Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our visit home

On June 24th, we left from Kilimanjaro Airport for a visit home.  The first two parts of our trip were on Qatar Airlines by way of Doha, Qatar and Frankfurt, Germany.  The final leg was on US Air from Frankfurt to Philadelphia.  Because of our almost 13 hours in layovers, we saved half the cost of the trip.  To us, this was well worth it and also gave us a chance to see Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain out the plane windows.  We have never seen so much sand in our lives! 

Qatar Airport is very nice, with lots of shopping and two cordoned off areas to nap in lounge chairs.  There is even a men’s mosque and a women’s mosque in it.  Most of the people working in the airport are from somewhere else…..India, Korea, the Philippines and probably many other places.  The departures board listed flights to places we never heard of. 

We were so happy to reach Philadelphia and be back on US soil.  Of course, there was still a bit of culture shock with all of the traffic, sights and sounds of Philly.

The high points of our trip were spending time with our family and friends and being home for the Fourth of July.  Anyone who has not enjoyed the down home America experience of July 4th in Riverton, NJ just doesn’t know what they are missing!

When we came home in November, we did not get to see everyone we wanted to.  This time, we did much better.  We enjoyed many meals out with friends and family, and visits at their homes.  It was a great chance to re-connect with those we miss so much when we are here. 

We enjoyed being at our home congregation, St John’s Lutheran Church in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia.  It was wonderful to hear the Word in English and to receive Holy Communion with our brothers and sisters there. 

July 14th we went to speak at August Lutheran Church in Trappe, PA.  Augustus was organized in 1730  and was the church of Henry Muhlenburg, first Lutheran pastor in America.  During summer months, they worship in the old building, which was built ibetween 1743 and 1745.  It was incredible to stand in the place where Muhlenburg stood so many years ago.  It was very nice meeting the people of Augustus, whose mission includes care of such a remarkable piece of history.

Another high point was a day spent at Hospitality Creek Campground in Monroe Township, NJ.   We had a trailer there before we came here and loved going there most weekends during the camping season.  We spent the day with two of our children and their spouses and four of our grandchildren.  We played in the lake, pool and the children’s activity pool.  We also had a chance to visit with friends at the campground.

Also, while we were in America, we attended the Summer Missionary Conference of the ELCA held in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We decided to drive there in order to see some of the country (and to save some money, too).  The trip was beautiful and we also enjoyed a couple of days in Chicago before the conference.  We will write more about this in a separate blog posting.

All in all, our visit was great.  It gave us so many wonderful memories to think back on now that we are here again in Irente.  We were so warmly welcomed when we returned.  When we arrived at our house, we were greeted with bouquets of flowers and songs of welcome.  No one could ask for a better reception.

We thank God for the opportunity to be in America and for a safe return to Tanzania.

Violet and KCMC

On May 21st we took Violet, a 10 month-old little girl, to KCMC for back surgery.  KCMC is Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, one of the best hospitals in Tanzania.  When we brought her there a few weeks before they did an MRI on a cyst or tumor at the base of her spine.  She had been referred to KCMC by the doctors at Lushoto Hospital.  They had x-rayed her back and said she would probably need surgery.  At KCMC the surgeon said to bring her on the 21st and her surgery would be done on the 22nd.  He expected that she would be released five days later.

Our drive to Moshi took six hours instead of the usual five because of road construction.  Here when the road is being repaved, they construct a temporary dirt road alongside for traffic to get by.  One of the three “diversions” was 20 kilometers long! 

At admissions, the doctor said they were behind in their schedule and probably wouldn't be able to do the surgery until early the next week.  He wanted us to go home and bring her back then.  After almost 4 hours of waiting and talking, they agreed to keep Violet for her pre-surgical testing and then decided to let her stay.  Because of the cost of diesel and the wear and tear on the car and Tom, we decided it was better, safer, and cheaper to stay in Arusha while we waited.  The doctor said Violet’s surgery would be perhaps on Monday, but definitely on Tuesday.  He also said that since we have two RN’s on staff, she could leave two days afterward instead of the usual five.

We checked in to Ilboru Safari Lodge in Arusha, where we get a great rate since we were here for an ELCA Mission Conference in March. They also have wonderful food and a big pool.  We had some things to do in Arusha, including pricing out some medical equipment that a Swedish group want to donate to the home.   So it seemed like a good plan.  Of course, things here never go as planned.  We should be used to this by now.

Violet, Mama Upendo, and one of our students, Felista, stayed in the children’s surgical ward.  There are 14 beds in the ward.  Each child/baby sleeps in a regular hospital with a mama or someone responsible for their care.  The mamas cook the food for themselves and their child and bring their own linens. Whenever we felt tired of our stay at Ilboru, we thought about Upendo and Felista for a reality check.  We said we were “trapped in Paradise”.

We visited KCMC several times, to bring food and to allow Mama Upendo and Felista a break from the ward.  The time seemed to drag on forever.

Finally on Thursday, May 30th, we had a text message from Upendo that Violet had been taken to surgery.  Later in the day, we received a text saying Violet was back in the ward and “Anaendelea vizuri.  This is the usual reply for someone's health.  "She continues well".  Thanks be to God.  

When we visited on the 31st, we were told that she would probably be released on Monday or Tuesday, two weeks after she was admitted.  We had thought that it was smarter and cheaper to stay in Arusha, but who would have thought we would be there so long.

On Monday, June 3rd, we got to the hospital and Violet was smiling and cheery as usual. The doctor came to check her at around 10 am and said she could go home after the drain and IV were removed.  The nurse came and removed them at around noon.  Mama Upendo went to the cashier's to pay the bill.  Unfortunately, they were closed for lunch so she had to wait and go back after 1 pm.  By the time the bill was paid it was too late to drive back to Lushoto in daylight.  

As we drove away from the hospital, Mama Upendo said with a bit of sarcasm in her voice, "Kwaheri KCMC".  (goodbye KCMC)  We all laughed and I asked her if she felt like she was let out of jail.  She had been there for a total of 14 days with only 4 of them since Violet's surgery, away from her own three children and husband

One of the biggest problems here is that we often lose things in translation, or just don't understand.  It turned out Violet's surgery was for spina bifida!  I was very sure that when the ultrasound was done, the doctor had said it was not spina bifida.  

Since it was so late in the day, we stayed at Uhuru Lutheran Hostel for the night.  It is only a few miles from the hospital.  We enjoyed a lunch/dinner at about 4:30 and slept soundly.  Tom asked for and got a reduced rate because of the circumstances.  

After breakfast the next morning, we traveled about six and a half hours home.  Violet was wonderful on the way, sleeping a lot of the time.  We had brought a car seat from the home with us to support her back.  For her, the trip in the car was far better than an eight-hour ride in a crowded bus. 

For those of you who knew about Violet’s surgery at the time, we thank you for your prayers and emails of concern.  The picture attached was taken after we returned to Irente.  Violet is now starting to walk with someone holding her hands or holding on to furniture.  When she sees us, we get the most wonderful smiles from her.   (but unfortunately, not in this picture)