A couple of weeks ago I went to the backyard to rescue our little guy from the top of the monkey bars and something caught my eye through the fence. On the other side of the road I saw this meri blaus and laplap. I had been wanting one for when we go to bush church and special occasions so Nathan and I went out that afternoon and bought it. Meri (pronounced Mary) is a woman, blaus is a blouse and a laplap is a piece of cloth. In this case it is referring to the skirt that goes under the blouse. We see many women wearing this combination and it is quite comfortable and cool in the warm weather.
In preparing to move to PNG we gathered up school books and some toiletries to have shipped ahead in a container. Nathan’s sister, Amy, is a dentist and we’ve been using Colgate Total by her recommendation for years.
I knew that the brands of toiletries in PNG were limited and wanted to be sure to have what we needed to maintain good oral hygiene. I ordered an extra supply of Colgate Total from Amazon, tucked it neatly away in the shipping box and sent it halfway around the world.
As it turns out, there isn’t a large selection of toothpaste here. One main toothpaste available. Colgate. Colgate Total.
After leaving the elections in the United States and arriving in time for election season in PNG, I can tell you that politics is a noisy business wherever you go. Most of the noise in the States was via electronics and the occasional bumper sticker or yard sign that seemed to yell at anyone who was supporting another candidate. The noise here came via loud speakers attached to the top of vehicles.
Around 6am these vehicles would start blaring music and shouting out their candidates need to be in office. This would go on for most of the day and between 9-10pm they would drive by saying, “Gut nait, Kudjip. Gut nait!” (Good night). Thankfully, someone decided the 2am political campaigning that was apart of the last election was no longer necessary this election.
A couple weeks ago, the noise came from helicopters. One helicopter after another flew overhead. It was quite the excitement as all the little missionary kids and PNG kids ran outside pointing, shouting and running with each new fly over. The helicopters were taking ballot boxes to different villages in preparation for voting. Not long after the helicopters flew by, the political vehicles became quiet.
Each region takes turns voting. In part, this gives security forces time to reach the next destination. If there’s problems in voting (ballot boxes being stolen or fighting) the security forces are delayed and so voting is delayed at the next location. Security forces can also be delayed by bad weather or road conditions. The area around Kudjip was supposed to vote two weeks ago, but that was postponed until Monday, July 3rd. At 6am on the 3rd, however, the police went through to let people know they would be voting on Tuesday instead.
The hospital has a polling station so that employees can vote without having to return to their home areas, since traveling long distances can be difficult, especially during election season. Everyone lines up to wait their turn. Pictures of the candidates are posted with a number beside each face. Each voter marks the number of the candidates they want to vote for.
On Wednesday after the voting, several of the roads were closed as were the markets. This was somehow linked to politics although I don’t know what exactly the problem was.
The votes in our area are now being tallied and the results are expected to be announced this week. Would you join us in praying during this time? While we are not in danger personally, this is not the case for many of our PNG friends. There is often fighting when the results are announced and bush knives are the weapon of choice. Bush knives (machetes) are long, very sharp and inflict a great deal of damage if not killing the victim. Last Saturday Nathan treated a man whose hand was completely amputated with one swipe of a bush knife. The doctors are planning to treat many more chop-chops (bush knife wounds) in the next few weeks as the result are announced.
Our family is praying for people of peace to be able to speak calm into potentially volatile situations. We are praying that God would give wisdom, courage and safety to His followers as they encounter these situations. Would you please join us in praying for the people in our area this week?
We hope you all are having a fun and safe 4th of July! Our 4th was yesterday and as we’re not in the States, it’s just another day on the calendar. Nathan did end up getting part of the day off though. It’s election time here. Our local area was supposed to vote last week, but it ended up being delayed until yesterday. Not many people came in to the hospital, so Nathan was free after lunch except for the occasional call.
Since we didn’t get fireworks this year, here’s a few flowers from around the station. The flowers bloom all year round. It’s always fun to go on a walk and see the variety.
Four years ago Nathan and I traveled to Hong Kong with our oldest son. After 18 months of paperwork, fingerprints, classes, more paperwork and endless waiting, it was finally time to meet our youngest son for the first time.
When I walked through the door of his foster home, I looked down and saw my son. He looked up and saw a stranger. He was quite happy to have these three strangers in his home giving him their undivided attention. But then these people who smelled odd, talked funny and looked different took him away from his home and onto this giant flying machine away from everything he knew.
I look back at the pictures of our time with him in Hong Kong and see a few smiles, but a lot of uncertainty on his little face.
He clung to Daddy most of the time and was happy to have big brother there to play with. Thankfully, we knew a family that had recently adopted their son and who also preferred Daddy in the beginning. It helped prepare me to just let him be with whoever brought him the most comfort during all the transition.
After arriving home, he loved having his older siblings to play with and did pretty well while he was awake. But when it was time to sleep and after waking up he would cry this deep sobbing cry. It was hard to watch him as he mourned losing everything and everyone he had previously know. We did a lot of snuggling and a lot of singing to him during this time. After a few months, the crying began to stop as the new become normal.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years already. He is an active little boy who loves to be involved in everything that’s going on around him. He also loves to help. I often find him sweeping, clearing the table or washing the table. There’s also a stubborn streak and we’re slowly learning to tap into his helpful side without drawing out his stubborn side!
He is very vocal, although much of it is sounds (very loud sounds!) rather than words. There’s a few words he can say, but verbal speech has been difficult for him. He’s done well with picking up sign language and we’re working to add more signs to his vocabulary. He’s an eager learner and I have to be careful to add only a few signs at a time so I can remember what he’s trying to say.
There are many wives that have a heart to adopt children with special needs, but their husbands are not on board with the idea. At first Nathan was one of those husbands. Special needs and Down syndrome were intimidating and he just wasn’t sure he was ready for that. Thankfully, he took the time to pray and listen to the plan God had for our family. Once he felt God’s leading to follow the road of special needs adoption he never looked back. I am grateful for Nathan’s willingness to step into the unknown. I am thankful for this little boy who is now a Mason. As it turns out, Down syndrome is a part of our lives with him, but it does not define our lives. He is a wonderful little boy, who has a little something extra on his 21st chromosome and has brought an extra little wonderful to our family.
We get our food several different ways. An older gentleman stops by the house a couple times a week with vegetables for sale. He used to only sell asparagus, but now has a variety of things like carrots, broccoli, onions and tomatoes.
Once a month I travel into Mt. Hagen with Gail Dooley and do a day long shopping trip. In Hagen we are able to get more Western style foods and meats as well as stop by the market for produce.
Then there is a market just down the road from the hospital at the rot bung. “Rot” (pronounced with a long o) is road and bung (pronounces with a oo sound) is a meeting, so this is where the roads meet. There aren’t many roads in PNG, so this rot bung is rare and busy. Nathan usually goes once every week or two and takes one of the kids. Recently, though, we made a short trip as a family.
This umbrella market has all kinds of produce available as well as the flip flops we got for the kids.
In the small stores we can get boxes of eggs (we go through about 6 dozen a week) and boxes of milk. The milk comes in cartons that are stored on the shelf and don’t need to be put in the refrigerator until they’re opened. There’s a little store where people can pay to have their cell phone charged which is important for the many people who don’t have electricity in their homes. A little movie theater plays lovely American films like Rambo.
The clothing market is outdoors and has used clothing from Australia for sale. I’ve found some great things for the kids and me there, but usually pass on the winter snow suits hanging on the line.
On my return to the office a young female came in with pelvic pain that was worse with sitting. After a brief history she laid down on the exam table. “Are you pregnant” I asked in Pidgin. “No,” was her response. She looked pregnant and had something firm in her abdomen. Off to ultrasound we went. Hmmm . . . that’s a head . . . and there’s a heart beat. “Yep, you’re pregnant and about 36 weeks.” “I know” was her smiling response. Well, I guess I botched my Pidgin on that visit. I will keep working.
No time to wallow in language doubts I headed back to my exam room. A middle aged female came in with years of pelvic pain and vaginal discharge. It did not take long to figure out she had PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) from prior STD exposure. This is far too common in PNG with promiscuity, domestic violence, and rape. I gave her antibiotics to treat her symptoms. Hopefully not too much scarring has occurred and the pain will resolve.
Then the watchman (a friend or family member who comes to the hospital with the patient) of a patient I saw last week came in asking my advice on his esophageal cancer as the patient was too weak to get to the hospital. “Could your surgeons remove the cancer?” he asked. Dr. Jim Radcliffe and I explained that the surgery would either kill him or prolong his suffering. The best we could do was remind him of his hope in Jesus.
Next came a child vomiting water with occasional blood. He also has watery diarrhea. Off to the lab. Mom and Dad return later with the blood test which looks alright. Medications given for dysentery. His parents are happy with his care. His dad, it turns out, is the pastor of a Nazarene church a few miles up the road. I cheerfully turn to my translator and say “Hey, one of my brothers in Christ. Can you see the family resemblance?” The dad and I laugh. They head home with their fears released.
A new mother with Chronic Migraines, a young man for a school physical, then an elderly woman, deaf and blind from cataracts. The afternoon was flying by.
I poked my head out the door for the next patient. “One pela kam” I called. A 30 year old female stood up and slowly walked down the hall. She had temporal wasting (loss of muscle and fat), was pale, and moved slowly. “Man, she looks sick,” I thought. TB? She sat down in my room. “I’m here with a cough, short of breath, my belly is swollen, and there’s something on my back where I was stabbed one year ago,” she says. She had fluid in her abdomen on exam and a hard mass on her right posterior chest wall. Cancer. We made our way to the ultrasound room. I scanned her back and abdomen. Liver cancer with ascites (fluid in the abdomen). I sat facing her and her young husband. “I am truly sorry,” I said and explained, “You have cancer of the liver.” I paused as she and her husband sat in shock. I slowly went on, “There is no cure.” Tears began to stream down her face and the husband’s face tensed. I was fighting to hold back the tears as I talked. “Have you given your life to God and trusted Him?”
“Yes,” she replied, “my spirit is in His hands.” I asked if I could pray with them. They nodded yes. I slowly began to pray in Pidgin. They headed home to see their pastor and will come back if they need us. She probably has 3 months or less to live.
No time to morn I moved onto the next patient. A young man with seizures. Then an ultrasound of a pregnant patient that is 28 weeks. “Congratulations. You have twins!” I said with a smile. One of the labor and delivery (L&D) nurses poked her head in the ultrasound room. “Dr. Nathan we need you in L&D. We have a laceration that needs suturing.” No time to celebrate with this patient for now, off to L&D. And so my day ended.
It’s not always easy but I am thankful for the chance to show the people of PNG the love of Christ. Sometime that means sharing in their brokenness and pain and other times celebrating life with them. Sometimes that means using my skills to help ease their suffering or being able to heal them. Each one of you who is partnering with us through prayer and finances is also helping to treat every person that walks through the hospital doors. Thanks for all you are doing.
Practicing medicine in PNG is very different than anything I have seen in the United States. The following is one weekday I had in April to try and give you a feel of what a typical week day now looks like for me.
Each day we see our patients that have been admitted to the hospital and then head to the Outpatient department (OPD) to see patients who have traveled near and far to the outpatient clinic. Our time in the OPD is often interrupted by trips to the emergency room or back to the hospital wards.
Wednesday at 9:30am I walked into the OPD and headed for my exam room. “One pela kam,” (one come) I cheerful called in Pidgin to the line of waiting patients. A mother and her 7 or 8 month old son came in and sat down in my room.
The young boy had a cough, fever, and was short of breath at times. After his exam I diagnosed pneumonia. His mother and I discussed admission but elected for him to go home. She could not stay as she had to breast feed his twin. Since he was breast feeding well, I gave antibiotics and sent him home with a promise from his mother to return in the morning.
Next an elderly gentleman came to my room. He did not know his age which is common in PNG. He had received a foley catheter a few weeks ago because he was having trouble urinating. This helped but he’s also having trouble with his bowel movements. His exam revealed a very large nodular prostate. My heart sank. Prostate cancer and rather advanced. I graciously explained his diagnosis and that there was no good treatment available in PNG. All I could offer was to pray with him and remind him of our hope in Jesus Christ.
Again I poked my head out the door of my office “One pela kam” I called. A middle aged lady slowly came into my room. She had weakness when walking for one week. I suspect she has spinal stenosis (a pinched nerve in her spine) but we don’t have an MRI to confirm my diagnosis. I gave steroids and she will come back in a few weeks.
Next came a 3 month old girl appearing very malnourished with diarrhea. Her mother was young and not mixing her formula correctly. Admitted to treat the diarrhea and teach her mother proper feeding.
Then I saw a 10 year old with jaundice and presumed acute Hepatitis. Discussed his care with his parents and sent them home. The hospital has limited tests so not sure which form of hepatitis but suspect Hepatitis A. Something we get vaccinated for in the USA.
He was followed by a 70 year old male with a Inguinal Hernia. He is not a surgical candidate as he has advanced congestive heart failure and COPD. I adjusted his meds and sent him home after an echocardiogram with the help of Dr Bill McCoy.
Next came a 20 year old male with chronic back pain. I reviewed his X-ray. Destruction of the L-2 vertebra from past boney infection with TB. I then head to the ER to help Dr Mark get a sample from a sedated child with fluid around her lungs. Was it lunch time already?
In the next, blog I’ll finish with the afternoon of patients.
Dr. Sheena has been our dentist here at the hospital for the past two years. She came with Samaritan’s Purse. When she first arrived there was little dental equipment, but Samaritan’s Purse donate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new dental equipment. The dental x-rays here were the easiest I’ve ever had taken thanks to this equipment.
In a couple of weeks she’ll be heading back to Hong Kong, Canada and the United States as she prepares to move on to her next mission station. She will be greatly missed, but we had a fun farewell party for her down by the river.
The kids had a great time playing in the clay along the edge of the river.
And playing on the surf board with friends
And digging in the dirt
And getting wet. Except she wasn’t so sure at first. She wouldn’t put her right foot in the water, but instead held it up in the air. When it would finally lower down and touch the water she’d hold it up with her hands. Finally, she gave up keeping her right foot dry and just started playing. She had more fun than this picture would suggest. 🙂
And snuggling with Aunt Charity
It made for a great day.
Our Saturday was full and a lot of fun with friends. First we started out with a community service project of picking up garbage on the road just outside the hospital station.
When we first arrived this road was dirt and just beginning to be paved with concrete ditches put in along the side. I’ve been told it used to be one of the worst stretches of road on the way to Mt. Hagen where we do our grocery shopping.
A variety of interesting things were found.
And we had some beautiful views along the way
And an adorable little Thompson helper
And my little helper was eager to go.
And then we were back at the station
But the day wasn’t over yet. We had a hot dog roast and then a party for Sheena before she leaves. The pictures at the river will be coming soon!