What do you say?

This young woman came to Diospi Suyana Hospital with a history of this tumor growing on her neck for some time.  (Time is not important in our Quechua culture, and “some time” is often as specific as it gets.  I will ask “How long have you had this pain?” and the response is always “For some time.”  The people have a sense of time in the circle of weeks, but as one week is just like any other when you are not using a calendar, it is easy to lose track of how much time has passed.  It can be hard to sort it out.)  She had not been able to get to treatment, and they had no real idea what was the problem.  It looks like a lymphoma of some sort to me, and her only option is to head to Lima, the capital of Peru.  That is where nearly all the cancer treatment occurs in Peru, located in one hospital.  I hope she went.  There was nothing we could do.  Who knows?  Maybe someday oncology services will be available at our little hospital here in the Andes.

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Curable cancer. No access to care.

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Rounding on Patients

Examining a patient while his Quechua wife makes sure I notice something she finds very important about his toenails.

Examining a patient while his Quechua wife makes sure I notice something she finds very important about his toenails.

We are here to serve.  Sometimes it  can be something that you forget, because being a doctor is similar in every part of the world.  People come and tell you their medical problems.  You try and sort through what they are telling you to discover what is really the problem.  For example, everyone here refers to back pain as a problem with their kidneys.  It does not matter that they work on the farm, lifting and carrying things all day.  They are worried that work is damaging their kidneys and causing pains in the back.  They come in to the office and say their kidneys are hurting. Or you have the mother who has a son with cough, but she comes in asking for an ultrasound without describing any of his symptoms to you – they believe greatly in the curative powers of ultrasounds.  The hardest is when a patient comes in with a known diagnosis (they know it, not me) and then proceed to hide all their exam findings until I have done a complete workup, and then they pull out all their studies done the previous week demonstrating the same diagnosis.  I am usually very relieved that somehow I have sorted through the confusion of practicing in a second language to discover the correct diagnosis as well.  And then of course, I am a little frustrated that they were hiding information from me.  Last week, a patient came in with the complaint of leg pain, but what caught my attention was all the blood he had in his mouth and the purple spots he had all over his legs.  This did not seem to be bothering him, as he had recently had a tooth extracted, and he thought is was a side effect of that procedure.  He ended up having a major clotting problem called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura.  

On the weekend we often run the machines in the laboratory to get our blood results.  I am reviewing a case and treatment recommendations while I await the results.

On the weekend we often run the machines in the laboratory to get our blood results. I am reviewing a case and treatment recommendations while I await the results.

Here we treat this with steroids and also with blood transfusions when the patient is actively bleeding.  This patient did not respond to steroids while continuing to slowly bleed, and so we ended up giving him some blood to get this bleeding under control.  I gave a unit which did not react well when we tested it against his blood.  I think, in the end, three people had to come in to find a compatible donor.  Patients like this are a challenge, but certainly it is good to treat severe, diseases instead of trying to convince people they don’t need an ultrasound or to try and pass their test of diagnostic aptitude.

Visit from CHSC

Gastric Cancer, Gastritis, Parasites, Asthma, Hernia, Polycythemia Vera, Hypothyroidism, Motorcycle Wreck, Arthritis, Depression, Heart Failure, Hyperlipidemia, Bursitis, Concussion, Phimosis, Chronic Bronchitis among a few others.

Just another day in the rural mountains of Peru.

The lists are more impressive in other places.  I am very sure of this because there are parts of the world where there are fewer medical resources.  And there are good Christian doctors working in those areas.  Thank God for them.  And I want to thank God for our mission agency, the Christian Health Service Corps, that is working so hard to send doctors wherever God leads them in the world, from China, India and the east, south to Africa, and west to South America.  It is such an efficient use of resources, as they/we send doctors to already established organizations.  The money is well received, and direct patient care, community health and gospel evangelism is taking place with every dollar raised and spent.  This past weekend Greg Seager, the director of the mission agency came to Curahausi to assess our situation, to lend moral support, and to meet two of our newest CHSC missionary families who also happen to be our good friends the Nolan and Konika Wrights and the Stephen and Finley Wrights.  We showed Greg and his daughter Corinne around Curahuasi, Greg had a chance to meet with Dr. Klaus John, and we had a short orientation meeting with the Wright families at our house.  David began referring to Greg as the “king” of our organization, and would address him as “Our Majesty” which Greg seemed to take to quite naturally. 😉  It was nice to have them and to share with them what the work and life is like in Curahuasi.  If you want to come to see us, let us know.  We will keep you warm and well fed in our lovely home.

Greg sharing about CHSC

Greg sharing about CHSC

How Do You Keep a Place Like This Open

One of the things I have been a little sad to see as we have been interested in medical missions over the years is how they are diminishing.  In some ways, maybe that is good.  Countries are doing a better job at providing for their people, so perhaps there is less need.  On the other hand, sometimes it is not so good.  The cost of running a mission hospital is very high, and it takes a lot of work and commitment.  A mission hospital is not usually financially sustainable within the context of where it has been placed.  These hospitals are in the poorest areas of the world.  So they need money from the West.  Christians in Europe, the United States, and Canada give of their own resources to maintain hospitals so that people who cannot fund them will have access to care.  I noticed a lot of mission agencies were leaving this type of mission behind because the cost is too high.  And I think that this is a shame, because as Christians our witness of the work of Jesus Christs is both in words (of course) but also in deeds.  Compassion often wins hearts where logic will not.  Check the article below to see how hard Dr. Klaus John works traveling the world to keep our little hospital to the Quechua people open.

The medical missionary visits England, Spain, and GermanySlider-Dämmerung-900x330

It was a bumpy flight and even at an altitude of over 30,000 feet, the view was obstructed by clouds.  But then, somewhere over the Atlantic, suddenly was the bright morning star, a small dot in the sky.  Last night, Dr. John arrived in Oxford for two important appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Friday, the journey continues to Barcelona, where five lectures and interviews are waiting for him.  A Spanish women a few months ago had read the book “Seeing God” during their return flight from Peru to Spain.  A few days later, she sent Dr. John an invitation to Catalonia.  On May 15, the mission doctor will begin a tour of Germany.  So far, over 75,000 people have attended one of the 1,843 presentations given by the Dr. John.

A stopover in Paris, en route to London

A stopover in Paris, en route to London

Why Healthcare Ministry?

Some information from the Christian Health Service Corps Facebook page:

Why Healthcare Ministry?

The Christian Health Service Corps was created because each day children are dying from a lack basic healthcare and prevention services. According to the World Health Organization (2010), two billion people in developing countries lack access to even the most basic medical or surgical care. Each year, lack of access to surgical care results in the deaths of 1.2 million people. Another 9,000,000 children between the age of 0 and 5 die because they lack access to even the most basic healthcare and prevention services. One can only imagine the heart break of a mother forced to say goodbye to a child simply because she lives in a place where the medical and surgical services much of the world takes for granted are not available. Another 360,000 families (about 1000 per day) are forced to say goodbye to young mothers in the prime of life for the same reason. That is the number of young mothers who die each year as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, largely due to an absence of surgical services and other methods of inhibiting post-partum hemorrhage. Christian Health Service Corps physicians, nurses and their families are on the front lines fighting a battle to save the lives of children and young mothers around the world. It is your prayers and support that makes this work possible.

The Christian Health Service Corps has missionary health professionals serving (or will be serving in 2014) for two or more years in a growing list of countries which include: Honduras, Haiti, Peru, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Zambia. Our healthcare professional specialties include: pediatric plastic/ pediatric craniofacial surgery, OB/GYN surgery, tropical medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, pediatric surgery, dentistry and community health. In addition to providing disease prevention services and direct medical/ surgical care, a number of CHSC physicians teach in and direct residency programs that train local physicians. The need for such training programs cannot be overstated. In all of East Africa, there are only four hundred trained surgeons for a population of more than 200 million people. While some CHSC missionaries build capacity of the health systems, CHSC community health evangelism missionaries transform lives by build capacity of families to prevent disease and malnutrition with available resources.

We Need Help in Curahuasi – Post 1 of 3

I have heard somewhere that there are 1000 christian doctors in the world that have committed themselves to long term medical mission work with the poor.  I think Texas by itself graduates 500 to 1000 medical doctors every year.  That makes me exceptional, but I will tell you I do not feel exceptional.  I feel and am very normal.  We need more normal people in Curahuasi and everywhere in the world serving the poor through medical missions.  And even more interesting is that we are building a school.  And we desperately need teachers.  Come teach in a country where the education based on standardized testing compared to other countries is last place in every category.  You can make a difference no matter how normal you feel you are.  So I would like to challenge my medical friends and my friends in education to do something different, hard, and perhaps even exceptional.  Count the cost and find that God is worth it.  From the Diospi Suyana Hospital website.

Our doctor wish list

The queue at the entrance speaks volumes.

The queue at the entrance speaks volumes.

Pray and seek with us

With our current doctors, between 100 and 150 patients can be treated per day. Many people come from afar, hoping for an examination by a medical specialist. Currently, we have specialists in the field of internal medicine, general medicine, pediatrics, surgery, gynecology & obstetrics, ophthalmology and dentistry. This spectrum is good, but it desperately lacks specialists in the departments of urology, orthopedics and anesthesia. We are looking for committed Christians, who for several years, would be willing to practice their profession at a mission hospital.  In Germany, there are about 500,000 doctors, but only an estimated 500 of them could imagine such work. These volunteers need to be found.

More thoughts tomorrow.

My Last Night Before Lima

It seems like this happens a lot, but it is not the truth.  You just remember the tough nights, when things are not going how you like.  You always forget the good nights, and the good nights on call really are more frequent then the tough ones.  Of course last night I wanted to sleep, because this morning I had to leave the house at 0730 to drive the couple hours to Cuzco to catch the flight to Lima.  I had a early evening call to the ER to see a patient with dysfunctional uterine bleeding; she was stable.  I went home, finished packing, and hoped for sleep.  But sleep was not to be experienced last night.  We have a young girl in the hospital who has a problem with seizures.  And this is not a small problem, because last night she started seizing and she seized for over two hours.  It is called Status Epilepticus, and frankly it is a helpless feeling for a doctor to have a patient going through it.  She was already having such frequent seizures that she was on a continuous infusion of anti-seizure medication, but it was not enough.  Last night I spent hours by her bedside trying medication after medication in an attempt to get her seizures under control, and finally they stopped . . . sort of.  She still had frequent little ones, but the big seizures stopped.  Unfortunately, they started again this morning just as I was leaving Curahuasi.  It is hard to have such little control over an illness, and diseases of the brain are often the most frightening.  I remember watching David with his seizures and wanting them to go away, and I can imagine how this girl’s mother feels.  She is struggling, and we are struggling to help her.  I think we need a miracle, either in our understanding of her problem so we can treat her, or in the healing of her brain.  So please pray for this girl and for the doctors who are treating her.

Repeat Post: A message from Dr. Klaus John

I have posted this in our blog before, but I thought I could share again.  Dr. John sent this to me in the spring of 2012, so the numbers have changed, but the message is the same.  This is what we are doing and it is why we are here.

Dear Will,

We train nurses and a few national residents. We help 400 children every week to come closer to Christ. And in fact the existence of the mission hospital is to thousands of Peruvians proof that God loves them. Over the past 4 ½ years we have celebrated 1,200 church services. Every day at least a 100 new people enter the hospital for the first time. That means that so far 120,000 different people have been exposed to the gospel at our hospital during the first 4 ½ years only.

In June we will be starting the school project. The school could touch thousands of lives with the good news of Christ as well.



Allison, Will, and Dr. Klaus John

Medical campaign – Diospi Suyana

Two weekends ago we took a trip up into a local Quechua village with a medical campaign.  The truth of these trips is that you are limited in what you can do medically, but the purpose is to support the local church.  The trip reinforces the gospel message that the church is trying to proclaim to its community.  By demonstrating that we care, we hopefully demonstrate the God cares.  For us doctors (or maybe just for me) it can be repetitive because the complaints are always similar or frustrating because we feel like we need one more piece of information that we cannot get because we do not have a lab or x-ray.  Yet we do it because it is part of the message of the gospel.  And thank God we get to be a part of that.  From the Diospi Suyana Hospital website.

A Trip To The Quechua Village Huerta Alta

Volunteering on the weekend

After receiving an invitation from the Huerta Alta church community, 40 Diospi Suyana staffers, including missionary kids, boarded various vehicles and made their way up to the village of Huerta Alta. The trip was quite exhausting but not even the numerous bumps in the road could take a way from the excitement.  An old barn served as an OR, The farm machinery made room for five examination, separated by a few portable privacy walls. Ob/Gyn Katharina Leeb had her examination room in another building. Our three dentists had ample room  on the second floor of a big building. Our two assistants Rina and Joanna patiently explained the best tooth brushing techniques to their audience. All in all, our doctors and nurses saw about 140 patients.  For lunch, our team was served a yummy chicken soup, Quinoa and vegetables.  Gabi Wall was in charge of the kids’ program, while Christian Oswald showed a movie about “Jesus” inside the church building. But, for the Quechua kids, the highlight were the sunglasses the team handed out.  Mission trips to Quechua villages require major preparation, including logistics. Many thanks to Jessica Toews for all her help during the prep phase. The result: many thankful patients and brave volunteers with many new cultural experiences under their belt. Photos to the right by Lisa Isaac.

A post about this trip coming soon . . .

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Up the mountain for a medical clinic.

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