Category Archives: Updates

Weusene Update

Here’s a quick update on Weusene. We went to Alert Hospital on the other side of town last Monday, only to find that the doctor was at Black Lion Hospital! So back we came–that’ll teach me to call before I go!

He felt that she needed 15 more days of treatment, which will make a total of 45 days. There is no known benefit for going beyond 45 days. She wanted to know if there was any other way to get the medicine, other than shots, but alas, there is not. She has been her usual sweet, brave self in coming in every day to get 2 painful shots.

On our way back to the office after the appointment, we stopped at the souk (shop) to buy eggs and lentils for her. When I asked her if there was anything else she would like, she pointed to the bag of nail polish hanging overhead. So she is now the proud owner of some extremely bright red nail polish!

We go back to the doctor the first week in October to find out the next step. There may be the possibility of another treatment, which is pills, if she is not completely well from the current treatment. The number of people who can get the pills is limited, so we shall see what they decide.

Meanwhile, after her shots each day, I am teaching her the Amharic alphabet. My Amharic isn’t very good, but I do know the alphabet and can read it, so I’m a baby step ahead of her.

Melkam Addis Amet or Happy New Year 2003 September 2010 Update

Greetings from wet and muddy Addis Ababa, where we hope the rain will stop by the end of the month. I’m writing this on September 11th, which is Ethiopian New Year. The Julian calendar is still in effect here, so I get to relive 2003!

The last few months have been incredibly busy with medical teams back to back to back from mid-June to mid-August. We saw a lot of patients, gave out a lot of medicine, did lots of counseling with patients and saw spiritual fruit with some people making decisions for Christ. Many thanks to Medical Campus Outreach from Augusta, GA, Highland Park Presbyterian Church from Dallas, Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church from Knoxville, and Covenant Presbyterian Church from Nashville. It was great to get reacquainted with some old friends and meet some new ones. One particular patient from our June medical team has kept me busy and challenged medically. This is her story.

Weusene is a 12 year old girl from down-country (outside of Addis), who was sent to a distant relative here at least a year ago in order to get medical treatment for a rash involving her cheeks, nose and mouth which she had had for at least 2 years prior to coming here. She was sent by the Kebele (local government office) to one of our outreach clinics in June.

I didn’t see her initially, but was asked to follow her after the team left, because they had put her on Prednisone, which needed to be tapered. Normally, we don’t follow patients we pick up at our outreach clinics, but this was a special exception. We had an “iffy” diagnosis of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which Teddy, our project manager made. So, between the end of July and early August, I was treating her for bacterial infection and tapering the Prednisone. At the beginning of August, we had a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Vanderbilt, who came with a medical team from Nashville. I sent him a picture of her face ahead of time and he was pretty convinced that this was mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. And what is mucocutaneous leishmaniasis? Well, it is a disease caused by the bite of a sand fly which affects the skin and mucus membranes (lips, nose, inside of mouth). There is also a visceral type which infects the liver and spleen and can be quickly fatal.

So how does one find treatment for this disease???? In the US, the drugs can only be gotten through the CDC in Atlanta. So I talked with a pharmacist here, who referred me to another pharmacist, who referred me to Médecins Sans Frontières Holland (Doctors Without Borders.) They are one of the few groups in the world that actually treats this disease (other than the US military). So Teddy, Weusene and I went off to their office in order to find out what the possibilities were for treatment. Initially, we were going to send her north to Gondar, where an MSF representative would meet her and her older sister, and take her to their treatment site on the Sudan border.

That was the plan, until their doctor in Gondar told them there was treatment available in Addis, at the Black Lion Hospital, which is essentially in the neighborhood of our main office. So they made us an appointment at Black Lion and off we went. We were taken to the Leishmaniasis Lab, where a swab was taken of Weusene’s mouth and told we needed to go to Alert Hospital where a biopsy would be done. So we got in Teddy’s car and went to Alert, where we met an Ethiopian dermatologist, an Ethiopian PhD student in Microbiology and a PhD researcher from Switzerland/London, who were all lovely. They took a biopsy of her face (ouch) and told me that this was classic mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, though they might not be able to see the parasite in the biopsy. There were no Dermatology beds available at Alert and no way to treat her at Black Lion, so they asked if I would treat her. After being significantly invested in this little girl, I couldn’t say no, and Teddy agreed. Then we all, including the two researchers, piled back into Teddy’s car and went back to Black Lion to get the medicine.

The treatment is with a drug called sodium stibogluconate, which is Antimony, a heavy metal–remember this from Chemistry?? Neither did I!!! It can be given by IV or intramuscular injection and is given daily for 30 days. It is a very painful injection, regardless of the route of administration. And because of the volume of medicine to be injected into muscle, it needs to be given in 2 injections.

Weusene has faithfully come to all her appointments, both before and since we started the treatment. She is very brave, considering that she knows that she is going to get 2 very painful injections everyday. After about a week, she had a lot of swelling in her face, which is a local reaction to the drug. However, at about two weeks, we started to see improvement in the swelling and the ulcerations on her lower lip started to heal. September 15th will be the last day of treatment. We go back to see the team at Alert Hospital on Sept. 20th, to see if she is really done or will need additional treatment.

So what happens to her after the treatment is done? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. If she goes back home, she will likely become someone’s houseworker and never get an education (she’s functionally illiterate as it is) or be married at 15 or 16. If she is to stay in Addis, she will need financial support, as the distant relative she lives with has told us several times she needs to send Weusene back home because she can’t afford to feed another person, so I’ve been helping them with food each week. I’ve been praying about whether or not to support her here in Addis so she can go to school and have a future that is more promising than she might have otherwise. Teddy and I will need to talk with her, once a decision is made about her treatment to find out what she would like.

I’m going to Namibia from September 14-18 to attend the Africa Palliative Care Conference. Palliative/hospice care has long been an interest of mine and we are expecting that sometime in the not too distant future, we will need to start doing more palliative/hospice type care in our project, as less funding is available for AIDS drugs, first line treatment fails and second line treatment becomes less available. Another nurse from SIM, our partner mission here, is going with me.

Once back from Namibia, it will be a busy time until October 15th when I leave for a 3½ week trip to the US. I’m looking forward to seeing many friends, family and supporters. It will be a busy time there, as I squeeze in doctor’s appointments, visits with friends in MD, visits to NH and MA, shopping for things I can’t get here and a few days in Chattanooga at the Mission to the World Global Missions Conference.

Again, many thanks to you all for your faithful prayers, financial support, care packages, emails, snail mails, and Facebook messages. Here are some more prayer and praise items.

Praise:

  • Good summer medical teams
  • A new Amharic language tutor, who is excellent
  • Progress in Weusene’s treatment

Prayer:

  • Safe and productive time in Namibia
  • Preparations for trip to US
  • Income generating sewing project with ladies in our project
  • Continued financial support to be able to be here another 2 years.
  • Complete healing for Weusene and how to help her in the future

When It Rains, It (almost) Snows

Sweeping

A couple of Saturdays ago we had the fiercest wind and rain storm that we’ve had since I’ve been here. About 5pm the wind suddenly picked up, the rain came pouring down and was blown against the building, coming through cracks in windows, blowing out some windows and causing a tree to fall on someone’s Land Cruiser. After we all secured things in our apartments, we were out with brooms and dust pans, trying to get rid of the very slippery hail that came down. It really looked like snow on the ground and I asked if anyone had a snow shovel–they thought I was crazy. We had fun working together and cleaning up.

Hail on the steps
More hail
Hail at the bottom of the downspout

I’ve been reading the book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. In the next to the last chapter he writes this about the church:

“If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her.

If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing.

If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed.

If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love.

If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service.

If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace.

If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity.

If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.” p. 262

Update from Addis Ababa, June 2010

Greetings from rainy Addis Ababa. Rainy season has started–though it could be said that it never stopped when it should have last September! We had an amazing hail storm a couple weeks ago; the ground was covered with hail stones and the noise on the tin roof was deafening! As promised in my March update, I’m going to introduce you to my Ethiopian colleagues in this update. I thought I had pictures of all of them, but I don’t. And when I copied this from Word, the pictures didn’t copy, will have to work on that later.

Teddy Alemayheu is the Project Manager. He is a nurse and a social worker, and is now studying project management. He is an amazing person, extremely gifted in connecting with people. Many of our beneficiaries consider him to be their children’s “father” when they feel their kids need some male influence. He is my go-to person for difficult situations and we have a great working relationship.

Danny Abebe and Betty Tsedeke are the assistant project managers. Danny is responsible for the office in Bole. Danny was my translator on my first trip here 5 years ago, so he has had a special place in my heart. Betty is a social worker and finished her Master’s degree in Social Work last year. She works primarily in the Lideta office and helps me deal with difficult situations.

Achiso, Abebe and Desalegn are the nurses in the project. They keep track of the beneficiaries, teach classes on adherence and compliance to HIV medications, make home visits, fill prescriptions and treat minor illnesses. They keep me up to date on sick beneficiaries and we make home visits together. They are all in school to obtain their bachelor’s degree in nursing.

A’elef, Hawie, Tigist, are our community mobilization officers. They work closely with our women’s support groups, leading Bible studies and teaching the women to support each other through good times and bad. They also help to coordinate our monthly support distribution when all the beneficiaries show up to get rent money, soap, cooking oil and teff (the staple grain used to make injerra, the flat bread eaten here daily.)

Gizaw Meles coordinates all of our visiting medical teams, which is a huge job, especially this summer. He works closely with the Mission to the World office in Atlanta, getting all the professional information on the participants, gets them credentialed here, arranges transportation, accommodations, food and daily schedules, finances, and answers myriad questions. He is theologically trained and leads our Community Bible Study in each of the project offices.

Tsegaye works with the children and youth program and arranges for school uniforms and school fees for our 500 school aged children who are in many, many different schools. He also monitors report cards and works with our child sponsorship program and the men’s support group in Lideta.

Sammy Temesgen is a lab technician, who helps with lab work when we have visiting medical teams. He also makes home visits, helps to coordinate repairs on beneficiary homes and will soon be working with a TB case finding project.

Girma is our office manager in Lideta. He helps Bev with the finances, does payroll, and multiple other things everyday, like running the generator when we don’t have power.

Abeba, Bizaheyu, and Asnakech are our Expert Patients in the Lideta office. They are beneficiaries who have been trained to be peer counselors, because they were found to be managing their own health exceptionally well. They are each responsible for the all beneficiaries in a specific neighborhood and are our eyes and ears in the community. They know who is sick and needs a home visit, will go to the hospital or medical appointments with other beneficiaries to help advocate for them. They are great encouragements in my attempts to speak Amharic.

Genet and Bayoush are our cleaner and shopkeeper in Lideta. Genet keeps our office clean and makes us tea twice a day. Bayoush keeps all project donations except medications, organized and inventoried

So, since the last update, I completed language school in mid-April. I’m nowhere close to proficient in Amharic, but I work at it every day and understand and speak a bit more as the days go by. I try to study at lunch time several days a week.

Just after finishing language school, I went to South Africa for a week for a Mission to the World Eastern and Southern Africa retreat. We were in the Cape Town area, which was absolutely beautiful–ocean, beaches, vineyards.

I’ve been back to work full time since May. It is good to be back doing what I came here to do. I’ve been updating the charts in Lideta, making home visits, seeing beneficiaries in all the offices, occasionally attending community bible study in Lideta when the medical schedule allows, visiting hospitalized beneficiaries and coordinating the TB case finding project, which will be launched by the time you get this. And I’ve been busy preparing for our visiting medical teams coming during rainy season.

Outside of work, I’m keeping plenty busy, but space doesn’t allow me to elaborate much. I’m part of an Inter-Mission prayer meeting that meets weekly with missionaries from several different Christian mission agencies here in Ethiopia. I was part of a Bible Study Fellowship pilot class for 4 months which will resume in the fall. And my “2 year project” knitting a sweater is moving along quite well. I might even finish it in less time. Most of the time, it’s great for relaxing and unwinding.

Praise and Prayer items:

  • Good relationships with my work colleagues.
  • Faithful financial supporters that allow me to be here, doing what I love.
  • Good terminal evaluation by the government of our last 3 year agreement. Pray that the submission of our new 3 year agreement would be viewed favorably.
  • Two healthy babies have been born, with several more due soon.
  • Renewed work permit for Andy and Bev Warren–it was touch and go for a few days.
  • That our TB active case finding project would be useful to our project and government.
  • Back-to-back medical teams from mid-June to mid-August–that I and my teammates would rest in God’s strength and not our own during these busy times.
  • That our 3 summer interns, Kyle, Lindsay and Sarah would enjoy their work with the children and youth of the project and deepen their walk with Christ.
  • Sick beneficiaries, particularly two children with AIDS and TB.
  • A trip to the US from mid-October to early November, that plans for seeing family and friends would start to come together.

Thanks, as always, for your encouraging emails, letters, prayers and packages. It means a lot to have my “home team” behind me. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you when I’m home in the fall.

Caleb’s Birthday

Caleb is the 3 year old son of my teammates, Michael and Emily Treadwell. He turned 3 on April 9th. A couple days later, we had a party at Desta Mender (Joy Village), a working farm and Midwifery College of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital (http://www.fistulafoundation.org/hospital/history/). They have a café there, which is open on the weekends and a favorite place to go after church for Sunday lunch. There is plenty of grassy space for kids to run around, animals to watch and pet, and nice, clean air.

Caleb in his new sweater vest
Caleb and Ruthie
Horses
Cake!

Orphan Holiday Celebrations

Easter, Betselot and me

We care for about 43 orphans in our project–that is, kids for whom both parents are deceased. They are referred to as “double” orphans, because losing one parent here can have you called an orphan. So on major Ethiopian holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s (in September) and Easter, we have a party for the orphans. For Ethiopian New Year, we had a program at the main office and then took them to lunch at a local restaurant. For Christmas, we had a party at the office, told the Christmas story and decorated Christmas cookies and ate pizza. For Easter, we went to our Bole office, where one of our beneficiaries cooked Ethiopian food for them. We told the Easter story of Christ’s death and resurrection and they drew pictures to illustrate it. The older girls had fun taking pictures with my camera at Easter, but these pictures are from 3 celebrations.

New Year’s, Brian and friends
Christmas, Hirut and Nathanael
Easter, Betty and Kendi
Firkerte being a kid!

March 2010 Update from Addis

For the past few weeks, my Bible study group has been studying the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. The Philippian church was special to Paul because of how they supported his ministry and he mentions multiple times his thankfulness for their “partnership in the Gospel”. So I thought I would use this update to introduce you to my partners here in the SIM/MTW HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Project. This letter will introduce my Western team mates and the next update will introduce the Ethiopian ones.

Bev and Andy Warren

Bev and Andy Warren are the team leaders. They are veteran missionaries, having lived in Africa for about 25 years. Andy is a development specialist and the chief spokesperson and fund raiser for our project. Bev does the accounting work for the project, which is a huge job. They host our weekly team meetings and make sure we get good snacks and coffee!

Emily Treadwell
Michael Treadwell

Michael and Emily Treadwell are both teachers and work with the Children and Youth program. They lead groups for the school aged kids in the project, teach English, make home visits to kids and their parents, and advocate for kids who are having problems with school. They also help to coordinate our Child Sponsorship program. They have become great friends and companions as we all work through our first year in Ethiopia together.

Caleb Treadwell
Caleb Treadwell

Caleb Treadwell is Michael and Emily’s son. He’s almost 3 and was adopted from here when he was just a year old. Caleb has an amazing vocabulary for someone who never heard English until he was a year old. He is full of energy and loves to cut–with any kind of utensil that will do the job–and especially at our favorite pizza place.

Kendi Anderson

Kendi Anderson is an intern with our Children and Youth program, doing a gap year between high school and college. She is very determined, and thanks to her, we have been able to get one of our HIV+ kids on treatment, whose mother was otherwise reluctant to do this. Last week she and Emily went to get a teenage girl back in school. The principal was reluctant to take her back, but said to come back in the afternoon after he talked to the staff. When they went back, he told them that he had told the staff that if the “ferinj” (local word for foreigner) were that committed to this child, then the school had no choice but to take her back.

Jacquie Overton

Jacquie Overton is a physical therapist from New Zealand who helps us out a couple of days a week. Her husband is the headmaster at Bingham Academy, a K-12 school for missionary and other ex-pat kids. It has been great to be able to collaborate with her on some difficult cases and come up with a reasonable plan of care to help improve the lives of our beneficiaries. Well, I hope this gives you a better picture of some of those with whom I work. Next time I’ll introduce you to our Ethiopian staff. They are a very special group of people and we are so thankful for their commitment to the hard work they do everyday to care for “the least of these.”

I would really covet your prayers for the following areas:
Personal:

  • Perseverance for the last month of language school. I will be done on April 16th! Then for progress and boldness in using Amharic day to day at work. I still have much to learn.
  • MTW East and South Africa Retreat April 19-23rd in Capetown, South Africa. My South African friend at language school is jealous I am going to Capetown! Pray for a relaxing and refreshing time, as I prepare to go to work full-time upon return.
  • Praise for wonderful prayer, financial, email, snail mail and care package supporters at home, who allow me to be here, doing something I love. It was great to be able to have people from 3 of my supporting churches–Park Slope, Resurrection and Abbott– here in February with the Baltimore/Brooklyn, NY medical team.

Project:

  • Completion of the final report of our current 3 year contract with the government and wisdom for writing the next 3 year project contract. Pray that we would find favor with the government officials and have discernment on what we need to be doing in the future.
  • Wisdom in caring for our beneficiaries, whose social and medical situations are very often difficult at best–that they would experience the love of God as we care for them.
  • Summer interns who will be working with the Children and Youth program–that God would provide the right people who love kids and the Gospel.
  • For Leuel, our 9 year old boy, who has just started on 2nd line AIDS treatment. Pray that he would respond to this new treatment, as there are few, if any, other treatment options left for him. Right now he is doing very well, all things considered.
  • For Marta, Yodannes, Lelise, Bezuwork and Meseret, all of whom are pregnant and in difficult circumstances. Pray that we would be supportive and loving at this difficult time in their lives. Pray for healthy babies.
  • For a busy summer (rainy season) of visiting medical teams from mid-June to mid-August. Pray for logistics–the first team is 55 people, good relationships with our partner churches and government officials, that the people cared for would sense the love of Christ in all we say and do, for stamina for the staff.

Happy Thanksgiving

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.”
Psalm 89:1-2

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. The grocery store that caters to the ex-patriots here has turkeys–if you can afford to pay the price they are asking. My team will be having chicken, but with the other usual side dishes. I’m making apple pie–for me it’s not Thanksgiving without it! Thursday will be just another day here, since Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, so school and work will go on as usual, but with a nice gathering at suppertime.

But, Thanksgiving is more than just eating turkey or watching American football. Being here and all the reasons behind that, has made me stop and think about what I am thankful for and why.

At the top of my list are my faithful supporters, friends and family who are giving generously in several different ways. In thinking about this, I’ve been drawn to the epistles of Paul, where at the end of many of them, he mentions individuals and churches by name for which he is thankful. Here are some of the things he mentions:

  • they have refreshed my spirit
  • they shared my trouble
  • they sent me help for my needs more than once
  • the gifts sent were a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God
  • they have been a comfort to me

With Paul, I can echo all of these. I am thankful for those who faithfully pray for me and the work I do here, thankful for those who provide financial support which allows me to be here, and thankful for those who send me care packages of things I like, but can’t get here. My “home team” of supporters is a great encouragement to me and top on my list of thanksgiving at this time of year.

Update to Life Isn’t Fair, But God is Good

It has been way too long since I wrote an update on this story, but the saga continued for a while. A few weeks after this all happened, I went for a home visit late on a Friday afternoon to pay the caregiver and evaluate the beneficiary. The operative words here are “late on a Friday afternoon.” It was not a situation that anyone wanted to find at that hour, especially not here, where medical care at best is iffy and psychiatric care, in particular. She was completely out of her mind, walking around like a duck, trying to escape and trying to strangle herself with her clothes. A phone call to the doctor at the psychiatric hospital was useless; she couldn’t be admitted there because of her medical problems and there didn’t seem to be any concern that her only caregivers for the weekend were her teenage sons.

So what to do? The hired caregiver and her son should have gotten “combat” pay for having to deal with this. We went back to the office, just beating the rain, to consult with other co-workers. We found a private psychiatric clinic that would see her on Saturday morning (not obviously ideal, but the best we could do) and for about $8 -10 USD, were able to get a diagnosis of INH (a TB medicine) psychosis. My favorite antipsychotic, haloperidol was prescribed and stated.

I’m happy to say that she is doing much better, has no need for a daytime caregiver and is now able to manage her household chores with some help from her sons. There will probably be more updates to this story as time goes on; I have a feeling that the end of this story has not yet been written!