I had the great privilege of joining one of our doctors and three members of our dental clinic team in one of our remote church planting locations for a joint clinic. The missionary teams had invited us in and prepared a lengthy list of patients for both sides to see! Though there is a local hausik (hospital) and dental clinic, neither are well set up and we were frequently told by our patients that the hausik treats pretty much everything with Amoxicillin and Panadol (Tylenol)!
In the large guest house where we were staying, we set up one side as the medical clinic. There was a massive table set up that made a good exam table once a twin mattress was placed on it with plenty of room around it for our equipment and space to write our notes. A high bar chair made a stand for the ultrasound machine and a dining room chair doubled as a seat for patients but also the stepstool to get up on the exam table. Since most patients were not over 5ft 8in, this was a necessity!
On the other side of the living area the dental team set up the dining table with their instruments and one plastic chair as the dental chair with a dining chair behind it providing one of them with a foot rest allowing the patients to use a cushion on their leg as a headrest while the dentist worked.
The people waited to be seen down below in the meeting house and the missionary would call them up to the house when it was their turn. Word had spread that we were coming and though many of the people belonging to other religions had rejected the missionaries and their talk, they were eager to come and be seen by our doctors. It gives us another opportunity to speak the truth of Jesus into their lives!
Most of the patients on both sides were complicated cases. The dental team saw 50-60 patients in 3 days while our medical team saw about 40 patients in the same 3 days. Something that was a bit unusual for us on this trip was that almost all of the patients spoke Tok Pigin (the trade language) very well. This made communication so much easier and we didn’t need for a translator very often.
On the medical side, we had many fascinating cases and did many ultrasounds, examining everything from broken bones to masses to goiters to hernias. We also placed and read TB skin tests and collected blood samples for lab testing, some of which we were able to do on site. I do not have time to tell of all of our adventures, but I will tell you about a few of our most interesting medical cases.
WARNING! The next bit is a description of the medical fascinations we found! If this does not suit you, feel free to skip on to the next story on my blog!
One young woman had fallen several months ago and broken her femur. Though she had gone to the hausik (hospital) and they had put the leg in traction for a time, the leg still healed with the overlapping segments of the femur fusing together. She was referred to another hausik and an orthopedic surgeon for repair surgery. The missionaries are hopeful that the surgery will be paid for and she will have restored use of her leg and decreased pain in her compensating healthy side.
Another poor young woman is pregnant with her 7th child. Two masses were felt in her abdomen. It was assumed that the upper middle one was the child she carried and the other smaller side one was an unknown mass. Unfortunately, with ultrasound, it was determined that the larger visible mass is actually a clotted hemorrhagic cyst the size of a rugby ball that is actually displacing the pregnancy. The baby is shoved over to the right side and there is not room for her (most likely a girl!) to pass the cyst and enter the birth canal. She is being referred to a hausik surgeon that can help her give birth via c-section and remove the cyst.
Yet another young woman had a sizeable goiter on her thyroid but more concerning, she had 6-7 swollen cervical lymph glands that may indicate cancer. The doctor was able to do a fine needle biopsy and had several smears to send off for testing and evaluation by a lab in the U.S.A. We are awaiting the results. Since there is only one oncologist in the country (when he’s here) it is unlikely that she will have treatment for her cancer unless surgery can remove it.
A young man had been hit hard with a bush knife (machete) that cut his arm deeply and fractured both his radius and his ulna! Though the cut had long since healed, neither bone had healed or approximated (met together) so both moved freely within his arm! So weird to feel and see! He continues to be splinted until he can see an orthopedic surgeon to plate the bones to repair the fracture. His sister is the one with the shortened leg so we will try to get them seen at the same time by the same recommended surgeon.
WARNING! PARTICULARLY GROSS!
Another woman we saw was sweet Matrina. Right away, we noticed the strange depressed configuration of her nose. One of her complaints was an extremely foul smell from her mouth and nose and worms coming out of her nose when she blew it (usually occurring twice a month!). This has been going on for a long time. Using a scope, it appeared to be as we had feared–nasopharyngeal cancer. It had eaten away the septum (dividing cartilage in the nose) and some of the bone so that the light on the scope could be clearly seen through the skin as high as the eyebrow line! This collection of dead tissue from the cancer attracts flies which lay eggs in the dead tissue. The “worms” are the larval flies! This also accounted for the foul odor. We gave her some antibiotics to help with the probable infection and a bottle with which to irrigate her nose regularly to help flush out the dead tissue and prevent larval flies from colonizing.
Unfortunately for Matrina, no matter where in the world she lived, this cancer is inoperable. It has been slow growing for many years now and we are uncertain how long she has left due to this slow growth pattern. Matrina has been quite resistant to talking about Jesus in the past. Penny made it clear to her that now she is close to death and must skelim (“scale” or weigh out) what she believes. The choice is hers but she may not have long to make it. She nodded with tears in her eyes. Please be praying for Matrina. Though she appears much older, the elderly in this area are usually in their 50s when they die. We guess that she is also in her 50s. We were able to share with her 24 yr old son and some of her family what they may see as the tumor progresses and what to do for her. He nodded but as is often the case in PNG cultures, the truth is accepted and the topic changed to easier subjects, like the tooth he needed cared for. Please be praying for Matrina’s family and for the missionaries as they talk with them and continue to walk this difficult road with them!
We also got to enjoy time with the missionary kids. So much fun to see them eager to learn and participating! They got to see and experience ultrasounds with Dr. Bud and see teeth extractions with Dr. Sheena, blood draws and labs with me, and dental instructions with Wendy. They enjoyed getting to wear gloves and a face mask and “shooting” each other with empty syringes. And It was fun just to spend time with them! Many more adventures were part of our short time in Menya but I don’t have time to record the half of them!
One last thing I will say is that due to the heavy rains we experienced, our guest house was frequently without running water and the older boys did an amazing job of carrying buckets of clean water back and forth to the house for us! With these heavy rains, 3 landslides appeared on the mountain opposite us on the river. One of them wiped out a house and some gardens. Floods and landslides are a significant issue in a country as mountainous as ours! Fortunately, the other two narrow slides did not affect much!
So much more to tell but so little time! Perhaps you’ll just have to come join us here to see it for yourself!