INTRODUCING JONATHAN PORTNEY

Dear Readers, I am sharing a blog post written by our newest long term volunteer, Jonathan Portney. “JP” comes to us from Loma Linda University, having just graduated with his Public Health degree, with an emphasis in international public health. He, like all our long term volunteers, has taken on his responsibilities with gusto and enthusiasm, or as they would say here, lustfully. I appreciate his post as it shares his thoughts, feelings and reactions to life here in a poor hospital in Sierra Leone. If you want to see his other posts, check out jpinternationaltraveler.wordpress.com. Or you can see his posts on our Waterloo Adventist Hospital facebook page.

JP leading out in stretches at morning worship

It’s 8:00 AM on a Monday morning. Sounds of praise radiate from the chapel located near the front of the hospital where the staff of the Waterloo Hospital gathers every morning to partake in worship. Inside this common area is a nursing station and at any given time a patient can be ushered through the staff worship to the nursing station to receive patient care. This particular morning was emotional for me because a few nights before a child aged 2 years came into the hospital with what was perceived as an untreated case of Malaria. The child was gasping for air, you could hear the fluid gurgling in his lungs. Beneath him, on the bed, there was a pool of blood that he had peed — the child was unconscious. As orders are being shouted by the nurses around me, I do what I can to help “Give me the oxygen mask” one nurse shouts looking at me. I held my headlamp over the child so the nurses could see what they were doing, I had to do this because there was no electricity, this is a common problem at our hospital because the electrical power is hit or miss and we can only run our generators at certain times due to hospital finances. The light I had focused on the patient was shaking, and I began to feel nauseous, I could feel myself becoming very hot, and had to continuously tell myself to breathe so that I would not pass out. For some, experiencing death is a common occurrence. For me, this was my first time seeing anyone on the brink of death, laying right in front of me, and I wish I could say it would be the last. The nurses did everything they could, but it was to no avail, the child aged 2 years died. It was quiet in the room once the child was pronounced dead, some staff cried, and other staff members walked away to be alone because I’m sure we all felt that this should not happen to a child this young. However, here at Waterloo Hospital this is a reality and does happen on a regular basis. We are here trying to do everything we can with the limited education and supplies that we have. Could WE do more? Yes, should WE do more? Absolutely. Unfortunately, we have limited equipment and funds to reach this goal, and this is just a reality.

On Monday morning I decided to take a shortcut to the chapel room which passes by the connecting nursing station. Songs of praise are heard radiating from the building. I peer in the nursing station window and see a child around the same age, if not younger, peering out the window with Dr. Scott, our physician, leaning over the child checking her pulse. The child had a little pink beanie on its head with matching footies and blanket. The child was so young that it still had that baby smell which we all love. The child had her eyes open wide, and her mouth opened as if she were yawning. For a brief second, I smiled because the child almost looked scared, often children this age are afraid of Opotu people “white people” because the encounter is probably their first introduction to someone with white skin. As I entered the chapel, I decide to see the baby because it was so cute. I walk in the nursing station, the child has the same facial expression that I noticed before with eyes big and mouth open. The mother is standing at the door of the nursing station holding back tears, saying a soft prayer, the dad is standing at the nursing station bed next to Dr. Scott with a hopeless almost blank stare expressed across his face. I look at the child and notice she is not blinking. I think to myself, this surely isn’t going to be a repeat of the night before. After this thought passed, Dr. Scott pulls his stethoscope away from the child and looks at the father and says gently “I’m sorry, she is gone.” I crumbled emotionally along with the parents as they wrapped the baby in the blanket and carried her off.

Us missionaries often sit around the dinner table on Sabbath evenings envisioning what it would be like if we had more funding and resources. In Gods power, we hope they will come eventually, and we have faith that He is molding the hospital just as He sees fit. We have fully come to accept that we are powerless over our current situation. Every morning without fail we wake up with a smile on our face to greet the day, staff, and patients. If we come off as defeated, then the whole morale of the hospital would change. While I have a smile on my face, inside, I am pained. While praying, I question if it would be foolish of me to ask God for just one week where a patient doesn’t die from preventable causes. I continue to pray for this, but my prayers are a little different now. I’m asking for strength, not only for myself, but for the other missionaries, the patients who have lost loved ones, and of course my family. I feel like if I pray for no one to die, I’m trying to play God and I know that is not my role. My role is to let God use my hands, body, and mind, stay out of His way and put a smile on my face to make the lives of those around me better. For me, this prayer is manageable and keeps me waking up to greet the day with a positive attitude despite waking up almost every morning to screams from the courtyard from family members who have lost yet another loved one.

Jonathan C. Portney, MPH — Mobile Clinic Director

PROJECTS 3

In April of last year we held a two day strategic planning meeting. We came out of it with a bold, and to many minds, ridiculous, vision and plan. I of course was one of those who thought, “It can’t be done,” at least not anytime soon. Well, I thought I would just let you know what has happened to that Strategic Plan and how God apparently views it. And all that I am going to tell you is His doing, not ours. This is Part 3 of a Three Part Series.

Chapel: Our mission is to demonstrate the healthcare ministry of Jesus. But Jesus did more than just heal people’s bodies, He healed their souls. In fact, that really is what it is all about. It is nice to help someone feel better for a time, but we all die eventually don’t we? So then what happens? If we have done nothing for their eternity, we have failed them. That is why we have put a strong emphasis on our spiritual ministries department, and that is why we have made construction of a chapel on the campus a high priority.

The AHS church plant currently meets in one of the school rooms across from the hospital. It works OK, but it is too far for staff on duty to attend services, and too far for families and patients to join us. Furthermore, the outpatient department where we hold our morning worship is packed each morning with just the staff. It was clear we need our own chapel, as part of the hospital complex.

The Chapel waiting for the roof, which will come after the Physio Building is done.

A site was chosen and a 40X48 foot chapel floor has been poured. We also have a 20X20 foot room attached to the chapel that will service as patient and staff library and conference room. Very soon, by the grace of God, the walls will begin to rise and hopefully by the end of 2017 we will be in our new chapel.

The AHS church members are working hard to furnish the new chapel. The first model pew has been constructed, and they currently have funds for another 15 pews. A new pulpit and desk have already been fabricated and are in use now. Much work remains, but soon there will be a house of prayer for all, that will be open any time during the day that people need a place for meditation and prayer.

Vehicles: O ye of little faith. How Jesus could have been saying that about me. A year ago when our strategic planning committee met we discussed the need for hospital vehicles. At the time we had a Toyota 12 passenger van which served us well, but we needed a 4WD vehicle, especially for our mobile clinics which reach village well off the main roads. But the committee did not stop there, oh no, they felt that as a hospital we needed an ambulance as well. I clearly remember thinking, “Where are we going to get a 4WD vehicle, let alone an ambulance too?”

In November, 2016 the women’s auxiliary from Loma Linda donated the money for the 4WD vehicle. It came at just the right time too, because not 2 weeks after we licensed that vehicle the van was involved in an accident that has knocked it out of commission for 4 months now. (Hopefully it is coming home the first week of April.) Our Nissan XTerra has been a little workhorse for us, taking our mobile clinic team to places no vehicle should go.

Blessing the new (to us) Nissan XTerra.

But the ambulance, where to get an ambulance? About the same time our friends from French speaking Europe, specifically AMALF which is the Adventist French speaking medical association found a Mitsubishi that, thanks to Remy Herschey from Geneva, was able to be retrofitted as an ambulance. It landed here in Salone the last week of March, so there you have it. Less than a year from the strategic planning and we have all the vehicles under our roof, so to speak.

Our Mitsubishi Ambulance,

Mobile Clinic/Community Outreach: Before Ebola AHS had an active mobile clinic program. They had a large ambulance that could serve as a small clinic, and the staff would take it on outreach missions. The ambulance had seen better days and was sold to a man who had plans for it, I guess. Really it was not in usable shape. But…we wanted to revive our mobile clinic program.

The elected head (Councilor) of a large area with many rural villages about 15 miles from here came to us, imploring us to come to his villages and do mobile clinics. If you could see the roads these people have to travel on you would understand how difficult it is to get to medical care unless it is in your village.

So, Mr. Abu, our Community Health Officer (CHO) and Erin Acosta, our Public Health volunteer, got to work and set up a mobile clinic program. It is quite a production with everything organized into tubs and boxes, complete with collapsible tables and chairs so all will fit in a vehicle. A pharmacy formulary was carefully chosen and then modified as we had needs and all the meds prepackaged in unit doses for easy and rapid dispensing. The mobile clinic goes out every week to a different site and usually sees around 30-40 patients, although some days as many as 120 have been seen. It should be noted though, that this is not a “screening clinic” as many mobile clinics are that see 200-300 patients in a few hours. This is a full clinic where we obtain demographic data, full vitals, consultation and dispensing of medications, dressings and injections as needed.

Mobile Clinic Team packed up and ready to go.

Early on it was clear that the population most in need of care was the children, it also became clear that the people in these small villages are desperately poor and are often faced with the choice of food or medications, and even $2 or $3 is too much. Thanks to a grant from Restore a Child we were able to develop a charity mobile children’s clinic. For 3000 leones ($0.40) each children are evaluated and treated and given a 1 kilogram bag of rice. Restore a Child underwrites the expenses with a grant (gift) for which we and the people in rural Sierra Leone are grateful. The program is wildly popular as now mothers and fathers can bring their sick children to the mobile clinic knowing that they will be able to get care.

Little one getting checked in

This year we expanded the mobile clinic to a more traditional screening clinic, for hypertension. Hypertension is a huge problem for Africa, and as the “silent killer” most people have no idea they have it. Once a week the mobile clinic team goes out (now in the ambulance) to one of the markets or some other well populated, busy place and sets up their free Blood Pressure Clinic. They will usually screen 140 to 180 people and find about 20 to 30 people with high BP, sometimes very high. The staff carry BP meds with them which is then dispensed for those willing to start treatment. Thanks to the generosity of some of our supporters we also have funds to assist those who need the medications but can’t afford them. The staff then do lifestyle teaching and encourage the folks to follow up, either at the hospital or at least at the next BP screening.

A little guy with his bag of rice on his head.

Remote Clinics: I have often repeated the story of my first day at Waterloo Hospital. Everywhere I saw ”AHS”, which I learned stood for “Adventist Health System”. I tried to find out where the other facilities were located, since “System” implies more than one hospital or clinic. I was told, with a smile, that there aren’t any, yet. But since 2000 when AHS was created, they have been praying, planning and hoping that someday they would be a system. And in fact, the vision statement of AHS gives us a clear mandate to provide care to all people in Sierra Leone, not just those around Waterloo.

It was not long after we arrived that the first call came in. The Adventist Church in Bo, in central SL, wanted to re-open their clinic. It had closed down during Ebola and they felt the time had come to try it again, this time under the AHS umbrella.

About that time we were approached by an NGO out of the UK, Home Leone, which is in the process of building a 380 unit village for inhabitants of the slums in Freetown. Part of the village plan is a clinic, and they wanted to know if AHS would manage it.

Then a couple of months later we received word that the Adventists in Kono District, better known as the site of the “Blood Diamonds” story, were asking if we would consider opening an AHS clinic in their town of Kimbadu, on the outskirts of Koidu.

Three potential new clinics was a bit overwhelming, but AHS had learned to keep moving as long as God seemed to be leading, and see where He would take us. We had no idea where we would get the money for the necessary capital expenditures in Bo and Kimbadu, but as we spread the news, the SDA elementary school in Simi Valley was touched by the story of Bo and took it on as their mission project. Then the Loma Linda University School of Medicine Class of 2019 adopted AHS as their class mission project, specifically raising money for the Kimbadu clinic. Finally, our relationship with Home Leone has continued to grow, as we are sharing resources to benefit both organizations in our mutual quest to help the people here.

For more frequent, up to the minute short updates please follow us on Instagram or on Facebook, we are Scott N Bekki Gardner.

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

Projects-Chapter 1

Last Sabbath, April 1, marked the one year anniversary for Bekki and I to be in Sierra Leone. The experience here has been very different than our experience in Tchad, but one thing hasn’t changed, God’s providence. As we reflect over all that God has done at the Adventist Health System in Sierra Leone we are humbled and privileged to be a small part of it. This is the first in a multi part series detailing how God has blessed in the last year.

The Strategic Plan Team from April, 2016

In April of last year we held a two day strategic planning meeting. We came out of it with a bold, and to many minds, ridiculous, vision and plan. And I of course was one of those who thought, “It can’t be done,” at least not anytime soon. Well, I thought I would just let you know what has happened to that Strategic Plan and how God apparently views it. As all that I am going to tell you is His doing, not ours.

Doing our SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis led by Master of Public Health, Erin Acosta

OR Upgrade

You may recall that when we arrived I found Dr. Koroma doing amazing operations under very adverse conditions. Inadequate light, no cautery, no suction, an OR table that was frozen in one position, an untrained anesthetist who did not know the most basic airway maneuvers, just to name a few. Oh yea, a super tiny table-top dental autoclave that barely worked, and four other autoclaves that did not work at all. The OR area was packed with outdated (I mean 25 years outdated) items, including suture, and other materials. The minor room was home to four nonworking typewriters, and most rooms were so full of junk it was difficult to open the door.

Our very empty and bleak OR.

After many sweaty hours we were able to get the usable material separated from the unusable, the good from the bad if you will. (And we got the typewriters cleared out.) AHI, Brothers Brother Foundation and Healey Foundation helped us get a new OR table (that works!!!), suction and cautery.

Remy with the autoclave he repaired for us.

Remy Hirschy from Geneva got one of the other autoclaves working for us. Then a grant from the Winifred Stevens Foundation came through allowing us to put in windows that blocked the dust from coming inside, do some badly needed repairs, and I just ordered a new full sized steam autoclave, made specifically for use in mission hospitals, and a generator that will allow us to do surgery after hours.

The moving crew with the new OR Table.

And, last, but not least, Emanuel Soffa completed his anesthesia training course and is now serving as our permanent anesthetist. To help round out his education, Dr. Tim Mercer, Anesthesiologist, LLUSOM Class of ’85 (a great class) came over with his wife Connie, who is a PACU nurse, and did more education with him and set up a PACU protocol for our nurses. We had another team of CRNA’s from Asheville, NC led by Mason McDowell, of Bere Hospital fame, come in March to continue that training and the training of our nursing staff.

Team Tarheel (from Ashville, North Carolina) working with Soffa on spinal technique.


Stores

Bekki was overwhelmed when she was given the monumental task of organizing and inventorying the stores, or warehouse. It is a 40 X 48 foot structure made of termite eaten studs and tarpaulin, it is stuffed with supplies. Again, some useful, much of it not useful. Much of it from Ebola days. We have enough Ebola PPE (personal protective equipment) to last for 20 years.

The state of the stores (central supply), before Bekki took over.

But, in her usual quiet, organized way she started the job. She got several young men who came to be known as Mrs. Scott’s guys to help her as they sorted, cleaned and discarded. Doug Abbot, a nurse from California, came to us for a year, and he has cheerfully taken on the role as her assistant (read taken over the job). He has taken over the inventory process, and does his best to make sure we don’t run out of supplies. Buford SDA Church near Atlanta Georgia helped us with funds to convert an unused area into a mini-warehouse that we climate controlled to preserve the material.

Now in her air conditioned office, Bekki is surrounded by neatly stacked and organized supplies.

So now we have some idea of what we have, and things that have been donated are being used before they outdate, or go bad. Our next goal is to take the three 40 foot containers we have and use them as the walls of a permanent 40X48 warehouse, part of which will be climate controlled. We can then return the current storage space to it’s intended purpose of labor and delivery.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

For more frequent, up to the minute short updates please follow us on Instagram or on Facebook, we are Scott N Bekki Gardner.

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

A Different Kind of Church Service

Church yesterday was a bit different, it was let by the Vacation Bible School students. You see they had VBS this last week, so today was a celebration of that fact. Now most churches when the young people have led out in the church service and Sabbath School it has been the teens and young adults. Not here, they really take this, “a little child shall lead them” thing to heart.

The male quartet singing while the platform participants look on.

The male quartet singing while the platform participants look on.

The kids did it all, they led the song service, they made announcements and called for different ones to have prayer. They even had the mission story. Actually it was the first mission story I have seen here. I have to admit having a mission story in what I consider the mission field, after all I am a missionary here, caused me to pause and consider. It made me realize that no matter where you are, no matter who you are, you can always be a missionary, there is always somewhere else that is worse off than you are, someone else who is worse off than you. So yes it is good for there to be mission stories in the mission field.

Between Sabbath School and Church the kids did a play about a problem the church here is currently facing. It seems they have lost control of their secondary school. It happens because there are often not enough Adventist teachers for the school so they hire non-Adventist teachers. Now there are a lot of great non-Adventist Christian teachers, but the problem is that here in Sierra Leone the standard is to hold classes on Saturdays. The teachers are insisting on having school on Saturdays and insisting that all the students, including the Adventist students, attend classes. So they are in the middle of a power struggle. And you have to understand that the future of these young people depends on their finishing secondary school and getting a good mark on their final examinations. Those test results determine what kind of career they can pursue, what kind of school they can go to. Just shutting down the school won’t solve the problem as then the students will then be forced to go to the government schools and still have to go to school on Saturday. So please pray for this situation, it is a sticky wicket.

A VBS graduate getting his certificate

A VBS graduate getting his certificate

Back to church, the kids called for the offering and even had the sermon. And after church the kids all got their certificates and the audience got food and drink. Other than communion we had never been to a church service where they fed you tuna fish sandwiches and ginger tea. I found a way to return my sandwich without being obvious and insulting anyone. Bekki and Erin drank the ginger tea and paid for it. Apparently it is very strong and burns all the way down, then burns in the stomach for awhile after.

It was all in all a fun interesting Sabbath morning, and good experience for the kids.

The graduates showing off their certificates as parents snap pictures with cell phones.

The graduates showing off their certificates as parents snap pictures with cell phones.

Sabbath afternoon Bekki did her skype thing with the Junior Sabbath School class in Kansas City. She has been doing this for several months now, usually one Sabbath a month, so the kids have been able to see Tchad and now Sierra Leone. It has been pouring buckets so the connection was a challenge. She wanted to show them the choir that was practicing for next weeks Thanksgiving service. But the calls kept getting dropped. The choir was singing a praise song called “One More Time”, so Bekki kept praying and finally tried one more time. This time it worked and she was able to show the kids the choir practice. It truly has been a great experience for the juniors, and for us. If there are any others of you who have Sabbath School classes and would like to skype with us, please let us know. We would be happy to work with you.

First look inside our container.  Everything came through great.

First look inside our container. Everything came through great.

The living room became the recipient of the goods.

The living room became the recipient of the goods.

Last Sunday was a big day, we moved into our house! Hee-haw. It is great, roomy, cooler, and great sleeping in our own bed, with air-conditioning. Then on Thursday we got our first house guests. Our good friends, Suzi and Remy, from Geneva, came to spend a few days with us before flying back to Switzerland. They have been working up at our sister Adventist Hospital, Magbenteh Hospital in McKenni, and came to look us over so they can take a report back to AMALF (French Adventist Medical Association, of which we are members).
Moving day fatigue.

Moving day fatigue.

First meal in the new digs.  Notice the corn chips, America to Tchad to Sierra Leone.

First meal in the new digs. Notice the corn chips, America to Tchad to Sierra Leone.

Suzi working on translating the Dalton Ebola survivor video into French.

Suzi working on translating the Dalton Ebola survivor video into French.

I will never forget the first time we met Suzi and Remy at the AMALF meetings in Valence in 2013. Suzi came up and started talking to us like we had been friends for years, although we had never met before. Little did we know at that moment what a blessing and support they would be through these last few years. Their support and help continued yesterday as Remy, a mechanic extraordinaire, repaired one of our malfunctioning autoclaves and gave us invaluable advice regarding our generators and some vehicles we need to sell. It has been such a delight to spend some time with them. It makes us anticipate even more the AMALF Congress coming up in November when we will be able to share with the other members about what is happening here in Waterloo and spend time with them.
Remy with the autoclave that now works, thanks to his skill.

Remy with the autoclave that now works, thanks to his skill.

Suzi, Erin, Remy and us.

Suzi, Erin, Remy and us.

Blessing the new sign advertising our free BP clinic.

Blessing the new sign advertising our free BP clinic.

This last two weeks have been ones of blessing as we received word that our application for a grant with the Winifred Stevens Foundation had been accepted, we received a major donation from the Buford SDA church which has allowed us to rescue our supplies from the rain and make our outpatient department more usable. And certainly not least God laid a burden on the heart of a young man in Columbia who is coming to spend a year with us to help us with our materials management, inventory and our administration. He has not only his bachelors degree, but his masters as well. Wow, far more than we asked for, and now Erin has someone her own age, rather than just us old geezers. There were tears in my eyes when I read the letter from Teen at the GC telling me about him. God has been good to us and continues to lead us as we slowly move forward.
The river we cross getting to and from the gate to our house.

The river we cross getting to and from the gate to our house.

Bekki crossing the chasm getting to our gate.

Bekki crossing the chasm getting to our gate.


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

Annual Leave

Our time in the United States is just about over. On Tuesday, June 14 we head back to Sierra Leone to again take up our work there. To be frank it has not been much of a vacation in the usual sense of the word, as we have crisscrossed the country doing presentations, meeting with potential donors and volunteers and doing everything we can to tell the incredible story of the Adventist Health System in Sierra Leone.

OK, please give a proud dad a little slack.  We came back for Lindsay's graduation from Southern Adventist University.

OK, please give a proud dad a little slack. We came back for Lindsay’s graduation from Southern Adventist University.

Jon and Lindsay love their mom.

Jon and Lindsay love their mom.

And God has blessed our efforts. Thanks to Adventist Health International (AHI), Brothers Brother Foundation, and Healey Foundation we have a new OR table, suction machines and cautery on a container headed to Freetown. Thanks to donors we have not one, but two operating headlights to use until we get the overhead lights repaired or replaced. We have leads on a refurbished affordable autoclave, we have two anesthesia providers who have committed to coming in the next 8 months to do teaching, and a chaplain who is coming this winter as well. We have hospitals, clinics, and churches who are considering partnering (read adopting) us. I just heard that one of the medical school classes at Loma Linda University is considering taking us on a project.

So it has been busy, but there is still much to be done, please pray that God will give us grace, wisdom and strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

So Lindsay, at the last minute, got me to teach her classes for her.  She learned how to put on PPE, from Sierra Leone.

So Lindsay, at the last minute, got me to teach her classes for her. She learned how to put on PPE, from Sierra Leone.

Bekki and I in our Africa duds with Lindsay in her PPE.

Bekki and I in our Africa duds with Lindsay in her PPE.

On our blog page we added a “Projects” page to keep you updated on the status of the various projects we are working on at the hospital. We also added a “How to Donate” page to give simple, clear instructions on how followers can help out financially. We updated the pictures, and are currently sharing a series of posts sharing the story of Ebola and health care in Sierra Leone.

Bekki and I have been convinced of the new reality that is life in the digital age, and the age of social media. So in addition to our blog we have a Facebook page for Waterloo Adventist Hospital, you can follow us on twitter, and Instagram.

To follow us on Facebook type “Waterloo Adventist Hospital” in the search line, then “like” us when the page comes up. There are two Facebook pages, one is Waterloo Adventist Hospital, run by us. The other is Adventist Health System – Waterloo Hospital and it is run by our administrator, Mr. Joseph Fobbie, it is also a great page to follow.

To follow us on Instagram look for us as “scottnbekki” or “Scott N Bekki Gardner

To follow us on Twitter we are @ahswaterloo60 or Scott Gardner.

If you like our posts, pictures, or stories, please repost, retweet, share with your friends. We want the world to know about Sierra Leone, and the remarkable people who live and work at the Adventist Health System in that beautiful tropical country.

Bekki and I in the Smokies outside of Asheville, North Carolina with the McDowells.  Mason is coming, YEA, to teach anesthesia.

Bekki and I in the Smokies outside of Asheville, North Carolina with the McDowells. Mason is coming, YEA, to teach anesthesia.

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

WATERLOO

Before we moved to Africa one of the most frequent questions we received was, “How long will you be over there?” The quick and easy answer was five years, because that is the “standard” General Conference mission term. But there is no contract, it is not like Cinderella’s coach, at midnight 5 years from when we arrived in Africa our house turns into a pumpkin and the lizards, well they stay lizards. It is not like that at all. Really the only stipulation is that if you leave before 2 years the GC won’t pay to move your things back home. It really is a pretty fair deal.

The real answer to the question was a bit more complicated, because we really didn’t know, and still don’t know. We felt called by God to come here, so we figured we would stay here until we felt He was calling us to go somewhere else. Which can be a bit tricky. It’s not like He is going to call me up to a mountaintop somewhere and tell me His plans, we also don’t have a working Urim and Thummim, (we actually don’t have non-working ones either), and being on malaria prophylaxis we aren’t trusting our dreams for anything.

But we figured He would let us know in His way when it was time to move on. It really came as a surprise when last November it became clear to us that now was the time. We felt like we had just hit our stride here. We had lots of plans, finally knew the ropes, Bekki had just finished decorating the house. God started slamming doors and windows closed faster than you can say “Rainy Season”. Also just as quickly the doors and windows opened for us to go to Waterloo Adventist Hospital in Sierra Leone. And so, although we didn’t receive a handwritten note, or a vision, or an angelic visit, we just knew it was the right thing to do. And now as we wind things down here in Moundou we are just as certain that we are following in God’s path.

In my last post I wrote that the future of CCAM is now in the hands of the Tchadiens themselves. They have been trained, they know what to do and how to do it. They just need to work together, put into practice what they have learned and they will do fine.

Now I would like to turn your attention to the future, to Sierra Leone, to Waterloo SDA Hospital.

For starters Sierra Leone is English speaking. Freetown, the capitol, was settled by freed slaves from England and the US. As more slaves were freed and repatriated there were dropped off in what was to become Sierra Leone. It is not a large country, and is on west coast of Africa. Freetown is on the third largest natural bay in all of Africa. The climate is more tropical and less sub-Saharan. So although it is humid, the temperature stays in the mid 80’s (25 centigrade), with a gentle ocean breeze.

Waterloo is just outside Freetown and only a 30 minute drive to the ocean beaches, which considering it is hot season here in Tchad sounds really really good right now.
The country is rich in resources, but went through a 10 year civil war, and was just getting back on it’s feet when it was hit by the Ebola crisis. So it is very poor, like most of West Africa.

Waterloo Adventist hospital was opened in 2002. It has been run by the Sierra Leoneans since it’s inception. They have never had a western missionary. During the ebola crisis they were an ebola treatment center and actually lost two staff members to ebola. Since then the hospital has been rebuilt and re-opened as a small district hospital. They have one young general medical officer (like a nurse practitioner or PA) trying to keep up with the medical care and even doing some simple surgeries. They have also invested in the future by sending a young Sierra Leonean physician to a surgical residency. He plans to return in two and a half years.
About three years ago, Donn Gaede, a professor in the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University took over as board chairman of the hospital. He has helped guide it along, especially as they went through Ebola. He told me the team they have there is the most faith based team he has ever worked with. He also told me they have been praying for a surgeon for 3 years. It is always cool to be an answer to someone’s prayers.

Since my last post several people have asked what we will be doing there. First off, I won’t be board chair and director of the hospital. I have made it quite clear I am not coming to Waterloo to take it over, or to be the big boss. I am coming alongside the team that is already there and working, to help, counsel and, along with Donn, guide them a bit. As the only physician I will be medical director, but I am OK with that. My main job however, is to develop a surgery program for them, get their OR up and running, and properly equipped, all in preparation for the return of the young man currently in his training. The plan is that he and I will work together for a bit before we head off to our next adventure.

The team in Waterloo plan on putting Bekki to work in the hospital. How that plays out we will see. What I am sure of is that she will be busy and be a huge blessing to the staff, patients, and community.

And for you, our dear readers and friends, we will have lots of opportunities for you to participate with us in this new chapter of our lives. We will desperately need your prayers. Right now we are enjoying the fantasy of a tropical paradise with cool ocean breezes, virgin daiquiris and streets paved with gold and lined with diamonds. On April 1 reality hits. We have no doubt huge challenges await us. Sierra Leone is right now poverty stricken, so I am sure there will be lots of indigent patients who need care, and need help paying for it, and there will be no change in the two venues for receiving donations. Either through the Clarkston SDA Church Africa Mission fund, or through the AHI website (ahiglobal.org) to AHI-Sierra Leone/Waterloo Hospital.

And we will still be welcoming volunteers. For the Americans, you can breathe a sigh of relief. They speak English! For our francophone friends, it will be a great opportunity to practice your English, plus I will be wanting to speak French to you anyway (I am really going to miss that part of it). So nurses, doctors, physical therapists, PA’s, NP’s, dieticians, students, lay people with interest in missions, outreach, and community health, start thinking about a mission trip to a tropical paradise. I promise we will take you to the beach at least once.

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

Physical Therapy

We are currently in N’djamena ready to head back to Moundou on the early morning bus. We just got back from our whirlwind trip to California, primarily to recruit a physical therapist. Since shortly after arriving here we have known that we desperately need a real physical therapist. The best surgery in the world is to no avail if you end up with a stiff, frozen knee.

Rebecca did it, and made a huge difference, until Diana came. She has put her heart and soul into it, but it is not her passion, it is not why she came to Tchad. She has made a huge difference as well, but when we first heard that there was a physical therapist, with business training, and Oh yea, he already speaks French, we were, well we were ecstatic. But as always there was a catch, he might still be going to Haiti. We waited, we prayed, and we waited. Finally Rebecca could stand it no longer (thankfully) and she e-mailed Angeli at the Global Health Office, “is Nick still available, should we continue to hope, or move on?”

Turns out Haiti fell through, (bummer, sorry Nick) and he was thinking and praying about what to do next. When we got that e-mail, it was clear to me what needed to be done. Nick needed to know we were serious, we were really flesh and blood, not just some name on a paper, and if Haiti didn’t need him, we did. The time I could go to California and make a personal appeal was just over two weeks away. It was clear to me that God was in this, everything fell into place, Samedi was available to cover, we were able to get reasonably priced tickets, Nick was available then and so on.

So on March 22 we headed up to N’djamena, caught our flight to Paris to Atlanta and finally after 52 hours got to bed in Los Angeles. It was a very busy week, as we had a lot of things to do while we were in Loma Linda. We met with the AHI and Global Health officers. This is the group that helps manage our hospital, and helps keep us supplied. They provide financial and material support. We were able to attend their committee meeting and tour the warehouse as well as run errands for the missionaries in Bere. The warehouse was impressive, equipment and supplies for all over the world are housed and shipped from there. They were able to put together three 50 pound boxes of supplies for us, catheters, syringes, instruments, sterilization paper and packets and so on.

We met with medical students in the DMA (Deferred Mission Appointment) program. We showed pictures and answered their questions and encouraged them in their quest to serve our Lord. We enjoyed a few days of clean, traffic laws, and climate control. And most importantly, we met with Nick.

Turns out he had pretty much decided to join us, before we arrived, but he was very happy to meet us and have a chance to talk with us. And we got what we came for, a verbal commitment to join us in August, for at least a year. Diana and Rebecca will have the time to pursue their passion of community health and outreach. Our patients will get full time professional physical therapy, and our students and staff will be able to learn from Nick. This in combination with the planned visits and support from our physical therapy friends in Switzerland should really get this off the ground, and hopefully even start an outpatient PT program.

At the same time we got a commitment for 6 months from a nurse who speaks some French as well. He will join us in late July through the end of the year. And we got a commitment from Dr. Salomon to join us as soon as he can get his Tchadien visa. Dr. Salomon is a young physician from the Congo who spent the last 4 years working alone in Koza, Cameroon. I was supposed to join him there, but well, you know that story. The hospital in Koza is just about shut down now, and he was looking for a job and we were looking for help. Match made in heaven, quite literally, I believe. He will be such a help in doing consults, surgeries and ultrasounds. We have a great team forming up for the next year, I really believe that we will be able to take the Center to the next level and beyond. God has been so good to us.

One story before I close. Due to unfortunate changes in how Delta Airlines calculates miles for your status with them (silver, gold, platinum, etc) we got demoted, big time. We had plenty of miles, but Delta apparently didn’t feel we had sent them enough money, so I went from Gold to nothing, a blip on the sheet, and Bekki dropped to Silver. The big problem with this was luggage, with Gold we got extra luggage, which we used to carry supplies. As I said earlier we wanted to take back three boxes of medical supplies, then we had one trunk for ourselves (Fritos and other essential food items). Problem one was that when I checked in on line it said we each only were allowed one bag to check. Problem two was that we had two round trip tickets, LAX to Paris and Paris to N’djamena. By doing it that way it saves $1000 a ticket, seriously (don’t even try to understand airline ticket pricing, it is more confusing than Obamacare). Problem three was that although we booked through Delta, the flights were operated by Air France, and although Delta has always let us take humanitarian baggage for free, Air France is not so generous. And you have to go with the rules of the operating carrier, not the booking carrier, even though they are partners. So we faced potentially a $400 bill for two boxes, $100 each for 2 flights.

Rebecca posted on Facebook asking for prayer, we prayed, and we went up to the ticket counter. First answer to prayer, Air France accepted Rebecca’s silver status, so she got two pieces of checked luggage. However, they called Paris and the home office refused the humanitarian baggage, so we would have to pay for that. Second answer to prayer, they agreed to check our luggage all the way through to N’djamena, even though the flights were booked on separate tickets, so we were now down to $100, which I would have been happy with, but not God, no way. Third answer to prayer, turned out (again don’t even try to understand this) that on our flight to N’djamena we were allowed 5 pieces of checked luggage (2 for me, 3 for Rebecca), and since they checked us all the way through, the computer (not Air France, their computer) gave us that baggage allowance for the whole trip. Total bill $0 (after tickets of course). Then to top it off, all four pieces came through, totally intact. I told Rebecca that poor Air France did not stand a chance against her Facebook prayer warriors and our God.

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