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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Monkey Forest and a House Visit

Yesterday was a highlight-type day: Matt and I drove a motorcycle to bush church, we sang along with some really cool drums, I told a children’s story, and then we rode back for “regular church.” At church, we sat with one of the Muslim patients Dr. Danae had invited and tried to survive the breeze-less hot, stuffy air. After a wonderful potluck, we headed out to “Monkey Forest,” which is nearby the village of the bush church we had visited the past two Sabbaths. Anywhere we go we attract attention, and this time was no exception. Pretty soon we were hiking through the forest with about 40 curious kids trailing behind us. With the noise we made, we never did spot any monkeys but we did collect dozens of white shells that were scattered across the forest floor. We got back in the pickup truck and headed for our next destination – the home of a former patient who has felt indebted to the Netteburgs for saving his life a few years back. 

We arrived at his home, met with his wives, kids, and neighborhood kids, explored the simple brick huts forming several rooms, a small, dark kitchen, and what looked like a multi-purpose room. Outside there was a well and several small chicks, hens, and ducks, which entertained the Netteburg kids for hours. We sat on the mat with our new friends and since they did not speak French, we just “hung out” with our presence. Danae had brought a picture Bible for the family and they all huddled around it as one of the wives was turning the pages. It dawned on me that these people (along with most people in Bere) don’t own any books; when they are not in the fields working they are sitting around at home; so by giving them this Bible, we were also giving them something beautiful to look at, something uplifting to read, commit to memory, and recall in hard times, and something that will socially engage their whole family, and bring hope and light to their neighbors and village as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tough Stuff

 Just had a really meaningful time with Solaily, Diana, and Fabiene. Talked for over 2 hours about missions, sharing with each other prayer requests (Fabiene – job in Europe, Solaily – to be able to withdraw money, Diana – to be able to see her family again in the states—whom she hasn’t seen since 2010!), and the difficult mission field that Chad is. Fabiene shared what a spiritually dry country this is; she contributes much of Chad’s spiritual poverty to a non-literate culture – it is just not the culture here to read! Let alone read the Bible. People expect to get most of their Bible knowledge once a week from the pastors, who according to her, know very little of the Bible in the first place.

On another note, yesterday I accidently skimmed a dirty needle—of a patient who happens to have HIV. So Danae had me start antiretrovirals. Side effects are awesome. Today I had to step out in the middle of a surgery due to intense nausea. Came home and the explosive diarrhea which began this morning continued. Both Danae and Diana have taken the meds and they reported terrible symptoms. For a whole month. Awesome.

Today I also got to teach a 2-hr practicum on suturing to the nursing students. Loved it.
Today I ALSO got to deliver twins! Baby B was breech so thankfully Danae was around and I grabbed her because I had never delivered a breech baby before – let alone twins! So that was fun J Baby B had to be resuscitated; thankfully all moms and babies are doing well. Immediately afterwards I delivered a primipara whose baby also had to get resuscitated.
Today I also found out our preemie baby girl whom we delivered last week passed away last night. So did my patient who was one of my consults a few days ago. So did the soul of our 18-year old young man who had to get his leg amputated above the knee today from a soccer accident. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Week at Bere

Saturday May 12

What a week. I wish I could’ve written every day because every day there was something worth writing about. Every day we had cases and surgeries that I saw for the first time; every day we met with obstacles, frustrations, and medical challenges we would not have had to face had these cases presented themselves in America.

Saturday night there was the midnight “kidnapping” of Chad and meeting face-to-face with two hippos we had disturbed after throwing him into the river and singing Happy Birthday off-tune at the top of our lungs.

Sunday I rode the moto with Chad a few kilometers away to find 3G network for an hour of “unlimited data” by a giant termite hill in what seemed to be the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Monday was my first day rounding on patients. I saw severely malnourished kids, two hippo bite cases, awful trauma cases, and mothers whose newborn babies had just died.

Tuesday in the OR we removed a keloid the size of an orange on a 19 year old’s face. Then there was a fairly large pediatric umbilical hernia (the incidence of umbilical hernias here is outstanding. The Chadian tradition of yanking babies’ umbilical cord off instead of allowing it to fall off could be a contributing factor). That was followed by a D&C, a hippo bite reconstruction on the leg, and bilateral massive psoas abscesses removal. “Dr. Danae” (as the local staff affectionately call her) and her surgical skills continue to amaze me.

Wednesday was a tough day. There were multiple occasions of patients’ families trying to take advantage of the hospital which Dr. Danae had to take care of on rounds, in addition to rounding on all the services and performing all the scheduled and emergency surgical cases of the day. We worked non-stop (Dr. Danae usually works through lunch, as does her surgical staff) until 10pm. The last two cases of the day were very complicated C-sections. I set my alarm for 2am and went to check in on the mom and baby pairs that we had just delivered. While rounding on them (we honestly did not know if some of them would live until the morning), a L&D nurse grabs me and points to the labor and delivery room. I follow her in and met two women in labor. The first one was complete and thrashing on the bed. We helped her down and had her lie on a mat on the floor to avoid the potential of her falling off the bed. The nurse then tried to explain her concern to me but as I do not speak French I really had no clue what she was trying to tell me. I did pick on the fact that she wanted to call Dr. Danae. I didn’t realize why until my patient started to push and I saw the cervical prolapse. She was a multipara, however, so her second stage of labor did not last long and before I knew it I had delivered her baby boy on that mat on the ground. I was praying the entire time and was extremely thankful the delivery went smoothly overall and we had a healthy mom and baby (and she then stopped thrashing!). I went back home to sleep a few more hours before morning, sleepy, yet grateful to God for keeping our mommas and babies alive.

The case that stood out to me on Thursday was the repair of a man’s football-size inguinal hernia. Not only did his scrotum contain a large portion of his intestines, it also had housed his bladder.

Friday we had more D&Cs, a pediatric bladder stone removal (likely caused by schistosomiasis), and a giant leg abscess I&D and heel debridement. The patient had come in the previous day; I had seen her in the ER and when I examined her foot, I noted several maggots eating away at the dead flesh in her heel.

Friday night we all got together at the Netteburgs again for a sweet time of prayer and worship.
Saturday morning at 4am we had an emergency C-section. I came home afterwards, got an hour of sleep and was called in again for another C-section. After we all cleaned up and ate some breakfast, we headed to my favorite activity here at Bere – Bush Church! This was my second time at Bush Church and I loved it just as much.

As soon as we pull up to a particular mango tree, 30-40 kids come running. We lay out the mats and start singing “Animals, animals” in Njaray. As we continue to sing songs such as “Father Abraham,” and “Making Melodies,” more kids run over to our little church under the mango tree. Soon, some women and teenage boys gather as well, in time to hear Dr. Olen tell another Bible story. Last week he told the story of Noah while Dr. Danae and their kids made the story come to life with felts. This time he recounts the Tower of Babel while everyone listens intently. After the story, Dr. Danae asks if anyone has memorized any of the Bible passages they were given a few weeks ago. One young man gets up and in front of everyone recites all 19 Bible passages. It had taken him only three weeks. His prize is a Njaray Bible, the first Bible that village has received. And these Bible stories that the Netteburgs have been faithfully telling them are the first Bible stories these people have heard. They have never heard the stories of Daniel, Joseph, and Adam and Eve before. They are thirsty and receptive.