“I am not sure how much more of this I can take.”
“I wonder what it feels like to have a nervous breakdown, will the GC insurance cover that?”
Such were my musings as I headed over to the generator room for the umptenth time in the last couple of hours to flip a breaker switch and restore power to the hospital. The electrical problems were really taking a toll on my psyche. It is a daily battle, sometimes it was the generator itself overheating, sometimes the generator would switch off because it didn’t like the phase distribution. Other times it was either the house batteries or the hospital batteries not charging, and so either the house or hospital or both were out of power soon after the generator shut down. Or there was the day when every five minutes the power would go out for 40 seconds or so and then come back on for 5 or 6 minutes. Never did figure out why that happened.
I don’t want to forget the arm amputation that I completed in just the ambient light the glass blocks let into the OR. The great thing about operating on a dark skinned patient in the dark is that they don’t bleed, at least not that you can see, that is of course until you notice the puddle around your bare feet (I do wear clogs, but no socks).
It’s not that there haven’t been electrical issues and various breakdowns in places we have lived in the US. I remember operating for 20 minutes in the dark at St. Joes when we lost power and both generators promptly went down. And in that OR, which has no outside windows or glass blocks, it is really really dark. And we have had plenty of occasions to call on Bo when things broke down on our house in Clarkston, or on Gene Augustin when we had problems with the house in Tillamook. But not everyday, multiple times every day. In fact every morning we get up wondering what is going to breakdown today. I remember one Thursday, I had just come home about 6 pm, and as Bekki and I talked and compared notes from the day we realized nothing had broken down that day, we had power all day, it had been error free day. Not five minutes later the house was suddenly plunged into darkness. OK so much for perfect Thursday. You know how businesses have signs posted, “Accident Free For 235 Days”, well we have signs posted “No Breakdowns For 6 Minutes”.
So it was this that was prompting the thoughts of a nervous breakdown, and wondering how much longer I could take this. Sometime shortly after this I received a text from my nephew, Dr. Olen Netteburg, the medical director at the Adventist Hospital in Bere, Tchad.
“Scott, have you seen the new authorization to function for the Surgical Center that puts it in the SDA Church’s name?”
Well as a matter of fact I had not. It turns out he had not either. That story begins 13 months ago when we found out that CCAM (Centre Chirurgical Adventiste de Moundou) was registered with the Tchadien Government under the name of James Appel, who started the Center. This was a problem because I am a Church employee and as such can’t work at a private institution. So the West African Division (WAD) gave us 6 months to rectify the situation. Three months later I received notice that the paper work was now in order, we were an official SDA Church institution. But neither Olen nor I ever actually saw the document.
We called our contact in N’djamena who had done the legwork on getting the proper authorization.
“Oh, no,” he told us, “That paperwork was lost just before the Minister of Health was to sign it. You are still operating under the original authorization in the name of Dr. Appel.”
Oh, boy, this was a problem. Not only were we 7 months past the deadline, we had lied (unintentionally) to the Union and Division Officers, our bosses. The consequence? They could require us to leave Moundou and put us at an official SDA Institution, somewhere. It was a very real possibility.
So we started talking about the various options, Batouri, Rwanda, Nigeria, Guam, or just send us home. It was when I was faced with the possibility of having to leave Moundou that I began to realize that despite all the problems I really didn’t want to leave. I am surrounded by a team of employees and volunteers that I really love and care about. We have worked hard to develop systems of care that seem to work well here. We have built up the infrastructure. We have projects in the works that we want to see fulfilled. We have passed over so many learning curves, the operations, French, the local shopping, many of the idiosyncrasies of the house and hospital, and more. Bekki has her network of contacts in town, we have volunteers who are scheduled to come work with us, we have volunteers who are with us now. I enjoy, for the most part, my practice here. I don’t have to do OB (really, really important). I sleep almost every night (last night being an exception).
I was sitting in church this morning thinking how much I was going to miss church here in Moundou, when we finally do go on permanent return. I will miss the dancing choir, the French hymns, the Sabbath School lesson study, watching poor Alphons try to translate for our pastor who preaches for about a minute then gives him all of 5 seconds to say the same thing in Ngombaye before cutting him off.
The last few months we have been able to see how much of a difference we do make here. The people who are walking on two strong healthy legs because we were here, the children who are still alive and well because we and our Center were here when they had a perforated appendix, or malaria or typhoid.
All of a sudden all the electrical, plumbing, cultural, and language issues, all the annoyances that come with mission life didn’t seem that important or overwhelming. I didn’t want to leave. I don’t want to go to Batouri, Bere, Rwanda, Nigeria, Guam, India, the US, or anywhere else, at least not yet. We have work to do here. We are needed here. Someday we will leave, but please God, not yet, not now.
The next morning Olen wrote a beautiful letter to the Division and Union officers explaining the situation and apologizing for the errors we had made. That night we received an encouraging letter from the Division president, telling us they appreciated our efforts and would wait as we worked through the process with the government of Tchad. Not a word about trading us for cash and future draft choices to another Division or Union.
I thank God. I thank Him for letting us stay in Moundou, I thank Him for sending us here, and I thank Him for giving me a glimpse, just a glimpse, into an alternate reality where we are forced to leave, so I could put all the trials into perspective.
It still drives me crazy at times, but we make sure our Goal Zero battery is charged each night so we can charge our phones and run our fan at night, we make sure we have a bucket of water in the bathroom so in the morning when there is no water we can wash our faces and flush the toilet, and we put blocks of ice in the fridge each night to keep it cool when the power goes out. And hey, OR lights, cautery, and air conditioning are just for wimps.
They say that when you have trials and it seems the devil is after you, it means you must be doing something right because you are making him mad. If that is true, bring it on, we have Jesus.
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 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.
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