Sunday, March 18, 2018

World Travelers

After spending a week at Kudjip, Mom and I set out to explore the northern coast of PNG. We flew to Madang on a 7-seater MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) plane. In Madang, we met up with some friends from another mission, gathered supplies, and took a 1 hour boat ride out to Karkar, a volcanic island.

The next 2 days were spent relaxing, eating fresh seafood, playing in the ocean, and touring a coconut and cocoa plantation.

Back in Madang, we enjoyed snorkeling and kayaking before heading on to Australia.

In Brisbane, we were blessed to spend time with Mary Lean. Mary, her husband David (a pediatrician), and 5 kids will be be joining our team in Kudjip next year. They treated us like royalty during our time in Brisbane.

After exploring the Southbank with is museums, parks and entertainment venues; mom and I spent a day exploring the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

We enjoyed feeding the wild lorikeets, petting kangaroos and emus, seeing koalas up close and viewing many other native animals such as wombats, platypus and tasmanian devils.
 In addition to the sites of Brisbane, I also enjoyed having some of the conveniences of Western life: stores, restaurants, and TV playing the Olympics! It was an amazing adventure and I enjoyed it while it lasted. However, once I got back to PNG, it was "Back to the Unexpected", as detailed in my next blog....

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Special Visitor

         Three weeks ago, I had the privilege of introducing my mom to  Kudjip Nazarene Hospital. Mom came for a 3 week visit and the first week was spent in the Highlands. She brought much needed supplies, attended devotions, followed me on rounds, helped in the pharmacy, and watched me interact with patients in the clinic and during surgery. She also met some of the patients who have been mentioned on my blog and in my newsletters.  Throughout the week, She followed several surgical patients during the ups and downs of recovery. Most did well; a few did not –a  true look at life in a missions hospital.

Mom meets the twins!
        Her favorite patient experience at Kudjip was watching me deliver twins by c-section. Mom donned scrubs, mask, and bouffant hat and was carefully positioned in a corner of the room to catch all the action (with the patient’s permission, of course). She watched as we delivered a baby girl, then a baby boy, both healthy. What made this experience even more special was that she met the twins again a week later. On the way to my friend Emelyn’s house for a family meal, Emelyn told us about her niece who was recovering from surgery. It turns out her niece was my patient! Mom was trilled to hold the twins and get the opportunity to share a traditional PNG meal with these special friends.

Hagen Market
        In addition to working in the hospital and meeting my friends and the other missionaries on station, we also explored the surrounding Highlands. The Deuels and I took mom to Mt. Hagen to experience the open-air market.

Rondon waterfall
Then, we stayed the night at Rondon Ridge, perched on a mountain overlooking the valley. There, we hiked to a small waterfall, then found over 20 varieties of orchids along the winding trails of the orchid garden. Some of the flowers were only a few millimeters in size!

Kumul Lodge
Ribbon-tailed Astrapia
      The next day, we drove an hour further west to Kumul Lodge, a popular birding site. There, we saw a dozen different species of birds, including two types of Bird of Paradise: the ribbon-tail and the sicklebill. It was quite a week of adventuring in the Highlands, but that was only the start. In the next blog, we travel to coastal PNG, an island, and then on to Australia…. Stay tuned.

Another Ribbon-tailed Bird of Paradise up-close.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not a Fool

Hidden valleys of PNG
           Today, as I reflect upon my one year anniversary of coming to serve at a missions hospital in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, the words of a recent sermon echo in my ears. Am I a fool? Many people would consider giving up a lucrative surgical career in the US and moving overseas to serve the poor to be foolish. Some would say that risking one's own health or life to serve people you've never met is foolish. A few might even say that focusing on saving a few lives in a far off corner of the world when compared to the global scale of humanitarian needs across the globe is foolish. To many the thought of following the teachings of a crucified, Jewish teacher who lived over two millennia ago is foolishness. The Bible, however, says, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (I Corinthians 1:27-29)
Loreen receives a Bible
           God loves the poor and lowly and despised. God cares about the lives of people living in far off corners of the globe. God desperately wants to be known by those who are unknown to the world. Time and time again, I have seen God work miracles in the midst of impossible situations. When I am weakest and feel the most foolish, I see God move in mighty ways and all the glory goes to him alone. Just ask the 500 patients I've operated on, or the hundreds of surgical patients I've cared for in the hospital and the outpatient clinics, or the dozens of patients who have experienced spiritual renewal through the work of the hospital in the past year. They do not believe our work here is foolish, because they have witnessed first-hand the power of God to heal physically and spiritually. What is money or fame or personal security and comfort worth in the long run? As Jim Elliot, a missionary to Ecuador, famously stated: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Lord, help me not to foolishly cling to the things I cannot keep. If I am to be a fool, let me be a fool for Christ.

Benson, completely healed

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

To God Be The Glory


            Last week was exhausting. For three days straight we were overwhelmed with emergencies, traumas and difficult cases, but through it all I saw God’s provision. I especially saw God’s hand at work in one patient, a young mother of 3 who was stabbed in the buttock. At first, we thought the knife had just injured muscle and that we could treat it with local wound care. However, the patient quickly convinced us otherwise when she became hemodynamically unstable and dropped her blood count dramatically. While Dr. Bill and Dr. Mathew worked to stabilize the patient and start blood transfusion, I explored the wound and found it tracked much deeper than previously thought, and that there was a persistent arterial bleed coming from deep near the pelvic bone. In the operating theater, exploration of the abdomen revealed a large amount of blood collecting behind the inner lining of the pelvis: a retroperitoneal hematoma. This brought back memories of a case on my surgery oral board exam of a penetrating trauma to the pelvis with iliac artery injury, so I quickly got control of the major vessels leading into the area before uncovering the injury. Incredibly, the knife had gone through the gluteal muscles, down to bone, through the natural hole in the pelvis (the greater sciatic foramen) and had poked into the side wall of the rectum. The brisk arterial bleeding from deep in the wound lead me to believe the superior gluteal artery, which exits the pelvis through this canal, was severed. 
On a skeleton, this hole is easy to identify, however after adding several layers of muscle and pelvic organs, it is quite difficult to visualize in real life. In the States, we would have performed angio-emobilization: placing a catheter through a feeding artery and injecting coils to stop the bleeding from inside the injured vessel. Unfortunately, we do not have this technology in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and the only way we could control the bleeding was balloon tamponade. She had already lost a significant amount of blood, so we opted for damage control surgery: leaving the balloon and packing in place, diverting the colon injury and closing up with plans to bring her back to the theater in a day or two.  That night, I read everything I could find about pelvic artery injuries in order to form a backup plan if the balloon failed to stop the bleeding. 
          The next day, our patient was in stable but still guarded condition, so we decided to wait a full 48hrs before re-exploration. In the meantime, we got into trouble with severe hemorrhage during anther case, a cesarean section. All the usual maneuvers were not controlling bleeding from a tear along the sidewall of the uterus going down toward the cervix. Thankfully, the night before, I had read about internal iliac artery ligation to control severe pelvic hemorrhage, and we were able to employ this technique, along with packing, to stop the bleeding. 
Praying in the operating theatre
         The next day, we took our trauma patient, Loreen, back to the operating theater. There was a slight delay, so in the meantime, Auntie Margaret, our veteran scrub nurse and OT team supervisor, chatted with her and found out that she hadn’t been going to church for the past 10 years. After talking with Auntie Margaret, Loreen decided to rededicate her life to God and the two of them prayed right there in the operating theater. 
           After 96 hours, we were finally able to remove the balloon and obtain hemostasis, but only 2 days later, Loreen started exhibiting signs of a pulmonary embolus: a blood clot in the lungs. She had suddenly become short of breath with pain in her chest and an elevated heart rate. I sat down and honestly explained the situation to her: a severe pulmonary embolus can be life threatening, but the medication to treat it would thin her blood and risk re-bleeding from her injury site. We were walking on eggshells. She nodded understanding. Then we prayed for God’s healing touch. She later told me that all day long she felt the pain and shortness of breath, but around 6pm another staff member also came and prayed with her, and almost immediately her symptoms improved. Call it coincidence, call it psychology, but I choose to believe that God miraculously intervened.  
         Many people ask why bad things happen. I don’t believe God causes bad things, but I know he uses them to draw people to himself. Through her traumatic experience and her subsequent treatment at the hospital, Loreen re-established a life-giving relationship with God. She went on to explain that after she was stabbed, she was sure she would die, but she kept hearing the voice of her 7-year-old daughter in her head crying, “Mommy, Mommy”. She looked back on the life of anger and fighting that she had lived and saw where it had brought her.  She realized, through Auntie Margaret’s counseling, that she could no longer go on living this way and that she needed God to forgive and restore her. She now gives God all the glory for saving her life, not once, but twice during this hospitalization and for all eternity. I also give all the glory to God who gave our medical and surgical teams the wisdom, the strength and the ability to care for Loreen the best we knew how, then he took care of the results. In the process, he also showed us how to save another life with the knowledge learned after researching Loreen’s injury.  As the motto of the hospital says: "We treat, Jesus heals." When I trust in my own strength and abilities, I am constantly disappointed by how often I fail, but when I trust God to use me, broken as I am, I see his grace shine forth. Truly, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7). To God be the glory forever and ever. 

Loreen and Auntie Margaret

Friday, January 12, 2018

First Time

       Since coming to PNG, I have learned many procedures that I never performed previously: plating broken bones, repairing severed tendons, removing a uterus and ovaries, etc. But for each of those “first times” I had a seasoned surgeon walking me through the procedure. For the past 3 weeks, I‘ve been the solo surgeon here at Kudjip, following Dr. Jim’s departure home and awaiting Dr. Ben’s return. Enter a new "first time". Dr. Erin asked me to see a little boy, about 4 years old, from Sangapi, the rural village we both visited when I was doing my language and culture orientation. In fact, the watchman who accompanied this boy and his father on their 2 day walk across the mountains to Kudjip was one of the very men who we spent time with in Sangapi. The boy complained of recurrent urinary infections and an X-ray quickly diagnosed the problem: a bladder stone. 
        From my reading, I knew bladder stones are a fairly routine complaint at many missionary hospitals, but this was my first time seeing one. The surgery was very straightforward (with the help of textbooks and some prior experiences working on the bladder in residency). Our patient is doing well post-operatively and now has a new treasure to take home with him. Praise God for enabling us to take on new challenges!

Saturday, December 23, 2017


With Christmas right around the corner, there have been numerous parties and gatherings lately. We have had comedic renditions of the nativity story by the MK students, a fantastic Missionary Family Christmas Dinner, and a fun-filled Christmas Eve Eve Eve party.  

I was an honorary member of the Goossens
Family for Christmas Dinner
MK Nativity drama
"A White Christmas" Missionary
Family Christmas Dinner

Santa Bill handing out gifts. 

Nazarene Health Ministries (NHM)
Farewell program
But this year there were several more gatherings as we celebrated the 33 years of service that Dr. Jim and Kathy Radcliffe have given to the people of Papua New Guinea. Jim was Kudjip’s first surgeon and until a few years ago, the only long-term surgeon. He has been a tremendous instrument of healing in God’s hands, addressing not only the physical, but the spiritual needs as well. Kathy, a devoted mother and wife, raised 6 children here in Papua New Guinea. She has been one of the cornerstones of the women’s ministry as well as the missionary family here. They will both be missed beyond words. The past several months have been a sweet time of remembering their time here and praising God for all that He has accomplished through them. 

Missionary Farewell prayer for
Jim and Kathy Radcliffe
Knox Church Farewell Service

Many of the Rural Registrars (PNG
doctors that Jim has trained over
the years) came to say goodbye.

Prayer Circle (largest I've ever seen here) before Jim and
Kathy left for the airport. 

In all his farewell speeches, Dr. Jim always comforted the nationals with the assurance, that though he is leaving, he is giving part of himself, his son Dr. Ben, to continue the work here at Kudjip. What a tangible example of what we celebrate at Christmas: God giving his son to reach all of humanity with hope and peace.

May you experience the hope and peace of Jesus this Christmas.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

An Extraordinary Week

          Every once in awhile, we get the opportunity to lay aside the daily routine and do something fun, different and adventurous. Last week was one such time as I headed to New Zealand for a little vacation to visit my college friend, Colleen. Even though New Zealand is relatively close to PNG, it still took one and half days of travel before arriving in Christchurch on the southern island. Then Colleen, her husband Jesse, friend Blair, and I embarked on an epic 6-hour road trip to Queenstown in the south. 

Mt. Cook

Highland Sheep

We drove past beautiful lakes, glimpsed views of the majestic snow-capped Mt. Cook, and passed innumerable pastures of cattle, deer, and the ubiquitous sheep. 

 Lake Wanaka
1860's gold-mining settlement
in Arrowtown

We enjoyed a very relaxing weekend touring Queenstown and the surrounding areas, climbing to gorgeous vistas, soaking up the summer sunshine at a lakeside beach, exploring a quaint gold-mining town, wandering through shops, and eating delicious food. 

Lake Wakatipu

Colleen and her co-workers
Mountain Lupin

We also cheered on Colleen as she ran a half-marathon and achieved a personal best. In the evenings, we played games and at least one night I stayed up to see the stars, including the Southern Cross. My brain had trouble adjusting to the late sunset and twilight lasting past 10pm.

tī kōuka (cabbage tree) used for
food and fibre
Christchurch Botanical Gardens

Once back in Christchurch, I enjoyed exploring the botanical gardens, learning about native New Zealand plants and their many uses, and immersing myself in the Canterbury Museum’s exhibits on Maori history and culture, Antarctic exploration expeditions, and the fabulous birds of New Zealand. Afterwards, I enjoyed a shopping spree at the mall! 

Christchurch Arts Centre
Maori carvings

All in all, it was an extraordinary week of fun, visiting, relaxation and refreshment.