Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tribute To My Dear Friend

If you've seen any of my past posts, many of them involve the exceptional man with whom I work at the Clinic.  Pastor Bori is his name, and over my years of ministry in the Makalondi area, I came to love this man and his family like they are my own family!

Pastor and I have stratagized together over our health goals, I trained him in biology, diseases and treatments, we've treated patients together, we've shared God's Word together, prayed together and shared daily life together.  His kids became "my kids" and his wife became a good friend.  It was especially a joy and relaxation to sit and "chill out" together in his compound after a day of work while his little girls lounged all over their daddy.

I have had so much respect for Pastor, a man of integrity and Godliness, who put his family right after his relationship with Jesus and his patients after that. I really felt so blessed to be in ministry with him.  In exchange for my medical training, he was my mentor in culture and language and often would clue me in to when prayer was called for instead of medicine. We were a team that only God could have arranged.

He did his job at the clinic, seeing patients and treating them, because he loved them. He never asked for a salary (though I saw to it that he did receive pay for his work).  I admired and respected Pastor.

Another thing that touched me was his love for his daughters.  He has 9 of them....and 1 son.  In a culture that puts importance on sons, Pastor always dreamed the same things for his girls that he did for his son, David: education, a ministry profession, and Godly spouses. Mostly he wanted his children to follow Christ whole-heartedly!  Every morning and evening he would lead his family in a time of worship, reading God's Word and praying together.

I remember the loving care he gave his daughter, Yumanli, in the hospital after she was badly burned, taking over the daily nursing care himself.  He did this for months until he could bring her home.  I remember his gentle care of his baby twin, Esther, after she was born with Spina Bifida, going to great lengths to get the proper treatment for her.  What a loving husband and father he was!

This past Thursday Pastor was in a motorcycle accident...he hit a dog while driving home from Makalondi through the bush and was thrown forward, landing hard on his head.  Though his body was hardly touched, he had severe head trauma and he was quickly transported from the clinic in Makalondi to the National Hospital in Niamey.  There, with minimal care, and treatment that came rather late, he deteriorated over the weekend.  Our friend, Lisa, and our son, Joe, called in a respected neurologist, but by the time he saw him, the bleeding and bruising in the brain had gone too far.
Last night, pastor succumbed to his injuries and left his earthly body and entered heaven.

We had been praying since the accident, for a miracle of healing.  Pastor's wife hadn't been able to leave her little girls to come in to the city to be with her husband.  His son, David, who had been in medical school at the university in Niamey, had left only 2 months ago on a scholarship, to finish his medical studies in Havana, Cuba.  David couldn't come to be with his father or mother.  His sisters couldn't come either.

Yesterday I had to write and let David know how serious the situation was, because being a medical student, he wanted to know the truth.  When he replied to my letter, his message broke me up.  Tears ran freely as I realized that Pastor's son had become like his Dad...the highest compliment.

Good morning mama.
I have just riden all of your mesages.

Thank you for being clear with me about all of that. I don't really

have word to say, the only think i can say is that everything in our
live should be for the glory of the Lord.  He is the one who
created us, and know what is the best for us.  If my Dad has to
leave  this  world, it will be  for  the glory of  Jesus, i can´t even
think about that  and  what  will follow  after if  that  happened, but 
yes  i will know  that  my God  and  his  God  is  the one  who called
him, and  He  is  the one  who will take  care of  the  rest  of  this 
The  first  day i got  the new about  his accident, i didnt  get  TO
sleep, cause  i was  just  thinking about all of that, but  i 
remembered of  Mathtw6.27 and verst 34.

And then i stoped imaginating about all of that. God is the one who
give and take away, so it will be glory to his name.  My dad has been
the perfect example for me that i can't say much (more) than that.
I will like to go home and see them and even stay with them, but i know his
one wish has always been for me  and  all of  my sisters  to study and  be
the best of  the best and let God name be glorified of what He can do, 
and  to  console him because  he  hasnt  got  this  chance  to study, i
know that i just  have  to fulfill this will for him, what
ever  it  arrived , alive  or  with Jesus i have  to do that  for  His
memory. And praying for the  other sisters  to get to study also cause
this is His  wish for us,
and i know that God  will do and is doing that for Him  by his grace.i
will, iam on my way for that and i beleive  that  it  will came soon ,
just  need  time.and the time is  in the hands of  Jesus.

I'm praying hard that God will let him see the fruit of what 
he has been fighting for us all of his life here. This is what i will
appreciate to see and it is my one and deep wish. But God is the one
who created him. Let  Him do what  He sees good  for  Him.

I'm so sad for mama and sisters about what they are also living these
days... but I'm just praying  for  them.  Thats  all i can do.
And  praying  that God  will do a miracle for us once  more like He
always did  for us  in every pain we got  before.  I know papa is  the
physical hope  of  this family.  If  He goes, they will be like  lost.
Please pray for that also.

I just sometime remember the story of Job and I think that papa
is the "Job" of this century I knew.  So I won't lose hope. 
Arms open wide, at Him we cry.  May He let
his  name Get GLORY, whatever He will do in this  situation. AMEN!

Thank you Mama for informing me clearly because I have been thinking also
about why no one want to tell me the reality of the situation.  Thank you.

LOVE YOU TOO, big hug  to you and  Dad  there.


As I cry and mourn, I look at David's strength in grief and I am encourage to see that Pastor's character and faith are alive and lived out in his son.  That brings me such joy!  And once again I am reminded of how worthy God is of our praise in even the difficult times and in our suffering!  Like David said, may God be glorified in pastor's death, even as He was in his life!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Now: Divine Appointments

One of the neat things about going thru the experience of cancer, is that you go to new levels in your relationship with God.  So many of the truths I grew up with have become so personal and verified. I've felt His presence in familiar and new ways…and a deepening of my dependence on Him for my very life.

I've also seen that just because I'm side-lined for awhile from my "normal life" and I think that I am not really productive during this, God still has plans for me and "steps" each day that He asks me to take.

One particular joy has been a new friend that He arranged for me to meet…in the elevator…at the Cancer Clinic.  It was a Divine Appointment for me and for her.  She has become a "sister" in our flight against our cancers.  I'll call her Alli. 

                                     This is Alli with her 12 year old son behind her...

                               and her 7 month old baby boy...
Alli is 39, with beautiful red hair and a killer smile and personality! She has a loving husband and 3 children - the youngest was born just after she found out that she has colon and liver cancer.  Now the baby is 7 mos. old.  She's had more chemo treatments than I can count and in spite of so many of them, she was seeing little results.  To say that she was discouraged and often depressed is an understatement.  Over the past 5 mos. of our friendship, God has allowed me to be her "support group" and to encourage her emotionally and spiritually.  We've mostly kept our connection via texts because we live in two different towns and have to travel to the city where we receive our medical care.  We've seen each other only a few times.

Meanwhile, I've been praying a lot for her and she has done the same for me.  Alli had recently begun running back to Jesus. We've been learning trust God on a whole new level!  

A few weeks ago I texted Alli to check in with her.  I hadn't heard from her in a while.  She responded that she had had an appointment with her Oncologist and her latest scan showed that she had responded so much better to the treatment.  Enough that she might be eligible for some surgeries.  This was her best hope because without them, the doctor gave her about 24 mos.  I know that Alli's biggest wish is to see her children know and remember her, especially her baby.
She explained all that she would have to go through in order to remove the tumor in her colon (and then have a colostomy) and to remove the left lobe of her liver (the largest lobe).  That could only happen if there were no other polyps in the colon so she was scheduled for a colonoscopy.
The day before the colonoscopy, Gary and I were in that treatment city and after an appointment of mine we met a friend at a restaurant (Longhorn's! yum!).  As we were leaving, I glanced to my left, and in a back booth, I spotted a baby carrier and someone who really resembled Alli… 
I walked back there, and just grabbed her by surprise and we hugged and laughed... 

Talk about a Divine Appointment!!!

Out of all the restaurants in that city, we were at the same one!    She had some family members with her, so it was good to meet them as well.  After a short, but sweet, visit, we parted ways again, committed again to supporting each other and praying!

We were praying all day of Alli's colonoscopy.  
Finally I received word - no other tumors!…AND the tumor in the colon could be removed without requiring that she now live with a colostomy bag!  Not only that, the latest scan showed that the right side of her liver was much larger than normal…she had been born that way!  As we praised God for the good news, we were amazed by the knowledge that way back when she was formed, God had already placed an overly large right- lobed liver in her, knowing she would one day need that lobe for her life! 

I've been surprised and blessed by the appointments that God has arranged for me here in this journey!  I've met some wonderful people that I wouldn't have met otherwise…and have the privilege of praying for others whom I may never meet.  God has a purpose for my time here as well, and I love seeing what each day will bring. 

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." Eph. 3:20

Monday, October 12, 2015

One Year Later... Then and Now

For the past year I haven't posted on my blog, and though I'm sometimes slow in posting, it wasn't just a case of "not getting around to writing a post". 

On this weekend last year, my life turned upside down!

It was the weekend of the annual Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball (called NUTS for short), in which softball teams from Niger and surrounding countries will spend the weekend playing ball for the title of "Champions".  Gary and I were in Makalondi, and because we enjoy the event and because our son, Joe, had a team competing in the tournament, we decided to drive in to the city for the weekend of games.  It was Friday morning.

Before leaving home, I decided to shower to freshen up from working in the heat.  As I dried off with my towel, I felt something strange on the side of my right breast. 
I went over it again.  Yep, there was a knot, and it was pretty noticeable. 
Panic hit me as I felt again and again.  There was no denying it; there was a sizable lump there. 
I asked Gary to come and feel it. He felt it too. 
Panic rose to Extreme panic as I began to think over my options….

The whole ride into the city was spent thinking over what I'd just discovered and praying that God would help me to remain calm.
                                          "Papa" playing with Oliver at the Softball games

The weekend was spent watching softball games, visiting with friends, and praying for peace.  I talked to a good friend, a doctor, and he helped me come up with first steps.

Monday morning early, I went to a local clinic and had a mammogram done.  The technician was excellent and the equipment would rival that in most U.S. hospitals.  Then it was the waiting until I could pick up the results the next day…

Gary and I talked, but not too much, about what was happening. In some ways, to not talk about it seemed that it would help to keep it away.  One doctor friend had reminded me that a high percentage of lumps are benign, so I repeated that to myself.

I kept thinking about the patients I had seen at my clinic that I had feared had malignant tumors.  I would refer them to a doctor friend in Niamey for further tests and then treatment.  I wasn't very involved beyond the referral… I really didn't know what all would happen after a biopsy was done.

When we got the results of the mammogram back, it was stamped with the word: Normal.
At first that was comforting, but as I thought about it more, I just couldn't believe that the sizable lump was "normal".  I just felt that I needed to have it checked out further.

I contacted one of our doctors at our mission hospital further east in the country, and asked if I could come and have a consult and exam with he and our OB/GYN. I requested an ultrasound.  He agreed and Gary and I made arrangements for me to fly out on our mission air service, SIM Air, to Galmi Hospital. 

I'm so thankful for the compassionate, dedicated staff at our hospital! They were so kind and on their lunch break, after a Very Busy morning of work, the 2 doctors graciously did an ultrasound and exam. Both revealed that there was indeed "something" there…including a "knotty" lymph node.  We talked, and they suggested that Gary and I move up our scheduled December departure date to the U.S.  I remember the woman doctor (OB/GYN) saying "Woman to woman, Joy, I think that the sooner you know something, the better you'll feel. How much will you really accomplish if you are constantly wondering what is going on?"  Wise words. 

I walked back to the house where I was staying with my friend, Deb.  (Remember Deb? She's the one who helped so much with Yumanli after her burn and with baby Esther's spina bifida.)  It was good to be able to sit and talk through things with Deb.  I called Gary and told him the results. He told me that our son, Joe, was also anxiously waiting to hear something, so he would give him a call. 
Deb was recovering from a bug so she was home resting.  Thankfully, she was home that afternoon! We talked.  We watched an episode of a mystery series.  And that evening she had a couple of other medical missionary friends in for supper and to watch a movie. All this helped me to be able to not dwell on the "what if's".  But when I went in to bed, I climbed in feeling very vulnerable and very alone.  It was new territory to navigate.

My son, Joe, flew in that morning from Niamey.  He walked through the gate from the air strip, straight to me and gave me a long hug, asking, "how are you doing, mom?"  I was SO glad for his presence! I wanted to hang on to him and just talk, but we were in the middle of a crowd.  Missionaries and many nationals had come to the air strip to greet the new doctor arriving and the nationals wanted to see the airplane.  Talking would have to wait. 

I said good-bye to Deb, knowing that I probably wouldn't see her again in Niger for awhile… that was my first reality adjustment that brought home the fact that my life had changed forever.  And I had no idea how many other changes were coming…

As I climbed into the plane, it seemed surreal that my son was flying me "home".  In spite of the reason for my having to fly in the first place, I was so extremely proud of my Joe and pleased to be able to have the experience to be flown by him!!  As I gazed out the window of the plane on the vast expanse of Niger below me, I was struck by all the remote little villages…and wondering if they had ever heard the good news of Jesus.  Jesus, Who was holding me together right then, giving me courage and strength to think about all the decisions we would have to make in the next few days… Jesus, Who promised to never leave me or forsake me.  And I prayed for those villages! 

Gary was waiting for me in the parking lot when we came from the hanger.  As we drove home (to our Niamey apartment) I gave him all the details I hadn't been able to do over the phone.  When I walked in our door at home, there was a huge bowl full of all kinds of fruit - mangoes, pineapple, apples, bananas, grapes, papaya - it was Gary's gift of comfort.  It was such a welcome sight, and having him wrap his arms around me and assure me that he would take care of me!

The next few days were spent talking about the next steps: Who do we tell? How much time did we need to prepare to leave?  We needed to change our airline tickets.  Being able to talk it out helped so much. 
I remember thinking that all this seemed very unreal.  Were we really talking about all this?!  How had this happened?!  I'm a nurse, for heaven's sake…How could I have not noticed this earlier?!  And I remember just getting alone with Jesus and Him calming my heart with His Word.  Verses I had known before became full of renewed meaning and promise!  

And I remember having asked a missionary friend at one of the ball games, how she had navigated having breast cancer… and asking her if she had fallen apart.  And she told me, "No I didn't, not until it was all over.  While I was going through it, I felt like I was being carried along on the crest of a wave."  Over the next months, I would come to know exactly what she was talking about…

Now: (next post)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meanderings and Musings on a Series of Recent Events

Recently so many blog-worthy events occurred that I became nearly overwhelmed with what to write about.  Combine that with an unexpected health issue which required us to leave for the U.S. within 3 weeks, and I was feeling overwhelmed.  But once again, so much can be "said" through pictures and so I thought that I would share some of my latest pictures from October and show you the wide range of life experience here in our country...

Every October, the Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball (NUTS) takes place...and this year both Gary and our son, Joe played on different teams...  It goes on all weekend, and it's such a great time for good-spirited games and lots of visiting among the spectators.

One weekend I needed to fly to our mission hospital, Galmi, way out east.  I was struck by the vastness of this country and the remote little villages.  I couldn't help but wonder if those villagers have ever heard the good news of Jesus!  I prayed over alot of villages on that flight 

On the return flight, Joe was my pilot and I was one proud mom!   

 Finally after weeks of strikes at the National hospital, Baby Esther (Esita) got her shunt put in and did very well.  Her father, Pastor Bori, allowed big sister, Hamu, to come in to the city with him to see her mom and sisters.  Hamu had never left her remote village so it was so fun to watch her expressions as she saw so many new things, especially the Niger River and the big city!

One of our last weekends in Makalondi, Joe and Amy and the children, Claire, Benjamin and Oliver came out to visit.  They brought Michael out with them.  It was fun giving them all some new adventures...
Amy really helped us out in the clinic by dispensing the medications...

and she got to visit with some of the moms who brought their children.

And then I ended the clinical day by working on an old man's foot...he has had the ulcer for 5 years...

The next day the whole family accompanied me to the clinic again, where I was to teach the Village Elders (and my committee members) the lesson on Ebola.  That provided lots of fun ...

We visited my health worker, Yempaabu, and her twin baby boys.  Baby Jeremie took to Claire immediately!  She had him smiling and laughing in no time...

Yempaabu let the children try out her mortar and pestal where she pounds her millet to make flour. The kids realized what hard work it was just to get flour!

We had to wait a while for the elders to show up for the teaching...and Michael kept me company.

While we waited, one of the men walked out into the watermelon field behind us and cut some melons and then shared them with all of us...

Once we had finished, one of the men showed Claire how to slowly pour water over their hands while they washed them.  She got quite good at it and it pleased the men to no end!

Though I have a Clinic committee of 12 men, because of the harvesting going on, only 5 were free to come and take the training on Ebola.  They have committed to take it back to their villages and teach it to their people.  They eagerly listened and asked good questions.

On the drive back to Makalondi, we stopped by some Baobabs to let the children play in them and to get some pictures of these magnificent trees...some of which are a hundred years old or more...
This tree looked like it had a door into the inside...

Joe and Amy walking out to look over this majestic specimen.

Just to show you how very big these Baobab trees are, if you look closely you will see Michael and myself at the bottom of the tree..... and then a close up of us.

That evening before supper, we took a walk up to a "mountain" above Makalondi to watch the sunset. We call this crest overlooking the valley below, "The End Of The World" and the kids love it. It's great for exploring and finding old pieces of pottery, quartz arrowheads, petrified wood, fossils, bugs and other treasures.

And in closing, I just love that Joe captured this deep conversation going on between Oliver and Papa!  Priceless!  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Trying to get a Shunt for Baby Esther

Well, you may remember the last post I wrote about baby Esther probably needing further surgery.  Well as can happen with many babies with Spina Bifida, after the closer of the spinal column, Esther began to develop hydrocephalus, where the spinal fluid builds up in the brain and doesn't drain into the body as normal.

Esther in back and Rebecca in front.

On her return home, we were told to measure the circumference of her head every few days, and so we did that.  And after 2 weeks of watching her measurement increase, we realized that she would need to go in to a medical facility and have a shunt put in.

Simple enough decision.
Not so simple to see happen!

First Pastor had to come up with the money for yet another medical procedure.  He considered selling his motorbike, or his wife's two cows.  They rounded up a few other items (like a solar fan...) and took them to market to see what they could sell them for.
Not enough.  So they waited for the next Monday - Market day in Makalondi.
They took the cows in and sold them for less than their true value.  But money in hand is better than wishing for more.

We contacted the neurosurgeon's office (he is the brother of the doctor who did the repair) and were told that he was "en voyage", traveling.
We arranged for her to be seen at the national hospital.  There on a Friday they did see her, took a scan of her head (and took a chunk of their money) and told them to come back the following Monday.

Monday came and the family showed up for their appointment at the hospital, hoping to be admitted with a day for the shunt scheduled.
Instead they were told, "Sorry, we can't do anything.  The Doctor's and medical staff have all gone on strike for the next two weeks"  "Come back then."

When I heard that, I tried the Neurosurgeon's office again.  He was back from "voyage" and yes, we could see him in two days and our appointment was at 4 p.m.
We showed up early and signed in and paid the consultation fee.  We waited.... and waited and thankfully both babies slept peacefully.

And let me digress to another interesting cultural experience here....
As we're sitting in the enclosed waiting area, a staff member brings a smoking brazier through the room waving it around and spreading the smoke everywhere.  This is incense smoke and the air quickly becomes nearly impossible to breathe...unless you really love breathing incense.  And to tell the truth, I seemed to be the only one struggling.  It seemed that all the other waiting patients were totally fine with thick, musty air.
Back to the story...

Finally around 5 p.m. we were ushered into the Doctor's office.  He did a quick check-up, heard their story and went to his phone.  He called the hospital and secured a bed for Esther.  She would get her surgery and... good news... "the surgery if FREE!  One just needs to pay for the bed and the medicines. Go tomorrow morning and check her in."

The next morning, Thursday, we are full of optimism.  Pastor and his wife take the babies and go to the hospital. They are told that they can have the bed but the surgery can't be done until the next Tuesday, so they must pay $7 each day for the bed.  They can't afford it and are told to come in next Tuesday.

Tuesday arrives and they head to the hospital for the surgery.  On arrival they are told, "I'm sorry, The surgery can't be done because everyone is still on strike."
Parents: "When can we get it done then?"
Nurse: "Just listen to the radio news and when you hear that the strike is over, you can come back"

Now remember: Pastor and wife left their younger children back at home in the care of their eldest daughter and left his fields of crops.  They've now been away over 2 weeks!  They are staying with David, their son who is in Medical school, sleeping on mats on the floor.

At this point, hope is running thin for this family.  David calls me and asks me what we should do.  I told him to go by the Doctor's office and explain what has happened and maybe he can help.  Soon he comes by our place.  He went by the office and they told him, "Sorry, the Doctor is 'en voyage' and we don't know when he'll be back".  David then tells us that the 2 week strike has now been extended another week...

Before discouragement could overtake us, I reminded him that God knows what is happening.  He knows we have tried everything we know to do.  God loves his family and He wants their best.  We can trust baby Esther to Him.  God will take care of her.  We decided to praise Him instead of crying and giving up.  And God restored our hope in Him!

And so the next day, as Gary and I left Niamey for Makalondi, in the back seat was Pastor and his family.  Going home until they hear that the strike is over.  And I get to hold baby Esther in my lap.  As we travel back out, I lay my one hand on Esther's head and pray over her.  I pray God's protection and healing for her.  I pray blessings on her.

At our home, Pastor and his wife get on his motorcycle (they had left it at our place).  She has Rebecca on her back and before they drive off, I hand her Esther.  It's dusk and they have another 24 kms. to go through the bush to get home.  They thank us over and over for all our help.  They leave us with joyful farewells...

I am filled with respect and admiration, once again, for my Gourmantche family here!  They teach me so much about victorious living in Jesus Christ!  Living above your circumstances.  Living in peace during difficult situations.  And choosing every day to live graciously.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Great Surprise: Community, Clinic & Committee

This past Thursday started out looking a bit like it was going to be a challenging day.  The sky was full of dark clouds and as I got my medical bag ready and packed a snack bag, I wondered if I would end up getting rained in at the clinic later that morning.  It had only rained Tuesday and it was a really hard rain, so I was expecting to have to brave 22 kms. of muddy, gullied and watery road all the way out to the clinic village.  To put it mildly, I was super glad that Gary had had the 4 wheel drive on our truck fixed just last week!

It was a crazy ride out, even braving the filled and rushing spillway in Koulbou, praying it wouldn't wash my truck away (though Gary says it won't).  There were a good number of patients to be seen, especially considering the difficulty of getting to clinic after a rain, and all of the field work that most villagers are busy doing.  We saw the usual illnesses and by early afternoon, we had finished.

I knew that a committee meeting was scheduled for around that time, and sure enough, several of the members had arrived.  This Clinic Committee is a relatively new development, since the spring when there were some problems at the clinic and the village chief had to step in and help us out.  Back when we had the meeting with him, he told us that he was "giving us a committee" to make sure that the clinic would continue to operate well… the committee would make sure that any problems we had would be ironed out. 

As we waited for other committee members to arrive, I went over the homework I had given my two helpers, Yempaabu and Antionette, on the Respiratory system and its illnesses.  The girls did quite well, considering that the whole worksheet was in French (they are learning French). 

Finally when we finished, the committee members decided that enough of them were there to begin our meeting.  7 of the 8 members are Gourmantche, with one member being a Fulani.  I was really glad that the chief had made sure that both people groups were represented.  About 5 of them were present, and so we began. 

The head of the committee spoke to me, "We haven't had a meeting in several months and we wondered if you had any work for us."   (Me: Surprised)

I told them how happy I was to have their support and help, and that I didn't want to interrupt their work at this busy time of year. (Everyone possible is out in the fields to plant or hoe)

He replied, "Well, we didn't know if you wanted our help with anything…" 

So after assuring them that we value their help, I gave them several areas that we need help with…
"Let's start with the river bed that is washed out on both sides and the rocks have shifted and it's full of water and difficult for me to drive across to get here"  That generated some sounds of agreement and discussion on how to fix it while it's full… but they would get it done before my next trip out.

Next topic: A hangar for the back side of the clinic to provide shade for the "waiting room".  Some discussion… Verdict: we'll have to wait until after the harvest when there will be millet & sorghum stalks to make the thatch.  Then they will see to it that it gets put up…"and while we're at it, we'll clean up the grounds and put a fence around the clinic property."

And so it went...

As I sat there and looked around me at these men, I couldn't help but feel super blessed to have them on my team - villagers who are so committed to the clinic and to helping us make it a really good one.  They are volunteers and they obviously take pride and satisfaction in helping us to do our jobs for the whole community.  

As we talked about the last item on the agenda… the upcoming malaria prophylaxis for children ages 3-5 from 7 villages around us, I was thanking God for all the good help He's given me in my staff and my clinic!  This is Community Health at its best.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Baby Goes to Galmi

                                                                 Little newborn Esther

After researching options for surgery for baby Esther (or Esita) who was born with Spina Bifida 2 weeks ago, I was glad to receive a text message from our Head Surgeon at Galmi Hospital telling me that I could send them there and he would personally do the surgery.  (Galmi is our SIM mission hospital out east).  
I quickly called Pastor, Esther's dad and my Chief Health Worker, and asked him if they could be on their way the next morning.  They needed to leave as soon as possible.  That was Saturday.

Best case scenario their trip would take at least 12 hours.  From their village to mine, they would come on Pastor's motorcycle with his wife on the back holding their twin newborns.  Since this is rainy season, the bush paths are rough - washed out and bumpy with water holes to cross (wading through with the bike).  Once they reached Makalondi and caught a taxi bus, it would be at least two hours to Niamey.  Cross the city in a taxi and catch a taxi bus heading east.  The trip to Galmi would take at least 8 hours with stops along the way.  The voyage there was daunting at best.

Pastor was glad to have a plan, and Sunday morning about 6 a.m., they left their other girls at home and headed out.  I tried to call them throughout the day, but the calls wouldn't go through. 
At Galmi, Deb was ready and waiting to welcome them.  (Deb is our OT there and helped the twins' big sister Lina recover from being badly burned (Lina gets her Mask).  Deb knows pastor and was so willing to help.

By 10 o'clock Sunday night I heard from Deb that the parents were still a good distance from Galmi.  They would be traveling through the night.  6:15 in the morning, now Monday, Deb called to say that they were in a town about 30 min. away still trying to find a taxi bus to get them the rest of the way…

Now just STOP and IMAGINE making this trip!  Riding a taxi bus is like being crammed in a 9 seater bus with 18 people!  No air conditioning.  No shocks.  No space to nurse babies comfortably.  
I couldn't even begin to comprehend what this trip of love was costing them!
                                                 A typical taxi bus heading to Niamey from Makalondi

Finally Pastor and wife caught a bus and arrived in Galmi.  The 12 hour trip had become a 27 hour trip!
Deb met them and fed them, and then they took their sweet baby girl to be examined by the doctor.  Dr. S. put Esther on some meds and then tentatively scheduled surgery for Thursday.  Deb arranged for their room and after they settled in, while both babies slept, mom fell into a sleep of exhaustion.  Pastor went walking to find where things were located, where food is sold, and to see this hospital he's heard so much about. (we at the clinic have referred patients to Galmi)

Later that morning, our son, Joe, flew the SIM Air flight into Galmi and Deb got to take him down to meet Pastor and his wife.  I don't think it sunk in at that moment that he was my son. 

Later I called to find out how they were doing.  Pastor had so much to tell me, that he could hardly stop talking.  He said that the trip was tiring, but "Praise God, we made it all the way.  There were other taxi busses that were stopped by the big flood of water over the highway and they couldn’t continue!"  
He was Happy!  Yes, Happy!  He was so impressed with the Hospital, with the Doctor, with the cleanliness, and the room.  He was so thankful for Deb's kindness.  He was so excited that he got to meet the Chaplain…. 
                                                          Pastor treating a patient at our clinic

He said, "I got to talk to the Pastor who works here.  Do you know what he does?  He gets to spend his days praying with patients and telling them the good news of Jesus!!  Ohhhh, that would be my dream!!"  and he chuckled.  I had to chuckle too. 
He also said, "I told them, I don't have anything to do while I'm here, so put me to work.  I can change bandages.  And they told me that I could help!"  He was so happy.

When I told him that the pilot who came to greet them was my son, Pastor was joyfully surprised...and then he began to make the connection.  He said he had just been so tired that it didn't sink in who this man was who had greeted him in Gourmantche, his own language.  And then he laughed and laughed.

I was so humbled by their attitudes while going through these difficult circumstances!

So Thursday morning, baby Esther had surgery and she did well.  The parents were thrilled.  When I talked to Dr. S. and told him that we at clinic and in the village had been praying for him and for the baby, he wrote back, thanked us, and asked us to continue praying for Esther.  Even before surgery she had begun to lose strength in her lower limbs…a risk with spina bifida.
Deb's specialty is Occupational Therapy, so she told me that she would begin to help them know how they will need to help her in the future to be as healthy and mobile as possible. 

We'll keep praying that God, who has led them this far, will continue to show the parents their next step….and that God will continue to heal baby Esther.  She's a treasure!