Mbingo Baptist Hospital: view from Mbingo Hill

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Giving Thanks!

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving here at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. Our American holiday is not well known in Cameroon, and I often forget that Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November is indeed, a US holiday. As such, it is equally unrecognized and/or unobserved by our other expatriate friends here at the hospital coming from Canada and Australia. However, this past week, we had a wonderful celebration of thanks with our expatriate friends here in Cameroon, about 25 of us in total. It was a great chance to share with one another, to express gratitude for the incredible opportunities we've been given, and most of all, to thank our Lord & Savior for his precious gift of life.

Thanksgiving Potluck

Here are some of the things that we have been thankful for here in Cameroon:

1) Our family here at MBH:
Mbingo is a fairly large hospital, and we have many volunteers that come and go during the course of the year. These volunteers in many ways are vital to the success of the hospital - they offer a tremendous amount of manpower, bring new ideas and teaching, allow the permanent people a respite, and bring new enthusiasm and vigor. We are grateful for all of them. However, we are equally thankful for our more permanent family here at Mbingo. Specifically over the past 6 months we have grown very close with the Barriers, the Bardins, and the Streatfeilds. They have become our family away from home!
 We came to Cameroon with Barriers, and have been friends since medical school. Their son, Isaac, is Cathen's best friend; and Lindsay and Angela job share, always allowing one of the ladies to be home caring for the children. It really is an ideal set up, and we are incredibly thankful to be sharing this experience with them. 
 Isaac & Cathen: getting ready to walk to the Thanksgiving feast
The Bardins, Rick & Debbie, are our mentors here at Mbingo, and have been such a wonderful source of support and wisdom. They have been long-term missionaries here and in Nigeria for many years, and are a wealth of knowledge and are our surrogate parents.  Cathen has also grown very fond of both "Noni" and "Popi," and is always excited to spend time at their house.
Keith and Kaye Streatfeild, are from Newcastle, Australia, and are an amazing couple who also have been dedicated to long-term missions for many years, serving in India, Ethiopia, and now Cameroon. Kaye leads our weekly Bible Study, and she and her husband are incredible witnesses of God's grace and love. They too have become family here in Cameroon, and so eagerly share God's love and compassion with us. 
From left to right: Rick & Debbie Bardin, JR & Lindsay Young, 
Keith & Kaye Streatfeild, and Chuck & Angela Barrier
2) Family and friends at home:
Obviously one of the most difficult things about moving abroad is leaving behind family and friends. However, we have been blessed to have relatively easy communication through Skype and FaceTime and even letters. Written reminders of home are cherished, speaking face to face keeps un in touch with our loved ones, and we are incredibly thankful for the unceasing prayers and support. 

3) Our health:
We weren't too sure what type of environment we were moving to in Cameroon when we left the US. There have been some health challenges - asthma control for JR in the dry season; vivid dreams for Lindsay while taking mefloquine for malaria prophylaxis, and adjusting to raising an infant in Africa - but God has graciously brought us through them all. Lindsay has been able to transition from mefloquine to doxycycline, and her sleep is greatly improved. JR, although struggling at times with his asthma (and therefore with the diabetes if requiring steroids), has been generally very healthy and able to avoid any serious problems with his diabetes. Cathen gave us a scare when she suddenly was refusing to bear weight on her right leg, but she has since returned to health and there is no further indication that anything was wrong. 
Admittedly, both JR and Cathen are a little ill while we are writing this post, but God has been and will continue to be faithful. So we are anxious for their fevers to go, and for their health to be restored. We are thankful that we have a loving Father who has it all worked out. 
4) God's mercies in the hospital
The hospital continues to amaze. We have had many sorrows on the wards, but there have also been many positive stories for which we give thanks. We had a twin male admitted with respiratory failure. He is the first child whom we have successfully resuscitated and brought back to life. He is also the first child to successfully use the heated high-flow oxygen delivery system that Keith brought back from Australia for use on the pediatrics ward. The infant was apneic and bradycardic when he arrived, and he is now home with his mother. The wonderful success is tempered by the death of his twin sister during the same admission, but his life is a tribute to God's grace. A teenage male presented to the hospital with massive right leg swelling, and was found to have a DVT secondary to Burkitts Lymphoma and associated venous stasis. His cancer was rapidly progressive, but he is now status post his chemotherapy and is walking around the hospital with no residual leg swelling. We had a 37-wk female born with severe intrauterine growth restriction (birth weight of 1.2 kg), who thrived in the nursery, and is now home with her loving mother after a successful transition to the incubator, and then an open crib. Although snake bites are not incredibly common here, we did have a young lady admitted with a possible green mamba snake bite. We are incredibly thankful to say that the bite did not envenomate her and she lived with minimal morbidity from the wound. These are just a few examples.
 Burkitts Lymphoma and DVT

 Many of the cases we see we are unable to intervene in a way that will restore a child to full health or to prevent death. However, seeing God's hand at work and saving these children who conventionally should note have survived is a tremendous honor and privilege.

5) Mark and Chloe coming to visit:
Last of all, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of JR's parents, Mark & Chloe, who are coming to visit during the Christmas holiday. We are incredibly excited to have family out here to see and experience our day to day life, and to share with us during this celebration of Christ's birth. 
Thank you for taking the time to share with us. We love you and miss you. Thank you for your prayers and support.

JR, Lindsay, & Cathen

Thanksgiving Day: JR, Lindsay, and Cathen

Friday, September 28, 2012

The latest...

Greetings! It has been a while since our last post, and a lot has happened since then. To briefly catch you up to speed, here are a few highlights:

1. I was a bachelor for the month of August as Lindsay and Cathen returned home to the US to celebrate Rory’s wedding with Mike Ruma. Their arrival was a surprise to the entire Sallach clan (except for Bob – who did an excellent job of keeping it secret)! They had a great time with the family, were able to take part in the beach wedding, and also spent time with my parents and many of our friends who live back in North Carolina. It was a long month here in Mbingo, and even though I missed them terribly, I am glad they were able to be there to celebrate with Rory and Mike and to catch up with family and friends.
Rory & Mikes' wedding

2. After almost eight months in Mbingo, and only four trips off the hospital compound, we finally took a family vacation. Shortly after Lindsay and Cathen returned from the US, we took a weeklong trip to Kribi, a beautiful beach town in southern Cameroon. We went with the Barriers and had a blast. It was a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. We were blessed to have two pediatricians and a family practitioner here to cover the wards in our absence and to continue the resident education. 
Kribi: enjoying the waves with Mommy & Daddy

3. Cathen is growing up fast! The month that she was back home with Lindsay her walking and talking took off. She is all over the place now, and is gaining new words daily. She is also broadening her culinary selection but thankfully, still loves the fallbacks – avocado and papaya. Most recently, she has become a big fan of Cynthia’s shepherd’s pie and potato soup.
Taking her animals (courtesy of Uncle Brett) on a walk

4. The pediatrics ward was interesting the last few weeks leading up to our vacation. We had fewer patients than typical, but the severity of illness was stunning. Again, dealing with the reality of death here in Cameroon has been a difficult transition for all of us.

5. We currently have three new isolettes/incubators under construction for use in our neonatal nursery. We were hoping to build a new building for the nursery to move into, but after reviewing the building schematics, we will likely reallocate and reorganize space within the current building. We are also excited that a neonatologist will likely be coming out to visit and help with modifying/improving our algorithms and with teaching. There is a lot of work to be done, but we are getting there.

6. Our newest member to the team, Dr. Christy Lee, an OB-GYN, arrived a few weeks ago as part of the Samaritan’s Purse, World Medical Mission, Post-Residency Program (the same program we are here with). We are thrilled to have another colleague here and a partner to work with in the maternity ward.

Those are some of the highlights of the past month. We are all safely home together and have now restarted work on the wards and in clinic. Betty, Angela's mother, has been with us for the past two weeks as well, which has been excellent.

We plan to post some other photos of the past month on Shutterfly, and we will include a link on the blog in the next few days if you are interested.

Thank you for your prayers and support. Blessings,

JR, Lindsay, & Cathen

Friday, August 10, 2012

When all else fails...

About a month ago, a young boy arrived to our outpatient department (OPD) in severe respiratory distress. He was gasping for each breath, and we were fairly certain he was going to die. Based on the initial history (a few days of URI symptoms), he was immediately placed on oxygen and treated as an asthmatic (he had essentially no air movement and a prolonged expiratory phase). However, despite a full court press (back-to-back and then Q1-2H nebs, SC epinephrine, IM magnesium, IV dexamethasone, and aminophylline), we made almost no headway. He persisted to have essentially no air movement. A few days into his course, he became acutely more distressed and developed massive subcutaneous emphysema and a large left tension pneumothorax, requiring an emergent needle decompression on the floor, followed by placement of a chest tube. Once the tube was placed, we could finally hear some air movement, and we were able to hear a fixed, monophonic wheeze emanating from the trachea. He had a foreign body! We rushed him to the OR for a bronchoscopy... and no foreign body was found. At this point, one week into his stay, he had shown no improvement with asthma treatment and although he clinically looked like a foreign body, there was no foreign body on direct bronchoscopy. What was the next step?

He was presumptively placed on antibiotics with risk for super-infection, and then we waited. Our ENT was out performing surgeries at a different facility, but was due back in town in a few days. So we weaned down on our asthma medications, but continued high dose dexamethasone to prevent further airway edema. When our ENT returned, 3 days later, he went back to the OR for a second look. This time, we weren't even able to pass the vocal cords because of the edema and inflammation. What was our next step? On repeat history with the family (which, by the way, is next to impossible to obtain), we "confirmed" our suspicion about a foreign body as mom indicated he had been eating peanuts (called "groundnuts" here) prior to the onset of respiratory distress (although this was the fourth completely different history obtained in as many attempts).

We continued the steroids and antibiotics and removed the albuterol, and waited for a third attempt to localize the foreign body. He made small improvements with the steroids, but a few days later, he again acutely decompensated, becoming cyanotic and struggling for each breath. Our ENT, who had again been out at surrounding facilities performing surgeries, had just come back to Mbingo about 10 hours prior, and was called to take him back to the OR at 4am. This time, he found what we were looking for - numerous pieces of groundnut in both mainstem bronchi. Once the pieces were out, his respiratory status stabilized, and the patient rapidly recovered.

We did everything we could for this patient: we treated him as best we were able given the history and the clinical presentation, but despite our efforts, he didn't improve. Even though we knew the underlying problem, we were helpless to effectively intervene. Then when the patient was seemingly making small steps towards improvement, he acutely decompensated and almost died. When all else failed, however, God came through. It was no coincidence that our ENT had just come back from working at outside facilities in time to rush him to the OR. And even though the vocal cords were too edematous to pass previously, Dr. Acha now had clear passage to remove the pieces of groundnut. Princewill is alive now not because of what we did, but because God decided to intervene and saved his life. When all else fails, God comes through. Thanks be to God that despite our limitations and bumblings, He is able to bring healing when there is seemingly no solution.

Princewill - post the third bronchoscopy and removal of the groundnuts


The past few weeks have been full of mountaintops and valleys, and have truly highlighted the ups and downs of medicine and life. Lindsay and Cathen flew back the United States to attend Rory's wedding, which provided an awesome opportunity for them to see family and celebrate. Of course, being here alone without my two ladies has been difficult.

We had an incredible recovery of a young boy who had aspirated a groundnut (peanut), and a teenage girl who presented with a massive anterior mediastinal mass and SVC syndrome is responding to her chemotherapy (and we were able to make an "official" histologic diagnosis of Burkitt lymphoma by sending pathology slides to Dr. Bardin to review while he is on vacation in the US). These were tremendous highs.

Those successes have been tempered by the busiest week of our 6 months here in Cameroon - while the hospital is short-staffed (we are currently missing 6 of our 10 expatriate physicians), and feeling helpless as patient after patient gets admitted to the ward and we are unable to diagnose or treat the problems. We have had more deaths in the past week than in the past two to three months combined.

The constant swing of emotions begins to take its toll, and the last couple days have been difficult. However, I was greatly encouraged last night as we were reading in Luke chapter 9 at our weekly Bible Study. After being sent out on a mission to heal the sick, the disciples return and Jesus takes them off to a desolate place to rest and recover. Rather than rest, however, they are swarmed by the masses. Jesus' response was that he "had compassion" on the crowd and "healed their sick" (Mt. 14:14). The disciples ask Jesus to send the people away to go and find food, thinking logically and knowing that they were unable to provide for them. Jesus instead replies - "You give them something to eat" (Luke 9:13). The feeding of the 5,000 ensues and what appeared a disastrous scenario turns into something miraculous.

The last week has beaten me down and I have felt unable to provide for the barrage of patients. However, even when the disciples knew their inability to meet the needs of the crowd, Jesus provided. He had called them there, and He would not let them flounder. Likewise, we've been called here for a purpose, and although I often cannot provide for my patient's various needs, God can.

Thank you for your prayers and support, for encouraging me, and for joining us as we try to bring healing to the sick.

Here are some photos that we took shortly before the girls left town:

Cathen & Gracia
(Gracia is Dr. Francine's daughter)

My Two Ladies

Marching Ants

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catching Up

Our internet was down for a few days, which allowed for some time to catch up on life. A lot has happened since we last posted, so I will try to give an overview in brief snippets:

Graduation: the culmination of many years of hard work came to fruition for two of our fine residents a couple weeks ago with our first CIMS (Christian Internal Medicine Specialization) graduation. Drs. Divine Jam and Francine Kouya are the first two graduates of the four-year program, and will be serving at Banso Baptist Hospital and continuing training in South Africa in the field of oncology, respectively. The graduation ceremony was well attended by members of the Cameroon Baptist Convention in addition to the expatriate medical missionaries that are training the residents here at Mbingo. It was an honor to be part of the ceremony, but more so to be part of the training that is occurring here at Mbingo Baptist Hospital (MBH). We are excited to continue to work on the pediatrics curriculum (the CIMS program is ~ 15% pediatrics training) and to further the education of the residents.

Dr. Divine Jam & Dr. Francine Kouya with the Attending Physicians
(Chuck Barrier, Rick Bardin, Angela Barrier, Dennis Palmer, Divine Jam, JR Young, Francine Kouya, Kaye Streatfeild, Lindsay Young)

Ward Changes: nursing here at MBH works on an antiquated system where rather than assign nurses to individual patients, each nurse on duty manages a particular skill set for the shift – vitals, oral medications, IV fluids, etc. We have found that with the current system, the comprehensive details surrounding each patient sometimes get lost. As such, we have spoken with the head nurse of the hospital and are hoping to try a pilot of sorts, revamping nursing on the children’s ward to have each nurse care for about 5 individual patients. The hope is that we will be able to have a more complete picture of what is occurring with the patient when both the resident and the nurse have ownership of individual patients. Change is never easy, but we hope and pray that we can really improve patient care by implementing this change on the children’s ward. If all goes well, we will then promote change on the other medical wards as well.

Comings & Goings: many of our friends and colleagues have recently left for furlough. The Palmers (Dennis created the internal medicine program here, and his wife Nancy, is the administrative head of the program and a doctor of psychology) have gone home to the US for 5 months. Keith and Kaye Streatfeild (anesthesiologist and internist, respectively) have returned to Australia for 10 weeks. The Sparks (Steve heads up the PAACS [Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons] program at MBH) have returned home to the US for 6 months. The Bardins (Rick is our pathologist and Debbie is a nurse working in the HIV Clinic) are leaving in July to return to Nashville and Colorado for one month. In addition to the faculty that have returned home to raise support and to reunite with family, we have graduated our two senior residents, and two of our house officers (essentially interns) are transferring to other CBC facilities. In their absence, we are all filling in as best as possible and trying to divvy up the workload. Pediatrics (which was created just 5 months ago here at MBH) is now the best staffed of the services with three attendings! We will miss our friends and colleagues, but we are excited that they have the opportunity to return home, to relax with family and friends, and to raise support so as to continue their work here in the coming months.

Fortunately, we are blessed with frequent visiting physicians to help lend a hand on the wards and to teach. We currently have two wonderful couples with us: Robert & Melissa (Neurologist and Pediatric Nurse) and Dorothea & Drew (Psychiatrist and Anesthesiologist). They have been a wonderful addition to the team and have really helped to smooth things out with many of our colleagues out of town.

The crew - up early on Saturday morning before rounds to go hiking

Chickens: our first batch of chickens have grown up, fattened up, and already appeared on our dinner table… chicken pot pie, Banso chicken stir fry, fried chicken, chicken fajitas, etc., etc. The chicken coop was a huge success, thanks to Chuck, and now that the first four chickens have been eaten, we have a new batch of chicks for the kids to enjoy until they too become dinner. Chickens are rather pricey here in Cameroon (not to mention quite chewy), so raising them on our own is cheaper and it provides entertainment for the kids (and the adults when the chickens escape from the coop – one of the ornery chicks got out three times just during a recent evening’s dinner!).

The chicken coop

Hiking: it had been almost three weeks since I'd been out for a good hike, so Chuck and I got up early last Saturday morning before rounds and took a 3.5 hour hike up the mountains on the east side of the hospital. We ascended just under 2000 feet and got an incredible early morning panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. It was phenomenal, and a great reminder of the beauty that surrounds us here.

Looking back at MBH

Panoramic facing southeast

Medicine: In the past week alone we have seen a barrage of pediatrics cases on the wards and in clinic. Some of the more interesting cases included:
-       Suspected congenital adrenal hyperplasia in a 5 week old
-   Disseminated MAC 
-       Pseudomonal infection of crush injury
-       Cerebral malaria x 2
-       Gram-negative meningitis (likely H. flu)
-       Bilateral retinoblastoma, presenting with an exophytic mass (extending ~3 inches from facial plane)
-       Burkitt’s Lymphoma presenting with intraoral mass, sepsis, acute renal failure, and right cranial nerve 3 palsy
-       Hepatic mass with obstructive jaundice and ascites
-       Inflammatory bowel disease
-       Osteomyelitis with sequestrum
-       Suspected adrenoleukodystrophy

We miss you all and cherish your prayers and support. Thanks for following along. Blessings.

Picture Quiz: Does anyone know what this is? This is really random…


Thursday, July 5, 2012


Maybe we should have seen it coming. They really were two of a kind: rebellious but sweet, always demanding what they wanted, and succeeding in obtaining their demands. He had those rugged good looks with longish, scruffy hair that flowed in the wind, and a way with the ladies. She was somewhat of a tomboy, with short, scraggly hair and trousers as her favorite garb. And her smile – it could win your trust in a moment, and break your heart the next. He showed up one day on our side of the compound, engine blaring, with a huge smile on his face. He was courteous enough to ask, and with his charm, somehow convinced my wife that this was a good idea. Our daughter was enamored to say the least, and without a moment’s hesitation, she jumped on the back of his revved up mustang, and they drove off into the distance. They looked happy, and he was truly affectionate in his care of her… but we keep asking – “aren’t they too young to be riding off together like this? Should we have done something to prevent this? Or are they simply destined to be together… destined to ride?”

    Rugged good looks                                                        Tomboy

    The Asking                                                                     Jumping at the offer

    Enamored                                                                      Loving

    Destined to ride

Starring: Isaac Barrier and Cathen Young

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We have settled in to life here in Mbingo. Work is steady, at times hectic, challenging, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding. We are seeing a much broader scope of infectious diseases here than we did back home, but we are also seeing first hand just how remarkable a recovery a child can make - even when we do not specifically know what we are treating. We have had a handful of children who presented altered, somnolent, and in status epilepticus - likely secondary to a viral meningoencephalitis - who have made remarkable recoveries and walked out of the ward.  We currently have a 13 yo with cryptococcal meningitis (despite being HIV negative) who presented comatose and is now asking for his older brother. God is the healer and we have seen His miraculous hand at work over and over.

Boris: 2 weeks post-operative                                                                                     Boris: heading home

The most poignant example that comes to mind is Boris. Boris is a 5 yo who came in after being hit in the head with a piece of rebar. He progressed rapidly to mental status changes and signs of increased intracranial pressure, and was rushed to surgery where they found a frontal lobe abscess. The surgeons were able to debride the area but in doing so had to resect the entire right frontal lobe. 2 weeks later, he is being discharged home looking and acting for all the world as if nothing ever happened (other than a nice surgical scar). God is good!

The recoveries like Boris' and the teaching keep our spirits up. However, the constant nagging of not truly knowing the diagnoses, of not having access to the studies and tests we would like, and feeling inadequate for the task make it hard. In the absence of cultures we are simply treating all of these patients empirically - what are the common bugs, and what are the bugs that could rapidly kill them, and what can we give to cover those processes. However, we are reminded that it isn't the medicine that matters. We don't have to have the right answer or the cure with each patient, and in fact, we cannot. Our role here is just as much to show these patients and their families that we care, to give our best effort, and to let God intervene where we clearly fall short. Thankfully, He is a great God, and He succeeds where we cannot.

On another note (and to give room for some more photos) Cathen is now a little over 9 months old. She is growing like a weed, and is active as a bunny rabbit. We are ever-thankful for the health and safety that she has been provided. Here are some new pictures that we took in our friends' garden:

Saturday, May 26, 2012


In addition to the goal of training local residents here at Mbingo, one of our main projects is to get the neonatal nursery up and running. There are many challenges to this goal, including space and equipment, as well as lack of formal training, but we are hopeful that this will become a reality while we are here. Currently there are two semi-functional incubators that can be used for premature babies that need help with temperature control and evaporative water loss. However, the thermostats do not function well, and we are having great difficulty maintaining normal temperatures for the babies (which in turn makes it difficult to assess for infection, as fever is one of the primary criteria). Despite the setbacks, a well-organized nursery would be a tremendous asset to the hospital, providing life-saving treatment to late pre-term infants who otherwise would not survive. We hope to raise some monetary support to build incubators to get things jump-started (it turns out that building simplistic, but sturdy incubators is easier than trying to maintain a new incubator with all the bells and whistles). We are also using bubble CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) here in the nursery for babies with respiratory distress (we do not currently have the ability to intubate and ventilate neonates), which has been a great addition to the practice. The CPAP was actually started by Dr. Sara a couple of months before we arrived, and is being continued as it is an excellent adjunct to care as it offers respiratory support for babies who are otherwise well, but just need a little extra help to make it through the first week or so of life.

As an update, we recently had our first true nursery success stories: an ex 31-wk premature infant and an ex 32-wk premature infant - both of whom had respiratory distress requiring CPAP, neonatal sepsis (one with necrotizing enterocolitis), and feeding difficulties - were recently discharged home after greater than one month in the nursery. The children look great, have gained excellent weight, and are now stable without additional respiratory support or temperature control. We hope to expand the nursery and obtain more incubators to be able to provide these life-saving measures to additional children. Thank you for your support.

JR and the two premature babies and their mothers on the day of discharge

Our current incubators... which work some of the time. They are rather temperamental and do not hold a steady temperature for the babies.


Well, we have officially been welcomed to Cameroon, or at least that is what we have been told...

There is a small insect known as the Rove Beetle that is endemic to Cameroon (as well as a few other places across the globe), that reportedly has the most poisonous venom known to man - 12x more potent than cobra venom. It does not typically cause problems, unless you unwittingly smash the creature on your skin, causing the toxic liquid to squirt out all over you. Well, we have both been creechied. I received the bug juice on my arm (which spread to my upper arm and torso), and the infection got super-infected with Staph, so I am now on an oral penicillin as well as topical steroids. Poor Lindsay, in addition to the intense burn and then itch, developed a severe id reaction to the mess (a systemic inflammatory response that results in small red, itchy bumps and small vesicles all over) and has been frightening her patients away!

All that being said, the itch is improving, we are on the mend, and we will hopefully be off of medications within the next 2 weeks. Yikes!

JR's arm: the area spread for the first two days and became edematous as well as intensely pruritic. The actual dermatitis eventually resembles a burn wound as the toxin is so strong.

 Lindsay's id reaction

Sleep has been difficult because of the itching, but systemic steroids work wonders. Thankfully once the initial insult was over, we are not able to spread the rash to our patients, although we have had a lot of explaining to do so that they are not afraid!

Love you all.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Good morning to all, and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms! I hope that you are able to take some time off and enjoy family this very special day. We have had a nice mother's day here at Mbingo. Chuck and I were able to get up early and take care of the kids to let Lindsay and Angela sleep in; and we made omelets and mango/pineapple pancakes for a celebratory breakfast. It was a feast!

 Breakfast out on the veranda before church

Lindsay and Angela, along with their friend, Jamie, made cookies for the missionary moms here at Mbingo and distributed them door-to-door this afternoon to celebrate mother's day in the absence of their children. Jamie came up with the idea, and it was a wonderful surprise and a heartwarming gift for the moms.

Angela, Kaye, Lindsay, Jamie:
Kaye is a physician from Australia, here with her husband, Keith, who is an anesthesiologist. 
Jamie is a physical therapist who has been here at Mbingo for the past 2 years. 

We also took the opportunity to get Cathen dressed up in some of her new 9-mo clothes for an impromptu photo shoot!
Cathen and Mom in the front yard

Cathen in her new outfit. She'll be 9 months in just 4 days!

Mommy and Cathen

Daddy and Cathen

Thank you, Moms. We love and cherish you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bringing it home... taking a break

Well, we have all managed to catch colds over the past few weeks. First it was Angela, then Lindsay, then Cathen and Isaac. Chuck held out strong for a while, but eventually succumbed as well. I thought I was in the clear... but am now also battling the sniffles and an asthma flare. We seem to be doing our best to pass it round and round and round... but hopefully we'll clear it soon. This is just one of the joys of working on the pediatrics ward... lots of sniffles and colds.

Separation of work from the home is challenging, especially here at Mbingo, which is a small, rather insulated community. We live only three minutes from the ward and the clinic! However, other than the obvious need to not bring germs home, more importantly, is a mental separation from what we see and do on the wards, and not letting disappointments and defeats creep into home life. Maintaining a positive outlook on things when work seems bleak has been more challenging here than back in the US. Perhaps it is our close proximity to work, maybe the lack of diversions. Whatever the case, it has been challenging to stay positive on the wards, remain empathic towards our patients, and to not allow disappointments from work enter life at home.

However, we are fortunate to have wonderful friends and fellowship here, and a few things in particular help to keep us sane when things are tough:

1) Beautiful views & hiking:

These two photos are actually panoramic shots from the Sparks' backyard: one in early morning, and the other just before sunset.

2) Weekend retreat:
Our friends, the Sparks (Steve is a PAACS Surgeon here at MBH), offered for us to stay in their guest house for the weekend. They live about 10 minutes from the hospital and have a ridiculous view of the surrounding landscape.

 Cathen's 8-month photo shoot in the Sparks' backyard

3) Sunday night praise & worship:
We have started gathering together every other Sunday to play guitar, sing songs, and fellowship. This has been a much needed respite and a wonderful time to relax and enjoy time with friends away from the hustle and bustle of work. 

4) Baked goods, home made ice cream, and fresh coffee:
Although we have all lost weight since moving here (we thought this might happen... but don't worry, we are not wasting away), we are blessed to have a wonderful friend, Cynthia, who enables us to work at the hospital by helping us as a fantastic cook, and we are enjoying daily meals (local fare and meals from home); weekly cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and cakes. We have also borrowed an ice cream maker for the weekend. Then of course, there is the coffee - locally grown, freshly roasted and ground, and brewed to perfection every morning with our french press (thanks to Chuck Larson for bringing the press!). It is excellent!

Again, we miss you all, and wish you were here. Shoot us an email if you have a moment - we'd love to hear how you are doing. Blessings!