Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Season of Visitors and Volunteers

1.  A brief update on politics:  January 20, 2015, was declared a national holiday here in Zambia so that citizens could take a day off to visit the polling stations.  This interim election occurred on an “off year” due to the death of late president Michael Sata in October 2014.  In brief, Edgar Lungu, the PF (Patriotic Front) candidate was named victor in the presidential elections, after several days of polling delays.  First, the ballots were not delivered in a timely fashion, then the heavy rains led to some of the polling stations closing, then the votes were slowly compiled so that the results could be strategically announced late on a Saturday night (when people were at home – to minimize rioting and violence). The race was extremely tight, with Lungu winning 48.3% of the votes, and his main opponent, “HH” (Hakainde Hichilema) of the UPND (United Party for National Development) Party taking 46.7% of the votes.  With such a close race, questions invariably remain as to the authenticity of the election results.  Nonetheless, this begs for an interesting political scene as the momentum builds up to the upcoming General Elections in 2016. 

Have you voted?  Indelible black ink on right thumb of a voter
2. As anticipated, a continuous flow of visitors has been the motto of the last few months.  The first set of visitors consisted of Travis & Lauren Sandefur and Rusty Oft.   
Enjoying lunch at Portico's Italian Restaurant
The purpose of the visit: to scout out the logistics and lay of the land for the Chalala hospital project.  
Visiting the Chalala plot with Zuki, the architect, & Ps. Akombwa
From January 27 – 31, 2015, we spent a few days visiting different hospitals and health care institutions in Lusaka.  Fairview, Pearl of Health, University Teaching Hospital (UTH).   
Visitng UTH
We also took the Sandefurs to the local mall to give them a better understanding of the availability and price of goods in Zambia.  
Lunch at our house
Can you tell, we're testing out our new selfie stick?
Indeed, we are expecting them to move to Zambia as missionaries at the end of this year.  We are so excited to have friends coming this way; it definitely makes life less lonely. 

3. On January 27th, we also had another guest arrive!  Kevin Shin, an AHI (Adventist Health International) volunteer, who has committed to spending 3 months to help Lusaka Eye Hospital.  It’s been great to have his help.  In addition to shadowing me in the theatre and clinic, we have put him to work in the accounts department.  Special projects include revamping our cash flow report template as well as stock report templates. 

Kevin and Sam

4.  In the beginning of February, we got another successful shipment of six corneas from Midwest Eye Banks!  This time, the corneas arrived in a timely fashion (without ending up in Zimbabwe, like our last cornea shipment).  And all six corneas were successfully transplanted.  Four of the cases were for young keratoconus patients, ages 18 – 22.   
Preop profile: notice the steep cone
Immediate postop

Much flatter transplanted cornea
The last two were for children.  Two of the cases were generously sponsored by the Yu family from Loma Linda for the needy patients who did not have the money for this operation.   
This is H.M., who underwent a second PKP for a failed graft
They were all so thankful to get their new corneas!

5. From February 8 – 28, 2015, we had another Ophthalmology resident from Loma Linda join us for a three week rotation.  Samuel Kim was a joy to have around.  He and Kevin joined us for an eye camp that we got to take to Chitambo, about an 8 hour drive north – in the Central Province of Zambia.  
A providential connection with the Mickey and Jackie Bailey, a wonderful couple from North Carolina who began an amazing orphanage in Chitambo called Agape Village Foundation, allowed this unique eye camp experience to take place.   
Because there was no power at the orphanage the whole week we were there, we survived by candlelight once the sun set.  However, it did make for some amazing star-gazing. 

The eye camp consisted of primary eye care screening (the entire district of Chitambo does not have a single eye care provider), 
as well as a few surgeries (15 cataracts and 2 excisions).  
I even had the opportunity to examine the eyes of Chief Muchinka, the chief of Chitambo.  
We stayed at the orphanage, which is home to 50 vulnerable children (25 girls and 25 boys).   
The two doctors stationed at Chitambo Hospital were incredibly hospitable (Thanks, Drs. Donald Mumba and Telo Siame for your hospitality and scrumptious dinner).  
We even managed a quick excursion to a local waterfall (Kandalila Falls).   
We hope to return to this underserved area again in the near future, next time taking a whole team beforehand to conduct sensitization and screening.  The need is great, and there simply needs to be better efforts to identify those with cataract blindness.  Once we use our own team to screen, and once those few who had surgeries tell their blind neighbors about their experience, we expect a very positive response next time.  Thanks, Chitambo, for a great experience.  Twatotella sana.  

All in all, it was great to have Sam join us for 3 weeks.  We look forward to the next resident who is scheduled to come out in April.  

6. On February 18th, we had our driver make yet another run to the airport to pick up fourth-year medical student, Kaitlyn Ohden.  Kaitlyn is also committed to spending three months helping Lusaka Eye Hospital.  Her main projects include: hospital renovations, organization of keys, donor funds management.  What a breath of fresh air to have Western-trained, computer-literate help!  When one thinks of missionaries, one often thinks of a pastor or a doctor or other trained professional.  However, more and more I am realizing that one of the greatest needs in struggling mission institutions in developing countries is computer-literate, task-oriented, organized individuals, especially anyone familiar with accounting or business management, to help these institutions bounce back, to help inspire and train, to help model strong work ethic and organizational skills, and to help with administrative needs.  Really, any U.S.-trained college graduate would be an amazing help and coveted missionary here at Lusaka Eye Hospital!  Any takers?  =)

Kaitlyn, Anthony, Kevin, Sam, the Maypas, and the Yoos!
7. Our next set of guests from February 28 – March 1, 2015, included Ben Siapco, a clinical lab scientist from Loma Linda, and Johnel, his assistant from the Phillippines.  Ben, who is a 75-year-old vibrant, retired lab tech, is a missionary who is using his skills to help hospitals throughout the world.  He had travelled to Malawi and Zambia on this particular trip to help train and set up laboratory equipment for several hospitals. 

Ben reminded me of my own father, also a retired lab tech.  Their stories of hardship and perseverance, starvation, and hard work were similar – although one took place in the Southeast Asian islands of the Phillippines and my father’s took place in South Korea around the time of the Korean War.  Both individuals worked tirelessly to get an education, both married nurses, both immigrated to the U.S., both continued to work hard to provide for their families and give their children a decent education, and both gave birth to children who would become ophthalmologists.  Hearing Ben’s story caused me to reflect on my own father.  It gave me insight into how my dad must have felt – it was almost the untold story from my more choleric, subdued, unobtrusive and unassuming father.  After listening to Ben’s life journey, it made my heart yearn to tell my father how much I love him, how much I appreciate his sacrifice and hard work, and how his example is what has influenced and molded me to become the disciplined individual that I am.  I never got the chance to tell my father (sometimes these sappy words make my stoic, Korean father uncomfortable), but hopefully he will read this in written form and begin to understand that I am beginning to understand him.  Thanks, Ben, for helping me understand the plight and journey of my parents.  
My dad at Riverside General Hospital
8. March 6 marked the 37th birthday of my one and only brother, James.  Happy birthday, big brother! 

9. On March 7th, we took a breather from Lusaka to travel south to Riverside Farm Institute for a day.  It is always a treat for Jaycee to have a female playmate her age; she absolutely adores Makenna. 

Hanging out with the Minors
Two chunky babies with their daddies
10. This last week contained two public holidays for Zambia – Monday was International Women’s Day and Thursday was Youth Day.  On March 9th, we spent the day at Chaminuka, about an hour and half drive away from Lusaka, near the international airport.  Although the brief game drive was not anything to write home about, lunch was mediocre, and the boat ride was pretty pathetic, we enjoyed getting out and about – away from the rigors and stress of work.  
On March 12th, our eye hospital staff and my family (sans a sick Zachariah and me) went to an orphanage to visit and play with the children.  We bore gifts and supplies for the staff and orphans at the House of Moses, situated in Lusaka.   
One of our larger capital purchases that we gifted was a dryer, funded by a donation from the organization, Restore a Child.  Jaycee especially enjoyed playing with and ministering to the orphans. 

11.  Zachariah has turned 6 months!  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly development and growth occur in an infant.  
Just watching the process for the second time around is such a blessing.  He has now started to eat solids (butternut squash was his first solid food, and now we need to steam chunks for Jaycee separately, lest she steal his tasty puree).  His two bottom teeth have come in.  He likes to sit on his own, roll over, and suck on any object placed within arm’s reach. 

12.  We are so fortunate to have the loving care of grandparents, who have made the decision to live with us as missionaries in Africa taking care of our children throughout the majority of the year.  However, there are months of the year where we do not have grandparent coverage, during which time we are seeking the assistance of any willing soul to be a missionary babysitter!  Specifically, the months of mid-September to mid-December, we are looking for a volunteer to come to Zambia to help take care of two amazing children.  I guarantee you will fall in love with them.  If you are interested, we are willing to pay for a round-trip flight to Lusaka.  Please contact us if you are or know someone who would fit the bill!  Just to convince you, here are some pictures of our happy and funny toddler, Jaycee.  
Praying fervently at church
Ms. Bossy, shushing the other children

13.  Last Thoughts.  After reading the profound and insightful thoughts on living and dying by the 37-year-old Stanford neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Kalanithi, who just died on March 9th after a struggle with Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer, I have been reminded to continue living life to the fullest as if each day were my last.  Each kiss planted on my son and daughter, each word carefully spoken in love or in discipline, each conversation between my husband and me, each patient treated, each eye operated on, each tooth restored – every act or deed performed or word spoken should be done meaningfully, passionately, and deliberately.  May we remember our mortality, not that it should scare us, but that it should spur us on to do good and to live without regrets, following after the mandate of the Great Physician who has asked us to love Him and love humanity.