Friday, May 22, 2015

Rejoice with those who Rejoice

I saw this sweet little boy 4 weeks ago when our surgeon, Todd Dekryger, called me in to his clinic room. As soon as we looked at him we new that he most likely had Burkitt Lymphoma--a type of cancer that is endemic to Africa for reasons that aren't fully understood. The cancer is named after Dr. Denis Parsons Burkitt who was a medical missionary in Kampala, Uganda and first described the tumors extensively as a problem throughout the country.
He had been brought it by his older brother who explained that this mass had appeared over the course of a month, but they had visited fettish healers prior to coming to the Hospital of Hope.

He was admitted to the hospital the next day for a biopsy and some blood work. Thanks to the wonderful Pathology Department at St. Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI we were able to send off the biopsy to be diagnosed at no charge.  But since the biopsy has to be hand-carried back to the states by a visitor leaving HOH, chemotherapy treatment is started despite not being 100% sure of the diagnosis. At the beginning of treatment we have a very serious discussion with the family. The child must stay for about a week the first time, then return once a week for four weeks to continue treatment. After one month, treatments are spread out to every 3 weeks, including a 2 day hospital stay each time. The course of treatment can be exhausting and is very expensive. Because there is always a chance that the family won't return after a few weeks, I explain to them that if they are faithful to their appointments, the hospital will share the cost of their treatment. But if they stop coming early, the family will be responsible for the entire cost. I realize this might sound very harsh to some, but it can be very difficult to come by these medications, and if a patient stops mid-treatment, all has been wasted and can't be used for a future patient.

Thankfully, the tumor began to respond to treatment in a matter of DAYS and the family could witness the healing of their son and brother before their eyes. He has been faithful to his last 3 visits and today when he arrived, he was completely transformed to his old self! (So much so that I had no idea who he was when a nurse notified me he was here for treatment!)

This cutie is actually only 1 of 5 children going through chemotherapy treatment here at HOH. These treatments can only be successful when we are able to support families (in-part) and when the hospital is able to purchase needed chemotherapy drugs. If you are interested in directly helping with either patient care, or the purchase of needed medications, thankfully there are two accounts set up through ABWE exactly for these reasons!

The Lord is doing mighty things here in Mango, and this is just one of many. Although each week we often experience the searing pain of loss, we are also blessed to experience the sweet joy of healing!
We could not continue this work without your faithful prayers and support, and we thank the Lord for YOU daily!
Pediatric Patient Care Fund: 0763833-001
Chemotherapy Fund: 0763833-002

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Africa Has Candy

Have you ever gone on a missions trip? Have you made your packing list weeks in advance and made sure to leave room for things like candy to hand out to children you pass on the street or in villages? I would argue that almost all of us who have traveled to the developing world have done just that. I know I have.

But I'll let you in on a little secret. Africa has candy. A lot of it. In fact, if you go into a small boutique here in Mango, you can find that at least one-third of what they are selling is some type of candy. Ginger candy, chewing gum, mints, fruit-flavored hard candy, cookies....the list goes on! The funny part is that most of the children prefer this candy to the things we bring over from the US. Our American candy is often too sweet, or have flavors or textures they are familiar with at all (and don't want to be for that matter!)

Unfortunately this phenomenon has led even the smallest village children to immediately start demanding candy from any Westerner that happens to walk by.  So why do they do this if they already have access to all the candy they would ever want or need? Why are they asking us for candy, when they may not even like it as much as the candy sold for 1 cent down the street? I believe it's because when we give them something, even something they already have, they assume it's better. It must be better since it's from America, right? They start to long for something they never thought they were missing, and weren't missing in fact.

We have a very sweet American radiology tech named Michaelle here at HOH. I love her for so many reasons, but what I think is the most amazing is that she hands out candy to kids after their Xrays. And while this seems to undermine my previous 3 paragraphs, it actually doesn't, because she hands out small pieces of candy that she buys from a local store here in Mango. The candy is familiar and accessible, because of course, who doesn't want a piece of candy after they stayed real still for their X-ray?!

All this is to say that Togo, and many parts of Africa, have their own candy. Meaning, they aren't missing something just because they don't have exactly what we have. If I were to ever write a book at the end of my experiences overseas, I would title it, "Africa has candy", and write about all the incredible resources, physical and non-physical, that these countries already possess.  Kids are kids, no matter where they are in the world. They have their own ideals of what is fun, silly, and sweet! Of course, this idea is not just about candy, but I think you get the idea. An idea that came to me while I was sitting on my porch one day and was having a wonderful time with the children that live at my house. As they were trying to take some" selfies" I just kept thinking about how children in the US would be acting the same way--making faces, laughing, comparing photos with one another. We laughed until our bellies hurt. While there are things in life they are in need of, I don't ever want them to think that they are missing out on something.

There is MUCH to say about the hospital and things going on, but I will save that for a post next week. I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my life away from the hospital and at my home where I share a living space with  6-12 Fulani adult woman and children and any given time. (99% of them are NOT French speaking, but only speak Fulfulde, which I am trying my best to learn rapidly!) They have become my Togo family. I'm very thankful that the Lord has allowed me to share life with this extended family, and that despite the peaks and valleys of emotion at the hospital, there is always joy waiting for me at home.