Friday, April 12, 2013

Nepal Day 5

This climb was difficult at times with several moments of questioning why we do this. The last day of clinics was for me the hardest, as we saw several children for whom we could do nothing. The very last patient of the day came to me. An 18 month old little girl, with a large head, who hadn't started walking yet, was carried by her mother who wanted to know why. She had been told by a physician a few months back when she took her daughter for her immunizations that all was well. She clearly was not. This little girl has hydrocephalus ("water on the brain") and without surgery she will pass soon. Sharing bad news is something that I do as a critical care physician. Sharing bad news through an interpreter to a mother who for the first time is hearing that her daughter will need surgery or she will pass is hard. The father is a "drunkard" - her words. He was there as well and looked shocked as I told the news. You are probably asking why then don't we just give them a handful of money and send them to a hospital, get the surgery and all will be well. Because, there is much more to just doing that. Follow up, rehab, high chances for infections, even higher chances for a need to revise the device that is used to control the hydrocephalus, additional costs, etc. They live far from Kathmandu, no money for transportation to get back and forth for the frequent visits needed to the hospital, no means of transportation. Do  you see the dilemma? When I think of our sponsored children, we have a way to at least address issues like these. We have in place a medical referral process that allows us to look at every case, see if we can help financially and for the most part, we can with certain limits. This little girl was not sponsored. A few days ago a mother and her 2 daughters came to clinic. Their father had passed away a few months back. They were emotionally drained. We were fortunate to have a child psychologist (Dr. John) with us who did a wonderful job counseling them. Pastor Michael did a great job with the spiritual side. Our team is made up of many different people, each with gifts and talents that God has given them, and together we serve. There were many more good things that happened on this trip. We identified numerous serious illness and started therapy that made a difference. We held the hands of those who were hurting. We prayed with and for those who asked. We reached the "summit", the goal of why we came here: to serve. We finished the 5 days of clinic having seen 1200 medical patients and 175 dental patients. The 26 members of this team gave and gave some more. 22 members from the US and 4 members from our India OCM office: Kelly, Sara, Anne, Aimee, Olivia, Kristen, Joshua, Charlene, Michael, John, Carol-Lee, Susan, Darlene, Carol, Dave W., Robert, Diane, Jeremy, Dave J., Leeanne, Placida, Janak, Sudip, Judith and Kevin. There is so much more to do here. Sustainable healthcare – not so much yet. We brought water filters and showed them how to use them. Clean water now. We brought first aid kits, showed them how to use it and left them. We did dental hygiene education, and more. It's a start. We reached the "summit" but I'm not ready to raise the flag just yet. We need to come back and make the climb again. And maybe again after that. Thank you to the team for all that you gave and sacrificed. It was a privilege and blessing to have made this "climb" with you.

In all things give thanks,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nepal Day 4

About a 45 minute drive outside of Kathmandu, we found ourselves once again in a fairly remote area, and requiring a 15 minute trek to the project. No worries there. We walked single file exchanging hellos with the wonderful people of Nepal, passing stalls with fresh meat laying on tables that had been there for days, flies everywhere, vegetable stalls, small kiosks of different wares, and people just sitting in the street living life. A life that was simple yet hard. For all of that, they seemed pleased with who they were and with what they had which was nothing much, but to them it was everything and that is all they needed. We on the other hand see things differently. We saw people who were poor and living in places we wouldn't or couldn't even imagine living in. We saw people smiling when we would have been crying. We saw children playing with no shoes on, dirty, torn clothes, yet laughing and having fun no different than any child who would be in a developed country. And we wondered how and why all who we saw were at peace with who they were and with what they had. I think I figured it out. It's because they know nothing else, and are content with having just what they need and nothing more. I wish I could be like that. 

The project we went to was a school, a nice school with relatively new buildings, children in uniforms, teachers who were well versed in their roles, and a wonderful place to grow and learn. My assessment of the children: health – good; emotion – good; outlook on life – good; relationship with God – good; nutritional status – good. OCM's children are thriving here. A balanced meal every day, teachers who care, a focus on God and a school mission of teaching children to learn and embrace life. At the end of the day, they sang for us, clapped in thanks for us begin there and high fived us a s they passed us by on their way home. 

We had climbed up another few thousand feet on our trek to our summit of improved health care for the children and a summit for them to begin to able to look out over the world and say "yes this is mine and I am healthy enough, knowledgable enough, and spiritually filled to go out into this world and live a life that is full and not be hungry, dirty, and sick." 

In all things give thanks,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nepal clinic day 3

There are times when we wonder if what we do is worth it all. There are times when we realize that no matter what we think, life brings about a joyous moment. Here is a letter written by someone who has been sponsored the last 13 years. I need not say more after today's clinic. We are blessed.

"Dear Sponsor,
I am 18 years old and live in Nepal.  You have sponsored me since I was 5 years old.  Many things have happened in my life since you chose to help support me.  I now know Jesus, I am about to graduate and go on to college in computer science and I now volunteer teach computers at my school.  None of these would have happened were it not for God using you to help in my life.
I want you to know that I have kept every letter and card you have ever sent me.  What you have sent, I will treasure for a lifetime.  The best was that you gave so that I could be a man. You have prayed for me and even sent clothes for my mother.  I keep your photos and pray for you.
You see, my mom is my only parent, we are very poor, and she works in a hotel making just enough to pay our rent and food.  What you have done for my family has shown me one very important thing: in your eyes and in God's, one child really does matter."

Bijay Tamang

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Nepal Day 2

The rising sun brought those who were going to the base camp on Mt. Everest to a gathering place where they awaited their ride. 17,500 feet which they would reach in 4-6 days depending on their strength and endurance. Then another 10 days to 2 weeks at the base camp getting acclimated to the altitude in preparation for the trek to the 29,300 feet summit. They wait for a "window of opportunity" in the weather where they have 2 weeks to get up and back. I am in awe of their fortitude and determination. At the same time those of us who were going to a project to hold our medical clinic gathered in a place to await our ride. A 30 minute ride to the project, a full day of clinic, children a little sicker than we saw yesterday, and I am in awe of the team's fortitude and determination. Two very different purposes, two very different destinations, and two very different goals.We "acclimate" not to altitude, but to the poverty that we see, to the malnourished children, to the sense of hopelessness that sometimes covers the faces of the mothers who have little to care for their children. We approach our "base camp" no differently than the trekkers. Slowly, methodically, sure of every step, making every thing count in order to reach our goal. We had our own trek. We walked about a half mile today into the project and again back out, carrying all of our supplies. No "sherpas".This little girl in the picture perhaps gives you a sense of who we cared for today. We treated children with asthma, pneumonias, and ear infections. We saw children who were stunted, short for age, as a result of being malnourished. And those children will be vulnerable to chronic illnesses and a short life span. Our sponsored children were seen, given the best we had, and for that they have been given a chance to reach the "summit". The summit of making a life out of nothing and being able to breath without coughing and wheezing. As for us tonight, we rest, and prepare for tomorrow, becoming more acclimated to what we've seen and ready for what will be seen tomorrow. Nepal is a beautiful country. The children are uniquely beautiful with facial features and smiles that radiate. I'll sleep a few hours tonight and wait for the rising sun and gather to a place in the morning where we will trek to the next project. A few thousand feet more and we are closer to the top: healthcare for those who need it the most.

In all things give thanks,


Monday, April 08, 2013

Nepal Day 1

When nothing happens out of the ordinary, one wonders what went wrong. And that is just what happened today. This was probably the best first day of clinics we've ever had in all the trips we've made. Easy setup, smooth flow, patients seen, changes made without questions, and 200 patients seen with time to spare. Well, there were a few glitches. No electricity, no generator, therefore no power to drive the drills and power tools the dentists needed to do their job. They improvised all the same, and teeth got pulled, repaired, beautified and cleaned, and all was good. The children were relatively healthy with a few falling outside the norm, but were easily attended to. Several children caught our attention: a 10 year old girl with a hear murmur who was told she needed surgery at the age of 2, and got lost to follow-up, only to return today, 8 years later wondering if now was a good time to get the surgery done. Nope, wouldn't happen, not today, not tomorrow, not any time soon. A 10 year old boy shows up in a wheel chair with a mechanical brace on his right leg. History: hit by a motorcycle 1 year ago, some type of surgery was performed, the leg put in this brace, and now a year later, having not walked all this time, asked us to fix it so he could. The leg was misaligned, turned inward and would need a competent orthopedic surgeon to make things right. Out of the blue, an anesthesiologist who also happened to be the director of a private hospital close by, comes for an unannounced visit, and offers to have an orthopedic surgeon see the child at no cost. Go figure. So we started the "climb", got a few hundred feet up the mountain, and there we sit until tomorrow. Then up we go. Serving those who come to  see us.

In all things give thanks,


Sunday, April 07, 2013

Nepal Day 1 in the middle of the night

Sleep is elusive. It's 1am here in Kathmandu, and the mind is racing, the emotions surfacing, the fear of the "mountain" is there. We arrived after 48 hours of travel, tired and with all our luggage and the medications, supplies and equipment. We rested, got to know each other, had fellowship and had our orientation, getting ready to start the "climb". I asked the team to reflect on the question of "why". Why are we here, and why did we chose to do this. Many have asked me "what" Medical Mercy does, and that is easy to answer. We bring needed healthcare to the children who need it. I am then asked "how" do we do that. That is easy to answer as well. We hold medical clinics, we build medical clinics and staff them with nurses and local doctors when we can, we train local teachers to become healthcare workers so they can continue to deliver needed health are, we teach first aid, we show them how to filter their water, we show them how to brush their teeth, and we show and teach them good hygiene. But the question I am rarely asked is "why" do we do what we do. Few really want to know. They are more interested in the "what" and the "how". Both are more tangible, easier to get their minds around. So when I'm asked about the "what" and the "how", I wait for the "why" and if it doesn't come, I offer it. I've asked the team to reflect on the "why" this week. I've asked them to be prepared to answer the question if ever asked. I have my answer. It took awhile, but it is there. It's solid, indisputable, non-negotiable, never needing defending, and personal. It is what gives me the strength to climb this "mountain" this week, this "mountain" of long days in clinics, sick children, at times frustrated because we can't "climb" higher because we just can't, and the slow trek upwards of making a child healthy enough to be able to smile and not feel pain. I have an answer as  to "why". I'll share it with the team at the end of the week , and trust that the team will share their answers with me. We may find that we all have the same answers to the "why". We leave in a few short hours for the "base". I need to get some rest, and prepare for the "climb". But before I do that, I'll spend a few minutes talking to someone who knows me and what my reasons for "why" are. He's the answer you know. 

In all things give thanks,


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Nepal and the mountain.

In two days, we leave. A mountain that has claimed many lives and has given many more the satisfaction of beating it, beckons us not to climb it but to wonder in awe how magnificent it is. Children beckon us as well. Children who are cared for by loving teachers and pastors. We will also wonder in awe how beautiful they are, how innocent they are and how much they need. We will be there to run 5 days of medical clinics and to bring a sense of calm to the illnesses that the children have. We make no pretense of being able to climb the mountain of sustainable healthcare and perfect nutritional growth just yet. The 22 members of the US team have been preparing for this climb, this trek. We have been in prayer, we have had many many emails back and forth, we have had set backs, roadblocks and yes even a slip or two down the side of this mountain. Not too far, but far enough that we've had to climb a ways back up. But no worries here. As those  who begin the climb of Mt. Everest, so too will we begin the climb of daily clinics, seeing as many children and adults as is meant to be. We will go slowly, methodically, carefully, taking each step with determination, comforted in the fact that we have the best "guide" with us. Him. 

In all things give thanks,