Sometimes we ask why. Why was the child born to an HIV infected mother? Why did the woman who seemed to be improving from meningitis suddenly worsen and die? Why did the cancer that was treated aggressively with surgery and chemotherapy recur? Why do the patients at Mbingo have so many less medical resources than we have in the US? At these times, we are reminded that although medicine has given us answers to some questions and the ability to treat many diseases, we are far from having all the answers. Only God does. Although we have sad stories of poor medical outcomes, we also have medical success stories. We see that even in this poor remote area, we are seeing childhood cancers like Burkitt's lymphoma, Wilm's tumor, and osteosarcoma cured. We see patients with HIV and TB get put on medicines that will allow them to live longer and healthier lives than they ever expected. We see patients in need of an ICU walk out of the hospital just days later after receiving antibiotics for an infection. We also see miraculous stories of how God clearly stepped in when we had no answers to what was causing a disease, no idea how to treat it, and yet healing still occurred. We also see souls that are healed during their short time at Mbingo and that is always a blessing from God.
This is our morning chapel service. It starts at 6:40 am each morning and all the hospital workers attend. It is a 20 minute service with singing, a devotional, and prayer and a great way to start the day. It is led by the chaplains that work at the hospital. The hospital has 9 chaplains that have many roles including leading services, counseling patients, praying with patients, and social work. They are a vital part of the work of the hospital.
Many of our patients have complicated neurologic problems. We are frequently struggling between diagnosing infections or malignancies or other neurologic disorders. One adult patient had a cranial nerve abnormality and strange weakness pattern who ended up having a brain tumor (she actually went for a CT scan). Another 10 year old girl had horizontal nystagmus (rapid uncontrolled eye movements) and was sent for a CT scan. The only way to get a CT scan is to have them drive 6 hours to Douala and pay for one there (they are expensive). It is rare that our patients can do this. The longterm plan for the hospital includes having a CT scanner here, but we are years away from the infrastructure being able to support that. In the meantime, we are often forced to make clinical decisions based on the physical exam findings, the labs, and ultrasound with a healthy dose of prayer.
Water. We are running out. Rainy season was supposed to start March 15th, but we are still waiting. Even after the rains start, we will have critical water shortages for another 2 months while the water catchment areas fill. This past weekend, we went 24 hours with no water. Many days we have water early in the morning, but then it runs out until late in the evening. This is a picture of us slowly filling our water container to use during the next outage. Despite our difficulties here with water it can be much worse for people in the villages that have even less water than us and depend on the rains for their crops and livelihoods.
You all know Helen from a previous post. She invited us to her house this past weekend to meet her 6 week old grandson. Her daughter Becky (white t-shirt) is also in the picture. It was neat to spend time with her and her family at her house. She made fufu and njama-njama, the local Cameroonian favorite, for us as we chatted around her table and held her grandson.
Chuck went horseback riding this past weekend with Sara and Christoph (Swiss couple finishing up a 2 year stay at Mbingo) and Jacob Stephenson (visiting pediatric surgeon). We borrowed Dennis Palmer's horse Chocolate and 3 other horses from the Fulani people in the area. The man in the front of the picture is a Fulani, a traditionally nomadic people group throughout West Africa. Riding horses is natural for them, so I think they enjoyed watching us with less experience try to ride. They don't even use saddles and we often see children less than 10 years old riding alone through the mountains. I guess it is like a bike for an American child.
Please continue to pray for the patients at the hospital that they would find healing for their bodies and souls. Please pray for us as we allow God to work through us to accomplish this.