|Dear Friends and Family,|
Christmas time was a very busy time for James. It was the week after Christmas that he had to bring back the body of the baby that died. (As mentioned previously) It just seemed like one thing and then another was happening to keep him away from Shea, and Jenna and I had been alone for several nights.
The day before New Years I was dealing with another situation of a baby with vomiting and diarrhea who was very very dehydrated. Fortunately, the regional hospital had sent IV supplies during the week. I was getting my first opportunity to use them. As I was preparing my equipment I felt the impression to turn on the radio. Within a minute or so, James voice came through asking for me to respond. I instantly felt relieved. It was later in the afternoon, but I felt that if he came right away he would still have time to evacuate this latest baby to Lethem before dark. After losing one baby that week I didn't want a repeat. James told me that he had unexpectedly had to travel to Georgetown and that he was calling me from our flightbase there. I was pretty shocked and disappointed. Now, there was no way to get that baby out. I would just have to deal with the situation by myself. On the radio, I said, "ok". Inside my heart just sank and I wanted to cry, but I had a baby to care for so I went inside my house and knelt down to pray for God to help me. I knew that I couldn't deal with the situation alone.
Jenna stood by my side and watched as I tried desperately to start an IV on that baby. I prayed and tried my best, but was unsuccessful. Two veins gave me a flash of blood, but then I couldn't thread the catheter successfully and they blew. "Oh no!" Now my heart really sank. In the end, I had to give up. Thankfully, the baby was able to still take oral fluids and breastfeed although at ten months of age it was very weak and was having difficulty holding up it's head at times. I wanted the mother to stay at the clinic so I could keep an eye on her baby during the night. Unfortunately, the patient room is more like a tool/junk room and the bed has no mattress. (Mucking that out is a project I just hadn't gotten too.) The mother didn't have a hammock either, so I decided to send her to the place she was staying. I told her to bring the baby back first thing in the morning. I also gave her rehydration drinks and medication along with careful instructions.
I had been expecting a group called the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation (NAPS). For those of you who aren't familiar with them, they are a mission group from Oakwood University that does relief and mission work around the world. Anyway, I had made a big pot of lentil soup for them. Well, since James had been called away (by no choice of his own) they weren't able to fly in with him, so I had this large amount of food with nobody to eat it and no refrigeration. I asked the kids of this family with the sick baby if they were hungry. They were famished. So, I was able to feed them. I gave them all huge portions and then just to be sure asked if they were still hungry and they said they were. I felt a little bad because in the process of taking care of Jenna and the baby I forgot to give them more food. The baby and 3 year old child looked especially malnourished so I knew they weren't getting enough to eat at home.
Well, I thought to myself, "The NAPS group won't be coming because James can't bring them and we have all the food they sent to feed themselves on their trip." So, in the morning instead of waiting for the mother of the sick baby to bring it to the clinic I went out with Jenna to get a lady from our church to translate and we packed a large quantity of the food from those bins into bags and off we went.
When we got to the house where the family was staying the mother was down bathing so we were able to take a discreet look around. It was a thatch hut with a dirt floor and some clothes hanging on the walls. I didn't see any hammocks or other sleeping mattresses. A fire had just been put out near the door. A couple of dirty looking puppies were running around the yard. Jenna wanted to play with them.
When the mother came she had the baby with her. Surprisingly, the baby had noticeably improved. He seemed stronger and his fontanel wasn't sunken as far. I was soooo relieved to see some improvement. The mother told me he had been taking the fluid and medications. Through a translator I was able to give the mother some vital education about her child's condition and about malnutrition. I explained why it was so important for her to eat so that her baby would get what it needed from her breastmilk. She told us that they had nothing in the house to eat, so they had given the baby tapioca porridge for breakfast. She thought that this was a fine breakfast!
Wow! I was so thankful that we had been able to have food to bring them. The family was particularly bad off because the father had been away in Lethem with one of the other sick children. The mother allowed us to pray with her as well.
I felt good as we left the house, but I was still nervous about that baby. I was also feeling sorry for myself because Jenna and I were going to spend New Years alone.
Later that day I was preparing some lunch for Jenna and myself when a truck pulled up in the yard carrying 6 people wearing navy blue shirts that said, "NAPS" on them. Now I was embarrassed. I had given their food away. They were very gracious and glad to help. It was wonderful not to be alone anymore, especially, since they had brought a doctor with them. The doctor, a young lady named Marlo, was literally Heaven sent. It was such a relief to me to be able to talk with her about some of the patients I was worried about and take her to visit the sick baby and its sibling. We started telling people that an American doctor was there to help people. In no time at all people started lining up at the clinic to see the doctor. So, that evening and all the next morning she saw people.
When we visited the dehydrated baby she agreed with me that he seemed to be improved based on what I had told her. We had a nice time with the NAPS group and one girl watched Jenna for me so I could spend time with Marlo seeing patients. They even made an outdoor oven for me, for the purpose of making my own charcoal.
Well, the next morning the infant had obviously started to worsen again. Marlo tried to start an IV and it was just impossible. We decided that that baby just needed to go out to Lethem, so NAPS packed their things and left a little early with the mom and baby. I was sorry to be alone again, but was so relieved to know that infant would have more advanced care available.
So, you might be thinking, "Why didn't God answer my prayer for help when I was trying to start that IV?" God did answer my prayer, just not in the way I thought He should. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. I don't understand all of the whys and wherefore's but God is working to strengthen my faith in Him. He has a thousand ways of solving our problems of which we know nothing.
"The Lord's our rock,
in Him we hide,
a shelter in the time of storm."
James & Joy Ash
121 Durban Backlands
874 South McDonald SW
McDonald, TN 37353
1 (423) 473-1841 or 1 (423) 473-1842
Monday, January 11, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Dear Friends and Family
Jenna and I just returned from 3 weeks in Shea. James has been in and out doing some medivacs and other things. I have so many stories to share from the last three weeks that I could keep you reading for an hour, but I'll try to keep it short.
Jenna has been getting a serious introduction to medical work for one so young. She loves to be in the clinic with me and sit on my lap while I'm talking to patients. She has a soft heart for sick babies and wants to hold their hands and play with them (much to the consternation of her mother!). I feel torn because I don't want her getting some of the contagious things that patients have, but neither do I want to give them the impression that we don't want to associate with them. So we've reached a compromise, and Jenna has been getting a lot of extra scrubbing in private.
My eyes are really being opened to the true needs of the people. I'm sure a bigger picture will emerge as we experience their culture more and see how they live.
So far, I'm a bit overwhelmed by what I see. The village has about 400 occupants, not all living within the village proper. Last week I had 33 patients.
I'm seeing what a terrible scourge alcoholism is. The parents with this problem spend more of their day drinking rather than farming. In certain families, all the kids are hungry and malnourished. The mothers drink home brewed alcohol while they are breastfeeding and don't eat healthfully themselves. Their babies are thin and malnourished. Then when they become ill they are really sick. On top of the whole problem of alcoholism is the problem of drinking water. We're supposed to be in the middle of rainy season, but it hasn't been raining. It's very dry and some families are drinking stagnant pond water. These ponds are very dirty and the cows and pigs also drink from these ponds. People don't boil the water either. They also don't wash their hands before they eat and eat with their hands. A good number of the kids under 3 appear to have worms.
One particular family lives out in the bush about 4 hours walk from the village center. They don't have a house, just some type of leaf shelter. They have at least 6 kids, all with sad eyes and dejected expressions. The parents are both alcoholics. We sent out the 12 year old girl for suspected Leishmaniasis. She had 5 sores on her legs, one of which she had had for three months and was over 2 inches in diameter. I tried treating the sores with some generic topical medication in the clinic, but it didn't seem to respond. So James took her to Lethem to get IV medication. I also sent out the 10 month old infant to Lethem with the mother from the same family as well because he was weak and dehydrated. He had had a bout of malaria and a couple of bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, all within the last month.
The 3 year old boy in the same family also has a sore on his leg, but I'm hoping it can be treated locally and we won't have to send him out as well! These children are so hungry. The mother confessed to me they had nothing to eat since the father had gone out a couple of weeks earlier to Lethem with the sick daughter. Thankfully, a group from the US had left two big bins of food and I was able to give them a whole bunch of supplies that will hopefully last the children, until the parents return. It just makes you want to cry when you see how some people live.
Most of the families don't live this way, but there are some who are destitute, and living in extreme poverty. The poor families appear to grow only cassava and bananas on their farms. There's lots of room for agriculture education.
There's currently a region wide outbreak of diarrhea and vomiting in children under two years of age. It has been so rampant that the regional field hospital has been running short of liquid medications. In Shea it appears that the problem may be slowing down. I've been trying to spread the word to parents to not wait to bring the children in for treatment. We had to evacuate 3 babies in the last month due to severe dehydration.
Two weeks ago we flew to a village 15 minutes flight away from Shea. Friday night the parents of a sick infant in Shea both went out to a drinking party. Concerned villagers told me the baby was getting worse, but the parents didn't bring it back to see me (for whatever reason). Sabbath morning James and I flew to Sand Creek to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the church. In the hours that we were gone, the baby took a turn for the worst. Still, the mother waited for us to return on Sunday. As soon as I arrived back in Shea, they met us at the airstrip and said, "Please come, a baby is dying, It's getting cold." I went up to the clinic to find this very dehydrated and weak infant. It had a fever, but I was still able to give it medication by mouth and it was still breastfeeding. There was also another child with a fever and abdominal infection who needed to go at the same time so James rushed off to Lethem with both of them. Unfortunately, we found out that the dehydrated baby died 18 hours later at the Lethem hospital. James flew the mother and baby back to the village for the funeral. I cried when they put that small box in the ground. That baby should not have died. I kept thinking, "If only I had IV supplies... If only we hadn't been out of the village... If only the parents had brought her in sooner... If only they had gotten an IV on the baby when it arrived in Lethem". There are a lot of "What-If's" in this kind of situation.
We have emphasized to the villagers that in future if we happen to be out of the village, to please try to contact us on the radio and we will come. We don't want to lose more babies while they wait for us to come back. The good news is that the 3 year old boy with the abdominal infection is doing better. He will have to undergo surgery at some future time to completely solve his problem.
Everywhere we go there are physical and spiritual needs. We're getting ready to come back to the States to have our second child. We're excited because we haven't been back in over a year, but we're reluctant to leave our post of duty.
121 Durban Backlands
874 South McDonald SW
McDonald, TN 37353
1 (423) 473-1841 or 1 (423) 473-1842