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7/08/09 (Wednesday)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

This is my eighth trip to Ecuador to work with Jane Weaver, MD.  I so enjoy going to San Lorenzo to help Jane deliver surgical care to her patients there.  She sees such a wide variety of problems the people have to endure and her ability and surgical skill has brought a huge relief to many people of that area.  It is a joy to be able to offer this level of care and watch a person’s life be transformed.  Many times the person must just live with the problem because care is not available or affordable.  Jane’s ministry delivers the care needed and at the same time provides for many an introduction to a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  Not only does Jane help with physical healing, the patient receives a bonus of spiritual healing as well.  Just to be able to do this and make a difference in many people’s lives is paycheck enough for me.  Serving God in this way is a distinct pleasure. 

Going with me on this trip are Nyletta Hetrick and Steven DelBello.  Nyletta came to me after she had applied for a surgical tech position with my former OB-GYN group.  The person interviewing her talked about my work in Ecuador when Nyletta stated she would deeply enjoy being able to participate in a surgical mission project sometime.  We then met one day and talked more about my upcoming trip.  Nyletta jumped at the opportunity to go along with me on this project.  Her OR room skills will be very helpful for us as we work as a team to do the many surgeries that are waiting on us.  Having another pair of educated hands in that arena is a huge help.  Steven is a son of one of my former partners.  His parents are physicians and he is heading to medical school.  His mother, Kitty Garner, MD, came to me one day wondering if I was going to Ecuador any time soon and if Steven could possibly go along with me to experience medicine and surgery in a mission experience.  The details were worked out and he is along to give help in any area needed.   So, the three of us are traveling to Quito to meet up with Jane and then on to San Lorenzo tomorrow. 

As I have thought and prayed about this trip and wondered about what I would focus on how this project would help me grow spiritually, I kept coming back to the word relationship.  Recently, I read a great book, The Shack, written by William Young.  This fictional book is a parable, a story with truth embedded in it.  One theme that weaves its way through this book is the relationship God desires to have with everyone.  Over and over the word relationship surfaces and the characters in the story interact in such a way to demonstrate and define what this word really means.  The main character, Mack, is visiting the shack where his young daughter was brutally killed after being abducted.  Mack struggled over the loss of Missy and his inability to prevent what had happened to her.  He visited the shack three plus years later upon invitation from a strange note left in his mailbox.  The invitation came from God Himself and the visit to the shack allowed Mack to talk with and experience God.  In the discussions Mack had with Papa (God) the word relationship was frequently a topic of discussion.  Through this experience at the shack, Mack realized how important this relationship is and that this relationship was based solely on love.  The love involved was a love so wide and deep, beyond any comprehension. 

I ask myself, how can I enhance this relationship through this mission trip?  How can I honor God in what we will accomplish in the coming days in San Lorenzo?  How can I learn more to understand how God is working in me to bring us closer together?  How does this work exemplify walking with Christ each day?  My goal this trip is to allow this experience, this mission endeavor of serving others to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lord, I pray for this trip and the coming days of serving You.  I pray for Nyletta and Steven, for their safety and for their personal walk with You.  I pray for opportunities to point others to you.  I pray for Your hand to rest upon us to guide us and protect us, to provide strength and endurance, to fill us with Your wisdom and to cover us with Your grace.  Father, I commit this trip to You.  All the glory and honor goes to You, Lord.  Amen.

8:45 AM.  Our check in at Fort Wayne went very smooth and we were in the air by 8:00.  We landed in Chicago about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  The landing was smooth followed by a long walk from the very end of G terminal to the very end of K terminal.  Coming off of the plane in G terminal we were hit with the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls.  It smelled so good and the hunger immediately started.  Amazing what our nose will do to our stomach!  Yet, as we walked the entire terminal we did not see any place that would be making cinnamon rolls.  So the temptation was just that…temptation.  I managed to walk out of the aroma without stopping.  Once we left the G terminal the aroma was gone and we made it on around to our next gate with about an hour to wait before boarding.

10:15 AM.  We are in the air having left Chicago and are on our way to Miami.  The flight time is about 2.5 hours followed by a 2 plus hour wait in Miami before boarding for Quito.  I was thinking about this next week.  Jane has some surgeries that will be firsts for me.  She has one person with a parotid gland tumor.  The parotid gland is located near the angle of the jaw and is one of the main producers of saliva.  These tumors can be difficult to manage surgically because of the nerves and vessels nearby.  The facial nerve is in this region and its function involves the facial muscles.  Damaging or interrupting this nerve results in a droopy face on the affected side.  Jane also has a couple people with gastric cancers and she plans to remove the stomach and cancer.  She scheduled them for when I am there so I can assist her.  I told her these surgeries are certainly above the belt for me but I can certainly provide a set of educated hands to assist her.

One gyn case involves a fistula between the bladder and vagina.  This vesicovaginal fistula developed after a hysterectomy performed somewhere outside of Jane’s care about a year and a half ago.  Because of this communication, urine constantly leaks into the vagina.  Our plan is to remove the fistula and restore normal function for this lady.  In my 30-year career I have not had one case of a vesicovaginal fistula.  I don’t remember my partners having one either.  The only ones I have seen were in two cervical cancer patients where the cancers eroded through the vaginal wall into the bladder.  These situations were during my residency training and were very difficult to manage because of the cancer involved making them nearly inoperable.  For me this will be a first in my career.  My first direct management of this fistula will take place without the benefit of a urologist and the equipment to study the bladder and its anatomy.  What a relief this lady will experience if we can successfully close the fistula and she returns to normal urinary control.

Jane also said I will be seeing some women who want their tubal ligations reversed so than can conceive again.  On my last trip I operated on one woman to rejoin the tubes.  She conceived and the word spread.  Jane said a line of women wanting the same surgery is forming.  I have mixed feeling about these surgeries.  The successes are thrilling; however, the risks for a tubal pregnancy are high.  A tubal pregnancy can easily rupture resulting is massive blood loss and even death.  I certainly do not want to set these women up for a disaster.  It is so difficult sometimes when these decisions need to be made and all you have for support is faith.

I realize that is where God wants me and you – totally dependent on Him, trusting Him completely.  I want to trust my hands and my judgment; however, through painful learning from the past I can’t move forward unless I sense Christ standing beside me with His hands wrapped around mine as we do the surgery together.

Jane and I will see several other patients to evaluate for surgery and to care for the nonsurgical situations.  By Saturday evening our schedule should be full.  The next week of surgery from morning to night will be a challenge physically and emotionally.  Yet, God is in total control.  That is so reassuring.  In the book, The Shack, Mack is talking with Jesus.  Mack confesses that he feels so lost.  Jesus replies with the reassuring words that even though Mack may feel lost, He is not lost.  I admit there are days I feel like Mack felt…lost.  Yet, Jesus is never lost and He is at my side.  All I need to do is remember that and trust in Him.  Realizing God is in control and is not lost gives me a special sense of peace and comfort.

2:20 PM.  We arrived in Miami uneventfully and once out of the plane we sought some lunch.  Across from our gate of departure was a food court.  There we had a Chinese meal, probably our one and only for the trip.  Our time here in Miami will be about 2.5 hours and then we’ll be on our way to Quito.

Lord, thank You for the safe trip so far.  Thank You for allowing me to dwell on You, to enjoy Your presence, Your protection and especially Your love.  Thank You, Lord!  Amen.

4:30 PM.  We boarded our plane on time but then were delayed because of a lightning storm.  The ground crew would not go out in the weather to finish loading the luggage so we sat in the plane for almost an hour before we backed away from the gate.  We are now in the air on our way to Quito.

8:30 PM Indiana time, 7:30 PM Quito time.  We made it to Quito and deplaned and went through customs without any problem.  I was asked about the one suitcase that contained the bovie unit.  I told the customs official that I was a surgeon and that was a piece of equipment I use in surgery.  He said okay and passed me on through without any further questions.  We met up with Jane and Damarys and loaded our luggage into the cars.  They took us to the guesthouse where we are staying for the night.  It feels good to be on the ground and here with all our luggage and no problems getting through customs.

10:30 PM Quito time.  Time to go to bed.  Steven and I are sharing a room that is nice and comfortable.  We will get up about 6:30 AM, have breakfast here and then Jane will pick us up about 8:30 to head on to San Lorenzo.

Father, thank You for the good trip here, the safety in our travels and the ease of going through customs.  You are always in control of all the details.  Why do I worry so much?  Thank You for giving me that assurance that You are with me, You are not lost, You have clear vision of what is ahead and Your strength and wisdom is there to guide me.  Thank You for allowing us to come here to serve You.  Thank You for our families and the love You have given us to share with them.  Lord, Thank You!  I pray for a good night’s sleep and for Your wisdom and guidance for the coming days.  I pray for our families and please wrap Your arms of love around them.  Thank You, Lord.  Amen.

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