Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bush walk

Getting off the mission station can be a bit of a challenge.  There are call schedules and safety concerns to consider.  It is often more trouble than it is worth.  But the longer you are here, the smaller this place feels.  I call it "bush fever."  Sometimes you just need to get away.

Last Saturday, Pamela and I had the most wonderful opportunity to do just that.  Monica is Pamela's colleague and student in x-ray.  Her home village is not far from the station.  She invited Pamela to go for a walk, to see her place and visit with the family.  And I got to tag along!

About 9:00 AM we met up with Monica and her "brother" Michael.  Michael is actually some sort of cousin to Monica.  In this tribal society, your cousin is your brother, and your aunt's friend's sister-in-law is your second mother.  One big happy family!  

We walked down through the cow banis, past the Hyrdo Church, through sweet potato and banana gardens to what the missionaries call "Suicide Rocks."  It is called this because once upon a time there was a cliff from where you could dive into the river--if you were crazy enough.  We learned that the tok ples name is "Kugar" which means "rock house."  I think I prefer the tok ples name.  A flood in the last year has changed the scene quite a bit; the large rocks have fallen down into the river.  The rushing water is still quite a site to behold.

We followed along and through and across the river, to a bend where I had never before ventured.  One of Monica's other cousins was there with his family.  Mother was washing clothes along the edge of the water.  The children were catching small fish in the stream.  What a beautiful picture.

Our trek continued through coffee groves and an orange plantation.  Michael led us up the trail of "Ai Pas Mountain" or "close your eyes mountain."  Apparently there are some rather precarious drops that do make you want to close your eyes.  Although I'm not sure why, because that would only increase your chance of falling off the cliff.  The hills were blanketed with the purple May grass.

We arrived in Monica's village just before noon.  Koloming is a small collection of bush houses, probably no more than 10.  Monica's mother was called from the garden.  She arrived with a bag of freshly picked peanuts, sugar fruits, and oranges for us to take home.  We sat on the ground and storied with brothers' families and cousins and uncles and other curious folks.  Pamela had made some banana bread as a gift to share with the family.  The loaves were sliced and pieces passed around for everyone to taste.  It didn't last long!

We concluded our visit with a round of hand shakes and headed down the path to Kudjip.  It really was a lovely outing--just what the doctor ordered to treat her case of "bush fever."

"And this is love:  that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."
~ 2 John 1:6

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Stephoscope: May 2011 Newsletter

Dear friends,

Here is the May 2011 edition of my newsletter.  The articles feature my friend Pamela, volunteer radiographer, and a happy ending for one of my cervical cancer patients.

There wasn't enough space to share all the news from this month, so check out the "New Blog Entries" section on page 1... Read about tiny baby of Gemma and his one day in this world.  His story is one I will always remember.  I traveled to Enga province to speak at the student conference and to Madang for a bit of R&R.  I truly live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Thank you for your emails.  I love hearing from back home, catching up on what is happening in your lives and families.  Your notes are such an encouragement to me, as are your prayers.  Please keep them coming!

Hugs from PNG,
~ steph

Thursday, 19 May 2011

When life gives you lemons...

... make lemonade!

Life has certainly given us lemons--4 tress that produce the yellow fruits all year round.  They are continuously falling to the ground.  And the more you pick, the more they seem to grow!

I tease my roomie Pamela that she is obsessed with the lemons.  She cannot walk by the tree without picking up a bag, or two, or three...  I have lost count of the number of jars of juice she has squeezed with the help of the KitchenAid mixer.  But this obsession definitely has its benefit:  an endless supply of fresh squeezed lemonade!

"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation:  seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.'  And it was so.  The land produced vegetation:  plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in in according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good."
~ Genesis 1:11-12

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Happy ending

I took over the cervical cancer screening program at Kudjip Hospital about a year and a half ago.  There have been some real joys.  I have taken care of many patients with cervical dysplasia or pre-cancer of the cervix.  It only takes a simple procedure to finish the disease before it becomes cancer.  Every one of those procedures saves a life.

Unfortunately, I see many patients who already have cervical cancer that is too far advanced treatment at Kudjip.  The only hope for these women is radiation.  Referring them for radiotherapy is quite a process...  The patient is evaluated to see if she might be a candidate:   exam, ultrasound, chest x-ray, blood tests, biopsy.  I have a long discussion which is usually repeated with family on what is "light medicine," the side effects, the chance of cure vs. risk of death.  Once the patient and her family agree to go, they collect money and make arrangements for travel.  I contact Dr. Niblett at the Cancer Centre in Lae who needs to give the OK before he sees the patient.  It may take several attempts before I can get through.  Our phone is out, the phone in Lae is out, or the doctor is on vacation.  Or perhaps the hospital is closed or the radiotherapy machine is out of service.  Get the picture?  There are lots of hoops to jump through.  Sometimes I wonder if I am getting anywhere.

But every once in a while, the whole crazy process actually works.  There is an occasional patient who actually gets to Lae, completes (and survives) a course of radiotherapy, and is cured of her disease.  When I see those few patients back in clinic, I realize that every bit of hoop jumping was so worth it.

Today was one of those days when I was reminded why I do what I do.  Necka is one of my cervical cancer patients.  She is now more than one year out from radiotherapy.  She came to see me for a check up, and continues to be cancer free.  Praise the Lord!  We finished our visit with a big hug.  Her smile (and mine) says it all.

Thank you for praying for the cervical cancer screening program and our cervical cancer patients!

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
~ Romas 5:3-4

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


"Malolo" is a Pidgin word that means "rest."  If you are going to rest in PNG, Madang is the place to do it.  My first visit was at the end of 2009.  I traveled with the Myers family, 10 bumpy hours over the pothole-dotted Highlands Highway.  We stayed in a guest house and explored the various resorts, beaches, restaurants, and stores in the area.  It was a great overview of Madang!

A few months ago, Erin began organizing a trip to Madang.  She had some holiday time she needed to use, and was looking for some folks to share the adventure.  Linda (a volunteer working with college of nursing), Pamela, and I all gladly agreed to join her for a girls extra-long, extra special weekend out.

We left Kujip on Friday morning at the crack of dawn and headed to the airport.  Forget the 10 bumpy hours of pothole-dotted highway.  A 50 minute MAF flight will lift you over the mountains and down to the coast, minus the crick in your neck!  We checked in at 7AM and were put on hold.  One of the planes was out of service.  We might be leaving at noon, or we might not go at all.  Linda said a word of prayer... 10 minutes later the desk announced that we would be the first flight of the day.  WAHOO!!!  Vacation here we come!  We boarded the 7 seater plane, quite possibly the smallest plane I had ever flown on.  We were the only passengers other than our pilot.  Window seats for everyone!  And what spectacular views as we flew over the Jimi, past Mt. Wilhelm, and down into the Ramu valley.  I am convinced that PNG is the most beautiful place on earth.

As we touched down in Madang, we were welcomed by the warm and humid air of the tropics.  The van for Jais Aben resort picked us up soon after our arrival.  We made a brief stop in town to buy some groceries and cooled off with a scoop of ice cream before driving out to the resort.  We checked into our two rooms which overlooked the jade colored water.  It wasn't long until we were in our suits and trying out the snorkel gear.  

Over the next four days, we relaxed to the max:  sleeping in, mindless reading, snorkeling, eating at the restaurant, snorkeling again, nap time, played games.  Oh yeah, and more rest and even more snorkeling.  Seriously, this is the life!  One morning we rented a couple of kayaks and paddled to explore the opposite coastline.

My favorite outing was a boat trip to Tabb a.k.a. Pig Island.  There was a beautiful deserted beach on one side of the island.  We enjoyed swimming in the warm water and walking along the untouched sand.  Just around the corner was the most incredible surprise--the Tabb Island reef.  From Belize to the Great Barrier Reef, it was the best place that I have ever snorkeled.  The coral and fish are a rainbow of colors.  It is another kind of a world under there, one you have to experience to believe.  So come on over to PNG!

After five days and four nights in Madang, it was time to head back to the real world.  But I am heading back well rested!  Mission malolo: accomplished. 

"How many are your works, Lord!
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number--
living things both large and small."
~ Psalm 104:24a-25

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A song for little Baby of Gema

My friend Amber shared this song for little Baby of Gema...

I Saw What I Saw

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it.
I heard what I heard and I can't go back.
I know what I know and I can't deny it.

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul.

Your pain has changed me,
Your dream inspires,
Your face a memory,
Your hope a fire.
Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
And what I know of love.

We've done what we've done and we can't erase it.
We are what we are and it's more than enough.
We have what we have but it's no substitution.

I say what I say with no hesitation.
I have what I have and I'm giving it up.
I do what I do with deep conviction.

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul.

Your pain has change me,
Your dreams inspire,
Your face a memory,
Your hope a fire.

Your courage asks me what I am afraid of.
Your courage asks me what I am afraid of.
Your courage asks me what I am afraid of.
And what I know of God,
And what I know of God.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

One day

Papa God, you were there from my beginning, from the time I was conceived.  I was not hidden from you in that place secret place.  You gave me life.  YOU gave me LIFE!  Your eyes saw my unformed body as you knit me together inside of my mother's womb.  You molded my eyes and nose and fingers and toes.  You created my inmost being and started my heart beating.  I am so fearfully and wonderfully made.

You were with me when my mama was stabbed.  You held me in your right hand as sin entered my innocent world.  The knife sliced through her abdomen and into her womb.  Ouch!  The cold sharp thing cut my leg and my tummy, too.  You were there when she was taken to the hospital and Dr. Jim did surgery to save her life and mine.  He repaired her injuries and closed the hole that allowed the light to shine into my darkness.  But even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day.  For you are the light of the world.

Just one week later, I entered the cold, strange, light place.  You were there when I was welcomed by Dr. Scot and Sister Sylvia.  They took me to a warm room and placed me on the rocking scale.  Even at less than one pound, I was perfectly formed--all ten fingers and toes.  Your works are wonderful, I know that full well!  Dr. Steph came to visit.  She found a scar on my leg from the knife.  My intestines spilled from the small hole where it had pierced the skin of my abdomen.  I was wrapped in a warm, soft blanket and a tube of oxygen was put in my nose.  Then I met Drs. Erin and Becky and Bill, and many of the workers at the hospital.  They were so surprised to see me fighting for life, the life you gave me!

You were with me as I took each breath.  It is hard work, too hard for my tiny body and my immature lungs.  But you had written this one day of my life in your book before it even came to be.  This one day is for me to live.  With every breath that is in me for this day, I will praise you.  With all that is in me, I will live for you.  And when I have lived the one day that you have written, I will be welcomed into your arms.

~ Psalm 139

[Baby of Gema's mother was about 6 months pregnant when she was stabbed by her husband's second wife.  She was brought to Kudjip Hospital where she had emergency surgery for her internal injuries.  At the time of surgery, Dr. Jim sewed up a laceration on the uterus, but we were unaware of any injury to the baby.  Mother recovered well and was discharged home.  About 10 days later, her water broke and she went into labor.  The baby was 460 grams at birth.  One this small will not survive in PNG, and is even unlikely to do so in a NICU in the States.  Baby of Gema lived for 24 hours before being transferred to the nursery in heaven.]

Dr. Erin also wrote a story about Gema and her baby.  Here is a link to her blog:  Against all odds.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Flat Denis

As part of the social studies program for Mrs. Giacomini's class in California, students created "body doubles" that were sent all over the world.  (These little people are commonly known as "Flat Stanley.")  Flat Denis arrived in my mailbox a few months ago by way of Jo-burg, South Africa.

While Flat Denis was here, he spent a day with me at the hospital.  We started with rounds on medical ward.  He met his friend Flat Stanley who just happened to be visiting Dr. Erin.  We stopped by pediatrics ward where he made friends with one of our patients.  Flat Denis learned about taking x-rays from Pamela and her crew.  And finally, he visited the tiny babies in the nursery.

Here are some pictures of his visit to Kudjip Hospital...

Apparently Flat Denis loved the weather in PNG so much that he decided to stay a while.  Now that the school year in America is coming to a close, he will soon be on his way back home to share his adventures with the real Denis.  Thank you for visiting!