Saturday, July 29, 2017

Making A House A Home

When I first arrived in PNG in February, my house was just newly built, surrounded by gravel and rocks from the construction vehicles coming in and out during the wet rainy season.  On the one hand, it looked rather plain without any flowers or gardens, but on the other hand I was given the gift of a blank canvas to fill to my hearts content. Every place I’ve lived in the last 5 years, I’ve always made a vegetable garden. Maybe it’s in my blood, having grown up on a farm, or maybe it’s just the joy of watching things grow and then enjoying the sweet fruit of my labor. 
My neighbors building a 'haus kuk'.
 In the foreground is my garden
plot before work began. 
Barets dug, ready for planting. Note
neighbor's completed cook house in
the background. 
Whatever the reason, I was delighted to find a plot of ground set aside for my garden. Many friends (from my language tutor to co-workers at the hospital to my housekeeper) have helped me get started: weeding, prepping the ground, digging ‘barets’ (ditches), obtaining and planting seeds, and the continual weeding and maintenance.  

Beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers,
...pineapple, kaukau,
and bananas.
In addition to a vegetable garden, one of my co-workers built stone planters around the front of my house and filled them with beautiful flowers that have started blooming the last few weeks adding color and cheer.  Now, after 5 months, I have started harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans. Other crops that are still growing include corn, peanuts, carrots, pineapples, and kaukau (sweet potato). 
Bananas hanging on the
front porch to ripen
Today's bountiful harvest.
There are a few banana trees at the end of my garden and I was very excited when a large bunch of bananas on one of the trees was ready for harvesting. The bunch was hung from my front porch to ripen, covered in a towel to keep the flying foxes (a type of bat) from helping themselves. This week, the whole bunch turned yellow and I have been enjoying banana bread, banana fritters, banana ice cream, banana splits, and just fresh bananas. Keeping gardens is such a big part of the PNG culture and it has been a fun way to connect with and learn from my PNG friends.

Friday, July 21, 2017


I am pleased to introduce the newest member of my household: 

Kira is 8 weeks old. She loves to climb. I frequently feel her little claws shimmying up my pant leg and before I know it, she is perched on my shoulder. Her favorite activities are playing, getting into trouble, and biting fingers or toes. 

Her favorite toy is a crocheted yarn ball. Her favorite foods are tuna and milk, but she will eat sweet potato on occasion and likes cabbage more than I expected. 

She currently resides in my laundry room, but she is gradually overcoming a fear of the great outdoors. Hopefully she’ll turn out to be a good mouser in the future.

Until then, she makes a great neck warmer. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

More Than Twins

         It was a typical clinic day. We were seeing the usual post-operative patients, pre-operative admissions, and new referrals for surgery. Then I heard Dr. Mel’s sweet voice, “Hey Sheryl, can you take a look at something with me?” 
A young woman lay on the clinic bed with a noticeably pregnant abdomen. She looked to be in her 8th month of pregnancy. But she wasn’t. Dr. Mel informed me that fetal ultrasound showed 14 week old twins! The rest of her abdomen was filled with a huge cystic mass, likely ovarian in origin. There wasn’t enough room for the babies to grow to term. Upon further history, I learned that she had three children at home; her second pregnancy had also been twins. 
14 week twins
           We informed her that in order to carry the babies to term, she would need surgery to remove the mass, however there are risks to any procedure, especially during pregnancy. We email-consulted an OB/GYN who volunteers at Kudjip regularly and he advised us that 20 weeks is the optimal time to operate. Two weeks before the scheduled surgery, Martina came back to the clinic. She was short of breath, complaining of back pain and difficulty eating and sleeping. An ultrasound showed the babies growing appropriately, but the mass was now pressing up so much on her stomach and diaphragm that she could no longer tolerate waiting. We admitted her to the hospital and moved the surgery up a week.

           On the day of surgery, my heart was racing with excitement but also apprehension. Mr. Joe, our anesthesia provider, and I had reviewed the anesthesia plan and double checked medication safety in pregnancy. Then we prayed with Martina and asked God to protect the babies while we operated. The operation went smoothly as Dr. Ben and I removed the 40cm ovarian mass and 5 liters of thick mucus. We praise God that Martina and both babies continue to do well post-operatively. Please join me in praying for the remainder of her pregnancy and for a safe delivery in a few months.  

(Patient name and picture shared with permission)