Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sadness and Joy

It has been a tough few weeks at Mbingo.  We have seen far too much sadness.  There has been too much cancer, too many horrible infections, and too many adults and children that are just too sick to be cared for adequately here.  Over these few weeks, we have seen three kids die from rabies.  They were bitten by dogs in other areas of Cameroon, but made their way to Mbingo before dying.  Rabies is a horrible disease that once symptomatic is universally fatal.  Seeing those kids die from a vaccine preventable disease is just another example of the gap in health care and public health between the US and Cameroon.  It is also just one more example of why we are here serving.

The most difficult losses for our hospital were when we lost two of our own this past week.  Gideon was a nurse practitioner student from Nigeria who was 4 months into his 1 year program here at Mbingo.  Until just a few weeks ago, we did not really know that he was sick.  He always worked hard and smiled despite not feeling his best.  In retrospect, we see that he had had undiagnosed chronic liver disease for some time.  This past week, he had an acute worsening and died here at Mbingo.  There was no way to get him back to Nigeria before he passed.  This picture shows the crowd of hospital workers that came to sing and pray as his body was loaded onto the helicopter to be transported back to his family in Nigeria.  We are all still reeling from the loss.  Gideon will be missed here at Mbingo, but we cannot even begin to know the loss that his family is feeling.

In addition, Reverend Mbieng Elias, a chaplain for many years at Mbingo, also died this week.  He had been sick with cancer for over a year, but it was still sad to see such a loved and committed member of the Mbingo family pass away.  This picture was from his funeral service and the chapel was packed with well over 600 people.  We were all encouraged to see the large outpouring of support from the Mbingo staff in response to these difficult situations.

As the title of this blog suggests, we have had some joys as well.  This picture shows a young boy that is recovering from Burkitt Lymphoma.  He had a mass replacing his right eye (the picture of that was too gross for the blog) and a large mass in his abdomen.  He received chemotherapy and had his nonfunctioning eye removed.  His mass is gone from his abdomen.  He will finish his course of chemotherapy, but we are very optimistic that he will be cured.  This picture tries to capture the joy coming from him and his father.

This is Victory.  She has a severe esophageal injury from accidentally ingesting a caustic substance.  Over the past year, Chuck and Jim Brown (surgeon) have tried and failed multiple times to dilate her esophagus that is now stenosed (closed from scar).  She has a gastric tube to allow feeding.  Finally we had decided that the only option was to have the visiting pediatric surgeon move a piece of colon up to replace her esophagus.  This is a complicated and risky surgery here, so we decided to try one more EGD with esophageal dilation before proceeding.  This time, miraculously, the wire passed to her stomach and we were able to dilate her safely.  She comes back weekly for dilations now and has a small tube from her nose into her stomach and out her gastric tube to make sure we don't lose that tiny lumen in her esophagus.  It was a great moment of joy when that wire passed and we are thankful that she will be able to avoid the surgery.

Patients at Mbingo deal with extremes of sadness and joy on a daily basis.  This makes us think of the chaplains and how they directly minister to these patients daily.  Every morning in each of the waiting areas, a passage from the Bible is read and a short devotion is given for the patients by the chaplains.  This picture shows one of the chaplains on a busy morning in the outpatient department building.  The chaplains then spend the rest of their day going from bedside to bedside sharing God's love with patients and their families as they try to minister to their emotional and spiritual needs.

Ben had another "born house" a couple weeks ago.  This time he made his appearance at the women's group meeting.  He was passed around from person to person, songs were sung, and the women prayed for him.  He almost looks like he is flying in this picture as he is being passed.  The women's group meets one evening a month.  Each time, one of the women hosts and prepares food, another woman gives a teaching lesson, and another woman shares a devotion.  Mostly though it is a chance for the women at Mbingo to get together to socialize and fellowship with one another.  Ben was a good sport and they all loved holding this "Mbingo Boy".

Chuck saw this frog on the path to the hospital recently.  Very colorful.  Isaac was sad that he did not get to see it in person, but it hopped away soon after the photo.

If you have ever seen an African woman carry her child on her back, then this picture will look familiar.  We tried to replicate their wrapping, but failed.  You can see that Angela is having to hold Ben to keep him secure and what you can't see is that Ben is not happy about being wrapped like this at all.  We will have to get a lesson in the correct wrapping technique because the African women carry their kids around like this everywhere.  We have even seen them on the back of a motorcycle like this with the child happy and asleep.  We will never underestimate the difficulty in getting the child on securely again.

Ben is getting big.  He is a little over 4 months old and is already 17.5 pounds.  He loves to eat.  Isaac is really doing great as a big brother and it is easy to see how much he loves Ben.

Thanks for following along and for your prayers and words of encouragement.

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