Friday, December 23, 2011

# 83 End of the Year Wrap

End of the Year Wrap (high protein, low carbs)

One year ago today (written December 15th), we arrived in Bere. As we look back, we’re just so excited about the many ways in which God has blessed us that we feel the need to praise Him publicly. We’ve had many struggles (which we’re very good about chronicling), but overall, it’s just been such overwhelming blessings (which we don’t chronicle quite as well).

We started off the year well in over our heads (and to be honest, we’re finishing it still well in over our heads). It was all new medicine we hadn’t been trained in, medications we had never prescribed, languages we hadn’t sufficiently learned, cultures we were unfamiliar with, climates we weren’t comfortable with, etc.

My third day on the job, I had a newborn die in my arms. It was a first for me. My thoughts of creating the perfect mission hospital where everybody knew all the patients would survive... well, that came crashing down pretty quickly. If I had known then just how often I would hold newborns, toddlers, kids, adults and the elderly in my arms as they took their last breaths, I honestly don’t know if I would have stayed. Fortunately for me, I had no clue.

Then, ten days after arriving, I fell ill with malaria on Christmas Eve. Then Lyol got malaria three times in his first six months. Then we took a new member into our family and held him while he died less than three weeks later. We lost a young patient who had suffered with us for weeks from his burns. We lost... well, we’ve been surrounded by more death and suffering than we ever could have imagined possible. It certainly took a heavy emotional (and at times, spiritual) toll on us. The roller coaster has been unbelievable.

However, we have seen God lead us in so many beautiful and miraculous ways. We must recount just a few of them for you...

We asked for an ultrasound machine... and received one. Donated! For free!

We almost ran out of Cyclophosphamide, which would have meant we’d have no treatment to save the lives of the children with Burkitt’s Tumors we see. In God’s entertainingly dramatic way, we actually ran down to our last vial of Cyclophosphamide. Several donors and a couple church groups donated money for this just in time for us to never need to turn away a patient. Throughout it all, we remained the only hospital in the country with chemotherapy.

Furthermore, a friend led us to AmeriCares. After much paperwork, this organization convinced Baxter, the producer of Cyclophosphamide, to donate us over three years worth of Cyclophosphamide. It arrived once again, when we were down to our last few doses.

We needed a new air conditioner for our operating room before the hot month of April, when our operating room is over 120 degrees inside. We found a couple generous donors for this just in time.

We asked for little things, like Veggie Tales DVDs for Lyol. We received several, and none of them duplicates!

We had dreams of building a new private ward and a new operating theater. A Better World Canada donated money to help build this private ward. Our home church in Springfield, Massachusetts raised the money to build the operating room. We also had some private donors contribute to these causes! Association Medicale Adventiste de Langue Francaise (AMALF) has agreed to outfit completely any structure we build, from the private ward, to the operating room, to whatever else we build, if we just pay for the shipping container from France. We hope to open the new private ward and OR before the end of 2012.

We ran out of misoprostol... and already we’ve found somebody to send us more!

We’ve been blessed with more than just stuff and money... We’ve been blessed with volunteers!

Our first volunteer in January was Jessica. What a great way to start! She showed up and rolled with the punches from the start, needing to come the last 30 miles on the back of a motorcycle with her luggage and then going straight to spend her first night in a mud hut with a family that didn’t speak her language. Then next day was Independence Day here in Tchad, so we went to the middle of town for the parade. Jessica, being a foreigner, was swooped up on the stage and given VIP seating for the whole thing. Now that’s an entrance! Sadly, we weren’t able to do that for all our volunteers.

Danae’s parents, Rollin and Dolores Bland, and well as my aunt and uncle, Bekki and Scott Gardner, came in January/February to help us out. Both Scott and Rollin are doctors with extensive surgical expertise and helped take some of our responsibilities for us as well as teach us during those important first months where we were both getting our feet wet and trying to keep our heads above water. (How’s THAT for mixing metaphors!) Bekki and Dolores are both nurses and helped out both at home and at the hospital. In September, Bekki and Scott became our first repeat-volunteers!

Grace came too. She’s a very experienced nurse and was our first volunteer who already spoke French. Short, skinny and starting to gray, we were a little worried about her when she passed out the first day! But boy did she ever regain her form. She might be a little older than I am (and weigh about half of what I do!), but I couldn’t even keep up with her after that. She adjusted to the heat, got properly hydrated... and then there was no stopping her. She was like an Eritrean/Italian Energizer Bunny! I don’t think we washed a single dish the whole time she was here. Plus she organized our hospital and helped be my nursing spy to inform me what nursing issues we needed to address with some additional education.

Heather was here and brought her fresh nursing degree (and passed her boards right before she came, go Heather!). Tough for your first assignment to be in Tchad! On top of that, she was our only volunteer for a long time. It’s hard to fit in when you’re living in the village with a non-English-speaking host family and the Parkers and the Netteburgs are on the hospital compound! Also has the distinction of being the only person Danae has ever accidentally poisoned with flaxseed.

Marc Kanor and his family came. Not only were Cory and Brichelle happy to have a couple girls here their age, we were happy to have Marc! He represented AMALF, which was highly appreciated, but he also alleviated much of our work in the hospital. As a surgeon from France, he easily filled in and even took some calls at night so Danae and I could sleep! He also taught us some surgeries that would have been much more challenging, probably even impossible, without him. Most importantly, he and his family gave us their friendship and encouragement. They also braved the hot hot month of April to come pay us a visit!

Cara and Drew came. They gave our spirits a lift and loaned us their expertise as physicians. For three weeks, we enjoyed each other’s company and benefitted from each other’s medical skills. When a motorcycle accident drove my thong flip-flop between my toes and split a sweet crevasse, I benefitted from Drew’s anesthesia before Danae put ten sutures in my foot. Cara benefitted from our hospital’s stock of rabies vaccines when a rat latched onto her toe, mistaking it for the world’s tiniest sausage.

John came. Round about 60 years young and fresh out of nursing school, John wanted to get his missionary feet wet and find a little experience to build on before starting his nursing career. After a few years of nursing experience in the states, he hopes to drag his wife off into the mission field with him somewhere. They both have past careers as engineers. With engineering and nursing skills together, I’m sure they’ll be a huge asset wherever they end up. John also had the fastest weight loss of any volunteer. Thirty pounds in his first two months! Luckily he had a belt.

Minnie came the same time John did. From the Philippines and armed with a resume like no other (including a Bachelor’s in Psychology and certificates in Artisanal Vegan Cuisine and Swedish Massage and Public Health and Underwater Basket Weaving and Cactus Husbandry and Quail Hunting and Renaissance Bodypainting and who knows what all else), Minnie is here for at least a year leading some public health projects. She’s been invaluable in making contacts in each of the 21 neighborhoods of Bere and presenting a positive face for our hospital. Still holds the longest record for first-timer to Bere without getting malaria.

Linden came. Respectful of the Tchadians, brilliant with the kids, and a natural missionary, Linden decided to turn his five-week stint in Tchad into a year-long stint.

Amanda came. Affectionately known as ‘Citadel’ for her alma mater, Amanda’s attitude and spirit has been unparalleled. She eagerly jumped into the role of religion professor at the local Adventist school. Teachers and students alike love her and we’re all amazed at her energy, dedication, preparation, professionalism and joy. She’s also been tutoring the Parker kids and has proven herself to be a natural teacher.

Adam came. Adventurous, creative, artistic, independent. Always willing to strike out on his own. Always willing to shoot more pictures when Danae asks. Adam can often be found hunting out the next surgical case.

Anna came. Seems to be our malaria magnet. French-speaking and eager, Anna might just have the biggest story to tell of all our volunteers. We should know more about that by the end of the year... Stay tuned.

Janna came. A year-long commitment to nursing excellence here in Tchad! Janna is willing to do anything but willing also to voice her preferences. As a boss, that makes my job so much easier! She’s building a foundation to serve her in a career as a traveling nurse or a Medecins Sans Frontiers nurse or... well, who knows where she’ll end up! Just fell ill with her first (and hopefully last) round of malaria. She held out pretty long.

Mayline came. Oh, where to start. Mayline is a jokester. Always quick with a smile and with a laugh. There’s just no reason why somebody wouldn’t want to spend time with Mayline. Well, unless you were tired. I don’t think I’ve seen Mayline tired. So maybe she would be a little disruptive if you were trying to sleep. Even when she got malaria, she vomited with a smile.

Marci came. Also a one-year commitment. Marci has perhaps made the largest sacrifices to come here. Yet, she’s the last person you’d catch moping. She attacks projects with a ridiculous amount of creativity, energy and enthusiasm. She drew up the grant for our public health project and will be spearheading it this year. If she’s not careful, she might inadvertently be given the role of SM-mother. Also holds the distinction of being our first volunteer to be stung by a scorpion.

Dani and Matt came. They take their musical prowess from their airport responsibilities to our vespers every week. Bronwyn is also down at the airport. She’s like the baby-whisperer with Zane.

Kel and Josie are also return volunteers. The first time, they came for about four months. They’re back again for another few. Also extremely musically talented, Josie has been involved with kids ministries and sewing for the maternity ward and Kel has been doing construction. Even while he was in the states, we put Kel to work making computer drafts of all our building projects.

Joanna and Darren came. Interested in both aviation and nutrition, they are the perfect fit to be helping get the nutrition center at the airport off the ground.

Most recent to leave us was Stan. Stan put in his time at the hospital, the airport and also the new surgical center in Moundou. Guy knows everything from electricity to plumbing to well-drilling to building to generators to cars to... well, you name it. What a great resource he was while we was here. We’re sure he’ll continue to be a great resource for us, either from the states or on the ground here in Tchad.

Even my parents came (along with Janna’s mom) in November. Why, I think just about everybody’s been through Bere by now. We’re like the Champs d’Elysees of Tchad. If you stay long enough, you’ll see the whole world walk by.

I hope we’ve spent enough sentences in past posts to explain what an integral part of this hospital the Parkers are. Jamie, Tammy, Cory and Brichelle. Without them, life would be far harder and far less enjoyable. The same goes for the Roberts. Gary, Wendy and Cherise are indispensable. Also down at the airport are Jonathan and Melody. These are all multi-year folk.

We should interject here that we’re receiving a third physician here in Bere. We’ll give more specific news on this later, but it’s VERY exciting!

We’ve been blessed by amazing answers to prayer too.

We asked for prayers for specific surgical procedures, which then went well.

We asked for prayers for a little girl who needs to go to France for heart surgery. It looks like that will finally happen.

We asked for prayers for... well, for a lot of things.

Even if you’re not sure if your prayers can help from way over there to way over here... just keep praying for us. I can tell you, it helps. It works. It’s necessary.

We’ve been blessed professionally this year too.

Danae passed her written boards in OB/Gyn two days after giving birth to Zane.

I passed my written boards last year and my oral boards in September. Hooray for being officially board-certified until 2021!!!

Oh, and last, but most certainly not least, in fact, perhaps possibly most... We were/are blessed with Zane. Our latest addition to the family arrived June 25, safely in New Jersey. Zane Oliver’s birth story is probably unique in all the universe. It’s somewhere here on the blog if you have time to kill.

Hmm... It’s now almost midnight. This seems to have developed into quite the Christmas letter. I wasn’t intending it to be, but that’ll do. I’ll just post this, and how about that save me the trouble of writing a separate Christmas letter. Nice. I like it. Here you go. Enjoy. Merry Christmas!!! And how are you and yours?

You will notice on our blog,, that we have a link for donations. This is through Adventist Health International’s website. We believe strongly in the mission of AHI. We feel that AHI is an organization worth supporting. By donating through AHI, you can be reassured that there is a strong measure of accountability following your donation. Just mark the donation for ‘Bere.’ And remember that your gift is 100% tax-deductible.
Olen Zain: +235 62 16 04 93
Danae Zain: +235 62 17 04 80
Olen et Danae Netteburg

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