Mission Bush Pilot and Nurse

After spending three years in Guyana, South America, we have now moved to Bewani, 50 Km south of Vanimo, Papua New Guinea. We have started a new humanitarian aviation ministry here. In visiting with health officials and church people here, the need for an aviation program to reach into remote villages became very apparent. We are taking health workers and medicines/vaccines, into remote village airstrips and bringing out critically ill patients to the hospital. We also fly in educational materials for schools, as well as take in Bible workers. Toni is helping with the medical end of things, while Gary takes care of the flying part. We have several local lay missionaries we sponsor and we do ground transport for patients as well. We are volunteers here to serve our God and the unreached people of Papua New Guinea. We have a great need for more people to join in this effort.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Working with RAM in Lethem

On Sunday Oct 10 I flew with Terrance and Julie Trap (Remote Area Medical coordinators) to Lethem, a small town on the border with Brazil.

 They have a new hospital there with some fairly good equipment.  I was fortunate to be able to stay in the Government Guest House--in one of the two rooms that has air conditioning.

The staff there were very nice and helpful.  There was a team of doctors and nurses--most of them from the U.S.  One was from Scotland!  I did all the pre-op and recovery work.  The second week, I did have a local nurse (a different one every day) help me.  Only one of them was a registered nurse.  They didn't know much about pre-op and post-op care, but were willing to learn and do what they could, and were a big help to me--in spite of disappearing when I needed them most--sometimes not even returning.  Most of them could start IV's, do vitals, shave patients, etc.  The shaving was done with blunt scalpel blades!

We did approximately 45 surgeries in the two weeks that I was there, plus held clinic most days to see many more patients.  I was usually at the hospital at 7:30 in the morning and left between 8 and 9 pm in the evening.

 We did women's surgeries the first few days, and general surgeries-- several on small children the rest of the time.

  Most of the children vomited, and I had to keep them in recovery a long time.  This made it difficult with the pre-ops and other patients I was trying to recover, but God gave me the strength to do what needed to be done.   I also had to prepare the pre-op medications and antibiotics and give them for anesthesia.  It was quite a feat using mostly very long and flimsy needles.  The IV  tubing was extremely difficult to put into the IV bags. 

I had 5 beds in the PACU--only one of them worked (as far as being able to move it up and down, head up, etc.).

 There were 2 monitors--one of them worked.  I finally figured out that the plug didn't work that the one monitor was connected to, so after asking that it be moved a couple of times, with no results, I used a small pair of bandage scissors (the only pair of scissors in the whole area) to unscrew the monitor, move it and screw it back down where I could plug it into a plug that worked!!!  So, I had 2 monitors for the second week.  Unfortunately, part way through that week, the first monitor quit working, and I got somebody to help me get an extension cord to move the plug where it worked again.
I did have my own manual blood pressure cuff, stethoscope (which broke the last day there), and small oximeter--which the local nurses and I used a lot--when we had no monitor available!

I was getting pretty tired by the weekend.  Fortunately, for me, we ran out of oxygen and couldn't do any surgeries on Sabbath.  I was able to rest, read, and walk and enjoy the Sabbath.  The last day we were there, they were changing over the electrical system, so we were only supposed to have 4 hours of electricity--then however long the generator lasted.  The generator had been cutting off quite frequently, and wasn't reliable for long periods of time.  Gary was bringing three patients down to have surgery, and wouldn't be able to arrive until about 2:30 pm.   Meanwhile, the medical director of the hospital was trying to negotiate with the electric company.  God intervened, and they allowed us to have electricity until we were done with surgery--even though the other part of the town had been without electricity for over 24 hours and was supposed to have it instead! Gary was delayed in leaving Georgetown as he had to wait out a rainstorm, and they closed the airport because the president of the country was coming in, but he made it to Lethem about 3 pm--and we still had electricity!  We were able to take care of the patients, and then have the electric company turn off the power.  We had no air conditioning that night, but we were thankful we had electricity in the OR earlier!

We brought the anesthesiologist and her daughter with us to Georgetown and took them by Kaiteur Falls on the way home--for a special treat to them.

 The doctors and nurses were all very dedicated, caring medical professionals--from all over the world (one came from Scotland).  There were a couple of teams who went out to many villages to hold clinics and help people, as well as the surgical teams.  Several of them were vegetarian, which was a big plus for me!  The administrator and staff of the hospital were very helpful and pleasant to work with.  I was busy and stressed, but enjoyed using my nursing skills again--thankful that I haven't lost them yet!!!!  Since I got home, I've been getting the accounting, laundry, cleaning, emails, and other things caught up around here.  I hope I can go help next year with RAM.  It was truly a blessing to me.