January 27, 2013
…we are already one month in to our new life here at Nyankunde, Democratic Republic of Congo! Thank you for your interest, prayers, and support as we get started here. It is good to finally be here. Since we have Congolese friends here, it has seemed very much like coming to a familiar place. We are growing accustomed to the rhythm of life here. I (Lindsey) have had my first Congolese dress made, am driving a Land Cruiser, and have begun shopping in the local markets. Today we drove up to the top of Nyankunde mountain to see the mountain views. It is unbelievably beautiful, rolling green hills spanning in all directions. It would make a great place to camp and it is right outside our front door!
As many of you know, Samaritan’s Purse helped to re-build the OR/Intensive Care Unit here at Nyankunde Hospital. We are proud to announce that the first surgeries and endoscopy procedures have commenced in the new building. Word is spreading and slowly people are arriving for elective surgical care. The move-in process will be a gradual one. All of the sterilization and post-operative care still happens in another place, but eventually we will use the new building. Our friend Kristine Foth has been here for the past month training the nursing staff in intensive care monitoring and bedside assessment/care. Several of the nurses reflected on the old intensive care unit here “before the war.” They seem optimistic about the future, realizing that the future of this place is in their hands. Kristine’s last session with the nurses was on bed-making and bathing patients. This is something that is currently the responsibility of the patient caretakers, but will change as we use the new building for on-going care. One of the nurses remarked that she was looking forward to caring for the personal needs of patients again. Many of the nurses view working in the new building as a new start.
I (Lindsey) am getting into the routine of pediatric practice in a village. It is fun to be seen as the baby doctor and to be taking care of infants again. I am learning and observing a lot and teaching pediatrics to anyone who will listen. I think there is a lot we can do in the area of nutrition, such as routinely doing growth curves on all kids and talking about good sources of iron and protein. I am feeling the challenges of caring for preemies in this setting. I am starting to dabble in diagnostic echocardiograms and will be working on this skill in February. We have already had some difficult pediatric cases out here. Most diagnostic tests are simply not available here. The practice of medicine here requires careful observation, a bit of conjecture (!), thinking of the worst-case scenario, and close treatment and follow-up. Disease follows a typical course and with a bit of observance, it really is possible to know what is going on. I am learning a lot from my Congolese colleagues and will need to learn local patterns of disease.
The fields are green all around us. We are able to grow many fresh vegetables for ourselves and buy much of what we need locally. A woman brings us fresh milk everyday which we then pasteurize on the stove. All of our electricity at the house is from solar power, as is our water heater. A wonderful woman named Sara cooks for us everyday and we are trying out some new recipes together using what is available locally. She has been introducing us to local Congolese food. Tomorrow we will try eggplant soup…my recipe. We have a passion fruit tree right outside our front door which makes great juice! We have an indoor fireplace-this has been nice on cooler nights. Some things have become simpler (like walking to work) and other things have become more complicated and require more planning. It is still hard to believe that we actually live here with such beauty around us.
Warren and I plan to start taking Swahili lessons very soon. It is a rhythmic language…and I am picking up phrases and words here and there. To really become proficient we will need to be intentional though. We are both thankful that we can communicate in French with the staff without much difficulty. French is a second language here, so greetings and personal conversations happen in Swahili. Greetings and goodbyes seem to have more of an importance here, such that you really go out of your way to say goodbye at the end of the day. It is refreshing. I am sure that we are making cultural faux-pas, but hopefully not too many.
We are awaiting the arrival of a couple of shipping containers with equipment for the OR and ICU as well as some of our household items. I am looking forward to the foodstuffs that we have packed, books, new bedding and towels, rugs, and bicycles to go exploring around on. Work has begun to renovate the guesthouse next door-hopefully this can be completed in the next few months.
Thank you for your friendship. We are thankful for the many friends and family who have encouraged us along this journey to Nyankunde. We love to receive your news!
Lindsey and Warren