Mbingo Baptist Hospital: view from Mbingo Hill

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!