Growing families

December 31, 2014

On Christmas, I spent the day visiting a few families that I’ve gotten to know over the years. They are all well. News from the house on the corner: Alec is in Form 1 in Chileka, Rodrick is in Form 4 near Blantyre, Grace is in Standard 6 at Namitete Primary School and Malifa is in Form 4 nearby. Peter’s family is growing – he is the father of Dorothy Chrissy. Christopher Dallas, his older son, is in Standard 2. Dorothy was named by Elizabeth after Grandma Dorothy – her husband’s grandmother who was an inspiration to her family and loved by all. Christopher Dallas was named by me, “Dallas” after my dad – who’s spirit I always feel close to when I’m in Malawi. He would have loved the amazing stars, simple life, and community oriented health care.

Peter, Christopher Dallas, Dorothy and Estella

Peter, Christopher Dallas, Dorothy and Estella

Dorothy wasn't sure about me - after a few hours together she warmed up a bit!

Dorothy wasn’t sure about me – after a few hours together she warmed up a bit!

A proud father

A proud father

Fun

December 29, 2014

The University of the Pacific students are missed – by me, their patients, as well as the hospital staff. They impressed all with their quick learning of Chichewa, respect for traditions and customs, and flexibility with the flow of the days at St. Gabriel’s. We worked hard together – but also had time for fun!

Hanging out in a hut of one of the forest guards (they carry huge machetes, but smile when greeted).

Hanging out in a hut of one of the forest guards (they carry huge machetes, but smile when greeted).

 

A minibus ride to Lilongwe.

A minibus ride to Lilongwe.

 

Lots of soccer!

Lots of soccer!

 

Bike taxi ride to Namitete.

Bike taxi ride to Namitete.

Walking across the Lilongwe River in the big market.

Walking across the Lilongwe River in the big market.

 

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Big sky

December 27, 2014

The landscape here is amazing – but really hard to capture in pictures. One of the students had a great camera, and we tried to get some good shots that give a feel for the rural scene and big sky. I’m glad to have a weekend morning to het these downloaded.

I've been hearing about the monkeys for the past nine years - but this year was the first time I saw them!

I’ve been hearing about the monkeys for the past nine years – but this year was the first time I saw them!

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Fields of corn - growing only in the few places where there is irrigation.

Fields of corn – growing only in the few places where there is irrigation.

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Beautiful people

December 24, 2014

Life will always provide matters for concern.

Each day, however, brings with it reasons for joy.

Every day carries the potential

To bring the experience of heaven;

Have the courage to expect good from it.

Always We Begin Again

This Christmas Eve, I’m celebrating the joy and courage of my family, friends and Malawian people.

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Beyond Pacific

December 23, 2014

Three University of the Pacific students participated in a semester long elective course that culminated with a two week clinical experience here in Malawi. Their experience had two focuses – a training for community health workers and assisting to provide physical therapy service at St. Gabriel’s. They were flexible, creative and quick thinkers as they negotiated the challenges of providing care in an unfamiliar context. They made connections with staff, patients and families and were welcomed and appreciated. I’m grateful for their service, their teamwork, and their energy!

Check out their blog at http://www.beyondpacificblog.wordpress.com

Mike, Mei and Katherine with Monica - a nurse on the rehab/hospice ward.

Mike, Mei and Katherine with Monica – a nurse on the rehab/hospice ward.

Students in front of St. Gabriel's Hospital

Students in front of St. Gabriel’s Hospital

Heading to the nearby village of Namitondo to see patients

Heading to the nearby village of Namitondo to see patients

Encouraging a group of young boys with broken legs who are spending a month in traction on the pediatric ward to do their exercises!

Encouraging a group of young boys with broken legs who are spending a month in traction on the pediatric ward to do their exercises!

Mike providing physical therapy for a patient in the village.

Mike providing physical therapy for a patient in the village.

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Mike providing gait training in the village.

Climate change in Malawi

December 22, 2014

The company that supplies electricity in Malawi is reportedly always a real mess. Over the nine years that I have been coming here, I’ve experienced this first hand – power out for part of most days, surgeries postponed because of a lack of sterilized tools, food ruined because of lack of refrigeration, and many PBJ dinners. For me, it is a mere inconvenience. For the patient’s and doctors in the hospital, however; it is a life-threatening problem.

 

St. Gabriel’s made a positive step to get out from under the electric company’s control -they installed solar panels over much of the hospital. Impressive…it generates enough solar power to supply the hospital if they make some adjustments in their routines. For example, they will have to run the sterilizing machines during the day when they have solar power instead of at night. And, there is still the problem of power to the surrounding doctor, nurse and hospital employee housing. Out of necessity, their alternative energy is far more advanced than our own.

 

On another note, it is hot (very hot) and dry. It is supposed to be warm and very rainy during this season. Farmers cannot plant their crops and the sun is scorching the ground. There are no climate change deniers in Malawi! Everyone is talking about climate change – an obvious explanation for the critical situation that may lead to drought and famine. On the way to the airport to drop the students off today, I noticed a sign pointing to the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services. I think we can learn something from the Malawians!

 

Dietmad, the German engineer that helped install the solar panels - looking over his work.

Dietmad, the German engineer that helped install the solar panels – looking over his work.

A view of the solar panels at St. Gabriel's.

A view of the solar panels at St. Gabriel’s.

The day…it was good

December 16, 2014

4:00 am

The roosters rise and so do I.

4:00 – 5:30 am

A good time to get an internet connection and stay in touch with work.

5:30-6:30 am

Exercise! Body weight work and a run.

6:30-7:30 am

Breakfast and shower.

7:30-8:00 am

Morning clinical meeting (St. Gabriel’s staff, review of patients).

8:00-9:00 am

Physical therapy treatment for a patient with Gilliam Barre Syndrome.

9:00-9:15

Screening of a walk-in patient, referred to clinical officer.

9:15-10:00 am

Physical therapy evaluation treatment for a seven year old with cerebral palsy.

10:00-11:00 am

Physical therapy treatment for a man in the village who had an injury to his back.

11:00-11:45 am

Physical therapy evaluation and treatment for a women who had a stroke and is now in the hospital.

11:45-1:00 pm

Meeting with someone who works with my son – over lunch.

1:00-1:30 pm

Rest!

1:30-2:00 pm

Review of the evaluation of the seven year old with students.

2:00-2:30 pm

Meeting with Alex and the person working with my son.

2:30-4:00 pm

Cleaning the storage room.

4:00-4:30 pm

Attempt to see a patient in the hospital (treatment deferred until morning).

4:30-6:00 pm

To the village to talk to the tailor.

6:00-7:30 pm

Dinner preparation and dinner.

7:30-9:00 pm

Relax, read, shower.

 

It’s not a surprise that we sleep well!

The room for crutches, canes and walkers - before!

The room for crutches, canes and walkers – before!

Looking more organized

Looking more organized

Storage Room 3 Storage Room 4