Each year about this time, I have put together a Fall Prayer Guide for PAACS. I have spent almost every spare minute this past week in trying to get it together. It is tedious at times and getting people to respond in a timely fashion can be frustrating, but the Lord has given me tremendous joy when I see what He has done and the fantastic group of people that He has brought together in PAACS. I am blessed to work with them.
Between the surgery and long computer sessions, we were invited to dinner with four sets of residents, the Davises and the Petersons. Each was a great pleasure and the stories were fascinating. One of the residents graduating in December told how he had heard of PAACs. This was in 2007 when PAACS was not well known and still small. He was in a surgery residency in Bunia, DRC, when his father-in-law, a pastor, was taking classes in counseling at Wheaton. The pastor was telling a friend of the need to find good surgical training for his son-in-law and this friend somehow mentioned it to his barber in Wheaton who informed him of PAACS in Africa. He knew because his brother in California had something to do with PAACS. In a bold step of faith, Jacques promptly quit his training program, moved to Kampala for months of English lessons and then applied to PAACS. The rest is history. He hopes to go back to that far northeastern region of the DRC when he is finished.
There are also some interesting family ties. Niva Nzanzu is the daughter of Dr Kakalo, one of the early Bongolo trainees and her sister, Carine, is the wife of Malikidogo at Mbingo. They are all of DRC but Kakalo was working in Kenya for a long time. Anatole, her husband (a 4th year resident her) met her for the first time in Nairobi when he skipped the weekend activities at our Brackenhurst basic science conference and went to visit the family along with Ben Malikidogo who had married Niva’s sister, Carine. Along the same line, Dr Iasy, the wife of Fabruce, is the daughter of a Malagasy surgeon that Harold Adolph was training in Galmi Hospital at the time that PAACS was just getting going in the mid-90s. Seems that one must buy a program – as the baseball stadium hawkers, say, you can’t tell the players without a program.
God is in the healing business. A case this week confirmed that. We had a young child with a spinal lesion and the pediatrician, Deborah Walker, was concerned about Pott’s disease of the high thoracic spine. She asked us to see the child to see if surgery might help. The child had a paralysis of all the muscles but weirdly had preservation of all the sensation below that level. It was hard to figure out where the lesion might be. After careful consideration of the child and the x-rays, we declined to operate. She put him on steroids, hoping it would help. That was late last week. Monday on rounds, the child was up and walking. The gait was not entirely normal but he was dramatically better. Praise God. He takes care of fools and little children – and did so here in both categories!
Yesterday, we had mock oral exams for the residents. Keir and I gave them. It was painful for them – and us – but I think they learned a great deal. These are done to prepare them for the COSECSA exams in December.
A new visiting vascular surgeon arrived today with his wife (an OR nurse) and their children. His name is Tom Strawn and he is approximately my age. They will be a great help to Keir after I leave in 10 days. I am taking call this next week. Another internist, Ken Wicker arrived earlier this week with his son to spend a month.
Surrounded by jungle, there is always the concern for snakes. The week before we came, the Thelanders cut down all the bushes around their home after finding (and killing) a six-foot tree cobra and a green mamba in their yard plus another unidentified one. We haven’t seen any – and we are okay with that! The big rat we hear above our ceiling is concern enough.
I found an old surgical instrument honing kit that I was not familiar with. After watching a scratch VHS video, I figured out how to use it and spent some time sharpening instruments in the OR and showing Keir and the residents how to use it. A nice little kit. I was offered another set of instruments (by e-mail) this week and hope to set up a more robust instrument lab in my workshop again this fall. We spent this morning trying to restructure and refurbish instrument trays.
I have planned my next trip. After being home for 12 days, I will leave the US August 12 to go to Malawi, Kenya and Ethiopia. I will the new program Malamulo SDA near Blantyre on August 13-17. I will fly that afternoon of the 17 to Nairobi and then visit Tenwek Hospital August 18-21. On the 21st, I will drive to Kijabe hospital and be there from August 21-24. The morning of August 25, I will fly to Addis and then drive down to Soddo Hospital, being there from 25-27. On the 27th, I will drive back and fly with Jon Pollock to the Surgical Society Meeting of Ethiopia to be held in Bahir Dar August 27-29. We will then fly back and I will visit Myungsung Christian Medical Center from August 29 until I fly out late on the 1st of September. I will be at Tenwek and Kijabe at the same time as a team from IMCK (Institut Médical Chrétien du Kasai, translated Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai; www.imck.org), a Presbyterian Mission Hospital not too far from Kinshasa. They are exploring the idea of starting a PAACS program. Given the budgetary restraints, PAACS will not add any new programs for at least three years but that actually puts the timing about right since it will take some time to get the surgeons and improve the hospital. Part of my job is to just keep plowing new ground to see what and where God will allow a program to sprout.
My mother, Ardith, has not had any more blind episodes and the work-up was negative (they did not do the echocardiogram of the heart that I would have preferred). She continues on anti-platelet therapy and looks forward to getting her sling off (from the repair of her pacemaker) in a few days. Thanks for your prayers for her. I would now ask you to pray about something else. Jeri Lynn Steffes, my ex-wife, has been diagnosed by CT scan with a mass in her pancreas. Obviously, there is great concern about whether this is malignant. She saw a surgeon this week and will get a second opinion Monday at Duke. Pray for her as well as for our three children. Bethany, with her anxiety issues, needs your prayers in a focused way. Jeri loves the Lord but this is a scary time for everyone.
Praise and Prayers:
- Praise: My mother’s recovery and the successful emergency surgery on Paul Davis’ mother Thursday.
- Praise: The COSECSA inspection team has recommended Malamulo Program for full accreditation.
- Praise: In appreciation of his surgeon’s skills and his surgeon’s heart for PAACS, a patient gave a PAACS commissioner a check for $250k. It is the largest single financial gift given to PAACs in its history. Praise God for this answer to prayer – and for the fact that this surgeon lives out his Christianity in the hospital and clinic.
- Pray for Jeri and my children.
Bruce, Micky and Sean