Friday, April 27, 2018

One small step for a girl, one giant leap for Bethany

        Today, we all rejoiced as Bethany walked out of the hospital. True, it was more of a slow, steady hobble assisted by crutches, but the fact that this eleven-year-old is alive and ambulating today is truly a miracle. Ten months ago, Bethany came to the hospital with severe septicemia: a bacterial infection that swept through her blood reaching every corner of her body. Bacteria implanted on a valve in her heart, infection permanently stole vision from her right eye, sores opened all over her body, and the microbes finally settled into the tibia bone of her lower leg. Months of fighting infection reduced Bethany to just skin and bones. No matter how hard we tried, we could not overcome the infection in her leg. Unlike the typical osteomyelitis cases we see in children here, a shell of new bone did not grow around the dead, infected bone in Bethany’s leg. Usually, we wait for new, strong, healthy bone to form before removing the dead bone so that the strength of the limb is preserved. But this did not happen in Bethany’s case.
           After months of treatment, there was no sign of any new bone growth. So, in desperation, we removed a 5-inch section of dead bone in its entirety, hoping to remove the persistent infection and allow new healing. Whenever we took her leg out of the splint to change the dressing, it would flop and bend like a wet noodle where the bone was missing. For months, Bethany remained in bed or in a wheelchair, unable to stand or walk. At one point, we considered amputation as we lost hope that the leg would ever heal. Then, miraculously, new bone slowly started to form. Once her wounds healed enough to allow the limb to be protected in a cast, we permitted her to start ambulating. But after months of debilitating disease, she didn’t even have the strength to stand. Last month, in His perfect timing, God provided a visiting physical therapist who assisted Bethany’s rehabilitation as she slowly advanced from standing, to moving with a walker, to ambulating with crutches.  Now, after 10 months in the hospital, she is finally going home! She still has a long way to go, but this small step out of the hospital is a huge leap forward for one very happy little girl.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

No Laughing Matter

Dr. Rebecca, one of the PNG Rural Registrars that comes to train periodically at Kudjip, recently referred a patient to us. Jackson had recurrent lung infections for several months after aspirating a foreign body.  

We praise God for supplying the right resources at the right time to treat our patients. Just a few months ago Kudjip Hospital received new rigid bronchoscopy equipment, allowing us to look into and extract objects from children’s airways. Few hospitals in the Highlands have this type of equipment. 

Dr. Ben and I were able to successfully extract the object from Jackson’s airway and discovered it to be a thumbtack! Upon further questioning, we discovered that while he had been using the thumbtack to clean his teeth, he had laughed and inhaled the tack.  Let this be a lesson to us all: do not laugh while cleaning your teeth!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Back to the Unexpected

**I meant to write this post weeks ago, but time seems to have flown by. Now that Easter celebrations are over and things are settling back to normal, we’ll revisit the events of the past 6 weeks. Shortly after returning from vacation in Brisbane with my mom, PNG proved itself again to be the "Land of the Unexpected":


photo credit: Connie Lou Aebischer
Photo credit:

On Monday, February 26, at 3:45am, we were all jolted awake by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the Southern Highlands of PNG, about 120 miles southwest of Kudjip. Although there was minimal damage here at the Nazarene Hospital, there were extensive structure damage and massive landslides closer to the epicenter.

Photo Credit: Sokere Hali
Photo credit:
In the weeks following the quake, we have begun to see the extent of the aftermath as tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, their land, and their livelihoods. Over a hundred fatalities have been confirmed. Victims were either crushed by collapsing buildings or buried in landslides.

Photo Credit: Connie Lou Aebischer
The PNG government is partnering with Australian military and several NGOs on the ground to distribute aid, but efforts have been greatly hampered by the remoteness of the affected area and the great number of landslides that have blocked or destroyed roads.  Several rivers in the area were clogged with landslide debris making the water unsuitable for drinking and posing the greater threat of downstream flooding when the earthen dams finally give way. For more details regarding the ongoing challenges in relief efforts please see these reports from BBC and The Age.
     After the initial earthquake, there have been more than 100 aftershocks which have slowed in frequency over the weeks. Just yesterday, April 7, we felt a large 6.3 magnitude aftershock which reportedly damaged one of the functioning airstrips in the area which will further hamper the recovery efforts. Please continue to pray for those affected.

Handing off  the surgery
 "on-call" phone
         The unexpected did not end there. In the week following the earthquake, a lightning strike took out the station's phone system, resulting in a month of very interesting on-call arrangements until the system could be fixed. During that time the autoclaves also broke which forced work at the hospital to limp along for several weeks until they could be suitably repaired (as detailed on Dr. Erin's blog) . During that same period, we also experienced an increased frequency of power outages which reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year at about this time. As they say: when it rains, it pours!

Unloading the container (on left)
Thankfully, most things are back to normal around the hospital now and not all unexpected events are bad. Several weeks ago, we got a very pleasant surprise when a long-awaited shipping container from Nazarene Hospital Foundation finally arrived. In addition to the much-needed, donated supplies and medications, we also received a HUGE order of new re-usable surgical gowns and linens. The last time our linens were updated was 20 years ago and the patchwork gowns were starting to reflect their age. Thanks to the generosity of many who have donated to the hospital's Greatest Need Fund, we hope to have reliable surgical gowns and linens for another 20 years. I can't wait to see what new surprises are in store this week and this month!

New surgical linens!!!

*If you would like more information on how to aid our work at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital through sending medical supplies or financial contributions, please click the links above. Thank you to everyone who makes our continued work here possible.