Sunday, April 28, 2013

April at Nyankunde: A little time off

Nyankunde on a hike tonight

Wild orchids

April 25, 2013

Vacation to Uganda

We just returned from a much needed R&R in Uganda.  We didn’t even realize how tired we had become, working every day.  Everyone here at Nyankunde works very hard-the Congolese put in many long call hours.  One really needs to leave to have time off to maintain a marriage, health, and relationship with God.

 Our first stop was Murchison Falls National Park, situated in Northwestern Uganda around the Nile, close to Lake Albert.   Hemingway crashed his Cessna plane on a telegraph wire whilst flying over the Falls in 1954.  The Falls provided the backdrop for the filming of the movie African Queen in 1950.  It is kind of surreal to drive into the park in a Land Cruiser and see elephant families romping about.  We took a bit of a river safari and saw many hippo, species of kingfisher, waterfowl, elephants, and crocodile.  We stayed in tents close to the river, swam, and had wonderful food.

Murchison Falls National Park (looking downriver at the Nile)

On to Jinga, a city known to be at the headwaters of the Nile, known for its’ rafting possibilities.  This
was also a beautiful spot with eagles and plenty of waterfowl.  We did a little kayaking and sight-seeing.  A very peaceful spot.

The next stop was Kampala to some shopping for medications for the hospital, for our household, and for a dog.  We found a beautiful puppy, a bullmastiff who we have named Peterson.  We have been talking about getting a guard and family-friendly dog.  She looks a bit like a tiger and is going to be HUGE!  She is already 50 pounds and put on 4.5pounds since her arrival. 

Warren exerting his "masterdom" on a hike tonight

We feel fortunate that Uganda is so close-by and offers much opportunity for recreation.  I know there are some beautiful spots in Congo too, but with recent uncertain times some of these parks are closed or animals have been killed.  We are hoping to visit some caverns and falls south of here, yet we need to have contacts in this region to travel.  We are hoping to fly into Nebobongo sometime soon, known to be in heart of the rainforest.  Congo is an incredibly beautiful country, yet incredibly complicated to travel within.  The view outside our front door every morning takes your breath away.  I am thankful to have so many areas nearby to explore. 


We deal with life and death on a daily basis.  It gives a realization that every day on earth is a gift from God and we need to make the most of it.  Close relationships and love should be the center of our lives, the thing that motivates our actions.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the gravity of situations that seem to lack a solution.  Sometimes a cure is out of reach.  Sometimes things seem hopeless.  Sometimes people suffer greatly.  Yet, God is there in those difficult times when we reach for him and point others to Him.  We need Him and He is waiting for us to cry out to Him.  At times I struggle with the larger issues and struggle to see the patients before me.  As I deal with drunken fathers, negligence, and unknown cultural issues…single moms…I ask God to show me the needs of the child and ways to encourage parents to be better parents.  How does God see these people?  What might He say to them? 

Psalm 34:17-18  “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Agriculture and Malnutrition

Our garden is growing with each passing day…cabbage, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, okra,  squash,
peppers, carrots, peas, beans, corn, pumpkins, etc.  We are looking forward to benefiting from the produce in the coming days.  It was a regular topic of conversation at the hospital last month to talk about what everyone is planting in this upcoming season.  To really prosper here, one needs to plant a variety of foods on a regular basis.  Food can be hard to come by and farming really does take a lot of effort as it is all by hand.

I am really thankful for good, healthy food and clean water!  Give thanks when you open your tap and drink clean water this week.

A child of 18months came in on the verge of death from malnutrition 3weeks ago.  If that is not sad enough, two children in the family have already died from malnutrition.  We have made a couple of home visits and are really working to build a rapport with this family.  Fortunately we have a team of agriculturalists with Samaritan’s Purse who are here giving counsel and assistance with planting seedlings to families.  We are helping this family plant food crops for these next 6-months.  I believe this is going to be a long-term commitment on our part.  Although we can treat acute malnutrition in the hospital, this child will return to the same environment from whence he came on discharge.  What we really need to do is help people overcome obstacles to food acquisition and knowledge about healthy eating. This child is gaining strength and starting to walk for the first time, all good signs.

 Malnutrition really hangs on my heart here…there is so much to be done. I was shocked to see that over about a 3-month period last year, 8 of 30 children died.  This seems like a very high statistic.  I think we really need to do some survey work to get at the causes and best interventions for these problems.  War and separation are large contributing factors.  We are hoping to help start a hospital demonstration garden whereby we can hire an agriculturalist to plant, harvest, and teach families good farming practices.  Families with malnourished kids will directly benefit from these efforts.  We are gaining a vision for this, but simply need to find the right people to take charge of it


It has been a pleasure to have Josh, a medical student from Eastern Carolina University, stay with us these last 4-months.  Josh is planning to pursue surgical residency and feels called to the mission field.  Warren served as his mentor and teacher.  He learned a tremendous amount and was even doing c-
Bulo before surgery
sections and his own ultrasounds at the end.  He built a tremendous rapport with a young man named Bulo, a boy who suffered a cranial fracture from a stray bullet.  He was literally missing part of his skull with his brain protruding.  Many weeks later with grafting and surgical intervention, his defect is covered and he is walking and even dancing, even flirting with the nurses here!  Josh played many late games of checkers with Bulo to stave off the boredom and we have seen his confidence return.  Josh has really been part of our family these past few months and we will miss him.  We wish him the best in his future training.  Congo is in his blood!
Josh and Bulo playing checkers
The Josh and Warren partnership

A note by Warren

The surgical side of things is going well.  I feel like we are pushing the envelope of what can be done in this sort of setting.  We are doing laparoscopic surgery.   We did a thoracoscopy/thoractotomy.   We are venturing into orthopedic surgery.  I have done several SIGN nails and this past week I operated on man with a hip fracture.  I just happened to have a box of dynamic hip screws.  I didn't quite have all of the necessary material to put it in, but we managed somehow to make it work.  This is the curse and the challenge of this sort of work.  You never seem to have everything you need, but it is always an adventure.  I always hear that little nagging voice asking me whether I should be doing this, but the alternative is to do nothing.

The technical demands have been daunting.  We have a lot of great equipment, but it is hard to keep it all working.  This past week I had a laparoscopic case ready, but I couldn't get the machine working which pumps air into the abdomen.  For want of that one little piece of the puzzle we had to give up and take the gall bladder out the old fashioned way.  It was not a big deal, but it would be nice to work in a place where everything functioned properly.  The fact of the matter is that it will simply never happen.

One major advance has been anesthesia.  We have started using general anesthesia with inhalational gas for big cases.  It is such an incredible blessing to have a patient who is safely anesthetized and lying peacefully on the table.  The Congolese staff have come a long way in their mastery of anesthesia.  They still have a lot to learn, but we've put a bunch of patients to sleep, and by the grace of God we've woken them all up!

My time with Josh, the medical student is drawing to a close.  It has been fun to have my little shadow.  It has been fun to see him improve his skill, and to watch him interact with staff and patients.  Last Friday I assisted him as he did a c-section and it was a beautiful thing!  It was a woman who was having her tenth baby!  I suggested we name it Joshua in his honor.  I can't take all the credit.  He's had good training elsewhere and he has a natural aptitude, but I feel gratified to have taught him at least a couple of tricks.  I also feel that having him here has been a ministry and an investment for the Kingdom of God.  

Until next time…

Warren is always onto a new project….designing zip lines for the puppy, using an air compressor to
“speed along” charcoal coals on the grill, not to mention all the use he is getting out of his new welder.  I think you get the idea from the photo.  Stay tuned for more adventures of the Coopers!

Thanks for your interest in our lives.  Keep us in your prayers.


Lindsey and Warren

Taken on Easter at Nyankunde with some of the Samaritan's Purse DRC team


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Eulophia cucullata. Because I know doctors like Latin.

  2. Thank-you for sharing the photos and describing life in the Congo. You are doing amazing work! I am glad that you had some R&R in Uganda.
    hugs & prayers
    Carol Van Der Woude

  3. Wow, the photos from Uganda look amazing. Wonderful that you all were able to get some much-deserved rest and time together.

    You remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    Seeing your garden and hearing about the malnutrition really burdens me as I tend my own little plot here (well, as much as I can at 39.5 weeks pregnant...) and it reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for (and how little I should be complaining.).

    *hugs to both of you!*