Sunday, April 29, 2012

Three Months

We have been here in Cameroon for almost 3 months. Everyone warned us that most people experience a down time after they have gotten settled for a few months. Initially, you are so busy unpacking, meeting people, and learning the system, that you do not have time to really reflect on the fact that you have left your former life behind.  Still, we had hoped that we would be immune to this particular phenomenon. There are a few reasons for why we are experiencing this now. One is the continued difficulty at the hospital. Some days it feels like almost every patient has a problem we have never seen before and do not know how to treat. Also, one of the lab machines and the pediatric cardiac ultrasound are currently broken which makes treating patients even harder.  Another is that we are missing family and friends and it will be awhile before we see most of them.  Finally, Isaac is starting to have a temper and need discipline which can be hard at this age.

Still, when we really stop to reflect, God is doing a lot of wonderful things around us on a daily basis. This weekend we had a “party” to teach some of the pediatric parents early warning signs of childhood cancers. It was Dr. Francine (one of the residents who is specializing in oncology), Angela, and Lindsay who hosted it. We had the parents and children come to learn, eat lunch and cake, and socialize.

 This is a picture from the session.  The idea is that these parents and families will take this information back to their villages and everyone can learn from them.  Then, we can have these pediatric patients present earlier to the hospital and have a better chance at a cure.  Even some of the inpatient pediatric patients attended.

 This is Comfort (pediatric nurse) and Dr. Francine with Angela.  This is Francine's last year in residency and she will likely be heading to South Africa after that for further oncology training.  Then, we plan on her returning to be head of oncology here at Mbingo.

 We also are happy to report that the new chemistry machine has arrived and is in use.  This is a picture from the dedication of the machine on the first day of it's use.  This will be changing how we care for each patient and we are thankful to so many of you for giving towards this gift.  We are continuing to look for future projects and needs at the hospital to give towards and will let you all know of the next one.

 Another thing that we are thankful for is all the volunteers that come to help us.  We recently had Adam Houser, a 4th year med/peds resident, come from Cincinnati.  He helped in the clinic, attended on the female ward, and gave lectures.  This is him with Chuck and Isaac on a hike in the rain.  With the rainy season here, you can't wait for perfect weather!

 We have also continued to develop relationships with the residents.  This past week we had Dr. Jam, Dr. Koudjou, and their wives over for dinner.  It is so interesting to hear how they ended up together, in medicine, and learn about the Cameroonian culture from them.  It is not nearly as simple as they applied to medical school, got accepted, and attended.  It takes dedication from them and their families to make it happen.

Isaac has also begun to make friends. He often plays with children at church, but recently he has begun playing with our neighbor.  Javasius is a 2-year-old little boy who often comes over. He and Isaac play in the dirt, pick the flowers, and run around giggling together. It is a joy to see.

All of this is to say that God is good. He did not promise us easy lives, but He does promise to be present and support us in the trials of this world. Please keep us in your prayers. Specifically pray that we would feel renewed and energized to tackle another week at work, that we would have patience to discipline Isaac in love, and that we would seek God in all things. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Easter

We have had a good couple weeks since our last post.  Chuck was actually able to take a week off from rounding on the wards as we have a couple additional volunteers for the week.  This allowed him to focus on some other areas around the hospital.  He continues to teach EGDs and do colonoscopies.  He has now done over 100 EGDs and 15 colonoscopies!  We are also starting to do FNAs (fine needle aspirations) and learning to do bone marrow biopsies.  Angela has been busy with the children's ward and has been rounding more in the pediatric oncology department.  It is actually just a separate room with 6 beds, but department sounds more official.  She has been learning and is now helping guide chemotherapy treatment plans along with some of the more experienced residents.  We continue to be challenged medically with the volume and complexity of our patients that present with such advanced diseases.  We continue to trust God to provide the strength to face such a daunting task when we are limited in diagnostic tests and treatment options.

This past 2 weeks, we have seen new diagnoses of Burkitt's Lymphoma, pediatric AML (leukemia), metastatic Wilm's tumor, many cases of malaria, TB, and meningitis, a child with juvenile inflammatory arthritis, and even a dislocated jaw.  We also continue to see HIV with it's many consequences. Chuck saw a lady with Parkinson's disease that had never been treated and could not even move out of bed.  He gave carbidopa/levadopa and she is almost like a new woman! We saw a 22 year old girl with severe hypertension who presented with blindness from her hypertension.  We were able to control her blood pressure and her vision in her left eye returned completely.  She had been treated inadequately for many years in small clinics, but will now be coming to Mbingo for her care.

It was a good Easter week here.  The church and hospital had some kind of celebration almost everyday of the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  The people here know how to celebrate!  This picture shows a group of us singing during Easter week at the morning chapel service.  We formed a somewhat official choir and practiced our songs and the service seemed to go well.  Angela has been in choirs before and did great...Chuck had to learn how to sing something other than the melody, but ultimately it was a fun time.

 On Easter morning there was a sunrise service on Mbingo Hill.  The group passed our house at 430am and then this is the group coming back down at 7am on their way to church.  We did not make it up the hill this year with Isaac, but we are looking forward to joining them next year!

 The rains have come and it rained 14 days straight to kick off the rainy season.  It rarely lasts more than a couple hours, but can be very heavy.  Our water shortage is improving and we are thankful for that.  Isaac has also found a new activity...dressing in his rain clothes and playing outside...wait, where are your pants??

 Now that it is raining, our views have improved significantly.  This is taken from the hospital, looking back towards our house.  Our duplex is the farthest on the left.  We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place.

 This has also been a week of goodbyes.  This picture shows Mr. Nji giving a farewell speech to Christoph and Sara Berger.  They are a Swiss couple that spent 2 years here and are now heading back home.  She is training in tropical medicine and he is the brains behind our internet setup here.  They were a great asset to Mbingo in all the ways they improved things here and their friendships.

We wanted to introduce you all to Dave and Susie Oviatt.  They are both physicians and have an interesting story.  They did some short-term mission trips (2 weeks) earlier in life and felt God calling them to something more.  They both decided to retire early and now they take extended trips to hospitals in need around the world multiple times a year.  They have been with us for 6 weeks and we will be sad to see them leave on Tuesday.  Susie is a family medicine physician and worked with ob/gyn on the maternity ward and in clinic.  Dave is a hematologist and worked in our chemo/palliative care program as well as rounding daily on the men's ward.  He also made some lasting changes in his updating of our chemotherapy protocols.  It is neat to hear how God used shorter trips in their lives to ultimately lead them to this. We hope God calls them back our way!

As always, thanks for the support you all provide.  Knowing that we have a group of friends and family at home praying for us, following along with us, and keeping in touch with us helps us more than we can say.