It feels like ages since I was in touch with my faithful friends. But I want to thank you for your prayers, because it has been a time of growth for me and many others. December was a month I had battled to be positive about as it approached. Dr Dan went on holiday, leaving me with a short-term doctor Sharmini to cover the hospital. Then instead of the frantic trials I was expecting, it was incredibly quiet and even a joy! We worked together well and I even got time to do some organising around the hospital. Thank you.
My holiday month of January created a space for reflection and refreshment. My NZ friend Jennifer Macleod came to visit for 2 weeks. It was a rich experience to share my PNG life with someone I already knew well from my other home. Her entry into my world was dramatic: my village brother Andy died in the ward on her first morning. Wailing and gathering friends and cooking filled the day with unpredictable activity in my new language. Tropical heat was stifling and the mixture of joy in being with my friend and sorrow was intense. As the time went on with leisurely swims in the river, painting my lounge, chatting with friends – we also watched God bring peace to my grieving family.
Back at work, the year has been slowly gaining in momentum and we are officially back to full speed. We just hosted a visiting general surgeon from Australia and his wife. After several weeks organising and two years of accumulating patients, we did 44 operations in one week. Many came from our remote outstations, having walked several days or come by canoe or MAF plane. Some had transport problems and didn’t make it here, but we would have run out of time to operate on them! Amongst the many minor operations (abundant hernias and delayed tendon repairs) we were able to care for major ones like an advanced breast cancer, do a life-changing breast reduction and a leg amputation. It was a highlight for me to get more confident in anaesthesia. Thank you.
The start of the community health worker (CHW) school year meant the graduation of around 20 students and 30 more starting off on their two-year course. I was sad to see I didn’t know the out-going students very well. It is an opportunity to impact lives that I seem to have missed somewhere amongst my struggle to come to grips with hospital work. The principal was keen to start the new students of with a focus on God and I ended up being invited to lead them for a weekend retreat called “What are we here for?” I took up the challenge to present the gospel to them and introduce them to the vision that they become bringers of holistic care. How else will people achieve abundant life that is all about knowing God? We had a great time together as I told story of the Bible in about 10 stories, with discussion and bible study mingled through. I liked the way that stories got around their defenses and challenged them in practical and concrete terms. One student came and told me afterwards he was really keen to bring healing and share the gospel with remote people. Thank you.
Many lives have been saved already this year. One memorable one was on a Saturday that I was on call. A radio call came from Suki (around an hour flight from Rumginae) about a man unconscious with a head wound from a fight. After several hours of deliberation and radio discussions between the community and MAF and other hospitals in the province, I flew with MAF to retrieve the patient and bring him back to Rumginae. His community made arrangements to pay for the flight, but no other hospital was willing to take him. I was rather nervous that it may be futile. I found him semiconscious with a deep knife wound from above his ear to across one eye and completely through his nose. Obviously deep into his brain. Our theatre area was undergoing renovations for the coming surgical visit, but we also don’t have much choice with anaesthetic, or know what we’re doing with brain surgery, or have a ventilator. I just gave antibiotics, gave a superficial clean and stitched the skin – but it felt like it was just putting on a bandaid. Two days later he had a fever and a paralysed arm – both bad signs. Finally he was accepted by the nearby mine hospital and he had the operation and post-op care that he needed. Last I heard, he was awake and talking. A staff member testified in church how God had answered her prayers and helped the patient, a relative. Thank you.
Many people have been asking about plans for my coming “kiwi leave” starting in about August this year. This six-month break from Rumginae has several parts in it that will have me moving around. First I’ll have a holiday and catch up with family, but later will share with my supporters and hope to do some up-skilling in different ways. I’ll be in touch later with more of the details as they’re worked out. In the meantime there’s plenty to do here! Thanks to God, through whom all things are possible.