Author Archives: John

Teaching and Learning

elwa-12“Typical” ELWA Hospital visits;  Typhoid fever looking like appendicitis, malaria causing sore throat, tuberculosis patients with large pericardial effusions (fluid in the sack surrounding the heart), tetanus causing abdominal muscle spasm, and severe leg burns from using “bush medicine” to “treat” a spinal cord injury.

The past 4 months have been an incredible learning experience.  I have been working with a wonderful team of doctors, nurses and staff.

talking to Jerry and Debbie

At 7:30 am chapel, Pastor Moses begins with a teaching from scripture that relates to our lives and service at ELWA hospital.

 

After chapel the team starts the morning with sign out from the night before. The doctor who was on call shares about the patients that he or she cared for during the night and the doctors on the team have the opportunity to ask questions and give input into the care.

 

elwa-13During rounds we split into 3 teams. One team sees patients on the maternity ward and pediatrics, one team cares for the general medicine patients and the surgeons round on their surgical patients. Each team includes expatriates and African doctors, all of us using our own experience and knowledge to offer insight into some of the more challenging cases.

 

ultrasound 4We have had several teaching conferences in the past two months. I have had the opportunity to present multiple sessions on obstetrical ultrasound to doctors and nurses.  Ultrasound is one of the few imaging studies available here and, as many of you know, this skill is one of my favorite things to teach.

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IMG_2422I also had the chance to teach vacuum assisted delivery. This is a procedure that has proved to be life saving on a couple of occasions in the past two months here at ELWA hospital.  We did not have an obstetrical mannequin, so my family helped me construct a model from a cardboard box, duct tape, West African cloth, and a children’s toy ball. This was quite an enjoyable and interactive session.

elwa-39I am so grateful for the chance to learn and teach in Liberia. God is using each of us on the team to encourage others, share God’s love, and provide the best care that we are able to the patients that we are privileged to serve.

 

 

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I Feel Super!

In the female ward Esther’s phone rang.   It was her older sister who had been at Esther’s bedside every day during her 3-week hospitalization.  I heard her speak to Esther in Liberian English then ask, “howa you?”  Esther, who one week earlier was fighting for her life, smiled brightly and answered, “I feel fine…I feel super!”  Esther (not her real name) was admitted to ELWA hospital in mid December after she developed a fever and collapsed.  Her sister told us that she had become increasingly weak over the past year and was vomiting frequently and losing weight.  In the ER she was fading in and out of consciousness with a temperature that exceeded 103 degrees.  Her blood work showed severe malaria and her HIV test was positive.  After a week of IV fluids, antibiotics and antimalarial medication, Esther became increasingly alert and was able to eat.  She was seen by the HIV counselors at the hospital.  After gaining a clear understanding of her illness and the importance of taking her medication, she began anti-HIV therapy.  Shortly after starting the medication, Esther became critically ill again, a condition brought about by the reconstitution of her ailing immune system. With diligent nursing care and continued antibiotics and fluids, slowly her strength returned.

IMG_2317Little C.K. is a one-month old infant who is pictured here on his day of discharge from the hospital.  C.K. presented to the emergency room with sepsis and severe malaria.  (One in twelve children in Liberia die before the age of 5 and the most common cause is malaria.  This disease is responsible for taking the lives of nearly 4 thousand Liberians each year).  Little C.K. had not fed well for a week and by the time we saw him he had a high fever and was barely conscious.  After a week of aggressive care in the hospital he began to recover.  He was vigorous, feeding well and gaining weight at the time of discharge.  What this photo does not capture is the huge smile of relief on mom’s face.  She realized that her child had come close to death and she left the hospital repeatedly giving thanks to God for saving her child.

It is a blessing to be here in Liberia, caring for patients like Esther and C.K. whose lives have been touched by the caring staff at ELWA hospital.  We see infants with malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and sepsis, children who have been struck by cars, and adults with stroke, HIV, abdominal infections and tetanus.  The intensity of illness and injuries here is a constant reminder of life’s fragile nature and the importance for our team here at ELWA hospital to continue to share Christ’s love with those that we serve.

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Tents, Trout, and Tailings

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In our training last March we were reminded of the need to “say goodbye well.” There is no more important goodbye than the one we will say to Josh, our son. Last week I had the privilege of traveling to University of Colorado, Boulder where he was completing a physics internship. The two of us embarked on a 4-day backpacking trip in the Rockies.

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Fried trout in the mountains is a delicacy that I will never tire of. Fourteen inch cutthroat and an eight inch frying pan…”Houston, we have a problem.”

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On night three, after a particularly difficult hike that included 4 miles at 12,000 feet on the continental divide, we enjoyed one of the most picturesque campsites that either of us has ever experienced. We were perched high on the side of a mountain on a shelf which was made entirely of tailings, the rock that was left over from an 1890’s gold mine. We sat at the campfire until late at night making potato dumplings, chatting, and enjoying the amazing beauty of the Rockies.

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Beth and I are incredibly blessed to be moving to Liberia with Bethany and Bekah, and we are very, very grateful for Josh, our “anchor” in the States.

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Next delivery…Africa!

Next delivery...Africa!

After fifteen years of taking call for OB at Ventura County Medical Center a few times each month, I just finished my last night of call. The next baby I deliver will be a Liberian baby!

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by | July 22, 2013 · 10:00 pm

Questions and Resolve – Liberia

This is a compelling video by Cissie Graham, granddaughter of Billy Graham. Watch as she expresses her heart for Liberia.

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by | June 3, 2013 · 11:07 pm

Preparing to Serve in Liberia

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The people of Liberia have suffered through fourteen years of civil war.  In a country of 3 million, nearly a tenth of the population lost their lives and 800,000 were displaced as refugees.  Now in the midst of recovery, the Liberians have renewed hope.  We will be partnering with the local church to serve those in need.

John is joining the staff at ELWA hospital in Monrovia, caring for those who have lived through this difficult chapter.  He will be involved in establishing a Family Medicine residency program.  Beth will homeschool Rebekah and seek opportunities to serve in the healthcare, youth or orphanage ministries.  Bethany will use her passion for photography to help communicate the ministry at ELWA.   Josh will be our anchor in the States continuing his studies in physics.

In this country where so many have experienced such intense pain, the hope of the gospel is providing joy in place of despair.

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