To those of you who don't know, I've been working at a mission hospital in Togo, Africa for the past week. I'm here with my friend and colleague Brett Hoffecker and his lovely wife Felisha.
The first four days I was here, I was hot and exhausted all the time, didn't know how the hospital system worked, and somewhat anxious about how the month would go because I had so little energy. The last two days, I have felt like my normal self and been a lot more comfortable rounding on patients in the hospital. I'm not sure what changed, but for whatever it was I am thankful. Brett and I are alternating medicine and OB coverage every two days, which corresponds to each of us taking calls every other night (q2 call) either on medicine or OB. The other night, Brett was up literally all night delivering four babies, all of which were complicated by some combination of prematurity, pre-eclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and fetal distress. Fortunately, I haven't had a night like that yet.
My medical goals are to get lots of procedural experience and learn how to take care of some tropical diseases. This week, I did one C-section and two lumbar punctures and saw a few cases of malaria. The topic I actually learned the most about this week was taking care of newborns. My second day here, I performed a difficult neonatal resuscitation on a baby that ended up dying later that day. Although I did the resuscitation with another doctor, I felt like I could've done an equally good job on my own with the training I have received at Via Christi, which was reassuring. But I still learned a few things. The few other resuscitations I've been in on have been uneventful. But I'm also rounding on babies that would be in the neonatal intensive care unit in the United States, a setting in which I have never worked. So I am getting comfortable with treating babies who possibly have sepsis, premature babies who are not yet feeding well, and babies who aren't breathing well. It's been good. Since there are a lot of surgeons here my first two or three weeks, my only real time in the operating room was for the C-section I did and a couple neonatal resuscitations. I hope to get some more time in the OR my final couple weeks of the rotation.
Another goal of mine is to learn lots of French, which is the primary language of the staff here. Yesterday, I had my first of three hour-long French lessons with a local dude who comes here every Friday to provide lessons to the missionaries. His name escapes me, but he has a close-criopped white beard and is a pleasant guy. I'm starting to learn, which is exciting as it represents the start of a new journey.
My interactions with the short- termers, intermediate-termers, and long-term missionaries have all been positive. I'm enjoying their company and learning a lot from them. Some of them are truly inspiring. Today, a few of us short-termers went for a three-hour hike to a nearby cascade and back, which was pleasant. I'm also getting to know the national staff pretty well, and played with a bunch of kids on my run yesterday and ended up with a good story I'll perhaps share another time. I'm particularly looking forward to learning from an OB who just arrived yesterday and continuing to learn from the two Family Medicine and OB fellowship-trained missionaries here with World Medical Mission's 2- year post residency program.
Things are pretty good for me spiritually too. God is teaching me how big He is, how to live more other-directedly, and what walking by faith looks like for me, being a critical and very analytical dude. I'm going through literally the best devotional I've ever come across, a gem of a book I was given by Mindy entitled A Book of Daily Readings. It's basically a bunch of the best quotes you've never heard, some of which are religious but most of which are simply very thought-provoking and heart-pricking. Mindy found it second-hand somewhere and it blows my mind every day. I'm also starting to go through Richard J. Foster's Celebration of Discipline, which has been good so far.
Last but certainly not least, my first week of engagement with Mindy and our first Valentine's Day have been wonderful. Though we have been separated by oceans, mountains, and many miles of flatness, we have had time to process together in a way that would not have been possible if we had been in the same location, partly thanks to the power of the internet and partly thanks to journalling. I'm growing more excited and thankful for her each day as October 4th (our tentative date... not yet set in stone) approaches.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. A lot has gone into making this trip happen, and it's encouraging to look back over the past week and see some real gains in all the areas I've mentioned. If you'd like, pray that the growth continues.