Sunday, 27 May 2012

Surgery by torchlight

It was Sunday morning and I was on call.  I began at about 8:00 AM by rounding on medical and OB wards.  (Dr. Andy was post-call and covering pediatrics ward.  The surgery folks always cover their own patients.)  I finished up two hours later and stopped by the ER.  Just one patient for me to see... SWEET.  I quickly saw the one patient and headed out the door toward home.

I was half way there when my phone rang.  It was D-ward.  "Dr. Steph, we have a mother who has just arrived.  She is breech and fully dilated."  Oh, shucks.  So much for an easy morning!  I rushed back to the maternity ward and checked on the patient.  A footling breech and fully dilated.  That means that the baby's feet were coming first.  When the feet try to come first, the baby's head is at risk of getting stuck.  I had that happen not so long ago, and I was not about to let it happen again.  I started barking orders:  "Give salbutamol, start an IV, put in a foley, and call the OT.  We need to do a STAT c-section!"

Well, things don't usually happen very STAT-ly around here... especially on a weekend.  I paced back and forth while my orders were carried out, watching the minutes ticking by and praying that the baby would not try to come before we could do the c-section.  After what seemed like an eternity, the patient was rolled over to the operating theater.  A few minutes later she was on the table and being prepped for surgery.  I scrubbed and gowned, and prayed.  I was about to pick up the scalpel when the room went black.

I stood there dumbfounded for a minute or so.  What in the world do we do now?  The OT guys suggested that we call maintenance on call to come start the generator.  Who knew how long that was going to take.  I felt that we could not continue to delay the surgery.  "Do we have any torches?" I asked.  Two flashlights appeared from somewhere; they were turned on and the beams directed toward the patient's abdomen.  I added to my prayer that the batteries would hold out until we had power again!  I picked up the scalpel and began to cut.  A few minutes later, a beautiful baby boy was delivered.  The power and  lights returned as I was sewing the patient back together.  Both mama and baby did well... praise be to the Light of the World!

(The above is a picture of Dr. Andy and his son Sam doing a c-section by the light of a headlamp.  Unfortunately I didn't have a headlamp or a camera on the day of my story.)

Many of you are already aware of our ongoing power issues.  Our hydroelectric dam was washed out in 2009.  Since that time we have been using national power--which is expensive, unstable, and often unreliable.  Outages have been increasingly frequent over the past few months.  In fact, I am not the only doc who has had to do surgery in the dark in recent weeks.  We do have a big ole diesel generator that is supposed to automatically kick on when we lose power.  Apparently it is in need of a new battery, so it has to be started manually.  NOT very helpful when you are in the middle of surgery.

Through an amazing series of mountain moving miracles, God is providing a way for us to rebuild the hydroelectric dam!!!  The PNG Incentive Fund, a branch of AusAID, has awarded our hospital a grant to pay for the new dam.  And we are on our way!  Workers will start digging the canal in the next couple of weeks.  We are just waiting on work permits and visas for our missionary engineer and his family.  Please continue to keep this project in your prayers!

P.S.  Now I feel like a REAL bush doctor.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"
~ John 8:12

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Return of the 2000 gram party

I love 2000 gram parties.  They are a time to celebrate LIFE in a place where death is all too common.  The parties give us an opportunity to honor the mothers who so carefully look after the little ones, and to pray for the baby.  And they are also an encouragement to the hard-working staff of D-ward.

Baby of Slainger was about 1500 grams when she was born.  This past week we celebrated her 2000 gram milestone--the first party since my return ton PNG.  I really can't take much credit, because she was well on her way to the goal before I got back.  As per the tradition, all of the nursery mothers and staff and students crammed into the tiny room.  We surrounded Salinger and her baby, read from Psalm 139, and prayed for mama and her baby.  We took a self-timer picture of the group and ate chocolate dust cookies.  Thank you, Papa God, for life!!!

(The original recipe was for chocolate chip cookies.  When I pulled the chocolate chips out of the freezer, they were mostly one solid chunk.  In attempt to break the chunk into cookie sized pieces, I pulverized the chocolate into a fine dust.  The cookies were a hit nonetheless.)

"Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands."
~ Psalm 63:3-4

Friday, 18 May 2012

Back in the swing of things

It is two weeks after my return to PNG, and I am fully back in the swing of things!  I have resumed my duties rounding on D-ward and the nursery.  (Thanks to Drs. Scot and Erin and everyone else who helped to cover while I was gone!)  Wow, I missed being a doctor.  And I especially missed my mamas and babies. Thankfully I didn't forget how to practice medicine or speak Pidgin.  I admit was a bit nervous about my first c-section, but it was kind of like riding a bike--with a scalpel in my hand.

I have been so encouraged to meet several newly hired nursing officers and CHWs.  And some of our just graduated nursing students have also joined the staff.  Thank you to everyone who has been praying for harvest workers!  And praise to Papa for sending them!!!

In addition to the new staff, we also have a brand new class of nursing students.  Edna is the daughter of our good friend Meti.  She wants to be a medical missionary, and she has worked so hard to follow God's call.  I am so proud of her!  She was doing a clinical rotation on D-ward my first week back.  So fun to see her wearing a CON uniform :).

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Home again, home again... jiggity jig.

4 and 1/2 months, 17 states and 10,000+ miles, more than 70 speaking engagements, and countless blessings.  Thanks, America, for an AWESOME home assignment.

My last week in the States was officially designated as "vacation."  It took almost that long to figure out how to pack everything in my suitcases.  Packing to return to the field is a rather complicated equation based on need/want, availability in PNG, cost, weight-to-space ratio, and some other random factors.  Even after repacking more than once, I ended up with an extra suitcase and several boxes going in the mail.  (That is what happens when you only get to go real shopping every 2-3 years.)

I enjoyed some precious times with family and friends--such as ice cream with my niece and nephew (whom I am already missing somethin' fierce), lunch with a very special missionary kid, and making smores and campfire pies with good friends.  The cookout, by the way, is now officially tradition.

I was scheduled to fly out Monday afternoon about 1 PM... or so I thought until 6:30 that morning when I realized the time had been changed to 10:30 AM.  YIKES!!!  I scrambled to get ready and finish packing, dropped by for a quick goodbye to my sis and her family, and headed to the airport with Mom and Dad.  A chaotic exit was not what I was hoping for, but thank the Lord I made my flight!  My route took me from Columbus to Chicago, through Hong Kong, and back to PNG.  As the plane descended through the clouds and into the Whagi Valley, I knew I was home.

And it has been good to be home.  Now that I have unpacked, it is really nice not to be living out of a suitcase and/or the trunk of a car.  Beck and I are catching up after 10 months of not being roomies.  Brutus was super excited to see his mama, and has been bouncing around the house all week!  Thankfully I am remembering how to speak Pidgin and be a doctor.  Most importantly... what a joy to reunite with my PNG family and friends.

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children [or nieces or nephews] for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
~ Luke 18:29-30

As I look forward to this upcoming term, my prayer is that in some small way the Lord will use me to bring about His kingdom!