January 4th

Today was a full and rewarding day! Our team was in surgeries, at hospice and doing education all day.

I got to assist Dr. Steve in surgery today (my first time ever seeing anything like that!), and was absolutely blown away. They start their day with chapel and some of the most beautiful singing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Steve then gave a great presentation to the medical staff there about back pain in children and the assessments to do for it, and the staff listened very attentively and asked in-depth questions. They always are so eager to learn as much as possible, and we love getting to learn from them as well. We moved into surgery after that and was instantly met with the difference of time perception here. We thought we were arriving late, and then realized that we still were waiting on one of the doctors and our first patient hadn’t even arrived yet. They don’t give patients specific appointment times here, so they will just arrive in the morning and then wait for their turn, some of them waiting the whole day.

The way they live on their faith in their work is beautiful. There is powerful picture hanging in between the operating rooms that shows a surgeon, his assistant, the patient, and Jesus standing behind the surgeon with his hand on his shoulder. Every time I got tired and lightheaded, I would remember that image and calmness would wash over me. The Lord was with us today as we did His work, and He steadily reminded us to persevere. We started each surgery with a prayer, and it set a beautiful tone for the work we were doing that day. One patient specifically was very difficult, and we were in surgery for her for over 3 hours. This was our patient with the malunion of the right humerus, and she had been living with this in her arm for over 16 years because she couldn’t afford the surgery to fix it. As I held the surgical cut open, I was thinking over and over about how drastically this woman’s life will be changed after having this fixed. I kept thinking over and over, “thank you Lord for bringing her to us, and giving us the ability to help her.”

When I wasn’t assisting with our assigned surgeries, I went into the neighboring OR rooms. In one I witnessed an emergency C-section, and got to see my first birth! I held the mother’s hand while they sewed her back up, and got to see the moment the mother saw her baby for the first time. It was beautiful. Later that afternoon, we watched the removal of an incredibly massive ovarian cyst that easily could have weighed about 30 lbs! The patient with the cyst was one we had referred from our outreach clinics and will be paying for, and we all stood in awe at the size of it and thinking about the insane pain she must have been in, and the relief she will have after this.

Abby got to go out on hospice visits today, and got to see an interesting variety of cases and help deliver the food bags we prepared Sunday night. She loved getting to see and interact with the incredible staff. This hospice team has over 3,000 patients in their system (which we misheard yesterday), and make anywhere from bi-weekly to yearly check-ups on these patients, some of whom have been in the system since 2013. One patient had end stage brain cancer, which this woman hadn’t had diagnosed until 2 weeks ago. The week previously, the woman was visited by the team and Abby learned that this woman took the diagnosis very hard. It can be very difficult for these patients to be diagnosed with a serious type of cancer, as many people do not live long past their diagnosis. Today, we were encouraged to see her sitting up and engaging with the team. This patient’s two daughters and husband were all home to care for their mother. Abby and the nurses peeked through the medications this patient was taking, and she was shocked to see liquid morphine filling a reused plastic water bottle. A hand-made label was plastered on the bottle describing the name and dosage of the medication. They reuse everything in this country!

Lynn accompanied us to the hospital today and had the opportunity to assist with education in the hospital’s HIV program for kids. One of the biggest problems with HIV it not just how deadly it is, but also the stigma that surrounds it. The woman who runs this program has been with it for 27 years working to help break that stigma through her program. This program helps 120 children and works on educating them at a child’s level to understand the importance of their medications they take, and what it is they have. They do this through “good Sargent” and “bad Sargent” illustrations to help the kids understand their immune systems and how their med’s help, as well as through games and counseling. When she wasn’t at the clinic, Lynn talked with many of the people waiting at the hospital to be seen, and learned so much about their culture and the 150 tribes that reside peacefully together in Tanzania.

God bless,