Monday, August 3, 2009

Medical Mission Begins

Saturday night, Dr. John Bailey from the Caris Foundation, along with several members of his family, arrived from Tian Dien. They visited the John Connor Brown Christian Care Center, which was funded by them in memory of their grandson who was killed in an automobile accident a few years ago. He was planning to come to the medical mission that year and the accident changed the lives of his family forever. They were very pleased to see the orphanage that carries his name in his memory.

Sunday morning, we all met in Dr. Bailey’s room (10 of us) for the family service. A grandson led singing and a nephew presented the lesson. It was a short but very inspiring time together to focus on the reason we are so blessed and the hope that HE has given us.

Sunday night, the majority of the medical team arrived from the U.S. It’s always a great mixture of people. Several doctors and nurses are Asian (from the U.S. and Hong Kong). One nurse is from Spain but of Polish descent. They come from many areas of the country, but all are excited about the work and excited to be here to participate.

We have had wonderful cooperation from the Peoples’ Republic Hospital of Chengde. They are very pleased to have us and work with us but there is much coordination that must be done to make the work go smoothly. There are regulations regarding practices and procedures and they want things to be done their way and use medications they are familiar with. This is not necessarily the way the U.S. doctors learned or practice medicine so compromises must be made. Although there is a schedule made far in advance of the mission, some workers may not do what they have been assigned. Some will go to the area where they want to work so there may be too many workers in some areas and not enough in other areas. Judy has done a wonderful job putting the mission together. Jackie has been very busy communicating with the hospital and getting things ready. Ron floats around in all areas throughout the day and evening to answer questions, taking care of things or assisting in many ways. In spite of good planning, there’s much to coordinate on a day-to-day basis once the work begins.

The opening ceremony, consisting of hospital officials, the health department and Red Cross personnel, along with Ron and Dr. John Bailey, welcomed the team of medical professionals and volunteers. A large number of the hospital staff and nurses attended. As we will have two shifts of surgeries, only half of our team assembled for the welcoming ceremony. Some doctors and nurses are still arriving. The ceremony was held outside under hazy skies but the humidity made it feel like 100 degrees. We were glad it only lasted thirty minutes.

We will kick off a joint cooperation with this hospital to begin congenital heart surgeries at this hospital as well. They have heart surgeons that can do the rather simple surgeries but the poor people cannot afford the surgery. We have two children that qualify for surgery while we are here, but at least one more will need to be taken to the U.S. I saw this child and her mother this morning. She’s a very cute and sweet little girl about three or four years old. It breaks your heart to see a beautiful child and know that unless someone helps them get the surgery, the child will die in a few years.

The little cleft palate and cleft lip children are so pitiful. They try to smile but the disfigurement is so horrible for some. It did not gross anyone out to look at them but it does cause pain in your heart to see them and the sadness of their parents. The cleft lip will be done during this mission and the cleft palate will be a later surgery. They cannot do both at the same time. The children will be beautiful when the lip has been sewn together. There are a few with no visible sign of anything which indicates they only have a cleft palate. The cleft palate surgery takes much longer to repair than the lip.

We had a walk-in patient this morning. A young woman 23 years old has a tumor inside her jaw on one side of her face. Dr. Bailey asked the surgeons to examine her. They took her for a cat scan and feel certain the growth is not malignant. They also do not feel that it will require bone relocation or anything more than removal of the tumor. There will be a lot of blood loss so the hospital is reluctant for us to do it; however, Dr. Bailey said Caris Foundation can fund it because it is not going to be much more than a cleft palate surgery, according to the physicians. We had one baby with a similar growth but the doctors told the parents last night that this type growth may shrink without surgery. The child is inoperable at this time. It would require removing a good portion of the child’s tongue.

We are so blessed when a child is born healthy. We should never take health for granted and should always be very grateful when we have perfectly formed children and grandchildren.

A woman with a baby boy with a cleft lip was there with her three other children (all girls). As it turns out, she has adopted these children. Two of the girls are twins. One of the twins was born with spinal bifida and somehow the mother got in touch with our workers about two years ago. We paid for the child’s surgery. The child was brought to Xi’an for surgery and accompanied by a young woman from Biyang, who volunteered to assist the mother. This little girl is about 3 years old and is now walking perfectly, a rare thing for a child with spinal bifida.

This story is interesting enough with just these facts, but there’s more. The young woman who accompanied the child for surgery came up to me at the hospital (she’s helping the mother with the four children this time also). She showed me a picture and asked if I knew these people. I was so shocked to see a picture of Chris and Martha West, friends from Peachtree City who moved to Wisconsin a couple of years ago. I said, “Yes, this is Chris and Martha West.” She said, “They were my sponsors and I want to get in touch with them because I am so grateful for their help.” We exchanged e-mail addresses and will make the contact complete with pictures for Martha and Chris. She wanted many pictures made with me today and hugged me like I was her long-lost grandmother.

China is a very large country and the odds of things like this happening are staggering to my imagination. The only logical explanation is that God’s hand is in everything we do and everywhere we go. We do the work, not from selfish gain, but for HIS glory and for the joy of helping the downtrodden, the ill and those in need. We learn more everyday what a blessing it is to give and what a great impact it has on the lives of other people.

We are conducting the medical mission in an old part of the hospital. It’s a busy hospital and they have many patients. The wing where we are located is dark and dreary, basically plain and very hot. There are about six patient beds in most rooms. They have allotted us 60 beds because as the children come back from recovery, they will be brought to the rooms where volunteers (and an OR nurse overseer) will care for the children, checking vital signs, feeding, changing and holding the babies. Once they begin arriving, things will get louder and busier. Most of us were sitting around this morning because the babies waiting for surgery were all quiet and no surgeries had been completed before noon.

It’s funny to me when people come to China but do not want Chinese food. Ron and I think most of the food is really good. It is much more delicious than Chinese food in the restaurants in the U.S. The hospital will prepare a buffet lunch and dinner for all the workers each day. So far, it’s been very good to me. Today, the beef was a little tough but everything else was delicious. They are trying to add a few more things that they think are American (bread or rolls – stuffed with meat or vegetables) or some fried sweet treats. There were chicken legs and wings roasted along with noodles, vegetables and watermelon.

Our hotel has a breakfast buffet and has opened it an hour early (6:30 a.m.) to accommodate our medical team. One table consists of cold dishes (tofu, noodles, green beans, relishes, and roasted peanuts). There are usually two kinds of soup (one is rice congee), spicy noodles, cooked hot cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and stuffed steamed breads. Small spring rolls are filled with either vegetable or chocolate (really delicious). Calling it a Western breakfast, they have pieces of white bread with butter and boiled eggs available. They have an orange drink (not juice), tea and coffee. I’ve given up on the coffee, however. It’s so strong, no amount of canned milk will cut the bitterness.

A new food was introduced to me this past week. It is the lotus seed. I have had it cooked in dishes but didn’t know what it was. I have never eaten it raw. The seeds come in pods like the picture here. You punch out the green seeds, and remove the outer green shell. There’s a thin film around the white inner seed that needs to be removed. The core of the seed is green and bitter so it’s also removed if you are eating them raw. They are crunchy but have little flavor. I saw a large cart of them on the sidewalk for sale today. You could buy the pods or the loose green seeds that they had already shelled.

Ron and I shopped at Wal-Mart, which is a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We picked up fruits, nuts and snacks. It’s very interesting to walk in the deli section because there are many foods we cannot even identify. Even the bakery section is a mystery to us for the most part. Even if you can read enough English on packages to identify things, it will not even be close to the same thing you buy in the U.S.

China is a great experience if you come expecting to learn and get educated about another country. People who come and only see the dirty conditions, the inconveniences (things not ever done like the U.S) and the poverty, will not enjoy their stay. We cannot change the country or its practices, but we can help the people have a better life by supporting the orphans, providing homes and the necessities of life for them. We can assist those with health problems. It is what Jesus Christ would have us do. It is what HE would do if HE walked these streets. We are grateful for the opportunities that have been opened for us in China. We are very grateful for each and every sponsor and supporter that makes our work possible. Through our gifts to the Chinese people, they can see Christ.

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