Monday, 28 November 2011

Cool kids

My little friends at Livingston Christian Schools in Pinckney, Michigan have been busy bees...

The students at LCS have sewn more than 300 bandages and collected more than 100 pounds of medical supplies.  WOW.  You guys ROCK!!!  

The things you are sending will help us to care for many, many patients.  Thank you for supporting Kudjip Hospital!

See you in March.
:) dr. steph

"Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
~ Luke 6:38

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Countdown to Home Assignment

Well friends, time is ticking away!  Three weeks from today, I will be landing in Ohio... reuniting with my family and meeting my niece Emmi for the first time.  YIPEE!!!

Today I have been working on my talk, compiling the stories and pictures that I will be sharing as I travel around and speak.  My theme is going to be "Miracles on Mercy Street."  Wow, God has done some incredible things over the last three years.  And I am so excited to share with you!

After a few weeks of holiday, I will continue to base in Mt. Vernon for the month of January.  I am teaching a class at MVNU--"Intercultural Communication."  Zoiks.  Me, a college professor?  I think it is going to be a blast!  The weekends will be busy with church services around Ohio.  Pray for good weather!

At the end of January, I will set out on the biggest road trip of my life.  My travels will take me to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, back to Ohio, and on to Kentucky.  There may be a few other stops along the way.  

I'm attaching a calendar of all the officially scheduled services and events in case you would like to check it out.

See ya'll soon!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is pretty much a normal day in PNG.  We docs start rounds at 8AMish, see the patients on the ward, move on to the outpatient department and ER where we see the long line of patients who have come to see us.  Maybe take a break about noon, and then back to the OPD to finish up the line.

Although it is not an official holiday here, we missionaries don't miss out on this special tradition.  Our holiday just begins after work.  We gather together at various houses across the station for a Thanksgiving feast.  This year, the bottom half of the station ate at the Bennetts' house:  the Bennetts, the Dooleys, the Thompsons, the Myers, and me.  Turkeys are hard to come by, but one made an appearance and subsequent disappearance at our dinner.  As always, there were plenty of other traditional foods--from mashed potatoes to green bean casserole, to made-from-scratch pumpkin pie.

Well, what I thought was going to be a pretty normal Thanksgiving day, didn't turn out to be so normal.  When I woke up in the morning, I thought to myself, "Hey, it's Thanksgiving!"  Took Brutus on a walk, came home, ate breakfast and got ready for work.  Went to rounds and clinic.  You know, pretty normal normal day kinda stuff.  A little after noon, I took my lunch break and walked home.  I put a cheese and tomato sandwich on the grill and sat down to check my email.

The phone rang.  "Dr. Steph, we have an emergency on D-ward."  Emergency?  OK, sure.  What's up?  "We have a patient with a cord prolapse."  Oh, shucks.  That really is an emergency!  I rushed out the door and jumped into Herbie.  I sped up the road toward the hospital just as fast as my 25 year old little car could take me.  I found Anna in the first OB bay, the nurses and students hovered around her.  The story was that her water had broken at 6AM this morning.  I did an exam and felt the umbilical cord looping down below the baby's head.  No way it is still alive.  I quickly grabbed the ultrasound.  Sure enough, there was the tiny heart beating away.  And not only was there one live baby, but two!  I began barking orders to the nursing officer and students...  "You--put your hand in there, push up on the baby's head, and DON'T take your hand out until I tell you.  Give salbutamol.  Start an IV and put in the foley.  Notify anesthesia that we have an emergency c-section!"  

(At some point I realized that I had left my sandwich toasting on the grill.  I made a call to the closest missionary house.  Dr. Jim rode his bike down to turn off the grill, saving not only my sandwich but also my house from burning down!)

A few minutes later, we rolled Anna over to the OT.  The minutes seemed like eternity as anesthesia prepared to intubate the patient.  As we waited to begin the surgery, I prayed that the little one would survive.  Anesthesia gave the OK, and I began to cut through mama's abdomen to the uterus as fast as I could safely go.  I reached in to deliver the first baby, my fingers brushing those of the nurse who was pushing up the baby's head.  It was a girl.  She was floppy, but alive!  The baby catcher took the baby to the side and began resuscitation.  It wasn't long until she began to breathe on her own.  I returned to the incision and delivered baby #2, a little boy with a strong cry.  The babies were taken to the nursery and we finished the c-section.  Anna was taken to D-ward to recover.

I finally made it home to eat my lunch about 3PM.  As I sat down to eat the perfectly toasted tomato and cheese sandwich, I reflected on the events of the last two hours.  Definitely not a normal Thanksgiving Day.  But boy did I have a reason to give thanks... two new precious, healthy babies in the nursery.  Yes, this was a very happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Pslams 100:  For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever
His faithfulness continues through all generations.


It was Tuesday morning and I was post call.  Well, not quite.  Call finishes up about 8AM when all the docs arrive at the hospital.  At 7:45, the phone rang.  Sigh.  It was the nurse on duty in the ER.  A young man was spitting up blood.  He had had surgery two weeks ago to remove a tongue cancer.  He began bleeding from his mouth the night before, and had lost about two liters of blood.  It was still coming.

I stopped by the ER on the way to D-ward rounds.  Sure enough, the patient was loosing a LOT of blood.  I did my best to take a look, but it was difficult to see what exactly was going on.  I recruited a watchman to hold pressure at the base of his tongue.  The nurse started an IV and drew blood for a hemoglobin.  The lab result later confirmed that he had lost almost half of his blood volume.

Normally in this situation, I would call Dr. Jim who would take the patient straight to surgery.  Unfortunately, Dr. Jim was on holiday.  The next option was to refer the patient to the provincial hospital in Mt. Hagen.  I attempted to call the ENT doc from Hagen to inform him about the transfer.  He was on a bus from Goroka and wouldn't arrive for several hours.   It was an option, but definitely not a good one.  Hmmm, what to do now...

A thought popped into my mind.  After discussing with Dr. Bill and Margaret, the head OT nurse, it was decided that we would go ahead and take the patient to surgery.  We would do our best to stop the bleeding.  If it didn't work, we would transfer him to Hagen and hope for the best.

The anesthesia boys intubated the patient, Margaret draped him up, Dr. Bill and I put on our virtual ENT doctor hats and scrubbed in.  Before we started, we said a word of prayer and asked Papa God for wisdom.  Margaret handed us some instruments I had never seen before, and coached us on how to use them.  Dr. Bill retracted the tongue.  After removing a bit of clot, I was able to see the source of the problem.  I stitched and cauterized the bleeding areas, and the surgical site was soon dry.  Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayers.

The next morning after rounds, I stopped by to visit with Steven.  Twenty-four hours post-op, he was doing great.  He was able to talk well enough to share his story with me.  He said that I could share it with you, too.

Steven was born at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.  He attended Nazarene primary and secondary schools, and was active in the church as a young man.  He was sponsored by a former missionary to attend university, where he studied to become a teacher.  He was just about as Nazarene as you can be.  But sometime in his mid-twenties, Steven decided he didn't want to be a Christian any more.  He stopped attending church.  He started smoking and chewing betel nut.

Earlier this year, Steven received a wake-up call.  He noticed a growth on his tongue and came to outpatient clinic.  The diagnosis he received was a potential death sentence--tongue cancer.  As he thought seriously about his life, the Holy Spirit began to work in his heart.  It wasn't long until Steven had given his life back to Christ.

Steven had his first surgery to remove the cancer in May.  It began growing again after several months, so Dr. Jim did a second procedure a couple of weeks ago.  I don't know what Steven's prognosis is.  Can he be cured?  I pray so.  Will the cancer grow again?  Oh, Lord, please strengthen his faith.  Whatever the outcome in this life, I know where he will be spending forever.  And that is why we do what we do.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
~ James 1:5

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nursing shortage

Over this past year, the work of Nazarene Hospital has been seriously impacted by the loss of many staff--nursing officers and community health workers (CHWs)--to government and other NGO positions.  There are a number of reasons:  better pay, less work, even better pay.  Even many of our new hires have only lasted a few months.  Last year we had to close to longwe patients and then closed the medical ward to compensate for the shortage of workers.  Somehow, by the grace of God, we have continued to provide care for the hundreds of patients who come to our hospital every week.

The nursing shortage escalated to crisis level just a few weeks ago.  There has always been somewhat of a difference in salary funds provided for government vs. church health services.  Government positions just pay better.  But that difference recently became much greater when nurses and CHWs at government hospitals and health centers received a 45% pay raise.  The allocation for church health services only allowed for a 1% raise.  Well, we just can't compete with that kind of a discrepancy.  So another exodus began.

Hospital administration is doing their best to keep things together.  Adjustments have been made in the budget and the schedule.  College of Nursing tutors are volunteering to take some shifts while they are on school break.  The hospital continues to advertise the open positions, hoping for workers who feel a call to serve.

And most importantly... we are calling our family, friends, co-workers, supporters, and the church around the world to prayer.  Will you join us?  Missionaries and national staff gathered together last week for a special meeting.  Here are some of the prayer points from that time:
  • Let us be thankful for all that God has done, praise Him for His greatness, and trust that He knows our needs and hears our prayers.
  • We must confess our sins and humbly pray for God's forgiveness and presence in our lives--our personal lives, family lives, church and ministry.  Pray for the healing of Papua New Guinea.
  • We want to fast and pray to draw close to God--not just that we might be blessed, but that God would use us to minister to the oppressed and poor of PNG and that God would bring about justice in health care and politics in our country.  Whether in times of blessing or trial, we want to free the oppressed as agents of God's love and representatives of His kingdom.
  • Pray for dedicated Christian workers to join us in this ministry--not just for doing health care and relieving our work load, but that people would come to know Christ--an eternal harvest.
  • Pray that our work would continue to be a powerful tool of the church to spread the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.  Pray that we would let our light shine not only through health care, but in our families and in our community.  Pray for our graduate nursing students, Community Based Health Care, Primary Health, and Rural Health workers who are taking this work to areas throughout PNG.
  • Pray for our leaders in government, both national and provincial, Church Health Services, and administration.  Pray that God would move on our bhalf for the good of all Christian Health Services across the country.  Pray against corruption and for godly leaders to be raised up in the next election (2012).
  • Pray that we would be faithful in our trials, that God would use it as a time to teach us, develop our Christian character, seek Him for direction, and believe in what He is doing among us and in  us.  Pray for faith to follow Him in all circumstances, both for yourself and your fellow co-workers.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
~ James 1:2-5

This is a link to Dr. Scott's blog about the crisis.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The real Manila

MLC conference ended on Sunday last week.  I had an interview/meeting on Monday, so I stayed a few extra days in Manila waiting for the next flight back to PNG.  I transferred from the hotel to guest quarters at Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary (APNTS).  So here are a few pictures of the real Manila...

Let's start with a brief tour of the seminary.

I'm guessing these kiddos are children of some of the seminary students.  The little guy with the bow and arrow is from PNG :).

Elis (middle in blue shirt), and James and Della are PNG students studying at APNTS.  After finishing her studies, Elis will be returning to PNG to teach at our Bible college.  James and Della are hoping to become missionaries.  They were all excited to visit with their wantoks!

One afternoon I ventured off campus to look for something to cook for dinner.  These are some of the sites from the local road bung.

Who knew there were so many kinds of rice?

These colorful "jeepney" trucks are the public transportation of Manila.

On the way to the airport on Thursday afternoon, we experienced the infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic of Manila.  We also drove through some regular neighborhoods.  The images were incredible, and the poverty--wow.  It was so interesting to hear the comments of the Papua New Guineans in the group.  One of the biggest questions was, "Where do the Filipinos grow their sweet potatoes?"  Unfortunately I wasn't able to capture the sites on my camera.

Speaking of airport, we arrived in plenty of time to find out that our Wednesday night flight from Manila to Port Moresby was delayed until Thursday morning :(.  Fortunately we were put up in a pretty nice hotel.  Unfortunately that meant we also missed our connecting flight to Mt. Hagen the following day, and had to stay yet another night in Port Moresby.  That is a whole other story!  Thank the Lord, our weary group of travelers made it home safely on Friday morning.

"When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."
~ Matthew 9:36-37