Monday, May 31, 2010

7 days...

Yikes. 7 days from now I will be in my new place in Freetown. Exciting thought, yet somehow I got a little anxious today thinking about a new job, new location, new colleagues, etc. I so hope I will be able to do this job well. I also got a little panicky thinking about what to do if the job only lasts through mid-November. What to do next? I quickly told myself not to jump ahead. After all, I have enough to focus on this week. And whatever happens, happens and I'll figure that out in August when I know for sure how long I'll be in this new position. Plus, this will be a great experience no matter how long it lasts. Anyway, 7 days to go and lots to do. I need to buy some last minute items in town, pack up my room, sort through clothes and basically with everything- see what gets packed, stored or given away! Somehow I also managed to make lots of plans for this week: meeting with church elders tomorrow evening, babysitting Wednesday afternoon, lunch with my niece on Thursday (so cute!), babysitting Thursday evening, possibly watch Zoey swim Friday afternoon (swimming lessons), visit with my grandparents Friday evening, church on Sunday. Oh yes, lots to do. I better get off of the computer and either tackle another 'to do' item or get some sleep. 7 days and counting...

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memories & Hopes...

I am sorting through my stuff and found a few cd's with pictures. One of them contained pictures taken by an amazing photographer, Esther Havens, when she came to Sierra Leone a few years ago. Looking at these pictures brings back great memories of the clinic, the children and my 4+ years in Sierra Leone. And yes, that is Piglet sitting on my desk. Piglet was very helpful in keeping the children's tears away! These are picture of the past, yet when I look at them they bring hope for the future. I am very aware that my next phase in Sierra Leone will be very different than the former. New colleagues, new living situation, new work etc. I wonder what the transition will be like; not only the transition from Holland to Sierra Leone, but the transition in my mind of what life was like in Sierra Leone to what it will be like now. But I am very hopeful that this next phase will be as good, if not better than before. Don't get me wrong, I had a great 4+ years there, but I believe that as we move forward in life we need to strive for something bigger, something better. Something that brings us closer to making our dreams become a reality. I hope that through this new job I will be able to make a difference on a larger scale. At the hospital, amongst my colleagues and friends and in the lives of patients. Even though I will primarily have a non-clinical role I am hoping I will be able to connect with the children and their caretakers. I want the children and their caretakers to leave the hospital with big smiles on their faces, not only changed physically, but on other levels as well. I am certain that although my job and circumstances will not be as they are pictured above, I will find many reasons to be joyful. I am sure I will be found once again with smiling children in my office and a 'piglet of sorts' to keep away potential tears. I must look for a piglet replacement next week to take with me!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tolo is walking...

Remember Francellot, my knight, a.k.a. Tolo? I recently received an email from his father telling me that Tolo talks about me and some of my other team mates all the time. He is now living in a tent with his family and is back in school. The best news of all is that he is walking again, although not very well yet according to his father. It's a great beginning though. I would love to see this boy again someday! For now, pictures will have to do. On the left Tolo with fixators in both upper legs and a big smile on his face. On the right, a big smile after returning from Medishare where his fixators were removed in late March!

Growing, growing, growing...

I'm sure that anyone who was following my blog while I was in Haiti will remember the two babies that were in the post-op ward (see here and here). Jean and Kevin. The latest update is that they have moved into the orphanage, are healthy and have grown a lot. Yeah! I'm still hoping for families for them and have no idea where that process is at right now. In the meantime I am sure they are getting their share of cuddles from the children and staff at the orphanage as well as from volunteers passing through. Keep growing little guys. Check out Jean's belly now! Jean on the left, Kevin on the right.


Remember Louise? She is the one with a tibia/fibula fracture with long leg cast on her right leg, a femur fracture with an external fixator on her left leg, a large ulcer like lesion on her lower back and many scrapes and scratches all over her body. She is also the one who had a massive infestation of worms. And the one who was abandoned by her family. She's the one with the very sad story but with a continuous smile on her face. She is one of my heroes.

I recently heard from a friend who is still in Haiti that Louise is still at the orphanage. She ended up having to return to Medishare Hospital for a skin graft due to a swollen leg/foot, likely an infection. And her bones are healing VERY slowly. She no longer has the cast but still has the pins in her upper leg. However, despite everything, Louise continues to smile and enjoy life. I have no idea what the family situation is like at the moment, but hope that Louise feels loved and accepted at the orphanage. You can see her practicing to walk in the photo above and see how she is enjoying time with her new friends at the clinic/orphanage (pictures from left to right are Louise, Nancy and Founa). I am hoping for continued physical and emotional healing for all of them as all three of them are still there. Keep it up girls!

You can read the other posts about Louise here and here.

Prosthetic limbs...

Crystell is a 14 year old whose parents died in the Haiti earthquake. While rescuing her nephew, a wall collapsed on her leg, and her leg was amputated shortly afterwards. I have previously written about her here and here. Crystell had to move to the orphanage because her siblings did not want to take care of an amputee. As you can imagine, this made Crystell very sad and very self-conscious. However, with a lot of encouragement and perseverance Crystell is headed in the right direction. Quite literally she is heading towards a brighter future, as she was fortunate to receive a prosthetic limb about a month ago. How exciting! Three of the other children who had lower limb amputations also received prosthetic limbs, including Mistil I’ve been told! How I would love to see a picture of him with his new leg! For his story click here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pages added...

Hooray for Blogger for adding a new feature to blogspot. This saves me the hassle of trying to create a new site. If you haven't noticed, I have added tabs just under the header. Click on these tabs to find out more about me, the organization I am working for, the country I will be living in or to see some photos and video footage. Enjoy the new layout and extra features. And feel free to leave comments at any time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Namina's story...

Three and a half year old Namina and her mother arrived at the Mercy Ships outpatient clinic for children on January 21, 2009 after being referred from the Lungi Government Hospital following a one month admission there. She had been referred to the Mercy Ships clinic for surgical reconstruction of her face.

Namina had been inflicted with a devastating disease known as “cancrum oris” or “noma”. This disease is rightly referred to as the “face of poverty”, affecting the poorest of the poor. At the age of 3 ½ years, Namina weighed only 10 kilograms; her malnutrition making her more susceptible to infection. It started as a small lesion in her mouth but soon spread and turned into a gangrenous flesh eating disease causing massive destruction of her facial tissues. With a high mortality rate, few people survive. Yet Namina was a survivor, but it left her face disfigured.

The initial thought was to send her back to Lungi because this was not a condition that could be treated in the clinic; reconstructive surgery was not available. However, within minutes this little girl captured the hearts of those working in the clinic. The doctor went ahead and examined Namina to see the extent of the damage. It was bad. Sure enough there was a gaping hole in the left side of her face. It was a hideous sight. It was heartbreaking. However, Namina had already proved she was a fighter. She had survived the intial infection and it was now our job to make sure she continued to improve. Not only did she have a disfigured face, she also suffered from malnutrition and malaria. Immediately, the staff provided the necessary medications and nutritional support needed, as well as the wound care that was required. It was obvious that it would take months for the wound to heal enough so that reconstructive surgery could be considered. The follow-up was intense.

For weeks Namina and her mother came to the clinic for wound care; in the beginning as often as three to four times a week. The wound care was often a painful process in which the wound was thoroughly flushed and cleaned with saline solution and then dressed with sterile gauze. This often brought tears to Namina’s eyes, but once the dressing change was over, she was ready to play again and always looked forward to choosing a toy from the toy box. Nutritional support was given to Namina in the form of a high protein drink and as time went by, progress could be seen. Not only was the wound starting to heal, but Namina was becoming stronger and healthier.

After five months, Namina has turned into a vibrant little girl. She still has a small hole in the left side of her face, but it has healed considerably. Namina is happy. And both her mother and the staff of the outpatient clinic are very pleased with the results. It is now time to move on to the next step and look into possibilities for reconstructive surgery. The process is not over yet, but Namina has come a long way.

Other posts related to Namina can be found here and here.

Permission from Namina's mother was given for the publishing of her story.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mercy Ships announces...

While trying to figure out a way to get one of my former Sierra Leone patients, Namina, to the ship for surgery I found out that it may just be easier to wait until the ship arrives in Sierra Leone. Agreed, except for the fact that this was just around the time that it was not yet certain if the ship would or would not go to Sierra Leone in 2011. However, on April 20th I read on the Mercy Ships blog that Sierra Leone is the chosen country for the 2011 Field Service and that the protocols and Memoranda of Understanding had been signed. Good news. How exciting to know that the people in Sierra Leone will be able to access the surgical/dental care that is lacking in the country. As you may know, the ship was supposed to go to Sierra Leone 2 or 3 times during my time there in 2005-2009 but those trips were cancelled one after another. I am hoping and praying that this time, the ship will really go. I believe this will happen. And I know the people of Sierra Leone will be blessed. I am also thankful to know that some of the patients I have met in 2005-2009 will finally be able to have their surgeries. Many of the cleft lip patients at the time were sent to the ship in Liberia but there were many eye patients, orthopedic patients, and burn contracture patients that I had to continuously disappoint. I am praying they will each make their way to the screening next year. And for Namina, I am thrilled that she will be able to have surgery. We had a very intense 6 months together in 2009 when she came to the clinic multiple times a week for wound care due to a disease called noma or cancrum oris and I can't wait to see her face restored. You can read about Namina's story here and here and in the next blog post.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another article...

Another newspaper article (in Dutch) about one of my Haiti presentations in an elementary school in the area. Basically starts by saying that when in elementary school, it's not everyday you have a special guest in your classroom. But that the children of this specific school did have a visitor from a real doctor. Cute. It then states that I showed pictures and told stories about my time in Haiti. And that the children were listening, speechless, as I told stories about children their own age, affected by the earthquake. About Francellot, the boy with two broken legs. And Marie, the victim who has never been to school but was taught to write her name by me. It mentions that the children in the school raised money for Haiti and that a portion of the money was given to me and used to buy medication for Haiti. A good article. Once again bringing Haiti into the spotlight!

Link to news on Deve...

I have previously written about my two-year-old Haitian friend Deve here and here. Amanda, a friend I met in Haiti recently flew and drove down to Tampa, Florida to spend some time with Deve and her father in the hospital there. You can read her account and get the most recent update on Deve here. I am so thankful she is doing well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quotes for today...

Two quotes I read today and liked. Source unknown.

"We in our [faith] work stumble along toward where we think we’re supposed to go, bumbling along, and here is what’s so amazing – we end up getting exactly where we’re supposed to be."

"There is no paved highway to take us where we’re supposed to be – no path set in stone carved with our name. Our future is not a maze, in which we must guess at the only right path to lead us to the only right destination. Instead, we are on a journey in which God gives us constantly evolving options, depending upon our choices and the choices of others."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dreamgiver journal entry...

Quoting (in italics) from my journal entry on June 28, 2009 about a week before I left Sierra Leone.

One day he heard the Dream Giver say, "Come Further". As he [stepped outside the gate] he felt strangely uncomfortable. He looked toward the distant Unknown. The Dream Giver said: "Now let me show you more. There's so much more of my Big Dream waiting for you. Soon you will leave what is familiar once again. And I will be with you." (from "The Dream Giver" by Bruce Wilkinson)

My dream here in Salone is nearly done [starting/running the clinic]. My dream will grow into a new and bigger dream. Soon it will be time to pursue it. The horizon is full or promise.

For the past 9 months I have been in Holland (except for my trip to Haiti). In the midst of the daily happenings here I took time to figure out what to do next. I found it a difficult situation to be in. At times feeling anxious and desperate, waiting for something new to come up. And other times feeling content waiting, knowing that all I needed to do was trust. Believing that when the timing was right, it would be clear. The process was good. I think that over the past 9 months I have been able to reflect more on my passions and goals. Maybe the past 9 months were like a pregnacy/birthing process. A new dream growing inside, or developing at least. And still that dream will need to grow. But I am hoping very soon that some of that dream will become a reality. I think I am nearing the end of the process (at this stage). Soon I will be leaving what is familiar once again. (More to follow once a decision has been made.) But I do sincerely hope that my dreams will continue to grow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tribewanted in Sierra Leone...

Watch the video below. What a great opportunity for Sierra Leone. Very exciting for John Obey in particular. Hopefully this is a type of tourism that will better the country and be a win-win situation for the tourists as well as their hosts. According to TRIBEWANTED: “Our mission is to build and sustain cross-cultural communities in beautiful places that benefit locals and visitors; inspiring positive change within and far beyond the village.” Sounds good to me. See for yourself...

Lesson from Eyjafjallajökull...

I am amazed by the pictures I saw today of
Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano on National Geographic. What an amazing show of smoke, light and fire. Incredible. The power of nature. Nature reflecting the power of God.

The volcanic eruption has proven to man once again that we are not in charge. We are not the masters of this universe. There is something bigger. Bigger even than the forces of nature. Behind all of this, orchestrating every single event in this universe, is an all-powerful God. As much as mankind may think he is in control, he is not. Because even though we have made amazing advances in technology over the years, and there is more and more that we can control in this life, we cannot control all things.

Now because of something totally out of our control, millions of passengers have been stranded and millions of dollars have been lost as a result. Even today various airports, including Schiphol airport in Amsterdam have been closed down. Of course, I feel sorry for many of these passengers. I think of my mom, who four weeks ago was making her way from Haiti to the Netherlands to stand by her critically ill mother, only to be stranded in Madrid for two days due to volcanic ash. There were people who missed funerals, weddings, and other significant occasions all because of one volcano. A volcano that once again proves that we do not have all things under control. A reminder that God is in control. At all times. In every situation. And all we need to do is surrender all things to Him and believe.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Update on Dev...

I have some exciting news regarding Dev, a very sweet two-year-old girl with a heart defect, who I met at New Life orphanage in Haiti about three months ago. I previously blogged about her and you can read the post by clicking here. The exciting news is this: in just over an hour Dev will be undergoing open-heart surgery to fix her PDA (persistent ductus arteriosus) defect as well as remove a subaortic membrane. For months now people have been working and praying to get her to the USA for surgery. Not only have medical people been trying to find a way to make this possible, but her dad has also sacrificed so much to try to make this work. He spent weeks at the New Life clinic, waiting for an answer, meanwhile taking such good care of his little girl. Now, finally the day has come. On Friday, May 7, 2010 Dev and her father Michellet arrived safely in Tampa, Florida and today (at 8 am Florida time) she will undergo surgery. Thank you God for answering prayers. Thank you to all the people who made this possible. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors, a successful surgery and recovery for Dev as well as a speedy return back to Haiti.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Giro d'Italia...

May 10, 2010 - Giro d' Italia - one of cycling's grand tours - the third leg of the race started in Amsterdam and finished in my hometown Middelburg.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

CNN "Rescued" May 8th...

Look out for the documentary "Rescued" about the plight of Haiti's orphans.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Koninginnedag 2010...

Queens Day in The Netherlands. Every year the royal family celebrates Queen's Day in a different location. This year, they came to Middelburg. The day started with a twinge of suspense due to the tragic end of last year's celebration in Apeldoorn which ended abruptly when a speeding driver made an assassination attempt. (Read: Dutch drama in 2009) For this 2010, this meant heightened security. However, despite extra security measures, the celebration was a great success. As the Queen mentioned in her speech, "the people of Zeeland have given Queen's Day back to the royal family and to its people". It was a fantastic day according to Her Majesty.

The Queen, along with her sister Prinses Margriet, and their children, first visited a small town called Wemeldinge, after which they arrived in Middelburg. Along the route citizens waited to catch a glimpse and possibly even a hand shake from a member of the royal family. Along the route there are also musical performances, sports activities and cultural events for the royal family to enjoy and sometimes even take part in. At the Abdij their was a horse show as well as women wearing traditional costumes from various time periods. On the Markt, where the City Hall is, the Queen was welcomed by thousands and there were choirs that sang as she neared them. There were also various children's sports clubs that showed their skills and even had the pleasure of having some of the royal family join them. Princess Laurentien joined the children playing hockey while a number of the Princes joined the soccer team. The event ended with a speech by the Mayor of the city, followed by the Queen's speech. It was a successful day.

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~