Thursday, May 23, 2013

Abundance in May

May 23, 2013

Greetings from DR Congo!  Thanks for your interest in our lives here in DR Congo...a land of endless green and colorful, hard-working people.  We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary in May with a handmade cake and an evening stroll down to the airstrip.  It has been really nice to be together all the time, and serving together in the hospital.  We are thankful for the marriage that God has given us and pray that we will steward this well and grow in love in the years to come.
An evening motorcycle ride

Our furry and feathery friends, Peterson and Bubu

Our pets provide a source of continual interest.  Peterson, the dog is getting huge.  She is barely 4 months old, but already weighs in at 30 kg.  She will be a very large and strong dog.  She has a sweet temperament, but she doesn’t quite know her own strength.  When she gets excited and starts tearing around the yard, it is nothing short of terrifying.  Warren is trying his best to establish himself as the “alpha male”, while he still can.  We have a beautiful African Grey parrot.  We have experimented with a few names.  For the moment it is “Bubu”.  This is Swahili for “mute”.  We hope she will talk one day, but so far things have not been promising.  She imitates a few birds in the morning and eats tons of peanuts!  We think she fell (or jumped) off her perch last night as Warren found her perched in the pantry this morning.  It is possible to be a missionary in Congo without a parrot.  It is possible to be a pirate without a parrot, but both of these professions just work better with a parrot.  In the absence of television, the parrot provides hours of entertainment.  Warren is working hard to socialize her (which amounts to chasing her a lot), but it has been a slow process. 
Peterson at 4months

Bubu, the African grey

Hospital Staffing
This last month the hospital fell upon a staffing crisis.  The census has only been increasing since we arrived, yet the staffing has not increased to meet these needs.  Many nurses were working long hours and many were getting sick.  Warren decided to temporarily close the elective surgery program, as he did not feel that we could provide adequate patient care in the OR/ICU.  This raised the attention of the larger organization, Centre Medical Evangelique.  Overnight they had hired several new nurses and somehow we acquired 2 new physicians.  The nurses here work very hard.  We care a lot about their morale and health and have observed a renewed desire to learn. Already there is an improvement in patient care.  We are thankful for the recent changes.  Since our staffing has improved, people seem more rested and interested in professional development.  We have started hosting movie nights complete with popcorn on Sunday nights. 

On surgery from Warren

Things are going well in the surgical department.  We have been blessed to have John Troke here.  He is a nurse with surgical training.  He is helping us to revamp and reorganize our surgical supplies and procedures.  I feel strongly that we need to try to uphold high standards in the Operating room.  This includes thing like counting sponges, organizing the instruments, gowning and gloving properly.  It is possible to get used to doing things incorrectly.  If we can present a higher standard, then people will see it, and potentially change procedures where they work.  A lot of surgery is done careless here in Congo.  Having John around also makes me look at the ways that I have cut corners.  I can’t remember the last time I actually did a five minute scrub.  I generally espouse the philosophy that “the surgeon’s hands are always sterile,” but I realize that this sets a poor example.  Anyway, it has been a great joy to see things starting to take shape.  There is so much potential here, but victories are won inch by inch.  An ongoing challenge is simply that of maintaining equipment.  The surgical department has a lot of moving parts and it seems like I am always trying to fix something.  Cautery, x-ray machine, ultrasound, monitors, air compressor, OR tables, lights, etc.  It is annoying at times, but it keeps me from being bored. 
Warren and John on a hike

Both of us have a proficiency in French already and are trying to pick up Swahili.  A lot of language learning is simply a desire to learn and use the language on a regular basis.  I (Lindsey) understand more and more of what people are saying around me and can halfway conduct an interview in Swahili.  Warren tells me that I (Lindsey) speak in French in my sleep.  Is it a sign of immersion?  Learning a language takes time, patience, and definitely discipline.

On Malnutrition from Lindsey
I am finding that malnutrition is one of the largest medical problems I face here, right after malaria.  On any given day, about 20-25% of hospital admissions are children with malnutrition and associated problems.  In the past 4.5months we are have 30 new cases of malnutrition, compared to 37 cases in all of 2012.  If we keep up at this rate, we will have around 120 cases in 2013.  Perhaps we are picking up more of these cases this year, but this seems extremely high.  A couple of weeks ago the Samaritan’s Purse nutrition assessment team came out to do a rapid nutritional survey of some nearby communities.  In just two days and three surveyed villages, this area is considered to be in a state of nutritional emergency.   Two of our twelve children in the nutrition program died this past week, despite our best efforts.  It is really difficult.  I don’t know how to solve these issues.  I don’t understand the causes.  I do believe there is a poverty of spirit in this area.  I believe that God wants to work in powerful ways to renew people’s hope and work ethic.  What can I do?  Sometimes I think awareness is the first step.  If we can identify these cases and help families identify potential causes, walk with them as they make dietary changes, plant new crops, then we are on the way to a solution.  I choose to believe that God can do a work in people’s lives, and even do the impossible.
Malnutrition Follow-Up Clinic at Nyankunde Health Center
 19 kids in attendance

Our little boy named Munganga (who has lost two siblings to malnutrition already) is gaining weight and is walking and looking at a discharge in the next couple of weeks after 2months in the hospital.  We are still hoping to help to coordinate the planting of a field around the family home so that the mother can harvest the crops.  This is a very challenging social situation and one that we will have to follow closely, probably with home and frequent health center visits.  Is this a small victory?  I think so.  This little boy has a chance at life.
Munganga with Dr. Chantal eating his morning porridge

Munganga walking for the first time at 20 months

Our Garden
The garden has been interesting.  So far we are eating okra and cucumbers from the garden.  I think each of us is eating on average 2 cucumbers/day.  It is immensely satisfying to go out and pick something and eat it fresh.  The cabbage has been a challenge.  It was doing well, but somehow we got some tiny caterpillars which are wreaking havoc.  We have lots of things growing that we are not accustomed to eating.  This includes beets, Swiss chard, kale, eggplant, mustard greens, pinto beans, even something called rapeseed.  It will be a grand adventure to harvest these mysterious items and figure out how to eat them.  We have six different varieties of watermelon seeds that we are trying to grow.  That one we know how to eat!
Our garden this last week

Hospital Donations

There are many ways to contribute to the work that God is doing here at Nyankunde.  Some of you have wanted to contribute to the work.  You can do this online at (project number: 002121; project name: cooper).  Here are some of the most immediate needs:

      1) Mattresses for hospitalized patients.  We are hoping to help fund the purchase of about 120 new hospital-grade mattresses.  Each will cost around $50-60 and will cost an estimated $6000.  Our census is only increasing and we are starting to ask families to bring their own mattresses.  This is an important aspect to hospital care, just not one that we often think about. 

    2) Expansion of the malnutrition program.  Currently the hospital malnutrition program is funded through generous donations (coming from our generous donors).  It costs about $6 to provide whole milk and high protein porridge per child per week.  It takes about $300/month to fund this project.  We are making plans to plant a demonstration garden adjacent to the hospital to educate and directly benefit patients and families.  We are hoping to help employ someone to do this work full-time.

    3) Needy patient fund.  On a fairly regular basis, patients who lack family and the means to medical care or food, have their surgeries or care sponsored.

   4) Ultrasound repair.  Our second ultrasound here at Nyankunde needs to have some significant repair work done.  The hospital is in the process of figuring out how to re-structure finances.  We are hoping to help subsidize this cost alongside the hospital.  

   5) New guest house next door.  This Samaritan’s Purse project is in full-swing to anticipate the arrival of the Tenpenny family who will be living here in July.  Elliott is an ER doctor in the post-residency program who will be working with Warren to learn basic surgical principles and Sara plans to care for their two kids.  They are finishing up their French studies in Switzerland.  We are anticipating some extra costs for furniture and various household items.  
      Thanks so much to everyone who continues to pray for us and support us in the work here.  We are so grateful.  It is humbling to see God working here through our pitiful efforts.  We believe that He is working a miracle, and it is wonderful to be a part of it.  This is what keeps us going through the long days, the tragedies and the challenges we face daily.  God bless you.

     Lindsey and Warren