Thank you to the community of Fairbanks for the tremendous support for this trip.
We especially appreciate the all people that contributed to our Hospital Lobby Bake Sale.
Donated equipment and medical supplies came from all directions.
Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines transported our over-weight luggage gratis, and Silk Air gave us a deep discount.
Family and friends of the team were especially supportive.
You’ll remember we struggled with luggage on our way to Indonesia. With nearly 500kg of medical supplies this was no surprise, but on our way home we only had 66kg of medical supplies. We expected to breeze through the baggage check for our flight. But alas, once again we found ourselves haggling with airline personnel trying to explain why it was important that our medical supplies were loaded on the plane we were on. Primary reason of course was if not on our flight (Monday) the next flight off the island was Friday and we would be back in the USA by the time they were on their first leg of a 5 leg journey. So, as we boarded our flight, our luggage boarded a taxi for the trip back to the medical clinic. We had to make arrangements for someone to drive it to another airport or the 24 hour ferry and travel with it so that it could catch up to us. It was a relief, once again to see our luggage meet up with us with 48 hours later.
The treat on the flight home was the tail wind that shortened one of the legs by an hour and a half. For me, the best part is I can sleep! Start up that engine and I’m trying to snore louder then the engine. After the first flight, there were enough empty seats that we could stretch out a bit too. Our minds were swimming as we left. So many lives changed, images seared in our memories. A 24 year old that had lived his whole life with a severe bilateral cleft lip, mended, the smile on a mother’s face the first time she saw her 8 year old son with his lip mended, Margaretha the little baby calling out thank you to the doctor, and so many more images.
By the time we got to Singapore, I had an email with a photo of a lady that had just arrived at the clinic. They were expressing sadness that we weren’t there any longer to help her, advanced breast cancer. She had been seen a few times at the hospital and treated for an infection. Her tumor was massive, with a large open draining area. It was worse then any breast cancer I’ve seen in over 30 years of nursing. It was so large she couldn’t even sit up. It is just so hard to explain how things there are so much more than we ever see here. We couldn’t have done much to help her, the cancer is clearly spread through out her body, but perhaps… no, hard as it is to say there is nothing we could have done, there was nothing.
I guess that is the part that is the hardest to explain to folk that haven’t experienced remote medicine. In the USA, it is true that medical problems can bankrupt a person and that a person could end up paying a bill for the rest of their life, but it is rare for someone in need of basic medical care to be turned away. In Indonesia, you don’t even get admitted to the hospital unless you can pay first. If you need surgery, you have to put the money up first, you have to bring your own suture, and prep and dressing etc with you to the hospital. In America you are not turned away from an emergency room because you can’t pay first. Matter of fact, there are laws that prevent a health care facility from turning away a person that can’t pay.
How did we do regarding the goal of our mission? We thought if we worked full hard days, we might be able to operate on 25 patients. We were able to operate on 29 patients and did over 33 surgeries. We weren’t able to see the smiles on the patient’s faces (they were still to sore from surgery) but the smiles on their family’s faces was reward enough.
April 7th weekend
What I’ve learned up to date…
Internet access is a privilege, not a right…and sometimes it is a flat out competition.
The reason you might not know the dose of abendazole is probably because Alaska does not have that high of an elephantiasis rate.
If you run out of beds at the hospital, a mat of the floor will do just fine…as some patients prefer it.
Rice truly can be served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner
When the village water stops working…the squatty potty still works
When the electricity goes out in the OR for the umpteenth time, the value of a $20 headlamp will shine through
It is still possible for some to continue their job of sterilizing the team’s surgical instruments…even with an IV in their left arm
Although I have learned the most new disease diagnoses from the village population–our surgical team has come in a close second.
Different than back home, sometimes moving a patient from the recovery room to their hospital bed does require an umbrella
It is possible to fit a family of five on a motorcycle…as long as one is a baby.
Sometimes learning comes through a heavy-hearted situation that you might have preferred not to learn. It is in these times that you might struggle for understanding…and work to find the meaning of what just happened. What if’s…should have’s…why didn’t we…. A child’s unexpected death changes the ground you walk on no matter what country you are in…things are less sturdy…life’s reasons are more questioned. You are forcibly retaught that you are far from in control on many levels. It reinforces how grateful we should be for what we have and how grievous it is for those who do not. Taking a step to help make a different outcome possible next time…a small purpose on a small level that if it makes a difference to even one…then there can be worth.
Sometimes it takes a village for one to re-embrace what is truly important.
Learned in indo April 9
- Even Dr Jensen takes his turn at zapping the stray fly from the OR prior to the case starting.
- In Indonesia, making a bet with Dr Jensen came with a high probability of not winning.
- If you need to transport 30 people (1/2 of which are children)to the local beach…then stand them up in the back of a work truck with their Alaskan friends and drive that winding road..it’s only about 20 miles.
- The Indonesian car horn is multilingual–understood by Indonesians, Americans, cows , dogs, and occasional ferrel chickens.
- Hospital scrubs not only meet OR dress requirements…they also make fine reveal-less ocean swimwear
- If you task a gaggle of Indonesian children to find the most beautiful beach shell…soon you might have to bring an extra piece of luggage to carry them home.
- A thankful village who report they can never repay you for all you’ve done…will try anyway with baskets.
- As a result of these thank you’s ….your group may acquire approximately 4 more pieces of luggage
- There is also a good chance your team will probably be over packed by 66kg and the local airline will request you leave 4 bags behind…to be shipped when next plane goes out next…in 2 days.
- The ocean temperature in Indonesia feels like they took a jacuzzi and a swimming pool and stirred them up before adding salt.
It wasn’t by design but we all got a lift when we realized we healed a leper on Easter. Hendrik has been a long time resident of the leper colony on Hohidiai. Matter of fact they call him the mayor. He came there after living 9 years in the jungle alone, shunned by his friends and family. His mother came once a day to bring him food. He lost most of his hands and feet to the effects of untreated leprosy. On top of that he had cataracts robbing his vision. The eye surgeons from Jakarta wouldn’t touch his cataracts until he was able to close his eyes, that’s where we came in. Easter Sunday Dr. Jensen fixed his lids so they could close. A side benefit was everyone telling him him he looked 10 years younger. Michaela said it was the first time she gave anesthesia to a patient and partied with them at night. Hendrik came to our send off party with the rest of the clinic staff.
After 2 Easter Sunday surgeries we made quick order of packing everything and headed to the beach.
Word spread quickly through the camp and I’m pretty sure every free person, young and old, piled into the huge farm truck and off to the beach we headed. Not sure how it happened, but after frolicking and shell collecting and frisbee, we loaded back up and no one was missing.
Rinse off the salt brine and head up the hill for our departure celebration. Dancing, singing, speeches, gifts, tears! It was hard to say goodby but awesome to have gotten to know these people. The clinic workers, the patients, the kids, orphans and the Scarborough’s. A family devoted to make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Hendrik had surgery on his eye lids to allow them to close more completely
Contrary to previous reports of me faking my own demise I have managed to convince everyone of my genuine illness by constantly expectorating. Even doubtors have come to realize the full seriousness of my condition offering to put me out of my misery with copius quantities of quack medicines which I have steadfastly refused. Hence my tenuous survival to this day.
Even on Easter we managed to get in two surgeries…the last of our project. We will have a big celebration tonight and tomorrow morning - early we depart for the long journey home.
My only regret is not being able to fully participate in the Local Easter Festivities which the Indonesians celibrate with great enthusiasm.