Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In a Fishing Village

It's a beautiful evening. I'm standing on the balcony of our hotel, looking out over the town. It's mostly clear; I can see the Big Dipper, and the moon is almost full. It's dark, but it's still early. I can hear dogs barking, kids playing, and motorcycles on the streets. There is a radio tower close by, and a number of birds are landed there, chattering. To one side there are some small hills, with lightening beyond them in the distance. To the other side is the ocean. I'll never get enough of looking at the ocean. The town is sprinkled with palm trees, which make beautiful silhouettes against the sky.

This is peace and happiness and beauty. But there are problems here too. If there weren't, I wouldn't be here. Because I'm here to look at nutrition and feeding practices in the community with my classmates. Malnutrition is a problem, even in beautiful coastal towns on perfect evenings in the Philippines. But I like to think that somehow, by the time we leave we will have made some small difference.

The birds are quieting down now. The dogs are still barking. The water is still shimmering under the street lights. Soon people will go to sleep. Tomorrow they'll wake up to another beautiful day of doing what they can to support their families. Beauty and difficulty are so different, but so connected.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


On the last Sabbath we were in Nigeria, we had a celebration after church to recognize the volunteers who had helped us to make everything run smoothly. They were amazing, and there were a lot of them. If they hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have been able to do much at all. After the ceremony, we walked outside of the church, took some pictures, and milled around talking with people. 

At some point, the marching band started to play. A group of people started dancing, and one of our volunteers told me that I should go dance. I assured her that I can't dance, and that wouldn’t be a good idea. Wise lady that she is, she informed me that I didn't have to dance, it was just marching. Lies. But I went with her. I truly can’t dance, but we had so much fun. After working hard with these people all week long, it was special to connect with them in that expression of celebration. It was so hot and sunny, and we got so sweaty and tired. But it was absolutely worth it. 

Early Sunday morning I had to leave to head back to the city. My flight was on Monday, but everyone had to go a day early, because it was a long drive. The next morning, a driver picked me up again and took me to the airport. Every time I’m in an airport, I have just a little bit of anxiety that somehow my flight or my ID or something won’t be in order, and they won’t let me on the plane. It’s never happened to me before, but still; it seems like a valid possibility. Anyway, I managed to navigate my way through the airport, even when they announced boarding a full 2 hours before departure (so confused. Basically at that point they just let us back to our actual gate to wait). I had a short flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a few hours layover, and then a long flight to Manila, Philippines. 

In Addis I gave in an paid for WiFi, which turned out to be a good decision. I also found several pairs of shoes that I really liked, which seemed super random. There was a shop there that sold brands like Clarks and Adidas. I didn’t buy any. In addition to shoes, the shops had all sorts of candy and sweet snacks. All I wanted was some salt, but I couldn’t find a single salty snack. Oh well; clearly I survived (note to self: next time, only pack salty snacks). 

Cows and Sheep

During the middle of our clinic week in Nigeria, I had the opportunity to go on a field trip.

After breakfast, I ran over to the hospital and got registration set up. The volunteers hadn’t all arrived yet, so I left before they were able to start. After I concluded that everything was in order, I went to find Sarah, our veterinarian. Each day she spent her morning out in the bush treating cows for the nomadic Fulani tribe. And I got to go with her. 

We squeezed into a little pickup; a driver, a security officer (he had a big gun), the Fulani chief, Sarah, a pastor who spoke the language and went along to help, the local vet tech, me, and a number of other young guys who helped out. It was a fun ride. At one point we were literally driving through a field. Slightly bumpy. I’m not sure how the driver decided where to stop, since we weren’t necessarily on a road anyway, but he would pick a place, and we would get out. Then they mixed the medications to use for the animals at that location. As far as I know, it was mostly deworming and things of that sort (and an antibiotic?), but I’m not all up on my animal medication classifications, so I’m not entirely sure. 

Sarah had me watch her give a few shots, and then she handed me the syringe. A young guy named Gideon (I think) carried the bucket of medication for me, and took the cap off of my syringes for me when my hands got to slippery. It was a pretty exciting morning. I’ve given plenty of shots to people, but I’d never given one to an animal before. It wasn’t vastly different though. 

Pretty early on in the morning I got stepped on by a cow, but it wasn’t too serious. Just a reminder that cows are large creatures, and I’m a small person. We kept going, and I got to hold a baby sheep and cuddle a little calf. Day made. 

After we finished at the first location, we drove on further and got to another site with more people, and more cows and sheep. These cows were a lot rougher. A reflection of how they are handled, I was told. They didn’t make me give the shot to the huge bull that went crashing into the brush and fell down in an attempt to escape while they were trying to catch him. I was cool with that. Somewhere along the line I got stepped on again, this time a little harder. Took my toe awhile to recover. In addition, as the day went on I began to turn red and crispy. It was pretty sunny. At the last place we went, I was trying to give a shot to one disagreeable cow. She was not pleased, and she kicked me. I was a little shocked. Again, a reminder that cows are large creatures. I was very excited though, when I got home and discovered that I had a nice purple bruise just above my knee, extending in patches halfway up my thigh. 

Now, a couple of weeks later, I just have a farmers tan, and slight remnants of a bruise. Oh, and pictures of myself with baby livestock. :)

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Clinic in Jengre

I left from Loma Linda on June 12, and traveled to Nigeria with a large group of students and faculty from LLU. Our team consisted of team leaders, doctors, dentists, nurses, a veterinarian, public health professionals and students, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, pharmacy students, behavioral health students, etc. We flew through London, and then landed in Abuja, Nigeria. Once we arrived at our location, we were split up into 3 teams, to run medical clinics at each of them. I was part of a team located at Jengre Adventist Hospital. 

I really enjoyed the location. Jengre was a nice area. It was beautiful, and the people were very friendly. When I walked through the wards of the hospital it felt just like being in Béré. 

My primary object for the medical clinic was organizing registration and keeping things moving. Each day we had very large crowds of people wanting to be seen by the doctor. Sometimes it was difficult to keep things moving smoothly without interruptions. Anytime I walked through the crowd to get something or talk to someone, people would pull me aside. Every person had a story. And every person seemed to need to see the doctor. For some it was their mother, or their baby, or their wife, or their blind grandfather. Everyone seemed to have a real reason and a real need of some sort. This was very overwhelming, as on our second day, roughly 2500 people came, wanting to see the doctor. On that day we saw less than 200. At the end of the day as one man was telling me his story, I had to explain to him that it really wasn’t possible for us to see him that day…because there were literally 2000 people in line in front of him. But I hated telling him that. Because the fact that there were lots of other people with needs didn’t make his needs any less valid. 

I have a very hard time turning people away. Especially when they tell me a story and explain to me why they need what they’re asking for. I want to help everyone, and solve all of their problems. So I had to learn to avoid walking through the crowd as much as possible, because it was just too hard to listen to people and then tell them that I couldn’t help them; that maybe we could see them on another day, but I couldn’t even promise that. 

Towards the end of the week, a teenage girl tried to pull me aside. I was really hesitant to follow her, because I knew that we couldn’t add any more new patients for the day, and I didn’t want to hear another sad story and say “Sorry, maybe tomorrow.” But I did follow her. She pulled me away from the crowd, and asked me my name. Then she asked me where she was from, and if we could be friends. And that was all she wanted. She just wanted to say hi, and become friends. It was a good reminder that sometimes even a few words can make someone’s day better. Even if I can’t squeeze them in to see the doctor. 

In the end, I settled on doing my best to be fair and adhere to first come, first served, but not turn someone away if I would lose sleep over it. So I slipped in the guy with a badly infected dog bite on his foot (and he got surgery to debride it! Hopefully he’s healing nicely), the baby that supposedly hadn’t eaten in a week, the little boy who was sick and basically unresponsive, the guy with mud packed in a wound on his chest, and the guy with something like cellulitis from his shoulder all the way to his fingertips. The girl who was pregnant and bleeding somehow got lost in the crowd…so I hope that someone else got her in. 

We can’t fix everyone. But I hope that we helped a few people, and made their future a little brighter.