, then to be there. With them.
And then on the very last day, at almost the very last hour of our time in clinic for the week, we saw this patient. He was having a severe anaphylactic reaction. His airway began to close, his eyes swelled shut, and he was going down. We always prepare for things like this. Krystle gets an IV in before we know it. Benadryl is given, albuterol nebulizer is administered and an epi-pen is thrust into his thigh. Without any of that he would have died. Period. And after we caught our breath, we wondered why. Why did those particular people who we saw come to us, why did we do the things we did, and why did the memories we form, happen. We didn't ask for them. They came to us. We went and it happened. And that's how it is every time we go somewhere, no matter the country. There is a purpose, a happening, a moment, that was there for us. A learning experience, a move towards getting us closer to what we believe in, a time for us to again remember who we belong to. And that is always alright with me as I need constant reminding, simply because it helps me feel that He is always with me. And that is the third feeling I felt on this trip. And still feel it. Do you?

In all things give thanks,


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ethiopia July 2008: The days that followed...

It's been several days since I've been able to put anything down in writing. We have been traveling, working, and being exposed to a different way of life, a different way of looking at how people are treated and how people live. We've seen everything from the ordinary, to the extraordinary and beyond. There have been moments of confusion, happiness, frustration, and wonder. We've seen children who are so malnourished that they don't even measure on our growth charts. We have seen poverty that is indescribable, and beyond description. We have seen people who are so dirty that their skin is not even visible. We've seen deformities, untreated injuries, and birth defects. We have seen babies suckling at the breast crying because there is no milk to be had. And we have seen the smiles on the faces of those whom we helped. It has been a remarkable few days.

We have seen an amazing amount of patients, averaging 350 to 400 patients a day. Our dentists have been averaging 80-100 patients a day. The actual number of patients we've seen so far doesn't really matter. Its how they've reacted to how we've cared for them that makes a big difference. There are patients for whom we've not been able to help and there are those for whom we've made a difference. The pictures speak for themselves.

A few days ago we split the team into two sending one team to Zeway and the other team to Bahir Dar. Each team saw over 300 patients in the two half days of clinics that were held. The team that went to Zeway drove by bus for several hours, and the Bahir Dar team flew. There was time for some sightseeing, and for reflection. But most of the time was spent doing what we came to do: to see those who sought our help, physical and emotional and spiritual.

Yesterday we went to a project in the outskirts of Addis Ababa called Kotebe. Again, we saw extremely poor and isolated human beings, living day to day with nothing but the clothes on their back and existing on an occasional meal of bread. And today, in stark contrast to what we've been seeing, we met with the President of Ethiopia, exchanging "thank you's", us for the privilege of being here in his country and him thanking us for helping. The pomp and circumstance of the event was interesting at best, but cemented for me the vast differences that are evident within a social structure in a Third World country. For what it's worth, the President of Ethiopia heard that we were here because of the healthcare needs of an impoverished lower class and all I can hope is that he felt some discomfort with the fact that people from another country had to come to his country to care for his own people. I am perhaps a little cynical, but after all that we've seen in the past few days one can only wonder how those behind those palatial walls can rest comfortably at night knowing that just outside their gates are children who are dying of starvation, and mothers struggling to find a meal for their children. But then again I look at our own circumstances in the United States and know that there are those who sit behind palatial walls knowing that just outside their gates there are poverty-stricken areas of urban cities, the Appalachia's, and the ghettos, where the human existence and suffering is no different than what we are seeing here.

These have been difficult days, at least for me. I see the unwashed and hungry children in my mind every time I close my eyes. And I see the hopelessness in the eyes of those who came wanting more than we could give them. The last patient I saw in Bahir Dar was an old man of 90 years. He was walking hunched over with a walking stick, blind, and alone. A stranger had brought him to us. He sat next to me and as I held his hand, he told me he was blind, he lived in the street, he had no money, no family, and that he was hungry. I asked him how I could help. He looked at me through eyes that hadn't seen life in years, and said quietly, "Can you help me die?" I never answered him. I didn't know how. I simply held his hand and kissed his cheek and said a silent prayer. He was a Muslim looking to us for help. As I watched him walk away I wondered whether I fell short of what I came here to do. To show those who are hurting that there is still love to be had. And I will wonder for a very long time, if he ever got over wanting to die. I can only hope.

In all things give thanks,