A good night: At The Wine Underground
We had a great night last night at The Wine Underground. We were humbled and delighted to be able to share about the work of Kijabe Hospital in East Africa with about fifty old and new friends from the engineering, medical, and business sectors across South Australia.
It was a fun, deep, interesting, moving, encouraging evening. Some great questions, and conversations with several people who are considering doing similar compassionate work in the resource-poor world.
Many thanks again to our kind host/interviewer/facilitator extraordinaire, Stephen Watkins and to the kind folks at Inside Infrastructure who sponsored the evening.
You can view a short clip of the evening here:
Interview on 891 Adelaide ABC Radio, South Australia
On Monday we were invited to be interviewed on Adelaide’s popular AM radio station, 891 Adelaide, on Ian Henschke’s morning program.
It’s a short interview, only about 8 minutes long…click on the link below if you’d like to have a listen.
Hiding in the bathroom (19/2/13)
When we got to Adelaide, I had run out of words..
I’ve always been on the shy side, pretty introverted. Quicker to watch and listen than to join in and speak. Over the years, through learning to perform – on the piano, dancing & marching on the stage for calisthenics I have adjusted the outside me to appear confident, to initiate conversations, to teach, to be up front.
But inside, I prefer to watch, to listen. To sit by myself and read, ponder, wonder.
As a child, when asked to perform a piece on the piano at a recital, my heart would hammer in my chest and I would start to feel a little sick. But over years of playing in church, then backup singing, then finally leading a congregation, I became used to the stage, to a sea of faces who no longer made me feel afraid.
I will never forget the first day I walked into a hospital as a medical student. to examine my first patient. The nausea, clammy hands, elevated heart rate. The relief, at the end of the day, that it was done. The apprehension that tomorrow, I would have to meet new patients, reintroduce myself, and start again.
Over the years of medical school, I gained confidence, taught myself to meet new people without anxiety. And as I began to enjoy the science and art of doctoring, the anxiety faded away and I developed a comfort in my new skin of pediatrician – a belonging and ease in my chosen profession.
But the inside me hasn’t really changed. I recently read an article written by an introvert who explained that when she is at a party, every so often she goes to bathroom – not to use it, you see, but to, for a few minutes, escape conversation and noise and interaction.
I have been doing that – or washing the dishes at dinner parties – for as long as I can remember.
So these last two months of travel, daily sharing our work and stories and passions, has been a challenge for me. Staying with dear friends and family, some of whom I have known for decades, has been a joy and an encouragement. The opportunity to meet and thank supporters and partners has been precious.
But it is the most exhausted I have ever been. Moreso than the 6 years I worked 80-100 hours a week. And strangely, more than working in Kijabe, with its complexities and emotion.
I recharge alone. In the silence of an empty house. When children are asleep and my husband is out with a friend. When I can’t overhear someone else’s conversation or thoughtful enquiry. When I can sit at the piano and play and sing and know that noone else is listening.
We arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday, grateful to be on this second leg of our journey. But we decided to take the first week off – off of conversation about our ministry, off of planning, off of doing, away from people. My parents kindly looked after the long-awaited grandchildren while Andy and I went away for 2 nights. My husband is my best friend, which is why we were comfortable with hardly talking to each other for most of the weekend – a companionable silence, a retreat. Some time together, some time apart.
And I find myself, at the end of it, finally with some words. Able to blog, a little, for the first time in a while. Less tired, more available to be with people, to be in the middle of rather than at the edges.
So, Australian team, we’re back. We are so excited to see you, and can’t wait to catch up with you. There is time – a lot of time – we are going to have to be with you until the end of May – catching up and lecturing and preaching and telling stories. But you’ll understand when sometimes, there will be times when we’re not available. Recharging time before heading back to the intensity of Kijabe.
If you look hard enough, you may find me in the bathroom, or doing the dishes. But I promise, if you wait just a little while, I’ll be out soon.
February Grand Rounds lecture: Pediatric acute care in Kenya (31/1/13)
Mardi gave this lecture at Grand Rounds to the emergency physicians at Shands Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on 31 January, and the following day to the University of Florida pediatric residents at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital.
It is uploaded (click on the image below) due to the requests she’s had to publish it. Enjoy!
A not-quite homecoming (17/12/12)
We’ve arrived back in the States a couple of weeks ago and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but a good one, since we arrived. It’s been great to reconnect with friends, family, and partners.
Highlights so far:
-Riley and Liam spending time with the ever-resourceful Nana in Boston–who organised a scavenger hunt for them in Barnes and Noble…with the participation of store management, no less
-Riley clinging to Papa Bill whenever he’s within arm’s reach, and her full conviction that if she wants it to snow, Papa Bill can make it happen (he has connections, you see)
-Spending some good time with Grand-Nana, who is finding it harder to hear and communicate but who is still a source of encouragement and spiritual strength to me
-Meeting the kind and lovely Beth, my father’s new wife, for the first time
-Pilgrimages to heavenly Robinette’s, the apple farm that has been a West Michigan donut and apple cider icon since 1911.
-Any and every moment spent with my sister, brother-in-law and their boys Will and Quinn
-Riley and Liam having a sleepover at Will and Quinn’s house and going to Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast the next morning
-A few days with the inspiring Fiona and David in Cape Cod, another multi-cultural couple (British and Irish…a match only possible in heaven)
-Visiting (and rejoicing with) my aunt and uncle who narrowly survived a terrible car accident three weeks ago and are starting the long road to rehabilitation and recovery
We’ve also enjoyed starting to share personal stories with our partners of what their financial partnership has done for a child, a refugee, a future chaplain or pastor, or our rural community in Kijabe.
Having lived on three continents so far, we’re not unfamiliar with culture shock…and so we were prepared for a bit of re-entry turbulence. It’s been mostly mild, but most of it has been humorous more than anything:
-Mardi wandering around Meijer in a daze before running out early because the size of the store was overwhelming
-My (Andy) not being comfortable driving at night or on the interstate, and feeling like a 70 year old man navigating Grand Rapids on backstreets to avoid four lane highways
-Staring in fascination as my cousin (the foodie wizard Mike McKay) made a frittata…and realising after a full minute that I was entranced because he was using white eggs without chicken poo and feathers stuck to them. WHITE eggs! What will they think of next?
-Checking out books at the library and having to ask the librarian for help 4 times because I couldn’t grasp the “automatic check-out system” (nerd factoid: RFID chips in every book).
In the 1960′s, my paternal grandfather transitioned to his third career…WWII test pilot to automotive engineer to church planter in Grand Rapids. The church he planted is healthy and thriving today, and we spoke at both services yesterday. It’s hard to put into words how much of a blessing it was to be with a church I have visited off and on for 37 years, and which felt like family the moment we walked through the doors.
Preaching 48 hours after the most horrific mass murder in America’s history provided additional context to the talk we gave. We spoke on the backstory to the hope, longing, and anticipation that is the season of Advent and the new Exodus that we are called to as followers of Jesus. There were lots of tears…but it is a time for grief and lament in America.
We hold eight passports between the four of us (four of which are American), and so returning to the States is always a good feeling…but after our nearly two years in Kenya, coming back ‘home’ hasn’t feel quite like the homecoming it normally does. You see, part of our hearts are in Kenya now.
It is good to be back in the States, and it will be good to be back in Australia in February…but rather than coming ‘home’, I feel a bit like we’re visitors to someone else’s home. I love that person, I am grateful for their hospitality and relationship and it is a delight to hear their stories and share some of ours…but I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I look forward to returning to our work, our leaky home with the front door that doesn’t lock properly, and roads with potholes so large you could hide kids in them.
And I must say…going for a run without having to constantly look down at the road to avoid rocks or goats or fallen trees is mighty nice!
All in all, it’s good to be back for a visit.
Cloud funding (5/8/12)
Sometimes, living away from friends and family can feel very isolated. But many times, we feel like a part of something so much bigger than our community here. And this week was one of those weeks.
Many of you read my plea for help for funding a CPAP machine, and responded with overwhelming generosity. Within 12 hours of writing that blog post, we had donors from all over the world sending us money – and instead of $1900, we received over $7000, enough to purchase 3 CPAP machines. I ordered the machines, and this week they arrived.
Let me tell you again how these remarkable devices are going to change the lives of little babies. After multiple explanations of how the CPAP works, my poor husband still is a little perplexed about exactly what they do – but he knows that I am so very, very excited about them and that’s enough for him. For anyone who’d like to know what they do, here’s a little picture:
Premature babies often need pressurised air to help their immature lungs stay inflated – “continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP), usually a mix of mostly air with a little oxygen. Before these machines arrived, we had 2 spots for babies in our nursery where we could do CPAP. And if more than 2 babies needed CPAP, we could kind of do it – but we had to blast them with 100% oxygen, which causes irreversible damage to premature eyes and premature lungs (it’s counterintuitive, but 100% oxygen for premature babies is a bad, bad thing).
Thursday this week was Christmas day for me and the nurses in nursery. We opened the CPAP machine boxes, pored over the ridiculously simple instructions, got all all the bits and pieces together and disinfected them.
Friday morning, I put our first baby on the CPAP machine. That baby was ALREADY on wall CPAP, but even on the maximum pressure the baby was deteriorating, so in desperation, and to temporise before making tougher decisions, I attached him to the new CPAP machine. Yes – it worked better than the air/oxygen coming out of the wall. His oxygen levels rose, his breathing improved (see joyful 30 second video below). I almost cried.
(Side note: I was in ICU at midnight later that night, and the oxygen just stopped coming out of the walls. We had to run around and find oxygen cylinders and squeeze oxygen bags to breathe for 3 ventilated patients until it came back out again. This happened TWICE. I am not surprised that our new machine may have a more reliable oxygen pressure….).
Now, we can do CPAP on 3 babies at once, anywhere in the nursery – in the tiny isolation room that fits one cot, for babies with severe infections who can’t be around other babies. We can now do CPAP in the big isolation room that we’ve opened this week for babies who are born at home or other hospitals and may be carrying germs that we don’t want to expose our other babies to. This new room doesn’t have any oxygen piped in, anywhere, but now we can do CPAP in there anyway. And now, with 3 babies receiving CPAP any old place we like, we can use the 2 air/oxygen outlets to either give 2 more babies CPAP or to set up a ventilator, which can only be hooked up if you have both air and oxygen outlets.
Friday afternoon I brought our first ventilator machine down to the nursery. It’s going to take 3 months of training the nurses and junior doctors on this machine before we can start safely help the sickest babies breathe with ventilators in the nursery – it’s a complex business that you don’t rush into without good training. But in just over 2 weeks, a neonatology specialist arrives and she’s going to be working with us for the next 6 months to make sure we learn how to do it as well as we possibly can. She’ll train all the nurses and clinical/medical officers, and finesse Jennifer’s, Sarah’s and my archaic ventilator knowledge – and the upstairs ICU will no longer have to juggle adults as well as premature babies. The timing could not – could absolutely not – have been better.
There’s a scripture in Hebrews 11 & 12 talking about the heroes of our faith – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David. It goes on to say:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I have felt, especially in the last month, so incredibly surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. I have felt part of a timeless, eternal story, surrounded, too, by a supernatural cloud of witnesses. But that cloud also includes all of you, cheering us on from Australia, the US, the UK, China, Kenya – I feel your encouragement, your love, your empathy, your constancy, your prayers.
There is a phrase that’s becoming more common in non-profit and humanitarian work – “crowd funding“. It describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. This fundraising effort began as crowd funding, but soon became about more than devices to make oxygen. Because you are all more than just a crowd – you are part of our cloud of witnesses. These CPAP machines are to me a daily, palpable reminder of “cloud funding”.
We’re still in the lead for the Reach Out Missions project – a proposal sent months ago to try to raise this very money. If we win, we will buy another CPAP machine to use for older babies with bronchiolitis (a severe, sometimes fatal viral lung infection), and we’ll buy 2 oxygen concentrators – very similar machines – to provide reliable oxygen to our two pediatric resuscitation rooms. But hot on our tail in the voting is Galmi Hospital in Niger – an incredible place providing medical care and wanting to upgrade physiotherapy services to a desperately needy population. I know that whoever gets the most votes, we all win. Every vote for every project has resulted in a dollar raised – and again, cloud funding will have been a part of encouraging, cheering and supporting more work participating in God’s plan for the restoration of his creation.