Entries in Medical Mercy (57)
Today we pause to remember a terrible earthquake that shook Haiti to its core 4 years ago and killed thousands. Although the earthquake struck the capital, far from the northern areas One Child Matters serves, the entire country was affected. Refugees fled back north, where their familial roots may have been before they went to the city in search of work.
Ten months later, a new tragedy lurked. In the water. Cholera. Spread by unclean water and the poor sanitation practices endemic to Haiti, cholera preyed on those already struggling. It was, as they say, insult to injury.
With your help, we responded with aid after the earthquake. Within a week, Medical Mercy was on the ground in Port-au-Prince, and returned again in March of 2010. Your donations to the Children’s Crisis Fund also allowed us to move quickly, putting preventative measures in place to keep cholera at bay.
In the four years since that January earthquake, Medical Mercy has been a consistent presence, training project staff, running clinics, and assessing the needs of the children at each project. As the latest team of volunteer nurses, doctors, and friends travel home, we offer our profound thanks – for the difference they’ve made for the children, and for the way they have trained our staff to offer the care these children need to succeed.
Dr. Beyda shares about how children in One Child Matters projects have the opportunity for a different perspective in life:
Let's talk about purpose, mission, and priorities. How different are those three things for us as compared to those who live in Haiti. Let me share how those would be defined if you and I were Haitians.
Purpose: to live another day.
Mission: to find the next meal.
Priorities: to fend for themselves individually.
The children we care for are learning differently what those categories mean: to purposely live a life with Christ, to serve others as a mission, to put God first as the priority. So even though they live in squalor and poverty, we trust that with what they learn and experience in One Child Matters’ programs they will see beyond the "have not" and relish the "have" of a life filled with grace and love, surrounded by a community of dedicated One Child Matters workers.
What it means for specific children:
I saw a young boy out of the corner of my eye. A tall, clearly elderly lady, unkempt, frail and barely able to walk was with him. The boy came and sat in the chair in front of me with a stoic face, waiting to be examined. A 3 year old, who acted like he was years ahead of his age. Stoicism does that.
A few questions asked and I figured it out. His parents had abandoned him and his grandmother had taken him in. And so did One Child Matters. He is an abandoned child but sponsored, cared for by a frail and elderly woman who may not be here tomorrow. He is like many others we care for. I spent some time with him and treated his malnutrition and his chronic pneumonia. He never smiled. Not then. But when I took him in my lap, he cuddled close and showed a soft smile as he laid his head on my chest. For him, love has been hard to come by it seems.
This has been Haiti. The sun is setting as we sit on the bus that creeps along the road that is not a road and for a moment there is a pause in the conversation around all the experiences everyone is sharing from today. It as at that moment that it all came together for me. An abandoned 3-year-old child is given a chance to be loved and cherished by those who embrace him in the OCM project. And with clean water to drink, a toothbrush, a Band-Aid for his cuts, a teacher who now knows how to treat a burn, a place to wash his hands, and a medical program that came and set up a nutritional rescue program, preventative health exams and illness interventions left behind, this little 3-year-old has a chance. Finally.
On the times when life-changing medical intervention is possible:
I pose the question: what was our destination on this medical mission? What were our expectations? The answer was there for me this morning.
I was asked to look at an 11-year-old girl who had surgery several years ago to remove a superficial mass on her neck. She was left with nerve damage to her arm and accumulation of lymph that made her arm swell to twice its size. She had a chest x-ray taken a while back when her mother took her to see a doctor after wondering for many years why her arm looked like this after surgery. The chest x-ray showed 2 masses in her chest. No one bothered to tell the mother what the findings were at the time the x-rays were taken, nor did the doctor who did the original surgery tell the mother what the mass was that he took out. The mother and the child were abandoned by those who took an oath to heal and care.
This time it won’t happen. With the local doctors working with me, we examined the child, came up with a plan on what tests are needed now, what the next step in the care would be, sat with the mother and explained to her in detail what we thought was going on, and committed to always be there for them.
The destination and expectation was simple: to recognize those who come to us for help as persons worthy of dignity no matter their circumstances, and a commitment to relationship that is genuine. I believe we did that. We left behind sustainable drinking water, a place to wash their hands, education and supplies to treat wounds and other minor injuries, toothbrushes and dental education and medical care that will be there for as long as they need it.
We finished up our last day of clinic, seeing 1400 children, building permanent 2 permanent “tippy taps” in each of the 11 projects we went to, did dental hygiene, brought water filtration systems in and taught first aid and left first aid kits in all the projects. But you know that already.
But what you may not know, is who really did this all. We had a US team of 27 members and a Haitian/DR team of 11 for at total of 38 people serving the 1400 children and the communities. We had 2 local physicians and 1 local dentist who were with us, working alongside, and who will stay and sustain the care we gave. 38 people who gave of their time to serve.
At One Child Matters, our very name suggests that our motivation is the worth of every child, that anyone can give and prove to one child that he or she matters. How that looks may vary for each person, but child sponsorship is one effective vehicle to change a child's life. Giving toward or volunteering with Medical Mercy is another. To give toward the unique ministry of Medical Mercy, click here.
We also use our Children's Crisis Fund to respond to needs of individual children as their needs are identified by the staff Medical Mercy has trained. When children need help beyond the regular support of sponsorship, we rely on the CCF, and you can make a donation here.
Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti, on this day that burdens of heart of many, and in the days yet to come. Thank you, as always, for your prayers and generous giving. Thank you for changing the lives of children in Haiti and beyond!
Here are a few updates that provide glimpses into the clinics and how the Medical Mercy team operates.
For day two: two separate clinics in two different communities, almost two hours from our hotel, remote villages, dirt roads with pigs in the way, and 300 children seen.
We were cramped in a room, seeing children and doing pharmacy. We saw more of the same and less of the healthy ones. We caught a few serious illnesses and prevented one child from going blind due to a serious eye infection.
And what about the team? We caught the "fever" of caring and compassion – smiles all around and a willingness to serve. We did nutritional assessments, put in place water filtration systems, left behind comprehensive first aid kits and trained the staff, did dental hygiene, did psychological interventions, and treated patients. We left something behind that they could use and benefit from.
Anne describes the water filtration and the training they offered, a hallmark of Medical Mercy's program which always seeks to equip staff to create sustainable improvements for the health of the children:
The project director and some of the teachers gathered in a small room to be taught First Aid and Water Filtration. There are many aspects of First Aid to cover but in the end we had a profitable volley of questions and answers and they seem to understand the basics.
Doreen finished with water filtration. She put together the set up step by step so they could see. She got them to give her some water from the well, simply purified it through the filter and then – much to the teachers’ surprise – she drank it. There was an audible gasp in the room when they saw her drink it and they, with their eyes wide, told us that they did not drink the well water! Doreen cheerfully told them that it was a powerful filter that she trusted and it took out all the sickness (no small feat in Haiti, where cholera is a very real threat).
The water was good now and in so doing she made believers out of all of them.
The next day, two more clinics with several hundred children seen. Dr. Beyda writes:
And here is the neat part. We again did water filtration that we left behind and "tippy taps" were built for hand washing. Simple and effective. We are making and leaving 2 of them in each of the 12 projects that we will have visited.
And on interacting with the children and the challenges they face:
"Why are you so sad?" Dr. Jerry asked the child. "Because I'm hungry," the young boy said. There's not much one can say after that. Dr. Jerry felt the emotion. I leave it to you to find your own emotion to what that young boy said.
It is part of the ministry of One Child Matters to feed children the best we can. Today the children were given spaghetti with tomato sauce, a hardboiled egg and a banana. It may very well be the best meal they'll have until they come back to the project for more.
The team still has several days of clinics ahead. Please pray for strength and good rest for them as they try to serve the children in a way that reflects Jesus' care for them!
Thank you for praying with us!
Thank you for your prayers for the Medical Mercy team traveling to Haiti! The snowstorm blanketing much of the U.S. created some unexpected obstacles for the team, but they have safely arrived and completed their first clinic in Haiti.
From Dr. Beyda:
It snowed. And it snowed some more. So much so that what should have been an 8-hour trip from Phoenix to the Dominican Republic took 40 hours. The team of 27 got scattered in several different directions – Atlanta, Dulles, JFK and Miami. And when everyone finally arrived, it was off for a 3 hour drive to the border to cross into Haiti. Not so easy though – two hours to negotiate the two countries’ protocols and paperwork.
We made it through and off to our first project and clinic. The team fell together, each member knowing where to go and what to do and we saw a bunch of children in the 2 hours we had left in the day before night settled on us. We got our feet wet for the rest of the week. Well done team!
So you ask, what story do I have to tell? What struck me on this first day? What expectations were met and which ones were not? Well, the story is a familiar one. An 8 year old girl who is the size off a 5 year old. Stunted. I was struck by the persistence of a country still torn from decades of unrest, an epidemic cholera still on the edge of reappearing, and a literally broken structure from an earthquake just a few years ago.
I look for no rewards in what I do. No pats on the back. Making a child healthier, getting a smile and knowing that their chance for living a life with potential for doing great things is enough.
From Anne, a perennial volunteer nurse with Medical Mercy:
This is my fifth trip to Haiti, the fourth with OCM, and this little border town of Ouanminthe has captured my heart and prayers since the beginning. Since I was a late arrival to this trip due to the weather and flight delays, I was not up on our itinerary and thus had no idea which projects we would serve.
Today it turned out to be my old friend Adreese’s church. I had been here before but somehow the venue has changed. It was here that I learned how to tell the children to chew their vitamins: “Crazee.” It is a term that often comes to my mind no matter what country or language in which I am teaching children.
Our first patient of the day is a 7 year old named Wendall. He was born just a few days after my own precious 7 year old back home. I tell him this but he is unimpressed, in fact, all my attempts to put his fearful face at ease, fail. I feel confident that he is confident I will be giving him a shot. When I try to have Bens reassure him that I will not be hurting him, Bens does not quite understand my intent and answers me that Wendall has no pain. Some things get lost in translation, so I let my actions speak louder than my words fail. I do my exam trying intentionally to touch him softly and with unexpected kindness.
It occurs to me that I, myself, may be a picture of how God approached me when I was frightened and disconnected: guiding me with His trademark, unexpected kindness. It was and always is, the kindness that I don’t expect that is my salvation. I remember that unexpected kindness is the definition of the Grace of God…
Please continue praying for the Medical Mercy team as they recover from their disrupted travel while serving hundreds of children in Haiti. May they continue to reach out with unexpected kindness, moving each child toward health and hope.
In our latest update from Dr. Beyda, he tells us the story of a child he met and why numbers aren't the only way they measure success.
So let's see. Over 1100 children seen in 4 days, one more day to go. I wonder what impact we'll have. It's not about the numbers – although we all are intrigued by the number, me included. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, a sense of completion.
Really? Not so fast. It's really about the reason why and the way we do what we do, and what the children receive. I'll let you decide what all those things are at least from the stories you read here. For me, it is simple. We have a reason why: to serve; and the way is to give of ourselves and do our best to ensure the health of the children. Today is an example.
We are still in a remote area of India, isolated and far from a big city. We saw about 320 children today, many still presenting with stunting, the product of severe malnutrition before the age of 5 years. One child in particular, the child you see above, is one of those. She is 8 years old and is the size of a 5 year old. She is chronically ill, has a persistent cough, pneumonia, may have TB, no appetite. A lack for life. She had no breakfast this morning. There was no food in the house. The parents have been "quarreling" according to the child, the mother is sick, and the father is rarely home.
She is a sponsored child, and because of that she is one of the lucky ones. She gets a noon-time meal Monday through Friday because of the partnership One Child Matters has with a school that she attends, and she is cared for by OCM staff. Medical Mercy now gives her a chance for health. I gave her medications, put her in our follow-up system, and the local OCM staff will follow closely and send me a report in 2 weeks as to how she is doing. We did a full nutritional assessment on her, and she'll be assessed every 6 months so I can see how she is doing. Without the medications, the follow up, the care and the intentional effort to get her better, she would pass away slowly and alone. There in lies the why and the way. She will do well, she will survive, she will grow and she will be able to live her life to her potential.
We have one more clinic tomorrow. We'll see a couple of hundred children and finish out the week with a "total number." But more importantly, we will finish out the week having served and leaving behind a chance for the children to see a lifetime of love.
The Medical Mercy team continued to serve children in our programs today, and Dr. Beyda shares the difference sponsorship can make for children in poverty.
Whatever the reason, life comes at us from directions unexpected. Today I expected to travel on a bumpy road, to a project with significantly impoverished children who longed for a decent life. That is not what happened today.
We travelled to our clinic site, saw about 185 children, identified a number of children in need of advanced care, and participated in the feeding program watching the children eat their meal that is given to them by One Child Matters daily. We noticed that because of this program, the children were much more nutritionally on target for their age as compared to the children yesterday.
And here is where the expectations turned to the positive. Since we were in a locale much poorer than where we were yesterday, I expected to see children who were sicker, more malnourished, more impoverished. The children were in fact a little sicker, more impoverished but relatively well nourished and well-adjusted despite the conditions they lived in. They were happy, content and interactive.
The two projects that the children came from today embraced a holistic approach in giving the children what they needed and deserved in order for them to experience life to their fullest potential. It is because of the dedication of the teachers, the project leaders, the pastors and the local One Child Matters leadership, that the children were moving in the direction of personhood and worth.
One child who was born with a significant discrepancy in leg length had surgery a few months ago that One Child Matters financially supported through our Children's Crisis Fund to correct his gait. He walks without a limp now, is self-confident and plays with the other children. It is things like this that make what we do worthwhile. Giving a child a chance to be a child.
The team worked flawlessly. After yesterday nothing could slow us down. Everyone made the most of their individual talents and served the children. We leave tomorrow for another remote area and will be there for a few days. I'll wait to see where the road takes us. No expectations this time. I'll go where the road leads us and trust that it will end in a safe haven for children who have had little and now have something. Love and caring.
We are so grateful for this medical team and for all of you who make sacrifices to improve the life of a child and ensure they know they have tremendous worth in God's eyes.
After 30 hours of traveling, the Medical Mercy team arrived safely in India with all their luggage -- praise God! They had an afternoon of orientation to prepare for their first set of clinics. Here, Dr. Beyda recounts their day:
Every now and then we have a day that we want to forget -- or remember. A day that is so out of the ordinary, so different, that it strikes a chord in our hearts and minds and plays a tune that makes us smile or gives us pause. Today was one of those days.
Not knowing what to expect, we drove almost 2 hours to a remote province where we walked down a dirt road to a hidden school, a haven with children waiting. All were in uniform, white shirts, pants, skirts and blue ties for both boys and girls.
We were surprised. Where were the poor and the isolated? Where were the malnourished and the weak? Where were the sick? Wait for it. They were there, but hidden behind smiles and a sense of community in a school that offered an education and an opportunity to pursue a better life than the one the children were born into.
And now here is what's behind the uniforms and the smiles. Severe effects of malnutrition resulting in stunting. A 9 year old who was the size of a 6 year old. A 12 year old who looked like a 7 year old. Short stature with long-term effects. Healthy looking on the outside but compromised for life due to malnutrition before the age of 5 years, a deficit that cannot be made up now. Girls who will deliver prematurely once they become women and get pregnant. Boys who will grow up with weakened physiques limiting them to vocations that they may not be given an opportunity to succeed in. The pictures here are of how children are affected. The tragedy behind the veil of presumed health.
We left feeling like we impacted lives. First aid training given and first aid kits left behind. A water filtration system left behind. Dental hygiene taught and toothbrushes left behind. Medications given and left behind. Children with illnesses identified who needed advance care sent to facilities who could help. Love and validation that they were children who deserved nothing less than that they were children who were treasured and cared for and cared about. All 462 of them.
Yes, we saw, played with, treated, cared about, and loved on 462 children. Today. What a day. A day of sadness behind our smiles knowing that the children were going to be stunted for the rest of their loves. A day of happiness for leaving something good behind. A day so out of the ordinary that it made us both smile and give pause. Bittersweet, but what a wonderful day all the same.
We praise God for the attentive care the Medical Mercy team provides for the children we serve. Although many children in India are physically stunted, we know that your sponsorship and the support you provide can ensure a child's success is not dependent on their physical stature. Thank you for all you do to help the children, and please continue to pray with us for the Medical Mercy team!
Please join us in praying for the Medical Mercy team which leaves tomorrow for their third trip to India. Medical Mercy last served children in India in January of 2012. Dr. Beyda shared how they choose where to serve and what they expect to do during this trip.
I am often asked how and why we choose the countries we go to. It is not that complex. We go where we think the greatest need is for the children at that point in time. So off we go to India, to a different location. South, on the very tip of India where One Child Matters has several projects with many children who are in need of medical care and nutritional assessments. A team of of several doctors and more than a dozen nurses and lay members will be leaving.
I remember India well. The children have an aura of the unkempt, many with bags under their eyes, sunken and void of emotion, and with hair that is coated with dirt. I remember the times that we were faced with making critical decisions as to whether we could help a child or not. We did most of the time.
Sometimes we can’t for reasons that may surprise you. No medical facility to send the child to that can offer the medical interventions that are needed and sometimes (yes, hard to believe) parents who don’t see the need to pursue medical treatment, believing instead in an obscure spiritual healing that is contrary to the evidence that there needs to be a partnership between medicine and religion. It is then that I realize that the critical moments in life always arrive with astonishing suddenness and then they are gone without us being able to do anything about them.
I try to make the right decisions for my patients but there are times when I am in a moral gray area. How far can we go with limited resources and realistic outcomes? It’s the age-old battle between mind and heart, which seldom want the same thing.
We will see over 1500 patients in five days if all works out as planned. I pray that as we serve those who come to us for help, they will be comforted by the fact that whatever we do, it will be a validation of who they are: persons. No judgment, no pity, simply caring and love. For me, each day that we are with them, we validate that the power of the human spirit and faith can endure any challenge, no matter how daunting.
We will post updates from the team as they are able to send them -- sometimes the internet does not always cooperate. But as this special team ministers to the children in southern India, we hope you join us in prayer and praise God with us for the way He equips His people to meet the needs of others.
After several days of clinics, the Medical Mercy team is on its way home. They treated 1200 patients and 175 dental patients, administered countless prescriptions, and left water filters behind to add one more layer of better health for the children and their communities.
Dr. Beyda has used the mountains of Nepal as an analogy for sustainable healthcare. This was not an easy climb – there were patients they could not effectively treat, patients whose lives may not improve to our standards. In those times, the best medicine they can give is to see them, touch them, pray with them or over them.
The goal was to serve, and that was achieved. But as Dr. Beyda puts it, “It's a start. We reached the ‘summit’ but I'm not ready to raise the flag just yet. We need to come back and make the climb again. And maybe again after that. Thank you to the team for all that you gave and sacrificed. It was a privilege and blessing to have made this ‘climb’ with you.”
We echo Dr. Beyda’s thanks to the 22 US volunteers plus the 4 from our One Child Matters India office. Thanks to those who gave to send these servants on their way. Thanks to those who sponsor children in Nepal, who ensure children receive better opportunities for health and life.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul gives instructions on how we are to give. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (verses 6 and 7).
This is what we love about Medical Mercy. At some point, you decided in your heart to give. You decided to give financially, but more importantly you decided to give of your time and talents, and you have done so generously. And so we pray 2 Corinthians 9:8-9 as well:
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
Medical Mercy is wrapping up their time in Nepal. This is their 80th trip since they began serving several years ago. Since then, they've cared for more than 75,000 kids as well as family and community members.
Undertaking such a mission requires special motivaton, a faithfulness of heart that Dr. Beyda reflects on below.
At the beginning of this trip, I asked the team to reflect on the question of "why." Why are we here, and why did we choose to do this.
Many have asked me "what" Medical Mercy does, and that is easy to answer. We bring needed healthcare to the children who need it.
I am then asked "how" do we do that. That is easy to answer as well. We hold medical clinics, we build medical clinics and staff them with nurses and local doctors when we can, we train local teachers to become healthcare workers so they can continue to deliver needed health are, we teach first aid, we show them how to filter their water, we show them how to brush their teeth, and we show and teach them good hygiene.
But the question I am rarely asked is "why" do we do what we do. Few really want to know. They are more interested in the "what" and the "how." Both are more tangible, easier to get their minds around. So when I'm asked about the "what" and the "how," I wait for the "why" and if it doesn't come, I offer it. I've asked the team to reflect on the "why" this week. I've asked them to be prepared to answer the question if ever asked.
I have my answer. It took awhile, but it is there. It's solid, indisputable, non-negotiable, never needing defending, and personal. It is what gives me the strength to climb this "mountain" this week, this "mountain" of long days in clinics, sick children, at times frustrated because we can't "climb" higher because we just can't, and the slow trek upwards of making a child healthy enough to be able to smile and not feel pain.
I have an answer as to "why." I'll share it with the team soon, and trust that the team will share their answers with me. We may find that we all have the same answers to the "why." But before I do that, I'll spend a few minutes talking to someone who knows me and what my reasons for "why" are.
He's the answer, you know.
In all things give thanks,
The country of Nepal is home to eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world, the tallest of which is the infamous Mount Everest (which, astonishingly, is more than twice the height of Pikes Peak, the mountain we see every day outside our headquarters in Colorado Springs).
Mount Everest becomes a fitting metaphor for the task our Medical Mercy team faces in Nepal. Dr. Beyda reflects on the second day of clinics:
The rising sun brought those who were going to the base camp on Mount Everest to a gathering place where they awaited their ride. In 4-6 days they would reach 17,500 depending on their strength and endurance. Then another 10 days to 2 weeks at the base camp getting acclimated to the altitude in preparation for the trek to the 29,300 feet summit. They wait for a "window of opportunity" in the weather where they have 2 weeks to get up and back. I am in awe of their fortitude and determination.
At the same time those of us who were going to a project to hold our medical clinic gathered in a place to await our ride. A 30 minute ride to the project, a full day of clinic, children a little sicker than we saw yesterday, and I am in awe of the team's fortitude and determination.
Two very different purposes, two very different destinations, and two very different goals. We "acclimate" not to altitude, but to the poverty that we see, to the malnourished children, to the sense of hopelessness that sometimes covers the faces of the mothers who have little to care for their children.
We approach our "base camp" no differently than the trekkers. Slowly, methodically, sure of every step, making everything count in order to reach our goal. We had our own trek. We walked about a half mile today into the project and again back out, carrying all of our supplies. No "sherpas."
This little girl in the picture perhaps gives you a sense of who we cared for today. We treated children with asthma, pneumonia, and ear infections. We saw children who were stunted, short for their age, as a result of being malnourished (as, it is estimated, half of the children in Nepal are). Those children will be vulnerable to chronic illnesses and a short life span.
Our sponsored children were seen, given the best we had, and for that they have been given a chance to reach the "summit." The summit of making a life out of nothing and being able to breathe without coughing and wheezing. As for us tonight, we rest, and prepare for tomorrow, becoming more acclimated to what we've seen and ready for what will be seen tomorrow.
Nepal is a beautiful country. The children are uniquely beautiful with facial features and smiles that radiate. I'll sleep a few hours tonight and wait for the rising sun and gather to a place in the morning where we will trek to the next project. A few thousand feet more and we are closer to the top: healthcare for those who need it the most.
Dr. Beyda and a team of volunteers are serving in Nepal. Dr. Beyda reflects on what draws most people to Nepal -- the allure of Mt. Everest -- and why the team is there instead:
A mountain that has claimed many lives and has given many more the satisfaction of beating it, beckons us not to climb it but to wonder in awe how magnificent it is. Children beckon us as well. Children who are cared for by loving teachers and pastors. We will also wonder in awe how beautiful they are, how innocent they are and how much they need.
We will be there to run 5 days of medical clinics and to bring a sense of calm to the illnesses that the children have. We make no pretense of being able to climb the mountain of sustainable healthcare and perfect nutritional growth just yet. The 22 members of the US team have been preparing for this climb, this trek. We have been in prayer, we have had many many emails back and forth, we have had set backs, roadblocks and yes even a slip or two down the side of this mountain. Not too far, but far enough that we've had to climb a ways back up. But no worries here.
As those who begin the climb of Mt. Everest, so too will we begin the climb of daily clinics, seeing as many children and adults as is meant to be. We will go slowly, methodically, carefully, taking each step with determination, comforted in the fact that we have the best "guide" with us. Him.
When nothing happens out of the ordinary, one wonders what went wrong. And that is just what happened today. This was probably the best first day of clinics we've ever had in all the trips we've made. Easy setup, smooth flow, patients seen, changes made without questions, and 200 patients seen with time to spare.
Well, there were a few glitches. No electricity, no generator, therefore no power to drive the drills and power tools the dentists needed to do their job. They improvised all the same, and teeth got pulled, repaired, beautified and cleaned, and all was good.
The children were relatively healthy with a few falling outside the norm, but were easily attended to. Several children caught our attention: a 10 year old girl with a heart murmur who was told she needed surgery at the age of 2, and got lost to follow-up, only to return today, 8 years later wondering if now was a good time to get the surgery done. Nope, wouldn't happen, not today, not tomorrow, not any time soon unfortunately.
A 10 year old boy shows up in a wheel chair with a mechanical brace on his right leg. History: hit by a motorcycle 1 year ago, some type of surgery was performed, the leg put in this brace, and now a year later, having not walked all this time, asked us to fix it so he could. The leg was misaligned, turned inward and would need a competent orthopedic surgeon to make things right. Out of the blue, an anesthesiologist who also happened to be the director of a private hospital close by, comes for an unannounced visit, and offers to have an orthopedic surgeon see the child at no cost.
So we started the "climb", got a few hundred feet up the mountain, and there we sit until tomorrow. Then up we go. Serving those who come to see us.
We will post more from Dr. Beyda as he is able to update us -- in the meantime, please join us in praying for the team and for the children they are caring for on our behalf!
On a day where we as Americans stop and recognize what we have and what we want in this country, it may be fitting to read an update from Dr. Beyda and the Medical Mercy team currently serving the children in our projects in Swaziland. Please keep them in prayer!
We went to the very first project ever opened and where we had built out medical clinic over 5 years ago. 307 patients were seen after a late start. A few very sick children: one who was sent to a hospital, one child who was severely neurologically devastated from birth, and one who need her foot amputated due to progressive gangrene. All that in addition to 5 hours of lectures to the Health Care Workers, nutritional assessments, dental hygiene, VBS, spiritual counseling, pharmacy, all patients entered into our database using bar codes, reading glasses for the elderly and more.
The team didn't blink an eye. For now, everyone here sends hello to their loved ones. We were promised a working internet server tomorrow. We'll see. Tomorrow is another day, another test of our endurance and a test of faith.
A place far from the main city finds a small project with 150 children. A somewhat slow day leaves us moving through the patient load easily without stress and able to spend time with our patients.
The children are anxious for attention, going from one of us to another, looking for and receiving hugs. We look to their faces as they sing, seeing happiness despite the lack of comforts as we know them. I wonder if we should look at ourselves once in awhile and see if we truly need all that we have.
All is well. The team is cohesive and working in unison, the purpose evident.
Dr. Beyda and a Medical Mercy team of 18 are in Kenya, serving alongside 18 Kenyan Health Care Workers (HCWs). Internet is sparse, but he provided a short update:
It's the rainy season here. Therefore it rains. Rivers flood and washes overflow. You'd think we'd know better....wouldn't you. Not us. We forged ahead. The internet is sporadic so I can send only one picture, but it will give you an idea of what we went through.
We walked across and took all our med over in a small truck, making it across okay. Coming back we didn't. The truck got stuck in the middle of the wash. No 4-wheel drive but a lot of pulling and pushing the truck worked. We spent just 4 hours in the village before we had to leave since the clouds were gathering and we were afraid to get stuck there overnight.
The children sang and danced for us and we then worked with the healthcare workers examining them. We go back there today. Hopefully it will be better. We are well and thankful for being able to do His work.
50 kilometers from Kajiado is a small village called Kiburro. It took us 2 hours to go the distance. 30 miles. It gives you a sense of how deep into the bush we were. This is Masai territory, traditional in dress and culture. Beaded jewelry on the women, rhythmic dancing, leaping men with long sticks, and machetes. We were greeted with that and blessed with it when we left.
I looked out from where we were holding clinic and could see for miles, the valleys of the Masai territory. Umbrella trees giving shade to acres of bush and then open plains. We saw gazelle roaming freely and small herds of goats roaming under the watchful eyes of young Masai boys. I grew up in Somalia and being here in Kenya brings back so many memories of my years there. I feel at home. I'm back fulfilling a dream of being a doctor and practicing in east Africa. I was 6 years old when I made that my goal. God is amazing.
We saw all of the One Child Matters children and then some. The Health Care Workers shined as they examined the children, their skills becoming fine tuned under the guidance of the US team. We are a total team of 36, Kenyans and US. We have one purpose: to care for the children where no one else wants to go. And that is Kiburro. The One Child Matters children were so much healthier than the children in the village who are not One Child Matters sponsored children. A testimony to a HCW program and sponsorship which ensures food, clothing, education, and love. Perhaps one day we will have all of the children of Kiburro under our wing.
The US team is powered by a spirit of love and grace. We move to another village tomorrow, distant as well. We are not weary. We are privileged and blessed.
In all things give thanks,
The care your sponsored child receives can impact so many areas of life. Dr. Beyda traveled to Ethiopia to look at the Medical Mercy's Health Care Worker program and what it means for children there:
Fruits of our labour. Plant a seed. Teach them to fish. All are familiar phrases that address doing something for someone in order to make them self sufficient and show their success, to give them an opportunity to succeed, and to put in place a plan that will grow. It is what we strive to do for those who are less fortunate than most, and who are willing, dedicated, motivated, and driven to make the best of what they have been given.
The Healthcare Worker (HCW) program I developed 7 years ago, is that seed, that teaching to "fish," that opportunity, to give those lay persons who are responsible for the welfare of our Mission of Mercy children, the knowledge and the tools to ensure that our children are healthy.
The intent of the HCW program is to ensure sustainability of healthcare needs of the children after our medical teams leave. The HCW becomes the one source for healthcare needs in their projects. There are now trained HCWs in Cambodia, Swaziland, Ethiopia and Kenya.
The question is, has the HCW program been successful? That's why I'm here in Ethiopia, to see if it has made a difference. I spent several hours the first day reviewing their knowledge base, given them some advanced lectures and quizzing them. No need for worries there. They were sharp, inquisitive, and motivated. I then went to the projects and did a medical standards assessment on the healthcare of the children. Here is a summary:
We have 11 projects in Ethiopia with about 3000 children that we care for. There are 9 HCWs here, having completed their training just over a year ago when we came here to do clinics. They worked with us for 5 days and were seeing patients on their own most of the time, making the right diagnosis and starting the right treatment.
In one year since they have been on their own, here's what I've found:
- Referrals to outside clinics are down by 55%
- Healthcare costs for the projects are also down by 50%
- The HCW is seeing on average 10 children a month
- 32 children were identified with potentially life threatening illness, treated and never hospitalized
- Children with chronic illness such as TB, malnutrition and anemia have been identified and are followed on a regular schedule of physical exams and treatment by the HCW
- Medical records for all children are now in the child's respective folder
Outcome measures that are positive, fruitful and successful. There is more that I've found in addition to what I've listed above, but I hope you see the effect of this HCW program. The One Child Matters kids are well cared for.
I leave for Kenya tomorrow to do the same there, except this time, I'll have my medical team with me. 18 US team members. We will have 5 days of clinics and the HCWs will work with us. Fruits of our labour. Planting a seed. Teaching them to fish. The children are better for it.
In all things give thanks,
One of the things we love most about our partners in ministry is their commitment to the children.We write often about Dr. Beyda. His leadership of Mission of Mercy's medical component (Medical Mercy) is inspiring and challenging.
Right now Dr. Beyda is traveling to our projects in Latin America to check on the health programs and staff he has trained. That's why we praise God for His work through Medical Mercy; it is not a one-time mission trip. It means establishing and continuing sustainable health care for the kids who need it most.
This is how he explained the purpose of the trip:
Three countries, 5 cities, 10 days. That's Honduras, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. I'll be going to several of our projects in each of the countries to see how we're doing with our medical care.
We've been to each of those countries, bringing medical teams and teaching, and now I'm going to find out how sustainable our medical care is. It's all about what we leave behind.
If we've done our job well, we've left behind an infrastructure of health care that is supporting the growth and development of the children. I'll be going to the projects, looking at the children, talking with the project leaders, the teachers, the cooks, local health care professionals, and yes, even the children. It's a time to fix what needs fixing, and applaud that which is going well. I'm looking forward to clapping long and hard and perhaps even giving a standing ovation. We'll just have to wait and see.
So what did Dr. Beyda find on his first stop?
There is nothing better than being surprised and happy about it. Honduras has 3000 Mission of Mercy children in over 20 projects, many of them in Tegucigalpa, some in the north at La Ceiba and some in the south near Choluteca.
How do you ensure that those 3000 children get health care, all of the time, consistently, completely and without question? You have doctors like Victoria and Francisco with the help of Mae-Ling and her husband to take care of the Mission of Mercy children. 24 hours a day.
Really. 24 hours a day.
Victoria and Francisco, two recent graduates from medical school in Honduras, had a place in their heart to serve the underserved, to give and expect nothing and to be there for all who came to them. Through a series of events and some divine intervention, Mission of Mercy came upon these two noble physicians and they found us, and the relationship was born.
For several years now, Victoria and Francisco have served all of the projects, visiting all of them and all of the children multiple times a year, established a nutritional supplementation program, a 24-hour call center, an ambulance, a central clinic base, and a mobile clinic program, twice yearly physical exams for all the Mission of Mercy children, and much more.
I spent two days with them, traveled to 4 of the projects, saw what they had accomplished, and stood up and applauded. Standing ovation!! These two young physicians found a place to serve, to give and to fulfill their vision. The children of Mission of Mercy are better for it.
More reflections from the Medical Mercy team in India. Although the internet is too intermittant to allow for many pictures, we are grateful to nurse Anne Braudt for the word-pictures she paints. Here are a few haunting glimpses into the clinics and the surrounding environs.
A new update from the medical team in Orissa, India, who are seeing just why one child matters.
Expect the unexpected. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. It’s never what we think. And that is what the day was like. Not the flow of the clinic, nor the attitude of the team, or the dynamics of seeing another 300 patients today, but it was the patients.
Smaller in stature than yesterday, a little sicker, and their stories that were far from the norm. There were a lot of wonderful ones, children being seen, hugged, sung to and with, prayed with, and played with. That was the majority. The evidence of compassion and love for the children we saw was everywhere.
But like it or not, it is the occasional unexpected encounter or worst case scenario that puts the whole day into perspective. That things happened and whether we like it or not, we are faced with it to deal with. Three children stood out:
One child whose only complaint was that he was depressed. He lives in boarding house for children who are single or double orphans (one or both parents having died). He received news in the manner of a letter addressed to him that his father died recently.
Another child had with him a picture of his parents taken a while back. He was 10 years old. He showed me the picture and asked me if I had seen them or knew anything about them. He hadn’t seen them in 5 years. He woke up one day and they were both gone. He lived in the street until he found a home in the village that we were in. He was taken in by a kind family. I looked at the picture and couldn’t find the words to speak. I simply shook my head no. He shook his head as well as he silently cried. I hugged him and prayed with him. He left, the picture still clutched in his hand.
And the third child 6 years old. I asked her if I could take her picture and if I could show others to witness to her that she was as much a child to be valued and recognized by all. She was hesitant at first, but then said yes. Burned by falling into a pot of boiling water at the age of 3, she survived as you see her here. She told me that she won’t look in the mirror. She is the daughter of a fisherman and his wife, the lowest class of a caste system in this region. Poorer than poor.
She was not a One Child Matters sponsored child, but one of the children in the village who came to us for medical care. I realized that if she wasn’t embraced and surrounded by a loving community, she would be lost to the world. Never marrying, being ridiculed, and maybe even worse -- being taken advantage of, or even taking her own life later on.
One Child Matters has a vision and mission to care for those children who are less than fortunate, to prove that one child matters. This child is one of them. She is now a One Child Matters child, and sponsored. I am humbled to be able to be part of her life from now on.
In all things give thanks,
Another update from Dr. Beyda on Medical Mercy's first day of clinics in India:
Sometimes we’re focused on the big picture…and lose sight of the details.
The big picture: 300 patients today, day one of clinic. Due to the incredible pre-planning of the India support staff, we set in motion a medical clinic with both old and new members getting into the swing of things very quickly.
Dental hygiene, water filtration, first aid education on one tract, nutritional assessment in another. Medical exams in a third tract, and pharmacy dispensing meds in their tract. A total of 50 people making this happen. The US team, Indian support team, interpreters, teachers, and helpers all working together to see 300 children. That was the big picture.
Now focus. Stunting affects over 60 million children India. Stunting is when the child’s height does not match the age. Short, small, little growth, and nutritionally depleted. In this picture you see Jeremy on the right, a healthy 13-year-old US boy. The Indian boy next to him is also 13. He is one of 60 million children in India who are stunted. Can we help? Not in the sense of getting him to grow anymore, but we can simply assure him that despite his size, he is as valuable a member of the community as anybody else. We did that. He smiled, became animated and we focused. On him.
Polio is still prevalent in India despite the availability of vaccines. Poor compliance and a lack of awareness and education yields what we see here. A brace, old style, bulky, uncomfortable, worn for life. No physical therapy. She asks if there is a way to make her leg stronger. The hard answer is no. What we can do is make her life more comfortable by getting here a new brace, one that is light weight, comfortable and less obtrusive. We’re working on that.
Focus. We did alright for the first day. The big picture is clear. There are a lot of children here who need to be cared for. One Child Matters is doing that. It is the details of the picture, the areas of the picture that are difficult to see that Medical Mercy is focusing on. The individual child, their needs, and how they live as it relates to their health care.
We’ll stay focused the rest of the week and look closely at those who we come to serve. Our eyes will be strained as a result, but our hearts will be filled.
In all things give thanks,
Medical Mercy is starting the new year right where they left off: bringing hope and health to children in our projects around the world. Dr. Beyda is asking for prayer for this trip. Here are the details:
Tomorrow we leave for India. A team of 18, medicines, equipment and excitement.
We’ll be in the southern part of India along the coast off the Bay of Bengal based in a small town called Puri, population 150,000. Puri is well known as a pilgrimage site for Hindus with their many gods. That will tell you something.
We’ll be going to 4 projects seeing the children and the villagers, expecting about 500 patients a day, diseases and illnesses common to the areas in an underdeveloped country.
We’ll be running simultaneous “tracts of care” in each: nutritional assessments, first aid training, implementing a water filtration system, medical examinations and treatment, and vitamins and de-worming medicines for all. It’s amazing to see the tracts running in parallel, patients moving from one tract to the another, and finally exiting with an opportunity for spiritual counseling.
We all know the saying “what are we bringing to the table?” when we talk about negotiations and relationships. What is it that we “bring” that will be valuable to the other person? In this case, it’s obvious. Medical care, pure water, vitamins, first aid kits, and prayer.
But here’s where I like to go a little off the path. I am always aware of “what we bring,” but I am more acutely aware of “what we leave behind.” It is the memories, the interactions, the changed lives, the improvement of what sometimes is just an existence for those we meet.
It is the power of prayer, the introduction to a God who is singular in His reign, and at times the new believer that we leave behind. And so it begins tomorrow. We’re bringing much…I’m excited to see what we leave behind. Be with us.
In all things give thanks,
When we are in a country that has values different from what we believe in, we need to begin to understand our purpose: to serve, to be humble and to be compassionate. To all. Regardless.