Blasto wrote to than us for the headlight. He wrote,
“I am in Litein Hospital, trying to work hard, and have as much fun as I can. Today, I remembered the headlights that you handed to us in Malawi. Our OR lights are dim at best (only 3 of the eleven lights come on), and the headlight has been a great help illuminating the field. It has been of great help.”
“I have been here for 3 months now, and the surgical volume has been building up slowly. I have done over 80 cases so far, mostly major cases (emergencies). The elective list has been picking up well, [a blessing] in view of the prior negative image the hospital had be that was due to the unavailability of the employed surgical staff.
“There had been a significant fear of bad outcomes by the general population regarding thyroidectomies, but since we did the first one (since I came) 3 weeks ago, we have done one every week. I am told that there are certain areas around here where goiter is endemic. So I think that the numbers will increase.
“At least, Tenwek has had fewer referrals from us, and we are getting more patients being referred to us from the surrounding hospitals.
“Most importantly, I have had joy while praying with patients not only in the OR (that was being done before here), but as well as during the ward rounds. The first time I indicated that we should pray for the patient, I got interesting stares from many on the ward round. It was like they were saying, "Are you serious?" Which is a fair question, because I joke a lot in most of what I do, but I have gotten a good response, especially from the patients who appreciate prayer for them. There is a great chaplaincy that does a lot of evangelism and prayer as well.
“There have been a number of very sick patients who have done well, not based on what I did, but by God's grace. Now I understand why Dr. White, Dr. Spears and others used to take pictures with some patients. It was because it is clear how far they have come, and you know for most part it wasn’t because of you.
“I am still working on giving thanks at the end of the case. That's my plan for the next few months.”
In response to that encouraging report, I have sent our last set of instruments to him and they should arrive in Kenya shortly. Jim Brown from Mbingo Hospital wrote to tell us that the pediatric bronchoscopy equipment had arrived at his hospitals – and that very afternoon, he used it to save a young child’s life who had aspirated a peanut. We had also sent him a DeBakey forceps for every tray at the hospital – and he was very appreciative of all of you who donated to make those two things possible.
Travel: I arrived home yesterday after eleven days of constant travel, first to the National African American Mission Conference in McLean, Virginia (a suburb of Washington DC) and then last week to Gabon and Cameroon. I leave again for Morgantown on Wednesday and then Saturday, I leave for California.
I left from Dulles Airport in DC on that Saturday afternoon. My plane was late and that meant I would miss my connection in Paris. They re-routed me to go on Royal Air Maroc through Casablanca and then to Libreville, arriving 16 hours after my original ETA (estimated time of arrival). I had five hours of layover in Paris with this new itinerary – and I would need every bit of it. Because Royal Air Maroc is a cheapskate airline, they don’t have all the amenities and other airlines can’t give boarding passes on their planes. In Paris, it took me four hours to go through immigration, find the admission desk, wait for it to open, get my boarding passes, go back through immigration and endure a long security line. Fortunately, all went well despite the fact that I felt lost much of the time and uncertain that I was doing the right thing in the right way.
The flight to Casablanca was unremarkable and the next flight loaded on time. Since this was my second night in a row on a plane, I quickly dropped off to sleep only to be awakened and told to put my seat back up. The timing was all wrong and when I looked out the window, I could see the lights of a great city. It wasn’t until I tried unsuccessfully to ask the steward (my French and Arabic being deficient), that my seatmate, a young French woman, explained that there was something wrong with the plane and we were circling to dump fuel before landing. That did not boost my spirits, but there was little choice but to pray. After two more hours of circling, we landed without incident and were rapidly shuttled to a much larger plane (a Boeing 787) and took off again. With more room, my sleep was better and I awoke just as we were approaching Libreville, four hours past our time. I felt bad that I had had no way to communicate with the pastor meeting me, but he was there in Libreville to my relief.
That evening the three professors from WACS flew in. We had supper at a restaurant on the way back to the guesthouse. Once there, they made it clear that the accommodations were not up to their standards and insisted on a hotel for the evening. Libreville hotels are VERY expensive (up to $300 – 400 a night) but we had no choice but to fulfill their wishes. We found a hotel at “only” $170 a night for each of them. Being exhausted myself, I slept very comfortably in the substandard bed of the guesthouse.
The next morning, we had an extensive tour of the hospital and several sessions together the residents, the faculty and the administration. Overall, they were complimentary but were clear about what they expected to see. Most of their recommendations were reasonable and can probably be fixed with some work. Some may not. They require rotations with a full-fledged orthopedic surgeon, an urologist, an anesthetist and a full trauma service. Not sure we have what they need within the PAACS system and it isn’t really available within Gabon within the private sector, either.
The next morning, we flew back to Libreville where immigration was taken care of and flew then to Yaoundé, Cameroon where we went through immigration and switched to the SIL plane. Brandon Penkoff flew us to Bamenda where we partially off-loaded the plane so the weight would be low enough to land safely at Mbingo. A car took two people and some luggage from Bamenda to the hospital.
They inspected the hospital on Friday, July 1, took the obligatory picture (to the right) and we flew back to Yaoundé at mid-day on Saturday. I caught a plane out to Paris and Raleigh-Durham late that evening and the professors flew back to Nigeria and Ghana the next morning (Sunday). We will get their final report in a few months.
Family: I took the trip with Micky’s explicit permission. Since her emergent procedures in the middle of June, she has felt wonderful. Unfortunately, we are discouraged that her complication is persisting. It is still possible for it to heal properly, however, and of course, Jehovah-Rapha can heal whatever He wishes. If it doesn’t heal, she will require reconstructive surgery in a few months. An appointment is already in the works for Duke University. Please join with us in prayer for her healing and for peace during her understandable discouragement and regret.
My mother celebrated her 84th birthday. She continues to have significant health challenges but has an amazing spirit. In the picture, she is modeling her new hat – a gift for a proper Southern lady!
We continue to battle with the insurance company over the damage caused by the lightning and hope to arrange a time for the repairs to the fence soon.