Friday, January 27, 2017

Until we meet again

Last day at Brittney's Home of Grace

Saddened to leave the compound on this morning as we showered and packed up for our 6-7 hour drive to the Masai Mara Safari Lodge.

We had such a beautiful dinner on our last night after clinic. The food was AMAZING my whole stay. The cooks, the drivers, the hospitality we received...I really have no words for it. I really just came to serve but was served so many times over.

I brushed my teeth with bottled water, took cold showers, used a hole in the ground as a bathroom at times and the toilets we did use we really couldn't flush often, we carried toilet paper in our purses, the Wi-Fi service was difficult to get, the power went out a lot... but all of that, those daily things we never think twice about, was really nothing compared to serving the Kenyans and being there with my team. I plan to come back. I would do this again in a heartbeat.

Our beautiful dinner set up

The back patio area of the compound
 And here I am pictured with Steve James, the Founder and CEO of Kenya relief: 
A man who exemplifies turning tragedy into great God breathed triumph. Please check them out: 
And here are Curtis and Devry Coghlan, the missionaries who live in Kenya, at Brittney's Home of Grace year round. People I continue to pray for. When I think about them and their story it makes me cry. Check them out! They are such an inspiration of being true servants of the Lord.

May God blanket all of you and protect you as you continue to live out God's purpose for your lives on this mission field. I miss, love and admire you guys! Thanks for showing us such love and grace. You reflect heaven's beauty, you are His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. 
As we all go back to our lives in America, they stay to continue caring for the sick and the orphans.

On our trek to the Masai Mara.... I captured one of God's many rainbows that He sent us that week. Between talking and sleeping on the ride I reflected.... I want to allow this experience to continue changing my life. I want to be more thankful in EVERY situation and I want to focus on how great God is, instead of how big I think my problems are. Focus on finding the's always there. God's treasure are everywhere, we just have to be open to them.

"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20-21
True greatness, an extraordinary life is serving behind the scenes, going un-noticed, and working because there is mystery, not living in fear of it. For there to be faith, we have to move away from the shore and towards the deep end, towards the people. Smooth seas never made a good sailor anyways.

Faith in things unseen and hope where there is none is exactly how we are called to live and why we have to serve and share the Gospel. By faith...

Hope, Heartbreak & Healing

The Clinic Days

<Warning: A few graphic photos below!>

As a nurse, interwoven in my life are the stories of those I've cared for along the way. After every shift I learned something about life, love, family, things I will never do, and things I pray never happen to me or my family. To glimpse the vulnerability and fragility in the lives of those around us, in people we do not know and may never see again, draws us closer to the human experience and helps us to understand our own fragility and our own blessings.

On the clinic wall it is written: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
Loving others is the greatest commandment ever spoken and what the cross so perfectly and beautifully symbolizes: Jesus' gift of sacrificial and perfect love to all.

While we are far from perfect, loving others is a gift, it is a commandment, and it is why we are here. To serve, to bless, to love, and to be there, sacrificing ourselves for the sake of upholding someone else in their most vulnerable moments.

Some patient stories during our week at the clinic:

***A mother brought in her young child who had an advanced cancerous tumor growing out of his head. She said that they had been to many doctors and that he needed chemotherapy. They had two choices: travel to India for chemo or to America--both of which the mother could not afford. So she thought that if she brought him to American doctors we could help. Unfortunately in the time between his diagnosis and now, the cancer was too advanced. Our medical doctor sat with her and had the difficult conversation and explained to the mother that at this point all she can do is take him home, spend time with him, love him and ensure he is comfortable in his limited days.***

***Another young boy came in with an aggressive and advancing tumor that looked to be cancer on his foot. It was out of our scope to provide any surgical care for him today. So we called over to another hospital and all pitched in money so that he could pay for transportation and a doctor visit. He too could not afford any type of care to get help any sooner.**

It may never feel like we are ever doing enough. We get up only to fall on our knees in anger, hurt, disbelief, thankfulness and in prayer to ask God that we might simply help who we can. It's not our plight to have all the answers or the ability to fix everything but it is our duty to live out our days fully and wholly in love and in service. We should live expecting God's treasures and miracles along the way no matter how foggy or bleak it sometimes looks.

Here are some other patients we were able to care for during our week at the clinic:

**This young girl had a foot deformity and she was unable to wear any shoes on her right foot leaving her barefoot. She often asked her mom why she was different than the other kids. Dr. Tim, one of the surgeons, was confident he could help her and her surgery ended up going very well. She didn't flinch when we had to put in another IV so that she could receive one more dose of IV antibiotics. Two incredible nurses on our team even taught her the "itsy bitsy spider" and sang it to her as they infused her antibiotic. A beautiful moment I have yet to forget. She then quickly learned how to use her crutches and never once complained of pain. Her mother was a kind, gracious and gentle spirit. It was a honor to see this unfold before my eyes.**

**This next man came in wearing a special shirt "cape" that someone in his family had made for him. This mass on his shoulder had apparently been growing for years and he was unable to afford or receive any care. We added him on to our day after we finished our scheduled surgeries.**

Here is picture of the father (Dr. Jerry Smith) and son (Dr. Tim Smith) surgeons on our trip. So amazing to watch them change this man's life. To hear afterwards a father say: "I am so proud of my son. He is an amazing surgeon." They were both truly dedicated and good at their jobs. It was a privilege to provide anesthesia for them. 

Part of the mass they removed from his shoulder!
Praise God! What a difference! Mass is gone!

 **This next lady came in wearing a scarf around her neck in an attempt to hide her huge goiter. In Africa they have no iodized salt (Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones) so therefore many suffer from thyroid issues and grow these large goiters. She waited so patiently for her turn and was so excited to have her surgery.
This is the goiter and on top you will note the jugular vein!

Thumbs up from me! She is doing well!
And voila! It is out!

In recovery...What a privilege to care for her! Look at that smile

**I took care of another man who was completely blind and spoke no English. So I carefully took his hand and led him into the operating room and onto the table. He had a mass to be removed on his right side. Without a translator or being told what to do , he rolled right over to his left side to expose the surgical site and then closed his eyes and fell right asleep.** It amazed me the trust he had in us. Regardless of language barriers or cultural barriers, caring and love know none. People can feel and understand when others are being genuinely kind.

There were so many other beautiful moments woven throughout our week but I wanted to share just a few.

The ache remained in my chest every night... praying for God to fill me up....the unfairness of it all, the pain, the heartbreak. Oh how I ached for these beautiful people.
Living a life of service is not only enriched with great happiness but also comes with great pain. To live is to hurt at times but to live at all is worth it. It was my absolute honor to learn and serve in Kenya. The best is yet to come... God promised.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Grace & Simplicity

Brase Clinic for Surgery
Day 1

My morning devotion brought me right back to the exact scripture I started this trip with: "Be strong in the Lord and His mighty Power." This was my reminder to suit up with the armor of God: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and my feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. Ephesian 6:10-18.

My success here and in everything hereafter will be determined by my reliance on God.

Bright and early we pulled into the clinic and were met with these sweet, pleasant faces seen in the below picture. The patients literally were seated outside every morning applauding us and cheering for us as we walked in. Sleeping on the hard ground with little to no water or food did not hinder their spirits. We cannot always change our circumstances, but in the midst of adversity we can most definitely change ourselves and our response to them.

 God led me to a fresh, drink of cool water; He refreshed my soul. There is still so much good here on Earth.
Those beautiful smiles. God provides. 

After walking into the clinic I asked the CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist), who was our team leader, what she would like for me to do and she said: "What do you mean? You're gonna go into that operating room and run a table. I'll be in and out and there will be another CRNA running the table next to you if you need anything. Your surgeon is Jerry and your first patient is getting ready in pre-op."
Whew! Alright, less than 3 months until graduation from anesthesia school and this was going to be a big test. All the mistakes, all the hard work, all that I had learned, the tears, the frustrations, the laughs was all coming to a head right here in the middle of Africa. "Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power."

The surgical schedule and cases were written on a chalk board in the hallway that we had put together the previous day: goiters/partial thyroidectomies, hernias, and lipoma excisions were all on the board for my table. Let's do this!

Making it work with less! Here was my daily set up.
We had one bottle of fentanyl to get us through the day and one oxygen tank to get us through the week. This meant hand ventilation only, no ventilators, no medium/long acting paralytics and low flow anesthesia. I had to use demerol and IV tramadol to make up for the low fentanyl and this was my first time using either one of these drugs.

New machine to learn! Thankfully my anesthesia program had us travel to a multitude of clinical sites during our training so I was confident I could figure out yet another different machine. No leaks: Check! O2 sensor: Check! ETCO2: Check! 

So in Kenya there is no formal scavenging system to dispose of anesthesia gases so umm.. we scavenged those gases right out of the window! I did not know this at first and a fellow CRNA found this hose laying at my feet and asked if I felt funny. Oops!

Never have I appreciated more the IV bags we use in America. These ones were plastic and they leaked terribly and didn't have any ports to add in and mix medication easily. Such simplicity at times we take for granted. But hey, at least we had them!

Off we went! And then.....

Definitely peed my pants a little and thought my heart would beat out of my chest. 
This is why in anesthesia you have Plan A, B, C, D......Notice my blank monitors and I have an intubated, anesthetized patient undergoing surgery in front of me. Ok don't panic. Stay calm. You are trained for this. Surgeon asks how things are going and I say: "Everything is going fine." Generator does not kick in.... Ok so I deliver some IV medications to keep patient asleep, continue to hand ventilate patient, patient's color looks good, and I place my hand over their carotid and feel a wonderful pulse.
Then someone comes in and hands me this: 
Whew! A portable pulse ox! I had someone slip this on the patients finger under the drapes and I felt I could kind of breathe again. Our reliance on technology is scary but  such a good lesson to always go back to the basics. Your foundation of knowledge will never fail you.

Ok got through the first few cases just fine and now it's time for lunch! The amazing cooks from Brittney's Home of Grace brought us lunch every day and it was delicious. 

I am so thankful for my team. The instant team work and dedication was such a beautiful thing and I was honored to be here and be a part of it. 

These clinic days and all the patients I spent time with and cared for is exactly why you fight for your dreams. The calling that God has placed on your life is worth it. It's worth the fight. Two weeks before graduation from anesthesia school I sincerely wanted to quit. I was ready to throw away 2.5 years of my life along with all the sacrifice and hard work not just from me but my family and friends as well. It's always darkest just before the dawn but our greatest victories are only evident after our hardest fights and our biggest trials. You are worth it. Your dreams are worth it. 

Later that evening back at the compound, we handed out pencils and papers to all the children and gave them hugs and told them goodnight. God delivers His grace in such a big way. And when you least expect it, when you expect to give all you have away, God actually gives you back so much more. He is just so good like that.

Goodnight! Tomorrow will be another busy, busy day. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Moved to compassion

Day 3

"As we draw so near to you Lord...would you draw so near to us. Lord as we cry would you meet us where we are". ~As we Cry~

It's Sunday which means it's time to start seeing patients and attend church!

We attended the second service in a packed Catholic church that lasted for over 2 hours. The Priest talked about the power of prayer in our daily lives. What should we do when we feel sad? Pray. What should we do when we feel happy? Pray. What should we do when we're scared? Pray. We should pray, pray, pray every day day day. In the ordinary, the in between, in our cars, behind closed doors, in the grocery store... Victory, strength, winning the race is all done in our prayers; our quiet, our loud, our crying conversations with God. He hears our cries.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances" 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Most people did not have much for money but EVERYBODY gave something to the offering whether it was a chicken or a few coins. Their FAITH that GOD PROVIDES moved me.

The missionaries stated that when they bring us "Americans"to the church that we give generously and have provided many needs for the church. Give always with a thankful heart. Give away the things of God and your cup will overflow. 

Medical Clinic 

Lord, may your love and healing fill the rooms of this clinic. Humble us, that we would not rely on our talents and skill but on Yours. Thank you for this opportunity to serve others. In Jesus name, Amen

Brase Clinic

"Feel most Welcome" Karibuni


2 table Operating Room

After our tour of the clinic it was time to assess the long line-up of patients who had traveled for days on foot and some who slept outside for days waiting for "good, American care." Their desperation for help and care should resemble our need and desperation for God. Their grace and patience in the waiting should be exactly how we wait upon God.

 Interpreters lined the hallways to help us as the surgeons decided who were candidates for surgery. Other patients were seen and treated by our primary care doctor. With limited resources and an even limited pharmacy, it was hard to not be frustrated at times. How lucky we are to have what we have. How great are people's needs in Africa, in other countries, even in our own country. Regardless of the limitations of time and our supplies, our love and desire to serve God was greater and the God we serve even GREATER.


Service to others

Helping and healing


At the end of every day wrapped in my mosquito netted bed and exhausted, I was so full of joy and such compassion that my chest actually hurt... I ached. I remember wondering if this is even a morsel of the ache Jesus felt as He walked our broken world. I prayed nightly for God to fill me up that I would overflow Jesus' compassion, love and healing onto the lives of my African patients.                                                                                                                 

Africa was my ocean. The Spirit of God had led me here where the only thing that was familiar was Him.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder and my faith will be made stronger." Hillsong, Oceans.

My dream of becoming a nurse had been burning in me since I was 2 years old. And God led me here.
"For perhaps this is the moment you were created for." Esther 4:14