Saturday, September 20, 2008

Losing a dear friend and patient...

Healthcare in Liberia is a setting where often care is fragmented and it is hard to develop the same kind of long-term doctor-patient relationships that make family practice satisfying. But this week I lost one of my special patients—this gentleman was a pastor from up-country in Liberia and a friend who had been through an awful lot.

I first met him several years ago when he was hospitalized for about 2 months with severe congestive heart failure and poor kidney function. He required such high doses of medication that the treatment threw off the balance of chemicals in his blood (like sodium and potassium). And so keeping him “tuned up” was a constant challenge of trying this and adjusting that and testing this and modifying that. He had a missionary friend who helped pay for his treatment, so that was a blessing as well. Joseph was a “stick-with-it” kind of guy—if your treatment wasn’t working for him, he’d complain and try some more and give you the feedback until you got things right. This kind of willingness to stick with one medical provider and one hospital even when things were not always perfect or going his way was the key to success—and is not the rule in Liberia. This guy would have died on several occasions if we had not built a successful doctor-patient relationship, built on trust and our common commitment to God. Joseph was a young man—I believe only in his 40s—with a dear wife and young children. Several times during the last few years we were able to get him “tuned up” enough so that he could return to Nimba county, where his church was, to be with his family and his church and to do the work of pastoring that he was called to do. He would stay up there, taking his medication, sometimes for 4 or even 6 months, until something would get “out of whack” again and he’d start swelling up or getting short of breath. Then he’d return to Monrovia for a long course of treatment and retuning.

When I returned from the US a few weeks ago, I met Joseph in the hospital, looking worse than usual. He had a lot of shortness of breath, and looked very uncomfortable. Usually removing fluid from the chest (where it had gathered around his lung) helped him feel a lot better—but this time, the fluid in his chest had become infected. We had to insert chest tubes on both sides to drain the fluid. In addition, his electrolyte levels (sodium and potassium) were very hard to balance. After several weeks of inserting drains and treating with antibiotics and doing x-rays and other tests, pastor Joseph was continuing to get weaker. Monday morning I sensed that he was doing worse, ,and that he might not recover from this episode. We talked for a while and prayed together. Joseph told me he wasn’t afraid to die—he knew where he was going. He was just concerned for his wife and children.

Monday evening about 8:00 pm Joseph breathed his last. He fought a good fight, and finished the race. I was grateful to have had such a good relationship with this dear brother over several years. It is these kinds of connections that make medical work fulfilling for me. I will miss him, but I know he is enjoying being with his Lord.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Going to the next level

This post is for the benefit of all the former ELWA missionaries who might look in once in awhile. I have to tell you that I have achieved a new level of "becoming" recently - that is, becoming a real ELWA missionary (after 13 years...) Yes, I have finally joined the ranks of those who covered their appliances in contact paper. After being completely grossed out by my rusty refrigerator door when I got back from home assignment, I happened upon some not too tacky contact paper at one of the supermarkets. I immediately snatched up several rolls. We've scraped and painted and now covered the fridge with it and frankly, it really doesn't look that bad. It certainly looks better than it did- I'm sorry I did not take a "before" picture. But here are a couple of the job in progress.

When Caleb came home to see the fridge with black spots (it's special anti-rust paint) he said "MOM, there's a cow on our refrigerator!"

The job is not quite complete because the sides and especially the top still need to be scraped and treated. So the final product is going to be quite busy. But it's a big improvement over the rust! Kudos and chuckles to all the ELWA old-timers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Missionary Ladies' Outing

This was so funny I really had to share it with you. Thursday afternoon this group (plus one more not pictured) ventured out to do our grocery shopping. Well, mostly we were exploring a new store that is far enough away that we decided it was a proper "outing" (and the store has offered to deliver for free so we wanted to see what they had to offer). But it seemed like a picture would illustrate my point in the last post - what a difference to have so many more missionaries around. 6 of us were SIM missionaries! This is a big change.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Where in the world are Rick and Debbie?

Back in Liberia.

We arrived August 27th - nearly two weeks ago now. Thanks to all who helped get us moved, packed and on our way. We really couldn't do this without the support we get from friends, churches and family.

After a few days of greetings and errands, Rick was back at work at the hospital of course. And on call this past weekend, so he is fully into it again. I'm getting a much slower start, but beginning to feel settled enough to think about what else I am ready to do besides cleaning and unpacking. There are a couple of home improvements on the list that I don't want to put off too long, but I'm beginning to feel ready to get involved at the ELWA Academy and our church again soon. Jared and Caleb started school right away last Monday, so they also got right back into a routine. Max has already been in school for 4 weeks in Senegal and well, we don't hear from him much, so I guess that means he's having a good time!

It's been a very different arrival for us this time. There are so many more missionaries! Nearly everyone on our team is in transition- moving into a new house, fixing up a house, building a house, getting ready to leave or just coming- so that is a little tough for us all - no one is settled in enough to be the support for the transitioning people. The dust will settle in a month or so, I'm sure. I think that in our next post, we'll have to let you know just who is here that we are talking about.

In the meantime, has a new feature on Liberia.

Pray for our team as we get to know each other and redistribute responsiblities that Rick and I were shouldering before. Pray for the Carrs and the Chapmans who have some major work to do on their houses- Chapmans have just one month to finish their place before the resident of their temporary quarters returns. And Carrs really don't even have good temporary quarters so they want to get their place in some kind of shape very soon so they can move out of the guesthouse.

Sorry for so much text and no pictures - just wanted to let you all know that we have arrived and you'll be hearing from us more often again. Thanks for your prayers.

Debbie for the Sacras