Missionary Nurse to Africa – Part 2

Patients in Africa

My guest blogger, Tracy RN, continues to tell us about her 2 week medical missionary trip to Africa. (See Part 1 also).

On this trip, we were blessed to eat very well. Breakfast usually consisted of American type foods, with the occasional bowl of hot cereal millet (a grain which is often used as bird seed in the USA). The nutritional mainstays for the people were millet, sorghum, and corn. Vegetables and fruits were harder to find during this season, but the missionaries were able to buy some in the capital when we arrived. For lunches on clinic days, the village church ladies would cook a big pot of rice, another pot of beans, and another pot of tasty sauce to go with it. Occasionally the sauce would have tough pieces of chicken in it as well, which I found could be challenging to get off the bone! In place of rice, they also made dough out of corn that resembled a scoop of thick cream of wheat that they also served with sauce.

Pot of rice for lunch with tasty sauce!

Pot of rice for lunch with tasty sauce!

Now I would like to highlight a few of the more seriously ill patients we saw during this trip. In one village, the church had built a small four room clinic next to the church building. The closest government clinics were several miles away, and many did not have the ability to get to them.  I went about my daily tasks of taking blood pressures, pulses, temperatures and weights on the children, and lining people up who were waiting to be seen.

Children in line at play!

Children in line at play!

Africa village

I loved caring for the village children

All of a sudden, I saw a woman being helped through the crowd and into one of the clinic rooms. As we began to examine her, we learned that she had just fainted outside the clinic. We were told that she had been pregnant, but had been bleeding for the last few days. A urine pregnancy test was checked which was positive, but it seemed likely that with all the bleeding, she had lost the baby. Her pulse was too high (over 100), and her blood pressure was too low (in the 80’s). I inserted an intravenous (IV) line and we gave her a liter of saline fluid. She said she felt slightly better, but was still very weak and bleeding. Her pulse remained high and her pressure low (signs of shock).

We knew this lady needed a blood transfusion and most likely a surgical procedure, but we didn’t have the ability to provide this at our clinic. We recommended she go to a hospital, but she didn’t have any means to get there. So, one of our vehicles that was heading back that evening became a makeshift ambulance. We helped the woman into the backseat of the truck and we were off, bumping along dirt roads as we drove to the closest clinic. When  we arrived, we helped the woman out of the truck.

The clinic workers came out and said they could not take the woman because she was too sick. As she was standing there, she fainted again! The clinic worker grabbed another bottle of IV fluid, which we hung from the handle on the ceiling of the truck. We took off again, with the lady lying in the lap of her family member. When we arrived at the town of our destination, we assisted the lady into a taxi for another drive to a bigger clinic where she was able to receive the help she needed in time.

We heard later that she had recovered and was back in her own village again. I was very thankful to hear the news that she had healed physically, and pray that she finds the true spiritual healing that can only come from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The lady recovered and returned to her village.

The lady recovered and returned to her village.

An unfortunately common sight in these villages is that of malnourished babies. With several issues, including a poor diet, many of the women do not produce enough breast milk to feed their babies. Without breast milk, the baby does not eat at all as they have nothing else to feed them. This is a very sad and very real problem. We saw many babies who were way below the expected weights for their age.  One baby we saw was three months old, yet only weighed 6 pounds! The missionary we work with has been trying to obtain formula for these babies when possible, and providing it to the mothers and following up with them, and thus has been able to help some. However, malnutrition continues to be an ongoing problem.

One last case I will highlight is that of a one year old baby that was brought to one of the clinics. When the mother arrived with the baby, she was very lethargic and gurgling on her own saliva which she was unable to swallow. We did a malaria test which was immediately positive. My brother, the physician on this trip, suspected the baby had cerebral malaria. We immediately began arrangements for the baby to travel to the nearest hospital, and attempted to start an IV in the meantime. The baby’s veins had collapsed and were very difficult to feel, and so, without any ultrasound machine, my brother placed an IV in her femoral vein in her groin. The baby was so sick that she didn’t even move or cry during this procedure.

As I began to give her the IV antimalarial medicine we had brought, I noticed the baby’s mouth begin to twitch followed by more pronounced seizure activity. I pointed it out to my brother, knowing there was nothing we could do about it. There are times when the lack of resources or ability to help in certain situations can be overwhelming when compared with the resources we have in the USA. I couldn’t help but think of the seizing adult patients under my care where I simply rush over to the machine outside the room, grab some IV Ativan, and give it almost immediately. In this case, the seizing baby was taken on the back of a motorcycle to the nearest town that had a larger clinic. I prayed for the baby and wondered if she could possibly survive.

The baby girl with cerebral malaria survived!!!

The baby girl with cerebral malaria survived!!!

Later on that day, to our great joy and surprise, one of our team members passed the mother and baby on the road returning to their village. The baby looked much better, as it seemed the anti-malarial medicine had begun to work! I am so thankful that God chose to save that baby. Life is truly in His hands!

In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of mankind. Job 12:10


Missionary Nurse to Africa- Part 1

Dear Readers,

I asked a friend of mine, Tracy, to be a guest blogger for the next two weeks to share her account of a recent medical mission trip she took to western Africa. I also asked her to share her testimony with us and why she goes on mission trips around the world.

About Tracy, RN

I grew up in a Christian home and heard the gospel from the time I was a small child. At one point during my childhood I realized that salvation was not something I could obtain just because I went to church or my parents were saved. I chose to put my faith in Jesus Christ, to believe that He had died for ME, and His sacrifice completely paid for my sins. After I finished high school, I went to a state university to study nursing. I started my nursing career on a telemetry floor and since then have worked in a cardiac ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and a general ICU.

As God worked in my heart through my college years and the years after that, I started looking for ways to serve Him with my life, and God opened doors in the direction of medical mission trips. I am so thankful that He did, and praise Him for the many opportunities He has given me to travel to several countries in Africa and Asia. It is wonderful to use nursing to care for the physical bodies of people while giving them the opportunity to hear the wonderful gospel of God’s grace that can save their souls.

Western Africa

“Thank You, Lord, for this opportunity to head back to Africa!” Those were my excited thoughts as I tried to pack a few last items into my already full carry-on bag and my backpack (my allowance for personal luggage since the medical supplies filled the checked bags). This was not my first trip to western Africa, and it was so exciting to see first-hand what God was doing in that part of the world. I boarded the plane along with a few other team members. The journey to our destination was quite long as it included a layover in Istanbul, and, after landing at our destination, a six hour drive across the border to the mission compound where we would be staying.

The sights and sounds of the busy capital were familiar to me as we began our drive. We passed many cars with bags of grain and other supplies piled on the roof to the point where it seemed surprising that the car did not collapse or tip over.

This packed car looks like it will tip over!

This packed car looks like it will tip over!

Other common sights and sounds included people packed into vehicles like sardines, the loud roar of tractor trailers driving up from the coast, and a combination of black smoke and dust filling the air. December falls during the time of harmattan, when winds whip up the desert sand and the sky appears dark from all the dirt in the air.

We arrived at the mission compound, and greeted our friends with whom we had ministered before. During our one free day to prepare for the busy clinic days ahead, we prepackaged medications in small zip lock bags to be handed out during the clinics, and had some much needed rest from our long flight.

Packaging medicine after our long flight.

Packaging medicine after our long flight.

The days that followed were filled to the brim with busy clinics which I will try to describe. Most mornings I was awakened bright and early by the sound of the call to prayer ringing out from the nearby mosques. How sad to think of so many who do not know the Savior, but how wonderful to know that He offers life to all who will come to Him. Also the sounds of roosters crowing, bats flying off the roof, and other birds in the trees filled my room as the sun just barely started to rise. Then we ate a delicious breakfast cooked by our missionary host, and had morning Bible study and prayer together. It so encouraged us to start the day in God’s Word as we prepared for the busy day ahead.

We held clinics in several different villages in the area, so some days involved an early rise in order to drive along bumpy dirt roads to the clinic site in the vehicles loaded up with the clinic supplies.

Clinic truck all packed up with our supplies.

Clinic truck all packed up with our supplies.

One of the villages where we held a free clinic

One of the villages where we held a free clinic

After arriving at our clinic site, we would set up for the day while the village people who had gathered would hear a presentation of the gospel from the pastor or one of the Bible students. What a joy it was to know that people were hearing about my precious Savior, even though I didn’t understand the language in which the message was being preached. In the church in one of the villages, this verse is on the wall above the heads of the people as they sit and listen to the gospel message.

For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13

After hearing the gospel preached, people are registered and given a ticket with a number on it. They are then ready to be seen in either the medical or dental side of the clinic. On the medical side the patients are seen first in triage, where vital signs are taken, then called over to see the doctor, and finally directed to the pharmacy where they pick up the medicines that are prescribed. While they are waiting throughout the day, Bible students and people from the church would share the gospel one on one with them.

My role varied from day to day, often I would start off in the triage line taking vital signs. I was unable to takes histories because of the language barrier, so the histories were taken by the translators who worked with the doctor. Some days local helpers were available, so I showed them how to take vital signs which freed me up to do other things. I found it quite challenging to show the helpers how to use the temporal thermometer by pushing and holding the button. Another huge challenge was showing them how to enter the vital signs on the Ipad computer, but we laughed together as we figured it out! It was a great learning experience for both of us as we worked together despite the language barrier.

When I was not in triage, I assisted in the pharmacy with counting out the medicines or handing out medicines for minor things that did not need the doctor’s attention (such as ibuprofen for body aches). I also learned how to say “One pill in the morning and one pill at night” in the local dialect!

Africa 3

So hard to turn people away at the end of the day….

Each day we saw about 100 patients in the clinic. That seems like a large number for one doctor, one local nurse practitioner, and two nurses, but there were often so many more waiting to be seen. We were only able to spend one day at some of the villages, so many people gathered. It was so difficult to have to turn people away at the end of the day, knowing that we couldn’t see everyone.

What a blessing to be able to work together with local believers and to witness their heart for reaching out to the people of their villages with the gospel. I thank the Lord for allowing me to go on this trip!

To be continued……..