Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 1

The view from our porch

Big nem bilong yu means "honor to you" in tok pisin. Dr. Bill concludes his prayers with patients that we see with this phrase.

We arrived in Papua New Guinea 3 days ago. Now I've decided to try to keep some account of our time here ... for those who have put time, money and energy into making this trip possible. Without you, we wouldn't have this opportunity - thank you!

At 6 in the morning, I've been up about an hour already today. I can level the blame for that on the time change, but working steadily throughout the days in a new country with challenges I've never faced before means that I'm ready for bed far earlier here as well. Getting up at 5 this morning still meant a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep last night.

The ambient sounds of Papua New Guinea don't lend themselves to lullabies. Cicadas (spelling?) smashing into the screens and yells in the middle of the night don't help. There are no calls to prayer at 4 am though, which is decidedly better than many of our previous trips. The steady rains of the afternoons and evenings with their rolling thunder coming out of the mountains is relaxing, though.
Last night we heard a procession in the middle of the night and I'm sure I heard Jesus' name used several times, though I couldn't tell if there were sounds of joy or sadness. It seems that those two are inseparable in a place like this. Something that I've learned is true at home, but perhaps contrasted a little better here.

I wrote in my journal yesterday about my first encounter with caring for the needy here at Kudjip:
"Today I watched a 15 month old boy die while Dr. Bill and I tried to resuscitate him. I delivered a baby in a csection. I repaired a woman's elbow after she had been stabbed in a knife attack by a rival tribesman (who was looking for her husband). I drained an abscess, praying that there was no bone infection, on an infant who now lies in our ward receiving IV fluids and antibiotics to stave off sepsis. I did all of this without falling apart. But I wonder if that, too, is close at hand."

We have a rare privilege and burden here. I don't see patients looking for a reason to suffer. I don't see patients "using the system." I don't see patients with the wrong insurance, on too many pain medications or insisting on seeing a specialist. I see patients who are lost and hurting, with insurmountable odds stacked against them trying desperately to care for themselves, their spouse, their families.

The day we got to Kudjip, a pregnant woman arrived at the hospital at about 5 months along. 10 days before, she went to surgery from our emergency room. Her husband's other wife, who couldn't conceive, attacked her and stabbed her in her abdomen. That injury was repaired in the operating room, as was a small hole made in the uterus from the penetration of the knife. She recovered well and went home. But on the 3rd of May, her water had broken and she delivered her boy prematurely weighing 400 grams. There was a hole piercing the side of the baby, leaving his abdomen exposed and open. The baby died 2 days ago, having surpassed all expectations in living almost 48 hours.
I was reminded of Zechariah 12:10, "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn." This is the prophecy that John writes was fulfilled when Jesus was pierced on the cross, with the flow of blood and water that followed an illustration of the sacrifice and redemption we undeservedly gained in that moment. I am struck and humbled to be in a place where the imagery of God's rescuing us is so vivid and alive. Whatever shortcomings I have in this place pale when compared to God's sovereignty and care of the people here. We are all control freaks, I realize. At Kudjip, even the idea of control has been torn away from me. Without it, I realize that God lets no moment go by without recognition, even if it doesn't turn out the way He intended long ago. Who am I to ask Him what He is about?

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