Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Well Child Exams

Last month I was so very excited when a British family decided to include us on their holiday plans. Olivia, the mom, grew up in Zambia and she was introducing Zambia to her husband and two teenage children. We love having families come out to volunteer.
 I got even more excited when I found out that her husband, Alisdair, is a doctor! He is a neurologist, and hasn't practiced general medicine in many years, but he graciously agreed to step out of his comfort zone and help us.

We usually do a well-child exam every six months or so, and often a member of the local clinic staff will come out to help us give immunizations to whoever needs them. Most of the time it is simply weighing and measuring and doling out worm medicine (that's gross, I know--but so necessary), because there is no local doctor available to do anything more extensive than that.

Now, with Dr. Ali available, we'd be able to get a full exam done. I sat down with him the day before and went over what we'd be doing and then I created a form for each child. This would help to streamline our efforts.

I also spoke with Dr. Ali about a few of our concerns with some of the children. He promised to spend extra time with them. 

Next I prepped all the children's records. We have a notebook for each child that goes with them to any clinic or hospital visits. The front page has their weight & height record, and then any doctor's notes go on subsequent pages. I would record their weight and height as usual and then later staple this form into their books.

We were given a pediatric vision chart (it has shapes instead of letters) a few years ago and Sarah had been preparing the children all week by teaching them what those shapes were called. We began the 'clinic' visit out in the corridor with Gillian giving an eye exam to all children 3 years and older. 

Peter covering one eye while 'reading' the shapes

Next they came to me and I weighed and measured them. We have a real doctors' scale which makes it so easy. For the babies who might have wiggled a bunch, we weighed the nanny and then weighed nanny plus baby and then subtracted the first weight. Voila!

After heights and weights were taken, the kids sat on the examining 'table' to chat with Dr. Ali. I was so impressed with how well he handled the kids and made them feel comfortable as he looked them over. 

Jennifer (4) showing Dr. Ali where her heart is

Once the doctor was done with them, they got to go see his daughter, Kana, who gave them their worm medicine pill and then, for a reward, a new toothbrush and a lollipop!

Thankfully, all the kids are very healthy. Even the ones who have come to us with in such poor health have recovered beautifully. There was no sign of rickets in Denny's legs despite his advanced state of malnourishment when he first came to live with us.

Ernest saying "Ahhhh"

There were a few health concerns. One little boy has a heart murmur, but since he seems to be in perfect health we don't have to worry about it at the moment. Peter (4) has fibrosis on his lungs--probably due to the severe lung infection he had when he was first brought to us at 2 weeks old. We'll have to watch him carefully when he gets coughs and colds since they could develop into pneumonia.

Another little girl has had seizures and Dr. Ali feels that she has temporal lobe epilepsy. She struggled to follow multiple commands and so most likely will need extra help in school. We had noticed this and it was a relief to have confirmation and to know that we're on the right track for helping her.

Jack (3) has also had some health issues and his eyes look very odd. We were worried that there was liver involvement, but it turns out that it is some sort of deposit around his iris. The doctor thought perhaps some type of metal deposit--possibly related to his inability to absorb nutrients for a time. We are going to be doing more research on this--and will probably be taking him to an ophthalmologist at some point. 

Lastly, Joseph (2) walks with a limp. He's happy as a clam, and can even run, but it is a pronounced limp.  Dr. Ali spent a long time looking over his legs and watching him walk. He doesn't feel it's an emergency case, but this is another case that will need to be taken to Lusaka for further treatment at some point.

Overall, Dr. Ali was very happy with all the kids and how well they are doing. It was so rewarding to get his feedback and to know that we are doing well in their care.

I enjoyed playing nurse for a day. It's one of the most enjoyable parts of being a missionary: Getting to wear so many hats. When I was growing up I wanted to be a nurse, and a mom, and a teacher, and a secretary, and the list went on.... and now I get to do all of those things--sometimes all in one day!

What an adventure!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Once Upon a Time

One upon a time there was a young lady who saw a young man, from across a baseball field, and declared that he was the one!

One thing led to another and finally the young lady and the young man were engaged to be married.

One day the young lady had to leave the country to renew her student visa.

One visa not renewed meant the young lady had to spend time waiting in a nearby country.

One (or twenty) letters were exchanged as the young lovers waited until they could be reunited.

One cherry blossom season was approaching and the romantic young man didn't want his betrothed to miss it.

One blossom was carefully plucked and sealed in ice to await her return.

One day the young lady had to give up her dream of continuing her studies in that far off Asian country and return to her parents in the United States of America.

One very sad, young man had to let the cherry blossom thaw and watch as it slowly lost its gorgeous pink color. 

One happy, summer day our young lovers were reunited in sunny California, and the cherry blossom story was related. 
(it would be related again and again over the years--romantic deeds must be retold)

One day, many, many moons later, the now-not-so-young lady found a way to repay the romantic gesture. 

Enter Pinterest!

About a year or two ago I saw a cherry blossom project on pinterest and thought, "That would be a perfect anniversary gift!" (it's true--it's right there on the caption when I repinned it)

sadly this pin no longer links to anything...

I had to wait until I made a trip to the U.S and was able to collect the supplies. I also had to drink an entire 2 liter bottle of Coke Zero. 

Unfortunately, while waiting to make this project I spotted a poorly-made version of this exact project on Nailed It. I was terrified this would happen to me. However, victory goes to the aggressor, and I was determined to make the best gift EVER.

You know one of the difficult things about working from home with your spouse? Hiding projects from them. But, I did it! In two different sessions while Tom was out for a bit, I painted the canvas with the brown paint for the brush, and then later added the 'cherry-blossoms' with the bottom of the coke bottle. 

I wish I had used a shallower dish and a little less paint, but I am so very pleased with how it turned out. 

Best part! Tom knew exactly what it represented, and was excited to share his romantic tale with all our visitors. 

Have you recently recreated something you've seen on Pinterest?

Exactly One Year Ago: A Day Through the Eyes of Twitter

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Very Special Child

Just over a week ago, as we sat in our living room studying the Bible for church, we got a message that a child had been brought to our door. This is a fairly normal event, but this was no ordinary child. We were told he was albino. I had never seen an albino baby before. I knew though that he would have challenges, and I wondered how we could help meet them.

I was so grateful that we had a doctor, from England, visiting us for a week. Once church was over we all trooped down to the front door to meet Benard, a sweet one year old boy.

He was sitting on the lap of a young lady who was apparently his aunt. His father and a couple other relatives were seated on our reception bench as well.

The first thing I noticed was that Benard was a really happy, and apparently healthy child. The second thing I noticed, was that he didn't make any eye contact with me. He didn't react at all when I took him into my arms. He didn't seem bothered at all to have a strange 'muzungu'* lady holding him. *muzungu = white person

His happy expressions never changed no matter what I said or did. I began to wonder if he could see or hear me. Additionally, his neck muscles were very underdeveloped, and when I sat him up he couldn't sit upright--looking more like a five month old than a 12 month old.

I handed Benard off to Dr. Alisdair and then returned to speak with his family. His mother had died 'of a headache' (perhaps malaria?) a month before which explained why he wasn't really sickly. At just over one year old, he was old enough to eat solids, which gave me hope for his survival. 

Based on what I'd observed so far, I asked Benard's family if they thought he could see and hear. They assured me he could, but I didn't put much stock in that because I felt they might just say what they thought I wanted to hear--thinking erroneously that I would reject a disabled child.

Leaving Tom to speak more with the family, I walked over to Dr. Alisdair and chatted with him. He was pleased to report that Benard's lungs and heart sounded good. This can be a problem with albino children, so that was good news. 
He then noted that Benard did not seem to be able to see or hear. He didn't react at all to motion near his eyes (though he blinked a bit at a camera's flash) and didn't respond at all to loud claps.

While not surprising, this was definitely an important revelation. 

Because Benard was, and is, facing such big challenges Tom and I decided to help Benard while still leaving him with his family. Their main concern was to be able to get him some sunscreen to protect his skin. We agreed to provide sunscreen if they would bring him every Monday so we can keep an eye on his health and help with some physical therapy. If the father was willing to do some piece work, we could help with clothing and/or food.

Aside from the huge responsibility we'd be taking on with a seriously disabled child, I also didn't want to move a child from an environment where he was obviously getting the care he needed when it would be so hard for him to understand. Everything would be different. 

The next day was the first Monday when we'd be helping Benard's family to learn how to do exercises to help him develop more. We also wanted to teach them how to give him textures to feel and hold since he couldn't see. 

Kathrin hadn't been around on Sunday when we all first met Benard, so I had briefed her on his condition and asked if she'd be willing to take care of his exercises each week and help to teach the family some skills. She agreed with enthusiasm. 

Monday morning, right at nine o'clock, Benard and his family arrived. Kathrin escorted them to the playroom and I joined them after a few minutes. 

Kathrin greeted me with these words: "I think he can hear!" She had noticed him flinch when our time clock in the reception clicked over to a new time. 

He seemed much more grumpy this morning. 

Kathrin handed him a toy and he reached right for it. He reached for it! What? He could see?? Sure enough, Kathrin took a colorful toy and Benard followed it with his eyes. 
We showed his father how to make a toy with a bottle and some stones and when he enthusiastically shook it near Benard's head, the poor baby jumped in fright. He could definitely hear!

If it weren't for the fact that it would be nearly impossible to do, we thought for sure Sunday's child had been swapped with another. His neck muscles were stronger, he sat perfectly and even got up on hands and knees for a bit. What??

I'm not a child development expert, but I'm wondering if there is some type of brain damage involved. His neck movements on Sunday reminded me of children with Cerebral Palsy. His personality was so different, I wondered if that was somehow connected. 

I look forward to continuing to work with Benard and to see how things go. Maybe we'll be able to help him from here, or perhaps God has a different plan. There might be a forever family out there that will be able to help with whatever challenges Benard is going to face along the way. 

How you can help: Pray for God's perfect plan for this little life. Pray we have wisdom as we help him. Benard needs strong sunscreen to protect him from the sun's rays since he has no melanin. It would be a nice thing to throw in a care package. Kathrin has arranged to get him some child-friendly sunglasses.
We'd like to help this family with some clothes (we gave them two hats to protect his head) and maybe basic food supplies should the father be willing to do his part. Perhaps you'd be wiling to help with this need? Pray that Benard's family will value him and do all that is needed to provide him with the fullest life possible.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Last weekend was a big one. I already wrote about our Mutomboko celebrations, but we had some other events as well.

Tom turned 46 on Thursday (it was also Henry's and Janet's birthday, as well as a nanny) and we celebrated with some of the visitors who had already begun arriving for Mutomboko.

He was very specific about the cake he wanted; loading up images from Google to make sure I didn't misunderstand him. It had to be chocolate cake with chocolate frosting--but not chocolate ganache--thick and fluffy, with a 'stucco' pattern. I got to use some dark chocolate from Belgium so that was really special.

I think I did an OK job. We forgot to buy birthday candles, and since we can't simply run out to the store, a tea candle had to stand in.

Then, on Monday Tom and I celebrated 24 years of marriage. We were too tired to do much to celebrate, but I presented him with a special homemade gift. I'm going to do a special post about that since it was a Pinterest Project. And I Nailed It!

I had a moment of feeling old when I realized that Tom and I have been married as long as, or longer than most of our volunteers have been alive. Yikes!

Overall though I feel really proud of us for making it so far. We were married younger than many people feel is right, we had premature twin daughters born before we had been married a year, we had four children by our fourth anniversary, we have been through incredible amounts of stressful events in the last 12 years, and thanks to God it has only brought us closer.
Reunited in June after my 3 months in the U.S.

We look forward to many more years together. We're two years away from our youngest child's 18th birthday, and we are excited about what the next 24-plus years will bring our way.

It's a good thing I wrote this post a few days ago (we lost power one day, and then I was in Mansa for the next two days so I couldn't publish it), because that day I had to help Tom pack for his three week trip to the U.S. (he flies out tomorrow), and I'm sure many of you know that packing with your spouse is not the greatest thing for marital harmony. I sure will miss him though. Hurry home, darling.

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