Monday, February 28, 2011

Technical Difficulties :(

We're SOO sorry. After traveling to different places without internet, we finally returned to Manila only for Allison's computer to crash :( It is currently in the computer hospital. But until it is healed and released we have no photos/videos to show you. So PLEASE keep Allison's computer in your prayers and pray that everything comes out ok. We will update you on our February adventures as soon as we can. 

~Me and Her

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Name, New Face, New Life. Part 1

A couple of days after returning from Balabac, Wendy received a phone call from a social worker in Brooke's Point. She learned that some American doctors were coming to Puerto to provide free surgeries to Filipino people in need. One of the surgeries being provided was cleft palate/lip surgery, and they were offering us 6 slots (and each patient was allowed to bring 1 companion). We were really excited, however, we received this phone call Friday night and the vans were leaving early Sunday morning. So we had a lot of work to do and just over 24 hours to do it all.
 The first call we made was to Arman and Randy, the missionaries down in Balabac. We told them to go find Reynan, the little boy we had mentioned in the last Balabac blog, and any other cleft palate/lip patients they could find. We, also, went around to all the patients we knew in Brooke's Point who wanted this surgery. However, all of the patients we knew in Brooke's were either sick, too malnourished, or were too afraid to go through with the surgery. So we had prepared ourselves to only have one candidate for surgery. But then Arman and Randy called back informing us that they had found 4 patients and 2 companions (guardians for 2 of the patients) that were willing to come and they put them on a boat Sabbath morning headed for Rio Tuba. 
When the social worker had originally called, she had told us that lodging and food would be provided for 90 pesos per person, per day. But after we already had the patients on their way, she called back to inform us that lodging was full and we would need to find another place to stay. So Wendy called her friends, Ed and Merilyn Brennan from AWA (Adventist World Aviation) in Puerto, to see if they could help us out. They were happy to take us in and even offered to feed us and transport us around to where we needed to go for FREE. We were so excited that everything was falling into place.
Then Wendy realized that we really needed to send a PAMAS representative to act as an advocate for these patients. Since Wendy was leaving 2 days later she wasn't able to be the representative and since Sam is one of the only nurses on the project, it would be hard for her to leave. So Wendy decided to send Allison. "It's perfect, because this way you can document the entire thing" Wendy explained. Allison was honored and so excited for the opportunity. So she packed a bag of daily necessities and her camera equipment and was ready to go.
Allison, Danny, and Roy went down to Rio Tuba to pick up the patients on Sabbath afternoon and returned to Brookes by 9 pm. Then we fed them and were able to talk with the patients a little bit.
Theres another thing you should know about most of the native Filipino people. If their child is born with any form of defect, the parents often nickname them by that defect. For example, in Molbog, the patients native language, Ongi means cleft lip. So most of these patients have been called Ongi their entire lives. This isn't meant to cause them pain, but to make them familiar with this name so that if a stranger walks up and says "Look! Ongi!" They will already be use to being referred to that way. So when we asked each of them what their names were they each replied "Ongi", then we would ask them for their REAL names and they would have to think for a second and then reply. After some small talk we were able to learn a little bit about each of them:
Nuni Amalong was 4 years old (according to his father, but he appeared to be much younger) He was the youngest of 4 children and the only one born with cleft lip. His father came along as his companion, even though his mother was against the whole thing. She was convinced that God had made him that way and they shouldn't try and change it. But his father wanted him to have a chance at a normal life. So even though it made the mother mad, they came on this trip. After observing Nuni for merely a day, we realized that he was one of the happiest little boys we had ever seen, which was incredibly humbling.
Reynan Samlon was 12 years old. He was the little boy that we had met during our medical mission in Balabac. His dad had left when he was just a little boy, so his grandpa has been his only father figure for a very long time. His grandpa came along as his companion. Though Reynan was so shy, we thought he was sooo adorable!
Ongi Usah was 25 years old. It broke our hearts when we asked him what his name was, he said "Ongi Usah". Then we asked him what his real name was, he replied, "I don't know. Ongi is all I've ever known" He was a different case than the others because he had a double cleft lip. He was married and had 2 kids that lived on a different island. None of his family members knew that he was here, because he was hoping to surprise them all. (Awww!!!)
Lastly, Aina Ulmedo. Aina was 24 years old and she was born with a cleft lip that reached all the way up, through her nose and to her right eye. There was no cartilage in her nose, it was merely a flap of skin covering her nostrils. We had all admitted that she was probably one of the worst cleft lip cases that would be going to Puerto. Though Aina had only up to a 6th grade education, she was very smart. Along with her native tongue of Molbolg, she also spoke Tagalog, Ilonggo, and a little bit of English. She confessed to us that she had always wanted to continue with school but had never had the opportunity. Her mother and eldest sibling had died from cancer a couple years earlier and her dad was gone. She lived with her uncle on the island of Balabac. 
Upon talking with the patients we also began to realize that the clothes on their backs and in their bags were literally all they had. Reynan had come all the way from Balabac with no shoes, because he didn't have any. Nuni had 1 shirt as is clothing. No underwear, no pants, just the 1 shirt. Most of the others only had 1 other change of clothes and 1 pair of flip-flops. So we gave them all a pair of flip-flops that we had boughten to distribute to people in need. We also went through our attics to see if we could find any clothes that would fit any of them. Afterwards we found a place for all of them to sleep and went to bed.
Nuni tries on his new flip-flops
The next morning we woke up at 6am, ate breakfast, and headed to the Brooke's Point City Hall. There were over 75 patients and companions awaiting departure. After waiting for awhile we got all the patients checked in. Fear struck in our hearts as the social worker told us to explain to our patients that since they were last minute patients, there was the chance that they wouldn't receive surgery. But we would have to go to Puerto and wait and see how everyone else was scheduled. We explained it to all the patients, and they all understood and decided to proceed. 
(Left) The entire group of surgery patients from Brooke's Point. (Right) Our 6 patients and companions.
Then the vehicles arrived, there was a jeepney, two shuttles, and an ambulance. Roy took a look at the ambulance and said, "Look, there is your ride!" Allison looked inside and saw there were no seats, just a stretcher and a bench. "Yeah, right! I wish." she replied. As people started to load into the vehicles, Allison said a prayer hoping that she wouldn't be squished like a sardine into one of these vehicles but more importantly that she wouldn't be separated from her patients. Soon the shuttles and jeepney were completely full and the only people without a spot were Allison and her patients. So the social worker said, "Ok, the 7 of you will just ride in the ambulance." Soooo cool!! Not only were they not all separated, but they got the most comfortable ride to Puerto.
On the drive down to Puerto, a very nervous Allison said a prayer,

 "Dear Jesus, Please be with all of these patients. Calm there nerves and help them not to become too homesick. Please Lord, help them all to be able to receive surgery. It would break their hearts to come all this way for nothing, and I don't think I could witness such a pain. Also, Lord, be with me. I speak very little Tagalog and yet I am responsible for leading this Filipinos through this whole process. Also, I'm not a leader. I'm not pushy or demanding. I don't see myself as an advocate, Lord. But help me, to become one this next week. Help me to know who to talk to and what to say to get these patients the help they need. Thank you so much for everything you do. I love you very much. Amen."

Little did she know, God was already putting the pieces together for her. In ways she never expected. Till next time...

~Me and Her

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Balabac Medical Mission: Headed Home!!

Monday morning we woke up and packed up our stuff to leave. We ate breakfast and we noticed we had a family coming. So we were like, "Ok, we'll help them before we leave." Then one family turned into two families and two families turned into 3. All of a sudden the compound was FULL of people wanting medical help.
Our "examine area" and "waiting room" were filled with people all morning.
One of the patients we met was Reynan. Reynan is a 12 year old boy with a cleft lip and he was SO cute. We asked him if we could put his name on a list of surgery patients, just in case we get some surgeons from the states to come and do free operations. He agreed and we added him to the list.
Another patient we had was named Adela or as we called her Sassy Adela. Adela was 3 years old and she came with her family. Adela did NOT like her temperature being taken or her heart listened to. Come to think of it, Adela didn't like much of anything. lol. She and her family all had malaria symptoms and were given malaria medicine. While her dad was being checked, Adela ran off the porch and began climbing the fence around the compound. Her parents tried to call her down but she wouldn't listen. So Sam sent Allison to go grab her off the fence. Allison had planned to just grab her and carry her back around onto the porch. But when Allison grabbed Adela, she freaked out. She started kicking and screaming and crying. So Allison tried to get her to her parents sooner and decided to pass her up the wall to the porch. Jam assisted her by leaning over the side of the porch to grab her, however Jam lifted Adela with so much force that her head hit the roof of the porch. Lol, so needless to say, Adela didn't like any of us very much. Her parents just giggled and thanked us for getting her back.
Throughout the course of the morning we were all SOO busy and were running around like crazy trying to get everyone taken care of. We helped 103 patients that morning and we ended up running out of malaria medicines and vitamins before lunch. By 2:00 we had finally taken in our last patients, twin baby boys named Bryan and Ryan (Sooo cute!). We didn't have enough medical supplies to do a clinic in the next village, but we were going to spend the night there so that we could catch our boat the next morning.
Our caribou driver came back to help bring our stuff back to the inlet.

Last lunch with the Balabac missionaries
We ate a quick lunch and then gathered our stuff and hiked out. We started out once again wearing our flip flops, don't know why, didn't work out so well the first time. It took us about 5 minutes to realize that flip flops were not going to cut it and we started walking barefoot.
About halfway the guys decided they were thirsty for buko juice (coconut juice). So they cut into a couple coconuts and we enjoyed them and then started on the trail again.
We finally made it back to the inlet and started loading everything into our boat. This time, our boat still resembled a wooden canoe, but it was much larger; so it was able to fit our whole team and all our stuff. So we all got in the boat and started on a 45 min ride through the crocodile infested waters to get to the other side of the island.

We arrived at the village with warm welcomes. We brought our stuff into the hut that we were going to stay in and then just sat outside and observed the day to day activities of the village youth. We saw one little girl, her mother had told us she 7 years old, and we saw her running around with a knife. At first she was chasing the boys with it. Then she grabbed some kind of stale fruit and began to chop it up, just for fun. The mom didn't say anything... guess its just normal for little kids to run around, playing with knives. lol. There is never a dull moment when watching the kids here.
After sitting around for awhile, the guys decided they wanted more buko juice. Jam insisted on getting his own. He climbed and climbed, but couldn't quite climb high enough to get his own coconut. So the natives used their special tools and talents and got us all coconuts. It was our second round of buko juice that day. We felt so spoiled!
Wendy LOVES buko juice.
When supper time came around we were Sooo tired. Having Rice three times a day was starting to get to us. So we all just ate a little bit to make Baboo happy. While we were eating, we all realized that we had known Baboo and Baba for 4 days and we didn't know their names. When we asked Baboo what her name was she replied, "Ako aye si Umot" Suddenly Jam broke into hysterical laughter. When we asked why he was laughing he replied, "Umot means Fart in Tagalog". Later we learned that Baba's name was Bote which is Bottle in Tagalog. So we spent the last 4 days with Aunt Fart and Uncle Bottle. lol. We got a kick out of that. Baboo was one of our most favorite parts of this Medical Mission. We were so happy to have met her! 
Bedtime came and we were really excited. When we were setting up our beds, the owners of the hut told us that we could hang our hammocks inside if we wanted. But we were too nervous that we were going to break the entire house. So we decided to just lay our hammocks on the ground and hang the ropes just for the mosquito nets. Wasn't the most comfortable night sleep, but it wasn't terrible. We were just excited to go home! 
Our hammocks set up on the floor. This is the family whose hut we stayed in. They all just sleep together on the floor.
At 5 am we awoke in our hut. Time to go home! We packed up everything, and after a little effort getting the boys awake, we brought all our stuff to the boat. We get out to the boat and it isn't starting right away, so we all had to wait in calf-deep water for it to start. "What time was it that Baboo's nephew was eaten?" asked Sam. After that realization we were all really scared. We all took turns being on Crocodile watch...Making sure that no crocodiles were trying to sneak up and have a early morning snack. Finally the boat started. Ten of us packed into the boat and set off for the hour boat ride. 
We were heading out to the middle of the sea to wait for the Passenger boat to come through. Only one Passenger goes from Balabac to Rio Tuba per day. (That is if the weather is good.) That day the winds were high and the waves were crashing pretty hard. So we were a little nervous. By the time we reached the place where the boat goes through it was 7 am. After awhile of waiting in the boat, Roy said, "The boat should've been here by now." We waited a little longer, then the driver brought us to a nearby island with white sand and crystal, blue water. "Well, if we're going to be stranded, I don't mind being stranded here." said Tanya. 
Of course, the only way to know if the boat was coming was to call the company. But Roy's phone was dead, and he had the number of the boat company and Wendy's was on its last couple bars of battery. So Roy and Wendy were able to switch batteries and Roy told us the phone numbers and we wrote them in the sand. Then they switched the batteries back and Roy walked around the little island until he got reception. When he finally did, he was met with good news. The boat was on its way, it was just running behind because of the weather. So we just had to chill on this island paradise for a hour....mmmmmmokay!!
The boys, of course, wasted no time and jumped into the water for a swim. Tanya walked along the shore collecting seashells and we made snowmen....well, actually I guess they would be called sandmen. But nonetheless, we were missing home and figured that would be a good way of curing our homesickness. lol.
After waiting an hour, we saw our passenger boat coming in the distance. So we all jumped back into our little boat and chased them down till they stopped the boat and let us on. Hooray!! 
The boat ride to Rio Tuba was less than wonderful....WAY less....the bumpy crashing waves caused us all to get really seasick. It was a good thing we didn't eat breakfast. Finally after 4 hours of tossing in the boat we made it back and Danny picked us up from the port. The truck ride back we spent telling Danny all of our stories from the mission. 
Then Danny asked, "What was the biggest miracle you saw on the mission?"
"Anytime I come back from a medical mission with 2 functioning cameras is a miracle for me." Allison answered.
Lol. We had so much fun and we hope that we will be able to fit another Medical Mission in before we leave in April. I guess we'll see :) Till then...

~Me and Her

Mopia Derok :) (Good Morning)

The only bathroom
We woke up Sabbath morning to rain and singing. What better way to wake up? We got up, got dressed and took down our hammocks/bedding, since we were staying in the church and there was soon going to be a church service.
Missionaries hut.
After cleaning everything up we headed to the missionaries hut for breakfast. Eating here, took a little getting used to. First of all, there is no table and chairs. So we sat on the floor while we ate. Also, they made ALOT of rice with every meal. Now, we've been in the Philippines for awhile now and we know that rice is a staple food item upon which these people live. But we've never been served SOO much rice before, it was crazy.

<----Baboo (which means 'Auntie' in Molbog) was the lady that had come to cook for us during the medical mission. She was so free-spirited and funny that we all fell in love with her almost immediately. Baboo and her husband (whom we called Baba, which means 'Uncle' in Molbog) were the only 2 baptized members in the Adventist church here. But with our medical mission and the evangelistic seminars the missionaries were gonna be going on the next 2 weeks, they hoped to change that. So we were very excited to be apart of bringing people to this church.
After breakfast we started Church. One thing you may not know about Balabac, is that most of the population is Muslim. So even though it was an Adventist church service there are alot of Muslim traditions such as sitting on the ground, all the men wearing their prayer caps and praying with our faces down on the ground (representing submission to God). The little things like that made the service different and lively.
During lunch we asked Baboo and the other missionaries if there really were crocodiles around or if that was just one of those tales they tell people traveling through. Baboo replied, "No, there really are crocodiles. My nephew was eaten 2 weeks ago." We were shocked and asked how it had happened. She said, "He was fishing for squid at 4am." (Note to self: Do NOT go fishing at 4 am in Balabac) Arman, another missionary, replied that "Besides malaria, crocodile attacks are the most frequent cause of death in this area" Members of the church even told us that they had seen crocodiles outside their house and they are about 30 ft. long. Aagh! So that scared us a little more to know that there really are crocodiles around where we were staying.
Everyone helps to set up for the clinic, Jam had other ideas. lol.
After Lunch we had some of our first patients. It was nice to have a little beginning rush of patients, because it gave us a good idea of how to set up everything for the medical mission. We had Rannie and Randy (Balabac Missionary) taking information, blood pressure, and temperatures. Then Sam, Jam, and Wendy saw and diagnosed patients. Roy took special cases. Tanya was in charge of the pharmacy and Allison took pictures/video and helped out in the pharmacy if it got too crazy.
Small groups coming in to receive medical care.

Overall our team worked well together. We saw alot of malnutrition, malaria, coughs, and then Roy had to suture up a guys foot. The guy had been walking through a clam bed and got a huge gash in his foot. So Roy stitched him up.

After seeing a couple patients we closed out the Sabbath with a vespers program. Then we continued to take patients until it was dark. We saw about 30 patients Sabbath afternoon. It was a perfect way to spend a Sabbath day.
Resupplying all our medicines after
our first day.

Sunday our work started right away. Three young boys had come to be circumcised. In the Philippines boys are not circumcised right away when they are born, they are circumcised when they are 10-14 years  old. When we first heard this we were shocked, "Why would they put themselves through that at such an old age?" Jam answered us saying, "Circumcision is like a boys' entrance into manhood. If you don't go through with it you're not a man and you will be teased by your friends until you practically die of embarrassment."
Tanya and Sam assisted Roy who conducted the procedure. The first boy was 14, the next was 12, and the last one was 10. They were all really brave; never screamed or squirmed. However, the 10 year old was a little nervous. Before Roy made the first incision, Sam noticed that the boy was sweating....ALOT. So she started dabbing his forehead with a towel. Then he looked down at the procedure, saw the blood and quickly looked up and started sweating more. "You're doing good" Sam said, trying to encourage him. As she said that she noticed his eyes starting to roll into the back of his head. "Uh Oh! Uhhh he's fainting" Suddenly Roy gave him a light slap across the face. He came to and we gave him some water. Right after, he started sweating and again his eyes rolled into the back of his head. So Roy stood up and gave him a real slap across the face. After that he was alright. Poor kid. But after everything was said and done, we had 3 new men walking around the compound. Then after we cleaned up the surgical stuff, we served our breakfast. Yum...
We got ready for the day of patients to begin, but sadly it started to rain. It continued to rain pretty much all day. But people still made to hike to come receive medical help. Since they all came in families of 6 or 8. We just took them by family and would diagnose each member of the family.
Our "Waiting room"
The woman sitting to Wendy's right was a patient that we had air lifted to the hospital in Brookes last year. She had some bad stomach issues then.
We had Jam convinced for awhile that
the last line here was crucial at the end
of the Anthem. lol.

Around noon, the flow of people had slowed down quite a bit. So Jam asked Allison, "Hey, can you teach me the American National Anthem?" So she sang it for him and then ended up writing it down so he could sing it with her. After awhile it was stuck in everyone's head and we were ALL humming the National Anthem.
After Lunch it was still really slow so we all took a little cat nap till patients arrived. We had a couple show up in the afternoon but not too many. In total we had about 70 patients come to see us. Since we had been here 2 days and only seen about 100 patients, Roy decided that we should go to the other side of the island and do a clinic there instead. We would be meeting our boat on that side of the island Tuesday morning anyways, so it wouldn't be out of the way. We all agreed and planned to leave about 9am the next morning. Till then...

~Me and Her