Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Praises and Prayers

At risk of losing some people by the end….this might be a long one!  Of course, those of you who know me also know that short conversations are not my gift, so this blog should make you feel like I’m standing right in front of you! J

First, I’ll update you on some work going on here at our Southern Hospital (HBB) where I’ve been working all this time.  One great story from this month is that this cutie pie named Yaywra just finished 6 rounds of chemotherapy and seems to be in remission!  She presented with a HUGE abdominal mass and ended up having an ovary removed that was probably about 10cm in diameter.  Unfortunately there was still a lot of cancer left behind.  Thanks to a hospital in Michigan who does our pathology for free, we were able to determine that she had Burkitt Lymphoma.  This type of lymphoma is endemic to Africa (and happened to be first reported by Dr. Burkitt who was a medical missionary in Uganda many years ago).  The good news is that it is usually VERY responsive to chemotherapy and kids have about a 75% of living cancer free if they make through all the treatments.  Unfortunately here in Togo, we start chemo on patients and then they never come back to finish treatments.  This is partly due to a misunderstanding of the chronic nature of cancer, and in part due to the financial constraints of families.  (In government hospitals, if you don’t have the money to pay for treatment or medications AHEAD of time, treatment isn’t given!  This means: if you child comes to the ED very sick and needing medications, the doctors write a prescription for IV fluids, antibiotics, etc. and you have to go to the pharmacy immediately to buy them.  If you don’t have the money, your child won’t get treated—no matter what!)
To attempt to alleviate this problem, I have started to tell families that they won’t have to pay anything until the end of all 6 cycles.  If they come for all 6, the hospital Pediatric Benevolence Fund pays about 50% (or more) of the total bill.  If they stop coming after just a few, I tell them that they will owe the hospital the total amount.  Of course, this is very motivating to families and we have been able to improve our rates of chemo follow-up!  A HUGE thank you to those who contribute to the Peds Benevolence Fund!  Because of you, these kids can get treatment!  Please pray that Yayrwa will continue to be cancer free!

We also have 2 premature infants right now—John and Image (pronounced the French way “ee-maj).  They were born 1 day apart both at 28 weeks, and weighing in at 900 grams (1 pound, 15.5 ounces!)  Image came into the world in very difficult circumstances.  Here mom came into our hospital with an enormous jaw tumor that was about to close off her airway.  Our Surgeons immediately placed a Trach-tube so that she could breath easier.  There wasn’t any chemo to offer her, nor could a surgery be done.  After a couple days, she was becoming obviously worse, and our doctors had to make the difficult choice to deliver the infant via C-section despite her prematurity.  Sadly, about 12 hours later, her mom passed away.  In subsequent days, Image was left at the hospital alone.  Her family had left and we were unsure if they would return.  But amazingly, after 4 days, her paternal grand-mother came and has been at her bedside ever since.  This grandma actually has 9 children of her own (all living), so Image has a HUGE family with many aunts and uncles that will care for her.  In the days that followed her mother’s death, we got word that her dad actually tried to commit suicide out of despair over the loss of his wife.  Thankfully, he was not successful and has since made several visits to the hospital to see his little girl fighting and growing!  For the last 2 weeks he has brought be a bushel of fresh vegetables from his village as a “thank you”!  God is using this little girl to give a new Hope to her dad, Praise the Lord!  I have also started a Bible study with the grandmother, which has been a great joy! Please pray for these little premies to grow well and tolerate feeding.  They are at about 22 days and reaching a month is an important milestone.  (If they make it past 1 month, they usually survive.)  Pray for their families as they have to stay at their bedsides 24/7 and it can be very exhausting!

Lastly (in patient care news).  This little girl's name is Grace and she is the daughter of one of our employees.  She is 5 years old and has a repairable heart condition.  We are currently working hard to get her to the US (or another country) for surgery.  She does well, but frequently comes down with malaria or other tropical illness that aggravates her condition severely.  Please pray with us as we work towards finding her the best place to go while trusting in God's timing for all things!

Meeting with new friends on a recent trip to Mango
I also wanted to say a word about my future plans here in Togo.  As many of you know, I recently joined ABWE in order to become a full-time missionary/Pediatrician here in Togo!  The need here is so very great, and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else (and I’m trying to avoid ObamaCare! J)  While the need is very great here at our Southern Hospital, we also have a hospital that is currently under construction in the Northern part of the country, in a city called Mango.   This is a town of about 50,000 who are mostly Muslim and have VERY little access to healthcare.  Due to it’s location, the hospital will actually serve people from the surrounding countries as well—Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Benin!  We are praying that the construction will be done in the fall 2014, and that the doors will be ready to open on JANUARY 8, 2015!!  I have had to make a difficult choice in whether I will stay and serve here in the South, or go North. 

I said that I love pictures of older people because their faces tell
a story.  This Fulbe woman heard me and said, "I'm old, you
should take my picture."


When I first joined Samaritan’s Purse they asked me where I wanted to serve.  I thought back to my trip to Nigeria that year, and how oppressive it felt to drive through the Northern part of the country.  I realized that my heart was to serve in Muslim ministry somewhere in West Africa.  The town of Mango is within the famous “10/40 window”.  This is the area of the world that sits between 10 and 40 latitudes; within it lies the majority of the world’s poverty and unreached people groups.  What is an unreached people group?!  This is the term given to a group of people united in language and culture, who don’t even have access to hearing the Gospel.  It does not just refer to people groups who aren’t Christians, but instead to groups who have never even had the opportunity to hear about Christ.  One if these such groups is called the Fulbe (or Fulani), who are a Nomadic tribe found throughout West Africa comprised of about 20 million people spread over 19 countries and 99% Muslim.  This group of people is looked down upon by the tribes around them, as they are seen as refusing to conform to groups around them, living in “the bush” and maintaining century-long traditions.  Their lives as herdsmen are tightly tied to their cattle and being able to keep their cattle healthy is a huge opportunity for ministry (ANY VETS OUT THERE WANTING TO SERVE IN TOGO?!) Each smaller Fulbe tribe also carry their own traditions that can vary widely.  One of my good Fulani friends is part of a tribe that is not allowed to sing!!  I am praying for the day that I might hear her sing sweet words of Praise!

Pray for the over 300,000 people in Northern Togo who are considered a part of unreached people groups.  Pray for the hospitals in Togo and we continue to need people to serve both Northern and Southern ministries in Medical (Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, Lab Technicians, Xray/Echo techs), Administrative, Church Planting, IT, and Accounting!!  Pray that as I continue to raise support, I might be able to return to Togo by Jan 2015, in time for the opening of the hospital.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the 10 people who have already committed to monthly or yearly giving, as well as the 8 people who have given one-time gifts!  These have already put me at 40% of my needed support!  What a great encouragement this has been!  Many thanks to those of you who have committed to prayer, as this is truly how the Lord works, so that we may be a part of HIS ministry to the Togolese.

Grace and Peace-