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!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baby Girl, Esita

Thursday past, we were all filled with joy when twin baby girls were born to Pastor and his wife, Nuadiba.  Pastor is one of my health workers at the clinic and father to Yempaabu, also working at the clinic.  (And father to David, our "son" who's in medical school and Yumanli, who is recovering from being badly burned - previous post).

We didn't have a long day at the clinic that day.  This is the rainy season and everyone that is able-bodied, is out in their fields working.  That means that if your illness isn't serious, you just suck it up and keep working.

As a result, we were finishing up some prenatal check-ups and Pastor came and asked me if we could talk.  His wife was asking me to come check on the baby twin girls because one of them had a "sore" on her back.

Well, when I turned the baby over to look, I could tell right away that she has Spina Bifida...and incomplete closure of the spinal column.  It took my breath away and my  heart beat harder!  I knew what all that could mean for this baby!  But as I was taking stock, baby girl began crying and kicking her legs with gusto.  That was a good sign...No paralysis.

There were other women around in the mud house, and everyone was giving their opinion on what we should do.  Well, I knew that we'd somehow have to get baby to a Neurologist...but that option is only available in the capital city.  And that would mean a big displacement to the family, right in the middle of farming season.

Pastor and I talked it over and we agreed that we should at least see the Doctor in Makalondi (we now have a Doctor at our Makalondi clinic!).  So that meant getting Nuadiba in the truck with the village midwife and the two babies and Pastor and bumping along the water-rutted and washed-out "road" to the clinic.  I felt so bad for Nuadiba, who was bracing herself and clenching her teeth not to make a sound.

On the ride in, Pastor was sitting beside me and said, "Palamanga, you know that we want you to name the girls?"  I replied that I did, and that I would be thinking about it.  He said, "Do you know that you have to name them before we arrive at the clinic?  When we get there, they will ask for their names for their cards."
Wow!  Now I was on the spot!  Driving this path AND thinking of names for these little girls!  This is no light matter; they will live with these names for the rest of their lives!  I breathed a prayer and ran through the list of some of my favorites from the Bible.
I decided on Rebecca for the healthy little girl.
And I picked Esther for 'sick' baby girl... she would need to be strong and courageous in her first days of life and I thought that Esther was a great example.
They rolled the names around on their tongues, finding the French pronunciation abit difficult.  So I suggested that we use the Gourmantche pronunciation, and everyone was happy.  Lebeka and Esita.

We arrived at the clinic just after opening time in the afternoon - 3 p.m.  No one was around except the midwife.  She told us to just we did.  For an hour.  The Doctor was a no-show.
Now the babies are crying, wanting to nurse...Nuadiba does her best, but she's feeling so tired and weak.  She asks me for some hot water to drink.  I run home in our truck, get some hot water and tell Gary what's happened. He decides to come with me.  We return and still no doctor.  I gave Nuadiba the cup of hot water.

Someone told Pastor that the doctor was at prayers across the road, so he went over there, but didn't find him.  Finally he talked to someone who agreed to call him and hand me the phone.

"Good afternoon, Palamanga", he said in a cheerful voice.
I greeted him...and he explained that he was out in a village (I presume he was seeing a sick person).
I told him about Esita and he gave me some advice and ended by saying that, in the end, they would need to take baby to see a neurologist.
So there we were...It was 5:30 and we had come full circle with nothing new.

So we all piled in the truck for the 45 min. jarring ride back out to take them home.  Thankfully, Gary drove.  I don't think I could have driven the round trip again.  I was holding Esita in the back seat, trying to cradle her against the bumping ride and protect her back.  The granny midwife was holding the Lebeka and Nuadiba was wedged between us.

On arrival at their home, I changed baby's dressing and see that the area is leaking now...a possible entry for bacteria.  So Pastor and I opened the clinic, got some Amoxicillin and figured out the dose for this tiny little one.  I showed Pastor and big sister, Yumanli, how to change her dressing to keep the area as clean as possible.  They would take her temperature frequently throughout the day(s).

We decided to let Nuadiba get her strength back and then we will talk about coming into the city for a consultation.  This won't be easy for them... it means mom and two babies and dad must travel, leaving their fields, and having no place to stay.  So this week, I'm praying that we can find a reasonable option.

Gary and I finally arrived home at 7:30 that evening... What a day!
I'll update when we have some more news on Esita.  I'm sure her parents would appreciate your prayers for her and their family.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Babies...And More Babies!

On Thursday I drove up to the clinic and as I got out of my seat, one of Pastor's little girls came running out of their compound to meet me.  Thinking that was unusual (they are usually at work doing chores), I greeted her and began asking the usual questions about her family… "How are your parents?  How is Yempaabu (her older sister who is due any day with her 4th baby)?  How is your mom (who is ALSO due any day with her 8th baby!)?

Little girl kept replying, "fine", "fine", until I finished my questions, and then she said, "Mom just birthed!"

Not sure I heard right, I asked, "She just now had the baby?"  And she replied with a vigorous head nod.  And she pointed to the huts in their compound.  I noticed that there were some women bustling around there.

So I grabbed my bag and we headed in that direction.  As I entered the compound, the women all kept pointing me towards the house.  I entered the room and there was my friend, Nuadiba, sitting on a mat on the floor and beside her were TWO babies, still attached by cords!  Both little babies were shivering and mewing like little kittens.  I told the village midwife and her assistant to quickly get some clean clothes and bundle them up.  Then I talked with Nuadiba to make sure she was doing well.  When I saw that they had things under control (they normally do a great job), I took my leave so that they could continue their work. 

I headed up to the clinic and as I walked in, I said, "Good morning, Pastor!  You have two babies!" and he grinned and shook his head.  The news had preceded me.  My two helpers, Yempaabu and Antionette were smiling too and then I remembered that I didn't know what sex they were.  I asked, "So, what are they…girls or boys?"  It was a loaded question.

You see… about 4 months ago I found out from Yempaabu, who was obviously expecting, that her mom was also pregnant. 
When I was walking with Pastor back to my truck, I jokingly asked him, "So, what's going on?  I thought you all were done." 
And he replied, "Palamanga, you know how women are… my wife wants another boy!  We only have the one and she really wants another!" 
So that's why my question was a loaded one!

Pastor and Yempaabu replied at the same time: "They are both Girls!" and then everyone began to laugh.  I joined in somewhat, but inside, I couldn't help but think of poor Naudiba.  Though she will love her little girls, she no doubt was disappointed that at least one of them wasn't a boy!

As I left that evening, much later (story on why will follow), I joked with Yempaabu about whether she would be at work the next week. 

Gary and I came in to town on Friday because I had another medical commitment in the city.  The next morning - Saturday- early, I got a call from Yempaabu's husband, telling me that Yempaabu was in labor.  She had labored much of Friday and all Friday night out at her home near the clinic, but seeing that things were not moving along as normal, she had her husband take her to the Makalondi clinic to the midwife there. 
I asked to speak to her, and though she was tired, she sounded in good spirits.  I assured her that we'd be praying for her. 

Late afternoon, her husband called back. 
"I have some good news!  Yempaabu has birthed!" 

I told him how happy I was, asked about their health and fatigue.  All was well, he said.

I asked him, "So what is it?  A boy or a girl?" 

He began laughing.  "We have Twins!  And they are both Boys!"  He just kept laughing and I was laughing too! 

How incredible!  Mom and Daughter Both had twins two days apart!  

I told him, "I think that maybe you all need to switch two of the babies so that you can each have one of both!"  He laughed pretty hard at that one!
(Though I have to admit, in this culture where family is very tight and together, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see that happen with them!)

It's All Greek To Me

The end of April and the beginning of May was a pretty special time for me… I was privileged to spend those weeks in Greece with my sister, whom I hadn't seen in over 2 and a half years.

My little sister, Terry, and I went to Greece to attend a Medical Conference for Missionary medical personnel all across Africa and other countries of the world.  But before we traveled to the Conference site, we decided to visit a few places in Greece together and just soak in its beauty. 

In order to be economical, we decided to use public transport and to stay in family owned b&b's.  In preparation I did a good bit of research on the internet and there were so many varying reviews on every aspect of being a tourist in Greece - good and bad.  Therefore we didn't exactly know what to expect as visitors…

Let me just say for the record… Greece welcomed us with warm hospitality!  People couldn't have been more helpful all along our journey and the places we stayed almost spoiled us rotten!  All in all, it was an ideal get-away and Greece is firmly entrenched in our hearts.  

Let me just highlight some of the delights of our stay…
Freddo coffee…rooms with a view…the sea…food…island towns…flowers!...cats…quaint streets…doors…boats…bus travel… ancient ruins…Paul and the Bema seat…
majestic vistas…ancient churches…helpful folks…Athens…the flee market…and ferry rides!
What a wonderful gift it was to be able to visit and experience Greece with its friendly people, charming towns and gorgeous countryside!  We'll be remembering the crystal clear blue waters, cool breeze in our hair, stunning flowers and the delicious feta cheese and Greek yogurt for many days to come… Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this experience!