SHOWERS OF BLESSING?

“There shall be showers of blessing;
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Showers of blessing.
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.”

We closed worship this morning singing that song. We had just been told that the three year old son of one of our nurses had died Saturday evening. After the song Mr. Fobbie, our administrator, told us about the funeral arrangements.

I had seen him Thursday afternoon in consult, to do an ultrasound. Seems that he had not urinated since Monday. His mom carried him into my office and he lay quietly on the table while I did the ultrasound. That was bad sign number one, normal three year olds don’t lay still on an exam table, they kick and scream. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 were the lack of urine in his bladder, his huge kidneys and the fluid in his abdomen. All together they told me this kid was in big trouble, a hemoglobin and malaria test and urinalysis were not going to make the diagnosis for me, and in any case we have no treatment for renal failure.

Dr. Koroma suggested sending him to a pediatrician in Freetown when I gave him the ultrasound results, and I heartily agreed. Friday afternoon he urinated, and Saturday morning he was transferred into Freetown and Saturday evening he passed off (died).

This afternoon we went to his funeral. I have been to several wakes in Africa, where one just visits the family, but this was my first funeral. In many respects, it was very similar to an American Adventist funeral, but with some definite African twists, for instance starting three and a half hours late, and it was held outside behind the little boy’s house. But, food was served while we waited for the arrival of the casket, there was praying and singing, and encouraging words about God’s love and care and our hope of the resurrection, and yes, lots of crying. The hardest thing was seeing his 5 year old cousin screaming and crying, “Cousin, come back; Cousin, come back.”, when he saw the casket for the first time.

In October, the wife of our cashier was brought in unconscious and all swollen after delivering her baby at home. We don’t have OB yet, so the family chose traditional over the government maternity center. My guess is she had eclampsia and crashed after delivery. She died shortly after coming in to the hospital, leaving our cashier a widower with two older children and a newborn. He faithfully comes to work everyday. Bekki thinks he has lost weight, I am not so sure. His expression has not changed in the 8 months we have been here, before or after the death of his wife. I have never seen him smile.

We have a staff of 45 employees, and two of them lost immediate, young family members in the last 2 months. And we nearly lost our head nurse in September. And this morning we sang, “Showers of Blessing.” I don’t know anybody who would equate these losses with “Showers of Blessing.”

Death is universal in this world, it is not unique to Sierra Leone, Tchad, or anyplace in West Africa. And it causes pain and anguish among the living whenever and wherever it strikes. These stories are not unique, in fact I bet pretty everyone reading this has lost a child or spouse, or is close to someone who did. But none of that makes it any easier.

This quarter in our Sabbath School classes (same as Sunday School only on Saturday for the Seventh-day Adventists in the group) we are studying the book of Job and the question of human suffering. And after nine weeks the conclusion I have come to is that there is no good answer. There is nothing you can say to a mother who lost her only child or a husband who finds himself alone with a newborn. There is no explanation, no “greater good”, no “cosmic purpose”, no “reason”. And saying that “God wanted them,” doesn’t sound that great either. It just makes God out to be some selfish Being Who wants a bigger harem of angels.

A point was brought out this week that if a reason or excuse for the evil that exists in this world could be found, then it’s existence would be justified, and it would cease to be evil. There is no reason, no excuse for evil or death. (Great Controversy pp. 492, 493)

It was brought out today at the funeral that Paul admonishes us to “In everything give thanks.” Really? I had never heard that text used at a funeral before. How do you give thanks for the death of a three year old? How do you sing about showers of blessings before announcing his funeral?

I don’t think you do. I don’t think you give thanks that an innocent just lost his life. I think you give thanks that Jesus conquered death on the cross. I think you give thanks that God accepts us as we are, and accepts the death of Jesus as payment for our sins. I think you give thanks that Jesus is coming back and that He promised to raise our loved ones back to life. I think you give thanks that Jesus promised to restore us to the perfect state of pre-fall Eden. I think you give thanks for the eternal life He promises.

Those are the showers of blessing that fall around us all the time while our hearts are breaking at the evil and death we see in this world. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)

For those of you who are 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, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. 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. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. 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.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

Call to Action-an Ebola Story

During the spring and early summer of 2014 the Ebola Virus was steadily tightening its grip on the country of Sierra Leone. Stories and rumors flowed throughout the country. Health Centers and Hospitals were closing as medical staffs were either decimated by the virus or fled in terror. Patients with other diseases such as malaria, typhoid, appendicitis, or complications of pregnancy often had no place to go. Chaos in the country was rising as the government and international aid workers struggled to cope with the crisis with a limited healthcare infrastructure.

In the midst of this crisis was a small 20 bed hospital staffed by 38 employees with vision and dreams. They called their hospital, Adventist Health System, Waterloo Hospital, Sierra Leone. The name reflected the commitment this group had to take the Adventist health message throughout their country. Although they only had one facility at the time but they had plans. Plans to expand, to have clinics and other small hospitals serving the people of Sierra Leone and bringing to their countrymen the good news of Jesus Christ.

But for now they had a more urgent matter to contend with. Should they stay open and risk their lives and the lives of their families, or should they take the easy, safe route and do as many of their colleagues throughout the country had done and close the hospital. This was a decision for the entire staff, not just the leadership. And so the entire hospital staff came together. Prayerfully they considered the options, considered the consequences. They thought about the fact that if they died from Ebola they would be of no use to anyone. They considered their families, their community, and their duty towards God.

Throughout the country are billboards giving out Ebola information

Throughout the country are billboards giving out Ebola information

The staff clearly understood the risk they would be taking. They knew that the early stages of Ebola had the same symptoms as Malaria and Typhoid, common diseases in West Africa. Hence without specialized testing, which was not widely available, it was impossible to separate the early cases of Ebola from the other diseases. They could be exposed and not even know it. Although they did not know that a single drop of blood could contain 10 billion copies of the virus, and that it only took 1-10 copies to infect a new victim, they did know that it was incredibly contagious. They knew that in their villages whole families were being wiped out.

In the end they answered the call to action, they could not escape their commitment to be “Medical Missionaries”. The commitment that has been a part of the SDA health work in Sierra Leone since their forbearers took over the leprosy hospital in Masanga. This group could never abandon their heritage, and so they made a conscious decision to keep the doors of their hospital open as long as God allowed. They would serve their community, they would serve their country.

It was not long after this that disaster struck. A new patient arrived at the hospital. He had all the symptoms typical of Malaria and Typhoid Fever, common diseases in this part of West Africa. His blood was drawn and tested positive for both. He was immediately started on intravenous treatment.

In those early days it was not uncommon for people who had been exposed to Ebola to escape from quarantine. They were often not provided with access to enough food and water during quarantine and so they would break out in search of the most basic staples of life.

The following day the District Health Medical Team (DHMT) Ebola Surveillance Officers visited the hospital looking for just such a fugitive. They recognized the patient who had been admitted the day before with Malaria and typhoid as the man they were searching for. The patient was taken from Waterloo Hospital directly to the diagnostic center in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. When it was confirmed that he was positive the government came back to the hospital to close it down. The entire staff had been exposed, they and the entire hospital must be quarantined.

The surveillance team together with government soldiers came with automatic weapons circled the hospital ensuring that no one escaped. The staff were able to call their families to bring food and clothes and other necessities. For 25 days they lived in the small 1 acre hospital compound, sleeping two to a bed. They lived with the knowledge they could be the next victims. They lived with the knowledge that at that time nearly 100% of Ebola victims died a horrific death.

Then they started to hear that the Community of Waterloo was outraged. Not against the government for quarantining the hospital. No, they were angry with the hospital staff for staying open.

There were cries of, “Why did you stay open, now you have brought Ebola to Waterloo, you have doomed us all.”
For a group already facing an uncertain future the guilt and hurt brought on by these accusations was almost too much to bear. Then the administrator of the hospital, Mr. Joseph Fobbie, called into the local radio station and addressed the community.

“Dear friends,” he said, “We stayed open for you, to take care of you, to treat your diseases. We are the ones who were exposed, we are the ones who must bear the consequences, not you. We took the risk so we could serve you.”
The appeal had the desired effect. The people in Waterloo saw the folly of their fear and anger. They rallied around the hospital, they began to bring food and blankets to the inmates of the quarantine. In fact, the support was so strong and the food so good that the soldiers did not want to leave after the quarantine ended. They said they had never eaten so well!

Inside the hospital all was not well. The medical director, Dr. David Koroma had instituted a twice daily temperature check. It was during these checks that three staff members developed fevers, two nurses and the lab tech who had drawn the blood from man who contaminated them. Dr. Koroma cried as he called the government health officers to report the new cases of suspected Ebola. Many more tears were shed when the staff bid good-bye to their friends as they were taken to the diagnostic center in Freetown where it was confirmed, all three had Ebola.

The three were then transferred to the treatment center in Kenema where the two nurses died from the disease. Dalton Kabbia, the lab tech survived by God’s grace. He continues to work at Waterloo Hospital and he shared his story of suffering as he watched those around him die. The day he was told that his colleague, Millicent, had died, he saw at least 20 bodies in the ETC (Ebola Treatment Center). He was sure this was the end, but each day he did his best to eat, and to keep his eyes on Jesus. Slowly he improved until he was ready for discharge.
As the quarantine ended for the employees of Waterloo Hospital they heard the fate of their friends. This staff of 38 had lost two of their number, and only God’s hand prevented that number from being higher.

Ebola Survivor Dalton Kabbia today.  Go to the "Videos" page to hear him tell the story of his journey through Ebola.

Ebola Survivor Dalton Kabbia today. Go to the “Videos” page to hear him tell the story of his journey through Ebola.

The government health officers came to Mr. Fobbie and Dr. Koroma and informed them that the government was taking over the facility to turn it into an ETC. They asked the staff to stay on and work at the new Center.
Now they faced another life or death decision. They were being asked to work in the “Red Zone”, directly caring for known Ebola patients. They knew that the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was not a 100% effective. They knew of health workers who had contracted Ebola even while following all the protocols. They had already lost 2 of their friends, would they risk their lives again?

It was a difficult decision. They were under tremendous pressure from their families to just say “No”. They were afraid.

Only 12 years before the 10 year long rebel war in Sierra Leone had ended. And the staff considered this history. They realized that they were in a war, this time against an invisible microbe instead of rebels. And the war had to be fought with syringes and IV’s instead of with guns. They recognized that in war soldiers die, and this time the soldiers were the health care workers. This was real, two of their friends had already made the ultimate sacrifice.

For the second time in just a few months the staff at Waterloo Hospital answered a call to action, they made a conscious decision to put their lives on the line to serve their country and their God, to fulfill their destiny as medical missionaries.

One of the staff in her ebola PPE (Personal Protective Equiment)

One of the staff in her ebola PPE (Personal Protective Equiment)

They were taken to the national stadium where they underwent an intensive 3 day training course in Ebola protocols. On December 17, 2014 Waterloo Hospital opened as a 60 bed ETC with a staff of over 200. Over the next few months the battle waged against the tiny virus that had invaded their country, but slowly, bit by bit, it was defeated. The last case of Ebola in Sierra Leone was diagnosed in January, 2016.

When the Waterloo ETC closed they celebrated the fact that they were the only ETC in the country to not have one staff member contract Ebola. But they recognized that God had shed His grace on them, because even the most diligent were not completely safe.

A grim reminder of the reality of Ebola

A grim reminder of the reality of Ebola

Adventist Health System, Waterloo Hospital, Sierra Leone re-opened on November 9, 2015 as a general hospital, this time with 22 beds and 36 staff. The health system still only has one facility, but they retain their vision to transform the physical, social, spiritual, and mental well-being of people in Sierra Leone through the Adventist Health System. They have plans to open their first satellite clinic in Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone by the end of 2016. They have been asked to manage a clinic in a new village being built by a British NGO, Home Leone for the habitants of the slums in Freetown. They have selected land throughout the country where they intend to put other clinics.

Handwashing stations like this are throughout the country.

Handwashing stations like this are throughout the country.

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

It is a privilege and very humbling for Bekki and I to work side by side with these incredible, faith driven warriors for God as we together fulfill our mission to demonstrate the healthcare ministry of Jesus Christ in Sierra Leone.

For those of you who are 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. On the “Videos” page watch a real Ebola survivor, Dalton Kabia, tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. 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. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. 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.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

System Fail

He died about 7 pm last evening. I don’t even remember his name, just another poor Tchadien. I do remember seeing him walk in though. He was brought in by pickup and walked in the back door, slowly, hunched over, holding his stomach. The other person brought in with him had a broken elbow and dislocated shoulder, from another accident, he had blood on bandage so he got seen first.
This young man, I will call him Mahamat, which has about an 80% of being right. Mahamat was in a fight, I was told, and he got stabbed in his left butt cheek. Typically not a lethal blow, but he was holding his abdomen and on exam had peritonitis. It was a pretty easy call, he needed an operation, today. In cases like this I write on their operative form, “Cas d’urgence”, which means it is an emergency and we can set up an engagement or payment plan. Frankly most of our non muslim patients don’t have 150,000 francs in their back pocket, ready to pay for their surgery. So paying for the surgery was not a problem.
We got started on his operation about 5:30 or 6. After the spinal anesthesia we turned Mahamat over and I stuck a finger in the stab wound, trying to figure out where it went, and to see if maybe he perforated the rectum. No stool, but lots of thin watery bloody fluid. I figured the knife must have gotten his bladder. We turned him back over and opened up his abdomen. Lots of bloody fluid there too, and sure enough a knife sized hole in the top of his bladder.
I got that closed but then it occurred to me that this didn’t make sense, how did the tip of the knife put a hole there in his bladder? That and the fact that red watery fluid kept welling up tipped me to the fact that there probably was another hole in the bottom of the bladder. So we opened up the dome of the bladder and sure enough, there it was in the bottom, another hole, the entrance hole in fact. We closed that hole and the dome of the bladder leaving a catheter in place. Checked the small bowel and reassured ourselves that somehow he had missed the rectum.
He still seemed to be bleeding from deep in the pelvis, but not a lot, so I closed the peritoneum and left a drain in the stab wound in his butt. I was worried about the left ureter as the hole was right where it should be, but figured he would drain urine out the drain tube if it was divided.
In the morning, his last morning, Mahamat looked OK, relatively stable, and not a lot of drainage out the drain tube, but lots of non-bloody urine out the catheter. Our lab was now open so we checked a hemoglobin on him. 5.8 (normal is 12-15). Very very low. That explained his tachycardia, and why when he sat up he nearly passed out. I ordered a unit of blood on him about 11 am.
Mahamat was in the Salle de Reveil, our ICU/ER/PACU, so I walked past him all day. He just laid there with a glazed over look in his eyes, really not moving or saying much. His abdomen was soft and not tender except around the incision, and it wasn’t distended. I couldn’t see any signs that he was still bleeding or that he was leaking urine. But I noticed the distinct lack of blood hanging from his IV pole, all day, no blood. I mentioned it to the nurses several times, asking about the transfusion. The only answer I got was we had no blood his type in the fridge, and he had only one person with him, his father, and he couldn’t donate blood.
About 5:30 in the evening his mother came from the village and we got word that they would like to donate blood now. I asked our lab tech if she would stay late to do the type and cross. She called me into my office and told me that we didn’t have the reagents to check the Rh factor, the + or – part of a blood type. Kind of important. Give the wrong one and people can die. She took a moto taxi over to the central hospital to find the reagent, and was successful, she brought some back with her. Mahamat died while she was trying to get the blood from his parents. It was about 7 pm.
We have patients die here all the time, most of them are almost dead when they get here. This death though is the most glaring example of a huge fail in the medical system as found here at the Centre Chirurgicale Adventiste de Moundou. In the US it would be listed as a preventable death at the trauma morbidity and mortality conference. It might even make the news, “Young neglected man dies while waiting for over 24 hours for a blood transfusion.”
Frankly, they would be correct. Mahamat died of neglect, he died because of negligence, he died because of terrible medical care. He died because our blood bank had one bag of blood in it. He died because he had only one person with him, and that person didn’t want to give blood. He died because we ran out of the necessary reagents to do a cross match. He died because the doctor here practices veterinary medicine. I patch them up and ship them out to wards where they either get better or they die. I make rounds there only on weekends, so our two nurses provide the medical care in the wards. I am too busy counting money, checking receipts, fetching betadine and bleach and gloves for the staff, figuring out why the power is out for the 4th time today, and why we have no water now, and taking care of the bleeding accident victim that just came in to have time to worry about someone I operated on yesterday.
But as any good quality control person will tell you, it is only bad if you didn’t learn from what happened and change the system. And they would be correct. But reality in Tchad is that there will be no review, no mortality conference, no root cause analysis, and nothing will change. His death will not make a difference in how things are done, or be a stepping stone for quality improvement. As long as third world hospitals in backwater places like Tchad are understaffed without adequate resources, including human and material resources many more like Mahamat will die of neglect, waiting on a gurney for care that won’t come before it is too late.
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.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

Les Sauterelles

“Owwww!!! Help Scott, get him off, get him out.”

Bekki and I were sitting on our bed, tucked safely inside our mosquito net in our pajamas when Bekki started screaming and grabbing at the back of her night shirt. I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong. Tis the season for les sauterelles, the grasshoppers. They are everywhere and one had found his way onto Bekki’s back inside her shirt. I can only imagine the distress, actually the look on her face made it easier to imagine the distress.
We managed to get the intruder out and disposed of (down the toilet) and things settled back down. But seriously it has been like one of the plagues of Egypt. Crunch, crunch when you walk. Most of the time in the evening two or three will be hitchhiking somewhere on your body. They are inside, outside and any other side you wish to have. And they seem to be dying. I guess they must come out to breed and then die, but I don’t really know.

At the bus stop in Bongor today there were baskets of them for sale, pre-roasted for your eating convenience. Some looked like they were honey roasted, so are probably pretty tasty. And for those of you who might be concerned, yes they are a clean meat according to Leviticus 11. However, I am grateful to be a vegetarian. I tried to find out how long this plague will last, but have not gotten a straight answer. Hopefully when we get back in two and a half weeks all that will be left are the corpses to sweep up.

We are currently in N’djamena, hopefully headed up to France to spend some time with Lindsay and then attend the AMALF meetings in Lyon, France. AMALF is an organization of French speaking Adventist medical professionals who support mission work in French speaking Africa. They have been a huge support to us and we are looking forward to spending time with them again and working with them on future projects.

I said hopefully headed up to France because I have received two e-mails and one phone call telling us that our flight tonight is slightly delayed, by 6 hours. We were supposed to leave at midnight and now are leaving at 6 am tomorrow. Fortunately the TEAM mission here had an apartment we could use tonight. It is really quite nice and not only that, it keeps us off the streets.

Just a few other random happenings this last few weeks. Probably the biggest excitement was the arrival of another container. Most of the supplies were for our sister hospital Bere and their staff, particularly Mason and Kim McDowell. But there were things for the missionaries at the airstrip, for us and for the Appels who are starting a hospital near Abeche, which is close to the Sudan border.

The team from Bere resting a bit after working hard all day.

The team from Bere resting a bit after working hard all day.

As much as I appreciate all the things we get in these containers, I am not sure I really want to see another one. They are so stressful. And although this went smoother than the first one did, it was still pretty much disorganized chaos. You never really know what is happening for sure. This time we decided against hiring a crane to lift the container off the truck. So we (actually, they, because the team from Bere, Mason and Kim, Jonathan Dietrich and Masha, did most of the unloading and loading, and had to deal with all the chaos. I was operating and Bekki was trying to get the stuff for Moundou situated before it developed legs and walked off), so they had to unload the stuff and then the empty container was taken off the truck, and reloaded. Then the next morning it was transferred from there to another truck for the journey to Bere. I think it is safe to say the team from Bere is not real anxious for another container anytime soon either.

A word or two about getting an empty container off the truck. I have included pictures, but if you ever get the chance to watch Tchadiens take a container off a truck, don’t miss it. We are talking entertainment value to make a Hollywood producer blush.

The two containers tied together with metal cable

The two containers tied together with metal cable

First they tied cable (yes I said “tied cable”, I didn’t think you could actually make knots with ¾ inch cable, but that just shows how little I know) from the top corners of the container already on the ground to the top corners of the container on the truck. The driver then simply drove forward and the container neatly dropped on the ground, ha in your dreams.

Both containers moved forward, the new one still safely on the truck.

Both containers moved forward, the new one still safely on the truck.

Reality: When the driver went forward both containers went with him. Then the cable broke (the knot held). So we (sorry, he) tried it again several times, then with Jonathan Dietrich’s chain, which also broke. Finally, however, he got the container partway off, but not quite to the point the back end would drop. So a couple of guys got under the container hanging off the truck bed and wedged 4X4’s under it. I could not believe they were not wearing hard hats. If that dangling container were to suddenly fall on them, someone was going to get a head injury. That’s the American in me, safety first.
The broken cable

The broken cable

Working underneath the now dangling container

Working underneath the now dangling container

Pushing the container

Pushing the container

So several more tries, several more trips under the dangling container, several more adjustments of chain and cable, when finally with a resounding thud in a cloud of dust the container settled, nicely lined up next to the first one, just where we wanted it. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

The container now partly on the ground

The container now partly on the ground

And safely, miraculously, amazingly in place.  Hallejuha!!!!!

And safely, miraculously, amazingly in place. Hallejuha!!!!!

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

Epilogue: We did finally get out of Tchad at 6:00 am the next morning and met Lindsay at the Charles De Gaulle airport. Next post will be about our adventures in Europe.

Blessings

I am so far behind in writing that I hardly know where to begin. So I will begin with a huge thank you. After our last blog, which is usually posted just before we go to bed, we woke up to a number of comments from you, our beloved readers. I don’t think either one of us realized how much those comments were going to mean to us. And I don’t think you all realize how much those comments mean to us. Your words of support, encouragement and love were just what we needed to get through those first difficult days.

The first 10 days or so in Moundou are ones neither of us really want to repeat. James and Sarah have been gracious and loving and generous, and the hospital workers have also been good to us, but despite that we both were absolutely overwhelmed. Bekki asked me one day how I was feeling and I simply said, “Numb.” And that was totally true, I didn’t feel anything, I wasn’t happy, sad, discouraged, elated, just numb. I wasn’t upset when patients died, I wasn’t happy when they recovered, just numb. Our mantra was that of Dory from “Finding Nemo”, “Just keep swimming”. And by God’s grace that is what we did.

I am happy to tell you that we are both doing much better. We are both enjoying our work, and we have feeling again. And yes Bekki found a job. She is the head of the Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy Department. We are a small enough facility that we needed to combine them. And no she has no qualifications for either, other than a willing heart. And she has made a huge impact on the patient population. When they see her coming, they reach for their crutches and walkers, because they know it is time to walk. They don’t fight her anymore, because they know it will do no good. And their shared “suffering” at her hands has caused them to become friends with each other. And of course those of you who are friends with us on facebook have already heard about her exploits in the OR as a first assist and as an anesthetist.

So why the title “Blessings”? Well that comes from last week when we weren’t feeling so great about this missionary thing and we decided to spend some time counting our blessings, so here is what we came up with.

It is a blessing:

To have this time with James and Sarah Appel to learn from them.

To live where every morning we wake up to blue sky and sunshine.

To have an air-conditioned OR.

To have such wonderful friends in Bere, who support and love us.

To have such wonderful friends around the world who also love and support us from afar.

To have much better internet than we expected. (In fact we found out about the lockdown at Southern today here in Tchad almost before Lindsay did a mile from Campus).

To have such strong support from AHI.

To have very little night work. We sleep pretty much every night until 5 am when the Imam starts the call to prayer.

To have a very comfortable house to live in, that is much cooler inside than outside.

To have lots of pretty plants and flowers in our yard, and our own papaya tree.

To have less than a minute (literally) walk from our door to the hospital.

To have a job for Bekki, and have jobs for two Student Missionaries.

To not have had malaria yet.

To have had the three months of French study in Collonges.

To have our two wonderful kids who have been such a support for us.

To have Archie and Dee who take care of us from Clarkston.

To have Ronnalee and Kermit visit us here in Moundou.

To have all of your prayers.

So if you ever feel like your prayers for the missionaries don’t make a difference, think again. And if you ever think that your comments won’t be noticed, think again. And if you ever think that what you can do for God is too small, or won’t matter, think again. We would be lost without you.

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. 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.

-Scott Gardner

Travels

The stats are in!

50 days
7500 miles
20 states
357.14 gallons of gas
1 quart of oil
8 hotel rooms (only 8 thanks to lots of friends and family)
3 National Parks
23 family members visited
Too many to count friends visited (we are so blessed)

We had a really great trip from July 3 to August 22 which included the Institute of World Missions (IWM) at Andrews University, a road trip across the the country and back, an Alaskan Cruise, and a visit to Clarkston, Washington. For the Alaskan cruise and visit to Denali National Park we were blessed to have our kids Jonathan and Lindsay with us as well as Bekki’s sister Ronnalee Netteburg and her husband Kermit.

I already posted pictures from IWM, so thought I would add pictures of the Alaska trip (which by the way is really a great trip for those of you thinking about doing it).

All six of us in front of the rapidly shrinking Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau

All six of us in front of the rapidly shrinking Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau


Lindsay in Ketchikan

Lindsay in Ketchikan


Jonathan and Lindsay with the Native Alaska dancers in Hoona

Jonathan and Lindsay with the Native Alaska dancers in Hoona

Jonathan dancing at the cultural show in Hoona

Jonathan dancing at the cultural show in Hoona

Jonathan sporting a set of Caribou antlers

Jonathan sporting a set of Caribou antlers


Jonathan and Scott hiked from the river bed at the top of the picture up to here.  Scott stopped whenever he felt like he was going to pass out, ie every 60-90 seconds.

Jonathan and Scott hiked from the river bed at the top of the picture up to here. Scott stopped whenever he felt like he was going to pass out, ie every 60-90 seconds, that sucker was steep.


Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Black bear at the Mendenhall Glacier

Black bear at the Mendenhall Glacier


Grizzly sow at Denali.  And how did we know she was a sow?  Because...

Grizzly sow at Denali. And how did we know she was a sow? Because…


...these are her cubs.

…these are her cubs.

Last Things

I am really pumped, it is Saturday night on my last call weekend, hopefully ever. I have been looking forward to this for weeks, the first time in years that I have actually looked forward to a call weekend. Most doctors and nurses who have to take call really don’t like it. It is a weekend spent waiting for the phone to ring. First you worry that it will ring, then when it doesn’t ring you worry that something is wrong, so you check your phone, make sure it is not on vibrate, and that the battery is not dead. In the meantime you can’t relax, always afraid to start doing something for fear that it will get interrupted. So busy or slow you never get anything done on a call weekend, and never get to enjoy it. Then of course there is the potential of getting woken up three nights in a row. And to top it off at the end of the weekend you get to look forward to–you guessed it–Monday. So all in all it is not typically something we enjoy. In fact through the week before my weekends on call I go through the four stages of grief. Denial on Monday (“It can’t be true, someone messed with the schedule), anger on Tuesday (“Why did I choose this stupid job anyway?), bargaining on Wednesday (Brian will you please take my call this weekend?), and finally quiet acceptance of my fate on Thursday.

So that is why I am so pumped, I don’t have to do this anymore. Now granted I am trading 1 in 5 call for call 24/7, but it is a different mindset (at least that is the delusion I keep telling myself). However, I do get Sabbaths off, at least as long as there is no emergency, and if I want to go somewhere I can just say, “I’m out of here”. So it is different.

But as I thought about it I realized that this is the beginning of a month of last things. The reality that we are leaving soon is hitting home. Up to now it has been more theoretical, exciting, but more surreal than real.

Tonight was another last. It was our last vespers with our church family. Now our church (the Clarkston SDA Church) doesn’t do vespers very often, but this one was special. You see the church did a special musical program for Bekki and I that was taped so we could take it with us to Cameroon and watch it when we get homesick. It was so great, we will treasure the DVD and watch it over and over. We will remember the love of our church family and it will sustain us.

But it was still hard because it reminded us that we are leaving people we have come to love, and who have become our parents, and brothers and sisters. And other lasts are coming that will be equally difficult. Our last Sabbath, our last French class with the best French teacher ever, Allison Hayes.

Then there is the lasts at work, my last day in the OR and in Special Procedures with nurses and techs that I love to work with (and with equipment that actually works). My last day of rounds on 4C with the best set of charge nurses I have ever rounded with. And the last day with my nurses and staff at Valley Medical Center. That is really going to be tough. I have shared so much with all these wonderful people, we have laughed together, shared stories about our spouses, SO’s, and kids, sweated through difficult cases together, and we have developed a bond I will never forget. It will be truly difficult to say goodbye.

And so as I enjoy going through my last weekend of call, it is not without mixed emotions, realizing that this is the beginning of a long list of lasts, and only one “last” will be enjoyable.

-Scott Gardner