Lindsay

*Disclaimer: This blog post was not written by Doctor Scott Gardner, M.D., L.M. (Literary Master). Rather the following was written by his daughter Lindsay Gardner, N.T. (No Title)

So I have been in Tchad for about a month. Dad has been hounding me since before I got here to write a blog post. Personally, writing on a public forum terrifies me but this trip is all about new experiences so here goes.

Maybe it is just because I have been hearing about this country constantly for the last four years but the things you would think would be shocking are not at all surprising or difficult for me. Riding on a moto- just like dirt biking and a ton of fun. Shaking everyone’s hand all the time- put it there. Little to no internet-I’ll just find out what’s up with everyone later. Going to bed at 8:00 and waking up with the sun at 6:00- I think I get more sleep here than I did at home. The infamous Imam- I’ve been training for this for years by living next to a train track because I sleep right through him. No, the culture, the dirt, the cold showers, the bug bites, the sweat, the rice-and-red-sauce diet, the running yourself off your feet, the stares, the shouts of “Nassarah, nassarah”, and the taking your life in your hands every time you get on the road, do not bother me, shock me, or make me question my life choices. In fact nothing seemed to phase me, until I stepped back and looked at what I was doing from a distant perspective. That is when I made some realizations.

Lindsay and Bekki ready for church

Lindsay and Bekki ready for church

Let’s look at this whole situation in general: I am working at a mission hospital in Tchad, Africa. For those of you who don’t know, which is basically all of you, I am the least qualified and completely useless person to be working here. I am not medical in the least. I am still in college but I have no aspirations to go into any aspect of the medical field. For Pete’s sake I want to be a high school science teacher! I can think of innumerable things and people this hospital needs and a high school science teacher wannabe is not anywhere on the list. They need someone who can start an IV not describe photosynthesis.

Second, I don’t speak French. I don’t speak any French. After arriving here I learned the term “Ça va” which dad says literally means “It goes” and is the question and answer for everything. Since that is the only French I know I have been using it for everything. I get a lot of weird looks. Particularly when someone runs up to me and frantically rattles a long stretch of French off at me and I just uncertainly say “Ça va?” I have taken up the habit of talking randomly back at people in English when they insist on talking to me in French even after I say multiple times “No French! No French!”

I can’t even cook here. But that is not shocking; I can barely cook at home with all the ingredients and a recipe.

Lindsay helping out with Branch Sabbath  School in Nangere, near Bere

Lindsay helping out with Branch Sabbath School in Nangere, near Bere

Basically this all means that I should not be here. I have absolutely no idea what to do in the hospital. The other volunteers may not be used to African medicine but at least they know what they are looking at. I can’t talk to the staff or the patients. I do not make a good gofer because I don’t know what an 18-French catheter looks like. I am useless at the house because mom can’t leave me alone there. Anyone comes to the house and I can’t help them. I can’t even find out why they are there. And the only food it seems I can sort of make here is rice, which although it is good, it is not a meal. Realization #1, I am useless in Tchad.

Again, let’s look at the situation: I am working at a mission hospital, doing mission hospitally things. Every so often I’ll have a moment when I suddenly realize what I am doing. Some examples: I am currently holding a disembodied leg, I am riding on the back of a motorcycle sans helmet or any form of protective gear and in a dress, my evening entertainment consists almost solely of fly hunting, I am driving an ambulance in a third world country, I have my hand in some guy’s intestines, I walk past an incinerator every day that is burning body parts, I found a dead man. My morning includes pulling gauze out of a man’s scrotum and then shoving clean gauze back in, I am dodging blood splatter, I found a new stain on my clothes and I really don’t want to know where it came from, complete strangers keep proposing to me and they are serious, father-daughter bonding time starts with the phrase “Hey Linds, want to help me drain pus out of an abscess?”. I can’t describe the sensation when it hits me, “Hmm, I am right now… (fill in the blank with your favorite phrase from above)” but the feeling is very, very weird.

Lindsay and Kelsey chilling

Lindsay and Kelsey chilling

The things that I have done and learned to do here are things I would never have even thought about attempting back home. Let me say again, I am not a medical anything but here I am doing dressing changes on every body part (and I mean every single body part both male and female), taking out IVs, helping with physical therapy, helping prep patients for surgery, circulating in the OR, even scrubbing in for operations. Realization #2, Tchad has a lot of “No one will believe this” moments.

Now I would like to address the subject of why I came. I came to Tchad because this is where my parents are. This is where they live, this is where their house is, this is where they work, and eventually this is where all their stuff will be.

It is always tricky when I meet someone because once I let slip that my parents are missionaries in Moundou, Tchad they always look really interested and ask where all I have lived. I know they are expecting the exotic list of locations any ordinary MK (missionary kid) would be able to whip out. I also know the look of disappointment that will suddenly come across their face when all I say is “I grew up in Oregon.” Let’s get this clear, I have never and will never claim to be a missionary kid. I am the daughter of missionaries now but I had an extremely American upbringing.

I will never forget the conversation with my parents that started this all. It was just a regular summer evening two years ago when my parents casually mentioned they were moving. My brother and I had been expecting them to move to the east coast after my grandfather died, because that is where all my mom’s family lives. When we asked which state they had settled on the answer of “Cameroon” was the furthest location in our minds. There was silence for a moment and then I stammered out “Like the country?” Not once in all of our conversations had there ever been a mere mention of a hint about actually moving to a different country. Dad wanted to do longer short-term stints at mission hospitals yes, but he had talked about going one to two months at a time. This was a five-year, packing up and moving out of the continent bombshell. I consider that moment the most shocking of my life.

If you have talked to my parents at all you will know that I was not happy about this decision. And I made that very clear. I did not like the idea of my parents moving half way across the world to work at a mission hospital with all the nasty diseases, infections, parasites, and just plain danger of living in a third world country. I read my cousin’s blog, I knew what kind of illnesses they faced out there. I knew about the struggles, the hardships, and the stressors that my parents would experience. I knew I did not want them to go.

Beyond just being worried about their safety and health, (they are in their fifties for Pete’s sake, how many people enter the mission field for West Africa at fifty?) I was also just plain angry at them. I know it was selfish and immature and totally wrong of me but I was angry at them for leaving me. Yeah I lived across the country in Tennessee but that was normal. The kid is supposed to grow up and leave home, not the other way around. The parents are not supposed to move all their stuff out to the kid’s place and then leave the country. In my mind, I was getting left and I felt abandoned. I went out last summer to help them move and as I settled into the U-Haul to drive out to Collegedale, Tennessee I looked in the rearview mirror and knew that it was my last glimpse of having a home.

Home had been where ever my parents were. Tillamook was my first and only true home because after we moved to Clarkston, I left to go to school. I had never really lived there but I called it home because that was where my parents were and that is where my stuff was and that is where I went when school was out. Now my parents were going to somewhere I had never been, the homey things were getting left with me or sold, and I would not have anywhere to go to on vacations. I had always had a home, and now I didn’t. The life I knew and loved was gone. No more summer boating on the river, no more winter walnut cracking by the fire, no more produce fresh from mom’s prodigious garden, no more games of pool, no more lazy afternoons in the hammock, even my dog was gone.

Over time I have mostly gotten past this. I’ve lost the sarcasm when I would reply to the question “Wow your parents are missionaries! How awesome is that?” My parents and I have worked out ways to communicate so that we can keep in touch fairly well and for that I am eternally grateful. I am used to saying my parents live in Tchad and have my script prepared for the responses, “Yes I am proud; no I have never been there; no I am not an MK; yes it is hot there; yes I do miss them; no I will not be going over to live there and work with them after graduation; do you not understand what a high school science teacher does? They don’t work in mission hospitals!” Ok the last one is internal but I can’t believe how many people I have to address this with.

My parents live in Tchad. They will be there for five years. The roles are reversed and I am now where they come when they come home. This is reality and I can’t change any of it. So I decided to bite the bullet and come out to Tchad and see what their new home is like. I have been here for almost a month and I have seen a lot of bizarre things and done a lot of things I really should not be doing and learned that there are a lot things I can’t do that I really wish I could. But above all I have watched my parents.

Because of my mom, I have seen people walking again and walking normally. A house is getting put together that will be a really great place. Plans are being made and implemented for a food distribution program, God Pods, and a patient library. She’s the first to admit that she doesn’t know what she is doing, but she is doing amazing things. The face of a patient when they realize that they will be able to walk again is unbelievable and the way she works with the amputee patients pushing them to discover that they can get past the loss and they will be OK is inspiring.

In surgery my dad cuts, clamps, and sutures nameless anatomy that is so mangled I would never have identified it as human. People come into the OR with unbelievable problems, swellings the size of footballs, limbs bending to 90 ͤ in places that they really shouldn’t, bones poking out several inches, or cancers so advanced that it looks like some alien disease from Star Trek has possessed this person. People leave the OR pieced back together or without the part of their body that is trying to kill them. Not everyone lives here and since I have been here at least five of my dad’s patients have died but everyone who goes into his office or under his knife has more hope of survival and wellbeing than they did before. He was not trained as an orthopod or an oncologist or a urologist or many of the other hats he must wear but here he has learned to be all these things and for so many people he is their only chance.

In my one month that I have had here I have done a lot and learned a lot. And I have made a lot of starteling realizations. But of them all one stands out as the most important: Realization #3, I may miss my parents, my old life, and my home, but Tchad is where my parents are because Tchad needs them, and I could not be more proud.

-Lindsay Gardner

For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

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Prayer II

Before you read this I want to remind everyone that we are missionaries, not saints, and that we are still struggling sinners just like everyone else. Now you can read the blog.

Time for true confession, prayer is something I still haven’t got totally figured out. I mean if God knows everything, and if He is going to pick and choose who He is going
to heal and what prayers He is going to answer, why does He need me to ask Him for stuff? What about people who prayed for safe travels and then die in an airplane crash? Was God out or busy at that time? Anyway lots of questions that often seem to have answers that come across as just trite platitudes, and honestly don’t help much. Especially to the families of people who die.

That being said, I believe in prayer. I don’t know how it works, or why, but there is just too much evidence to say that we should pray to ignore it. So I pray, and have prayed for years, and I have had lots of answers to prayer. I have found it to be most useful to follow the example of Jesus and start out with praise, then personal requests and asking for forgiveness and asking for blessings for others. I have prayed like this for years now, but prayer here is different.

Dear Jesus, Be with us now as we operate on this person, help them get well…

I have often prayed with patients before surgery, and it seemed like a bit of a formality, here, it is necessary. Here we pray before every surgery, and it is nowhere near a formality. We pray for a successful surgery, for healing, for knowledge, wisdom and skill. And then we do operations for which I have no training, using the wrong instruments, and with flies walking across the operative field, all this on patients with very little pre-op workup. After surgery patients are watched by their highly trained skilled family members who must recognize there is a problem and alert the nurse. And yet most of them walk out of the hospital. It is truly the power of prayer because there is no other reasonable answer.

Dear Jesus, Be with us now as we drive to…

At home we always (almost always) pray before we head out on a trip out of town. It is rather trite and quick. Here it is with meaning and passion, as every time we head out in the ambulance or on the moto we never know what is going to happen. Especially if we have to drive at night. Last Saturday night we had another “Dodge the Human” trip as Kelsey calls it, or “Spot the Pedestrian” as Lindsay calls it. We drove through the dark from Kelo to Moundou, with Kelsey and Lindsay up front with me calling out “People on the left”, “Carts on the right”, “Goats dead ahead”, etc. Dark night, dark clothing, dark skin, dim lights, or no lights on some vehicles, yes it is a miracle every time we make it home safely.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for a good nights sleep…

It is Ramadan (thankfully almost over), which means the Muslims are up just about all night. I have heard the calls to prayer starting at 2 am and going until sun up. The closest mosque is 50 yards away with loudspeakers that would do a football stadium proud. And we sleep in a walled compound with razor wire on the walls to keep the thieves out, with a guard who patrols our compound throughout the night. Every good nights sleep is a blessing.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for life…

You have read here on this blog many posts about death. Each of us have been exposed to more death here than we care to imagine. We see apparently healthy, strong people in the prime of life come in with pulmonary edema or cerebral malaria and die within hours of admission. We don’t see terrible trauma codes because those patients never make it to our hospital alive. Bekki shared with two of our workers about the loss of a family member of one of our missionary friends, they looked at her blankly. They had no idea what the big deal was. People die here all the time, there is no guarantee, tomorrow you could be hit by a truck, you could get malaria, you could get typhoid, you could get meningitis, you could get attacked, robbed and then killed, you could…the list goes on. All those things happened to people at home, just not nearly as frequently, it wasn’t an everyday experience.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for health…

Heath is something most of us take for granted. Bekki had the blessing of health driven home to her this week. Last Friday we drove up to Bere. She did fine. After vespers we went back to Bland’s house where we spent the night. She spent most of the next 2 hours throwing up and having diarrhea, and feeling like she was going to die. By morning she was fine, just tired. Sunday night it hit again. She was taking Cipro, and taking lariam for malaria prophylaxis. Kelsey got sick, then Nick. Wednesday Bekki was working in the house and went down in the bathroom, severe abdominal cramping, nausea, vomitting, and diarrhea. Malaria test was negative, stool test was negative. We drugged her up with IV fluids, and promethazine and put her to bed. She was finally up and around yesterday, a few pounds lighter, but grateful to be well again. She is still on Cipro, but we really don’t know what we are treating, virus, bacteria, parasite? Tomorrow she gets de-wormed.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for my friends and family…

Now don’t get me wrong, I love and have always loved my friends and family. But I never fully appreciated them as much as I do here. Even when you are there. Your comments, notes of encouragement on our blog and on face book, your e-mails truly mean more to us than you can imagine. And it is true, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Only 5 weeks and 3 days until we get on the plane home.

Dear Jesus, Please cut through all the red tape and get our container here…

At home when we need something, usually we can just go out and get it. Here, although they have most everything in Moundou, there are still lots of problems. One is everything not made in Tchad is horrifically expensive. Two, all electrical appliances are 220 Volt, our house is wired 110. And there are many things on our container we need that we cannot purchase in Tchad. Most of the container has hospital supplies or tools we need that we cannot get here. It was supposed to leave Duoala last Wednesday but due to the end of Ramadan they decided to hold the convoy up until after Monday. We will see.

Dear Jesus, Please give me wisdom to know how to handle things here…

So I told people before I came, “I have served on hospital boards, I have chaired committees, I have been Medical Staff President before, I know a thing or two about health care administration.” What a fool am I. I may know something about US health care, but Tchadien healthcare, and work laws, all in a foreign language and very foreign culture? Not so much, no actually not at all. I need every bit of wisdom God can get through my thick skull.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving me the chance to be here, thank You for letting me work for You in this place, with these amazing people.

I have had the privilege of working in two great hospitals in my career, Tillamook Hospital and St Joes in Lewiston, with some incredible nurses and staff. But nowhere have I worked in a place with so little, where every simple thing you do is a struggle. And nowhere have I been where I could see the hand of God so clearly, and where I knew that Bekki and I were making a difference and were able to relieve the suffering of at least a few people that have no other recourse. We are truly blessed to be able to be here.

So while I may not understand prayer, how it works or why it works, I believe in it, I practice it, and I could not live without it. Paul says to “Pray without ceasing…”, now I know why.

For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital, where we initially were to be. Soon there will be a new video about Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

Our Staff

La Saison des Pluie (the rainy season) is upon us. This morning it started to rain about 6:15, and it poured. When it is raining like that in the morning no one makes it to work on time, so I didn’t hurry over to the hospital until almost 7:30. It was still sprinkling on the new lake between our house and the hospital. I took the dry route and only waded through water ankle deep. Fortunately, we had some foresight and had already contracted with Frederic, our contractor, to build us a sidewalk from the house to the hospital gate. And also fortunately he can do it in rainy season, and even more fortunate his crew started today!! Talk about timing. It doesn’t take much to get us excited here.

Putting in the  sidewalk through our sometime lake.

Putting in the sidewalk through our sometime lake.

Speaking of excited, we are thrilled that Nick and Kelsey Ewing are here. They are our new AHI volunteers who will be with us for a year. Both are nurses who just finished at Southern. They will provide some stability as our shorter term volunteers (who are also loved and appreciated) come and go. They have already been a huge help and along with Ellen are filling the holes left by Johnny and Brandon. Lindsay fills an entirely different hole in our hearts that only she and Jonathan can fill.

The other big news is the loss of a cherished fantasy. You see for nearly seven months I have been telling myself and everyone else that there are no snakes in Moundou. In the villages yes, but not here, they have all been driven out. I had myself happily convinced of this fact, even to the point of going outside at night without a light, until Monday night. I went out to open our bedroom window (we close it during the day to keep the room cooler), and there under our window was a legless reptile, lazily moonbathing. He really had no interest in moving, even when encouraged to do so. He finally sauntered off so I could open the window. Then last night I found his home, right next to the foundation and wall of our bedroom. I do not know if he is venomous or not, I have had several suggestions to kill him, which will probably happen. But I can assure you the days of venturing outside at night without some kind of light are over, permanently. So much for fantasies.

On to the title, our staff. I just wanted to share a bit about our staff, who are by and large a great group of dedicated hard working, caring people. Before I came I had this picture of African nurses as lazy, incompetent, and pretty much useless. Was I ever wrong. I have found our nurses to be caring, hard working and a huge help. There are always variations and exceptions of course, but by and large this is true. And I have come to love them and enjoy working with them. They like to laugh, tease each other, and they love correcting my French, which thankfully they do at every opportunity. I have seen how much they care about the patients as well, and that has probably been the most humbling thing,

I will never forget Abel, our deaf head nurse, and how hard he worked to save a dying baby one night. (That story is in “Life and Death II”). He is so gruff and rough, but has such a tender heart toward the little ones especially.

The nurses will also come to us and let us know when a patient doesn’t have the money for food anymore. They know we have a bag of rice and a bag of beans just for that purpose. So they will take some from the shed and discretely give the patients some food.

Josué, a new nurse, is struggling with the fact that many people we can’t save, they come in too late, or have problems we just can’t fix. I hear it in his voice when he comes to the house in the late evening. He knows someone is slipping away, “Isn’t there something we can do?,” he asks me with his voice inflection and body language. He knows in his heart that there is nothing else that can be done, but he wants to fix it or have me come and work a miracle so badly. And I have to tell him, « Je suis desolé, mais il n’y a rien ce que je peux faire. « (I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do).

Then there is Solange, our chic lab tech. She is a snappy dresser in her skinny jeans and blouses. She is also a top notch lab tech and always looking for ways to help out when the lab is slow. But the story begins with Janvier, which means January, because he was the first baby born in that area in January.

Janvier

Janvier

Janvier (who is now an adult) came to us in early March after a moto accident (surprise, surprise) with a humerus fracture and an open fracture of his tibia, fibula and several bones in his foot, all on his left side. He was a mess, the end of the tibia was shattered, his left arm hanging useless and his left foot all swollen. We put him in a hanging arm cast, cleaned out his fractures and ultimately put a intramedullary nail in the tibia (I would not do that now). He was clearly dirt poor, and I could not tell if he had anyone taking care of him. And with those injuries there was not much he could do for himself. Everytime I came into the ward he was in the same position on the bare mattress, his face was expressionless and he rarely talked. We would change his dressings in silence, he never flinched, winced or complained. He was so quiet I thought he might have some mental deficiencies. With his whole left side banged up he couldn’t walk, could barely feed himself and certainly couldn’t cook for himself. It was often hard to reach his urinal which was under the bed, so he would urinate on himself. And of course bathing was out of the question. After a few weeks you can imagine how he smelled, it was so bad the other patients were complaining.

Solange

Solange

Enter Solange. Mind you, she is a lab tech, not a nurse, but one day she got Janvier in a wheel chair and took him out back to the shower area and gave him a bath, and helped him get his clothes washed. I can only imagine how bad it was, but talk about a sermon in shoes. Our administrator’s wife, Colette, cooked for him. People from the US had sent or left clothes which found themselves on Janvier. You know, after that Janvier started to perk up, he had a personality, he talked, we even found out that he speaks some English. Eventually his arm healed really well, and he got around in his wheelchair. He could bathe himself and wash his own clothes. Unfortunately, his leg has not faired so well, the rod got infected and the bone never healed, but he would not let me amputate his leg. He is now in his home village getting daily dressing changes at the local health center. I may see him again someday with pus dripping from his open leg wound, or maybe by the grace of God it will be healed.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’” Matthew 26:34-36 NIV

For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

The Happiest I Have Ever Been

It’s the end of another day and I’ve been laying here thinking, “I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been.” It may sound crazy, and it certainly is not to insinuate that I haven’t been happy with the other times in my life. I had an awesome childhood, enjoyed my high school years with memories and friendships I still treasure. Entering adulthood, finding my career in life, falling in love and marrying my sweetheart was also wonderful. Then the two of us taking on the world together, as poor as we were, was an adventure. Residency I could have skipped. I loved being a stay at home Mom and raising Jonathan and Lindsay (still my two greatest accomplishments in life. I love my kids! They are awesome!). I loved my jobs as a nurse and being a part of my community and church families. I’ve had great friends, gotten to travel to amazing places, lived in stunningly beautiful places, had the best friends and family in the world that have enriched my life immensely. In general I have lived a privileged life.

Tonight I am living in the worst house I have ever lived in (except for the drug smuggling apartment complex Scott and I lived in the first 3 mos. we were married). I have fewer comforts and conveniences than I have ever had. I am separated from my children, family and friends by time and distance. I am virtually cut off from the outside world. I am living in a walled compound with brand new razor wire on the top, a guard at the hospital gate. There is no certainty about anything and yet I am happy. Why?
Well why not? I am cut off from the outside world. So all the economic crises, tragedies, doom and gloom predictions I am oblivious to. Now I may be affected by them at some point but for right now I don’t know so I can’t worry. Although I am far from family and friends, when we do connect it is treasured time that I savor long after we separate and have the pleasure of anticipating long before we meet again. Right now Lindsay is visiting us and everyday I see her charged about something cool she got to see or do that day. I actually am seeing and connecting with my nephew Olen’s family as he is only 2 hrs away. We see each other almost every other week at their mission hospital.

Our 6 month old 7.5 lb baby

Our 6 month old 7.5 lb baby

I rarely accomplish much in a day but that’s ok.( It’s not possible to accomplish much in a day) Everyday I see God rearrange my schedule and find that my day was chock full of purpose. I am living a “purpose driven life”. Three weeks ago during rounds the mom of our mastectomy patient held a scrawny baby and told me the baby was hungry. The baby belonged to the patient who had been sick with the biggest breast cancer mass Scott had ever seen. Like bigger than a basketball. She probably hadn’t had milk for months. How the baby lived this long is beyond me. It is supposedly 6 mos old and weighs 7.5 lbs. So I skip rounds, go get money, (thank you “Restore a Child”), send our volunteer, Brandon, to the market in search of formula, find the sippy cups a friend gave me, explain in pathetic French to the mom with the two malaria kids in the next bed how to give the formula so she can explain it in Ngambay to grandma, who is most likely going to raise this baby. Not at all how I planned my day but what an awesome day. The baby has a steady source of food for as long as it needs formula. We got to save a child!
Johnny helping grandma feed the baby.

Johnny helping grandma feed the baby.

Mom, Grandma and  baby

Mom, Grandma and baby

Several weeks ago a total stranger dropped off a box of clothes. Last night and all today it rained and is actually chilly. It will probably be in the 60’s by morning. Some patients have only a piece of cloth to use as a sheet and some families are sleeping on a cold concrete floor beside the loved one they are caring for. So our med student, Ellen, and I passed out all but a few things tonight. Some of them may still be cold but they will be less uncomfortable than they would have been. They were so grateful and I was so glad I could do something to help.

Bekki and Ellen passing out clothes to our shivering patients

Bekki and Ellen passing out clothes to our shivering patients

I’m living with less than I have ever had. The up side of that is I have less to take care of and keep track of and worry about. I have fewer comforts and yet I’m comfortable. I had malaria last weekend and that was horrible. It’s mostly a blur of feeling horrible, with one outstanding memory. The “anti-nausea medication so I could take the anti malaria meds” made me so groggy I drank the liquid hand soap. The hand soap was so bad it counteracted the anti nausea meds and I still start dry heaving when I smell it. I actually had to change to a different kind of soap that doesn’t smell the same. Anyway I’m better now and can really appreciate feeling great because I know how bad I can feel. I’m learning to share and give whatever I have. I am learning the simple joy giving a cup of cool clean water to everyone that comes to my door. Because many of them walked for miles in the sun to get there. I’m learning the meaning of community by seeing how the patients and families help each other. Not just their own family to whom they are very attentive, but other patients and total strangers. I’ve had patients pull my arm to get my attention to give their dressing supplies to a patient that doesn’t have any.

I don’t know all their names, because when they tell me I can’t pronounce them yet I feel connected with everyone around me. We are struggling to survive here and we have to help each other. I know their faces, what they’re here for or who their with. We work, laugh, suffer, sweat and pray together. And most of them can’t speak French which is ok because I can’t either but somehow we are connected. We’ve had almost everything go wrong that can go wrong and yet we’ve survived. There’s kind of a sense of accomplishment in that. Our shipping container still hasn’t arrived and we don’t have our things and yet at the end of the day when the lights go out it’s not my things that I think of it is the faces and adventures I’ve had.

Scott and I live and work together all day everyday. We have the same purpose and mission. We have the same patients, families, friends, staff. It could be a bad thing for some people but it has been wonderful for us. We’re totally out of our comfort zone doing things we never thought we would or even could, cheering each other on and so proud of the other! We spend far more money than we make but are blessed to be here with some money in the bank and some generous friends who help finance projects. We have lived 10 yrs worth of adventures in the last year of our lives. Everyday I thank God for my blessings and my challenges. I recognize His love in the green and the flowers of rainy season because I’ve lived thru the dust and the brown of the dry season. I am grateful for food on the table knowing that many of our patients will only eat one small meal today. I thank God for a deep well and potable water, knowing the family living fifty yards from here is pulling dirty water from a well and our maintenance mans house a block away has no water at all. His brothers come get containers of water and wheel barrow it to his house every day. We are just finishing mango season and I could get mangos for 30 cents a piece!!! I have literally eaten all the mangos my body can handle which is about 4 small ones or 1 1/2 big ones (like bigger than a softball but smaller than a football) a day. Beyond that I get mangorrhea.

Life is more uncertain for me than ever before. I am more vulnerable in so many ways. Sickness, tragedy, injury, political or economic stability, safety and security for myself and those I love and yet I have this surreal peace. I guess I am learning to embrace the good in the moment. Mom told me she handled disappointments and discouragement by counting her blessings and taking life as it comes. I wish she’d told me that when I was young instead of during the last month of her life. But maybe I had to learn it my on own like she did.

Today is over now, and, in the end I have to say, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital, where we initially were to be. Soon there will be a new video about Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.

We welcome volunteers.

-Rebecca Gardner (Mama Rebecca)

Happy Birthday America

So it is Friday evening, almost sunset, I am listening to the music from the Clarkston Church and I thought I would write about the week. Nothing fancy, just what has happened. Bekki is currently laying down, she just took an anti nausea pill in preparation for taking 4 malarone tablets. When I came home this evening she was exhausted, more than she should be, achey, feverish, and the final straw, chilling. Not “chillin”, “chilling”, as in shivering. There is typically only one reason to chill in Africa, malaria. Our lab is closed, so she is just going to start on treatment based on the symptoms. I reassured her the second time is not as bad as the first.

Lindsay is also asleep, wiped out. I like to think that after all the stress she has been under the last several months, she is now home and finally relaxing. We were happier than words can tell to pick her up at the airport. She made it through with everything, including the fritos, except the permethrin. TSA nixed that in Chattanooga. Those of you who have gone without consistent American food for months can understand the importance a bag of fritos can have. Real haystacks, with real fritos. Oh the taste sensations, especially with the Taco Bell sauce Matt Tresenriter and Ellen Shin brought.

We had a good time in N’djamena, actually mostly at night, because the mission we stayed at had air conditioning in the bedroom. So it was just like old times. Lindsay slept on a mattress on the floor at the foot of our bed in a mosquito net tent. That way we all could enjoy the glorious cool air. Amazing how well you sleep with air conditioning. We also had a great time visiting with one of our Adventist Lay leaders who is very influential in the government, in fact I believe he has sworn in the President of the country. Anyway, we had supper with him and his wife Wednesday. It was good getting to know him. He is building a guest house and dental clinic on his property.

The other good thing in N’djamena was the mango ice cream, eating at Ali Baba with Matt and Brandon Tresenriter before they flew off, and getting our passports back with our new one year courtesy visas. Yea, we are official! And we bought a frying pan and cloth in the market. Cloth for clothes, frying pan for making toast as our container is still sitting in Duoala eating up someones budget.

Besides that N’djamena was hot, crowded and hot. We tried to buy medications for the hospital at the Central Government Pharmacy. Of the eleven meds we asked for, they had two. One of the meds we asked for was tylenol. We were told it was in the warehouse, and they didn’t know when it would be available. We could have 100 mg tablets, but not the 500 mg. So apparently for the entire country people will have to take 5-10 tablets three times a day for pain. Yea right. I am not sure if the bureaucrat was telling the truth or just letting us know that he controlled us, he could decide what we could and could not have. Whatever, I came back empty handed.

Even though the bus ride was long, and not terribly comfortable, it was all worth it to have Lindsay with us now. That being said it was bittersweet as Brandon left, and next week Nick and Kelsey come to start their year with us, but Johnny leaves. We get so close to our volunteers and when they leave there is a big hole in our hearts. The only saving grace is the new volunteers that come to take their place.

This morning at worship there were big smiles and lots of “Bon arrivé” from the staff. It was good to be missed and good to be welcomed back. Although the staff miss Brandon, they were glad to meet Lindsay (Linley, because they cannot say Lindsay). They greeted me with another open tibia and fibula fracture, which Abel had carefully washed out already. There was a man with a huge (15 centimeters) fungating skin cancer on his heel, full of maggots, and another man who was now ready to have his hernia fixed. There was rounds to catch up on and three days of consults and echoes to do. But I am slowly learning not to panic, it all seems to work out. We got the hernia fixed, amputated the cancerous leg, and got plates on the broken tibia and fibula. During the last case it poured rain, and most of my consults went home to come back another day.

One last little story. Abel does the dental extractions for us here. He is the head of the OR and our head nurse. He is very competent, but at times a bit of a bull in the china shop. Anyway, he knows how to pull teeth, and I don’t have the time, so that is his job. Today he did a dental extraction, but apparently used some ketamine as well as local anesthesia. Between cases I heard lots of yelling and screaming coming from the dental room. I really did not want to go in there, for fear of what I would find, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I entered the room which was already full of nurses, and family. The patient was sitting up on the gurney and then he spied me. He started shouting again and pointing in my general direction. He was speaking Arabic, so I did not understand it, but I figured it was an invitation for me to leave, so two other nurses and I exited the room. Later in the OR Daniel and Appo told me what the trouble was. Indeed I was the cause. Apparently, he believed that during the dental extraction of his molars I would also extract his intelligence and his wisdom and take it back to America with me. I am still trying to find out who gave away the secret as to what makes America great.

Speaking of America being great, Happy Birthday America! Hope you all have a great fourth of July. I miss watching the fireworks on the Snake River from the boat.

OK, this really is the last story for now, but last Friday night we showed a video again. We wanted to do something different so borrowed a Jaime Jorge DVD from the Blands in Bere and showed that. It is nature scenes with him playing the accompanying music, very calm and peaceful, and no words so translates easily. We did notice that most of the scenes were from the Pacific Northwest, not bragging, just sayin’. Anyway there are two tracks each about 45 minutes. The first track ends with the US flag waving, a bald eagle flying, and Jaime plays the National Anthem and God Bless America. I didn’t want to be the ugly American so I played the other track which ends with the Holy City. About 5 minutes into it the computer started to act up, so I hit a few key buttons and got it settled down. What I didn’t know was that somehow I made it jump the tracks and we were now on track one, at least I didn’t know until the US flag starts waving and Jaime is playing the Star Spangled Banner. Bekki hissed, “Scott stop it, this is embarrassing.”

So I went over to the computer, not sure which was worse, to obviously stop it, or let it keep going. Well the computer decided for me. I could not get it to stop, I pushed every button on the key board, I double and triple clicked, I even ejected the DVD, it just kept playing. I swear the computer was possessed. Finally after it was all over, I just shut it down and then thankfully it started to rain, so show over. The Tchadiens seemed to like it anyway. With that I will go give Bekki her 4 malarone pills, then rub her back in a couple of hours while she throws up.

Love you all and God Bless America, even if we only won one game in the World Cup.

For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital, where we initially were to be. Soon there will be a new video about Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner