Getting my feet wet (literally)
I have now been out of quarantine in PNG for almost two weeks and in PNG for 4 weeks. It’s been a whirlwind of experiences; traveling for 3 days to arrive and wait in quarantine for 14 days, learning language, orienting to the hospital and jumping into work. I am currently orienting in the different wards and taking call with backup until I am ready to do it on my own.
Despite the isolation of quarantine, I still felt the care and love of the people here through thoughtful gifts and the provision of my quarantine house. Quarantine allowed me to reflect on my transition and prepare for entering this whole new life, something I am now thankful for in the business of working at the hospital.
One of the first things that I was able to do after leaving quarantine was to go out with the mobile clinic to a nearby village to provide immunizations and check-ups for infants and toddlers. As we were driving through this beautiful country, I marveled at the beauty that is here. So many of the faces we passed lit up as we went by and they called out welcoming us into their community. The joy that radiates from the way the people smile here is heart-warming and soul-lifting. I felt God filling my heart with love for the people here, an answer to a frequent prayer of mine.
Sister Theresa and the mobile clinic
I am hesitant to describe the people and culture here as I know so little and don’t want to misrepresent what I don’t understand. But I also want to welcome you into my life and into what I am learning and experiencing. Please have grace with me as I try to describe my experiences.
Daily life for me has been varied thus far, but often involves rounding on a ward in the morning (Pediatrics, Medicine or OB), then working in either the ER or the clinic seeing patients. The scope of the doctors (and midlevel providers and nurses) is broad and impressive due to the pathology that comes to the hospital. I am gaining a lot of experience in treating new diseases, using ultrasound frequently to aid in diagnosis and a wide range of procedures necessary to help our patients.
PNG is a beautiful place. It rains almost every day (during the current rainy season). There are a number of beautiful plants and animals, with the mountains always in the background. Mud is a daily fact of life, but so is green and life.
Local countryside, market and view of the hospital
I want to share two stories of how the people of PNG have already given so much to me. During one of my first days I was feeling discouraged by the amount that I needed to learn and the steepness of the learning curve. A woman came into the ER limping with a cane, hesitant to put any weight on one of her feet. On examination, she had a large abscess that was partially open on her big toe and extended deep into the toe. The I+D revealed and extension of the infection down to the base of the toe, but no involvement of the bone. As the woman was waking up from sedation, she started to talk to me. I’m still learning Tok Pisin and wasn’t able to understand everything that she told me, however I knew that she was telling me about the difficulty of her life, things she had experienced and the difficulty her toe had given her. Then she thanked me with a stirring sincerity for the help I had given her and for the ministry of the hospital. She prayed with me and I could feel God’s presence and the connection despite the language barrier. What she didn’t know, and what I wasn’t able to communicate, was how much I had needed her words, her affirmation of my work and place here.
This last weekend I spent in a village with a local pastor. I got to know his 10 year old son Bobby and several of his friends well. We went tubing down the river, walked a lot-to the road, to the river, to church, to a house-cry (funeral-type service that lasts 2-3 days after someone dies). The boys were initially helpful and polite but a little distant, but they showed me an area where they hung out, and as I played with them climbing vines and jumping through some of the plants, they opened up to me. It was funny because they were protective, making sure that I didn't hurt myself and showing me how to live where they did-how to eat the food, where to go to the bathroom, etc. On the last day and in getting home I felt sad. There was something about being with that family, relying on them to help go through life, truly doing life with them in a fairly intimate way, talking or playing music together in the dim light after the sun went down. I’m still reflecting on this experience, but it has given me a lot to think about, especially the value this family placed on relationships and caring for others to a level I had not experienced in the patterns of daily life. I hope to write more about my experience later.
My new friends Bare and Bobby
Thank you for all your prayers and support. I love you all and am praying for you. Please stay in touch with what is going on in your lives and how I can be praying for you.