Saturday, November 15, 2014

God's Direction & My Obedience

Hello all!  What a wonderful God we serve!!

I wanted to take some time and give some updates on what God has been doing in my life lately!  He has completely wrecked my life and my plans and it has been incredible!

Most of you know that I spent my final clinical rotation of PA School in Zimba, Zambia.  Zambia is a landlocked country along the southern portion of Africa.  Click here to read the awesome story of how God led me over there!  I spent 5 weeks there, 4 of which were spent at Zimba Mission Hospital seeing all kinds of patients and helping out the Missionary Physicians, Drs. Dan & Joan Jones.  My time in Zimba passed WAY too quickly!  I was not even close to being ready to come home- even though when I came home, 5 days later, I graduated PA School. 

So I came home, graduated PA School, took my boards, became a certified PA, obtained my license to practice medicine in Tennessee and eventually found a job.  In the midst of all of this busyness, a void was left in my heart.  That void was Zimba.  I kept waiting for the excitement from being in Africa to fade, but it never left.  It is still there to this day.  I felt like God was calling me back to Zambia.  Not just for short term, however, I believe He wants me there full-time.  In other words, He wants ME to be a Missionary to the people of Zambia, particularly at Zimba Mission Hospital. 

Wait, what??  God wants ME to pack up and move over 8,000 miles away from my family and friends and everything that I have ever known?  I had never even considered being a Missionary.  That was never on my radar- until I came back from Zimba.  I had it in my mind that I would graduate PA school, find a job, and work like crazy to get my mile-high stack of student loans paid off ASAP.  I would have loved to go on short-term mission trips when my schedule allowed, but my main focus was getting my loans paid off as soon as I could. 

So I began the application process with Global Partners to return to Zambia.  This application process was MUCH more in depth than my trip with Global Partners back in 2013 was.  All of the applications and the interviews went as smooth as silk and I was officially appointed as a Global Partners full-time missionary to Zambia at the end of September 2014!  Everything seemed to be falling right into place…

I tell you what… To whom God calls, He also provides!  Remember that huge stack of student loans I was talking about… I knew that there was NO WAY that I would be able to go back to Zambia if I still had to pay my loans.  Enter in MedSend.  MedSend is an organization that raises grant funds to reimburse student loans for medical personnel called by God to pursue long-term missionary service overseas.  I had heard about MedSend and after researching it, I thought it was too good to be true- that’s God Provision right there!! :)  I have finished my applications with MedSend and I am currently waiting on an answer from them.  Huge prayer request right here:  pray that MedSend will accept my loans… there is some concern that they will not be able to accept all of the loans that I am currently paying on.  If that is the case, pray for God’s provision to supernaturally pay those loans off before my anticipated departure date of January 2016!  There is no doubt in my mind that He provides!!  His provision is limitless!!

My life has been wrecked in the most wonderful way possible!  I am incredibly excited to begin this next chapter in my life that God has for me!  I am so anxious to get back and see the wonderful people of Zimba!  God has placed a wonderful vision in my heart for these people and I am excited to see it come to fruition!  I would love to share this vision with each of you and discuss partnership to invest in this great vision that God has given me!  We are all in this together!  Would you commit to pray for me as this season of team building (support raising) begins?  Pray also for me as I commit to grow deeper in my relationship with God and really learn what it means to be a missionary.  Also pray for the wonderful people of Zambia for His great provision each day of their lives!

Thank you all so much for your continued support during this wonderful time!  I look forward to talking to each of you very soon!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Hard Goodbye

Sorry for the not so joyful posts lately, but here is yet another one.  For the 5th and final week of our trip, Julie’s family was in town and we all had to head to Lusaka for the week.  That meant saying our goodbyes in Zimba this past Monday.  Here is an excerpt from my journal that I wrote about the day we left…

Day 29:  Monday 22/7/13

Today is the day I had been dreading since Julie’s family arrived last Thursday.  I did not want to leave.  To say goodbye was not an option for me.  I was not ready – by a long shot.  I would have never imagined that a small town in the middle of Africa could capture my heart like it has. 
  • I will miss waking up to the loud trucks and the roosters in the mornings.
  • I will miss saying good morning to Gertrude while she is cooking breakfast.
  • I will miss having my quiet time in that corner chair with God, my Bible, and some worship music in the mornings.
  • I will miss chapel in the mornings and hearing those sweet, sweet African voices.
  • I will miss Charity and Purity’s high-fives every morning (and every time we met after a short break).
  • I will miss rounding with Joan and those incredibly special teaching moments that we had often.
  • I will miss attempting to handle those male and female ward patients – trying not to kill them.
  • I will miss those days in OPD where it is so busy that you are trying and trying to see the patients, but you can’t even tell that you have made the slightest dent.
  • I will miss discussing those difficult patients with Dan and/or Joan.
  • I will miss the walks to and from the hospital.
  • I will miss the sunsets.
  • I will miss Jock, the dog, greeting us every time we were in the compound.
  • I will miss the kids:  Choolwe, Sharon, Caleb, Jeremiah, Faith, and the others.
  • I will miss Gertrude’s wonderful dinners.
  • I will miss having dinner with Dan and Joan – especially the days when Dan just talked and talked – they were rare, but too funny when they did happen!
  • I will miss Joan sharing her heart with us – from her frustrations to her testimony.  She is such an amazing woman of God and has been through so much.  I pray that she has the strength to continue on.
  • I will miss movie nights (especially with the popcorn), even if we never made it through an entire movie without falling asleep.
  • I will miss Dan and Joan.
  • I will miss Gertrude.
  • I will miss Ruth and Keiko.
  • I will miss Jesse and Selinda.
  • I will miss my patients.
  • I will miss Joan’s reaction when she does not approve of something her patient is doing, “Badala (or mama) pepe!” 

Most of all, I will miss seeing God in just about every situation I was in – from the joyful, the sorrowful, the painful, the scary, and even those times when life was just average.  I never want to lose that focus.  I pray that I don’t.

I never wanted to leave Zimba, but I pray that I can return very soon.  My heart has remained in that place.  Thank you all so much for praying for this journey.  I heard from several people before I left that this trip will be nothing but fantastic.  That it has.  I will return back to the States physically, but emotionally, I will still be in Zimba.  I will have to relearn how to survive in American culture, but one thing that I do not want to do is continue back into the norm of life there – I never want this experience to leave me.

(I apologize in advance for this picture.  I was a complete basket case the day that we left.  None of us thought to get a group photo before our last day…)


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Disclaimer:  For those of you who are reading my blog for only the happy times in Zimba, you might want to skip this blog.  For those who know that times are not always happy-go-lucky in Africa, I commend you… read on.

So last week I was in Male Ward rounding on my patients.  On Monday, I had maybe 7 or 8 patients.  One of them was Given.  Given is a 28 year old HIV and TB positive patient.  He was admitted at the beginning of July for potential cryptococcal meningitis.  For those who aren’t medical, that is a type of fungal meningitis.  This particular fungus is more common for HIV patients to get, and can be deadly. 

He started treatment for this meningitis and a response to the antibiotics seemed to be lagging a bit.  We were wondering why.  We knew, obviously, he was immunocompromised, but we were also wondering if something else was going on:  particularly a TB treatment failure. 

We questioned his family about how often he is taking his continuation phase TB meds.  His mom, at this time, states that when he is not feeling well, she gets scared and does not give him his meds.  She could not tell us how many days that he has gone without his medication for TB.  We look at his DOTS card (Patients with TB have to have somebody directly observe them taking their medicine and document it on a card.  In the States, nurses usually handle this.  In Africa, the family handles it.).  His DOTS card is barely filled out. 

We order a chest x-ray.  This x-ray looks hideous.  Bad infiltrate in his left upper lobe of his lung.  We start him on 2 more antibiotics for a possible pneumonia.  We are still not positive as to whether this is a TB treatment failure or just a bad pneumonia.  So now, he is on 4 antibiotics, plus his HIV and TB meds.  Nine very potent meds. 

All this time, he is not taking food or liquids by mouth very well and vomiting often.  Antiemetics are not helping.  So we give him liter after liter of dextrose, normal saline, lactated ringers, you name it.  Hypotensive and tachycardic the entire time, but surprisingly, a decent urine output. 

He had his up and down moments over the course of the next couple of days.  Friday afternoon I go and check on him after I finish in OPD.  He had taken a minor downfall.  Not improving and not responding to commands or his name.  We discover that his lungs are beginning to fill with fluid.  In the meantime, his respiration rate is around 35 breaths per minute (normal is between 12-20).  Still hypotensive and tachycardic.  This is not looking good.

Saturday he was pretty much the same.  Only a little less tachypnea.  We maintain his current regimen and continue to pray.

Monday, I transitioned out of the Male Ward and into OPD for the week.  Before I began in OPD, I wanted to check on Given.  When we walked in, we saw him sitting up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  It was incredible!  We could not believe it!  He was responsive, alert and oriented x 3.  His speech was still a little slurred, however.  Later that day, it occurred to me in the back of my mind… what if this is just a peak before the fall.  I was hoping not… we would have to see what the next couple of days hold.

Tuesday was a little more difficult for Given.  He became agitated throughout the day, and acted like he didn’t feel as well.  His belly was fairly hard and distended.  An abdominal film was ordered.  Dilated loops of small bowel… Bowel obstruction.  Enemas were tried, but ultimately, the only treatment was surgery.  The closest place the surgery could be done is in Livingstone.  He was not stable enough to be transferred to Livingstone… in the flatbed of a truck.   Prayers going up cause I didn’t know what was going to happen…

Wednesday:  Julie peeks through the window outside of Given’s bed.  She sees the blue privacy curtains.  She peeks in through the Male Ward door… privacy curtains and what appears to be a covering over his head.  She said, “This doesn’t look good.”  My mind goes blank.  It takes me several seconds before I can make myself enter the ward to make reality what is already in the back of my head.  I finally walk in and see the blue privacy curtains for myself.  I walk around to the other side of the curtains and find Given’s great-grandfather trying to close his mouth.  At that time, Given’s sweet mother, Edith, falls onto the empty bed herself and buries her head between her knees.  It happened.  Given died. 

I immediately sit down beside Mrs. Edith and put my arm around her.  (I find it very hard in these situations to find the words to say, so most of the time I just set quiet and was there with her.)  Charity, my awesome interpreter, begins talking to Mrs. Edith about various things, one being the funeral arrangements.  She is so good.  She has the biggest heart ever.  Given’s family lives an hour outside of Kalomo, a city about an hour away from Zimba.  They had no way to get his body home, so Charity offered up some options for a funeral service here in Zimba.  She has a heart of gold!

Throughout this entire morning of pain and suffering, as I reflect back, I can definitely see God’s strength at work in me.  Late last week, I was practically a wreck knowing what was likely going to happen soon with Given.  After his body was rolled out of the ward, I was practically a wreck and very close to just losing it at the nurses station.  But during that time while I was with Mrs. Edith, sitting with her and comforting her, I had an incredible amount of peace and stability.  I can only thank God for that one! 

I don’t like death.  Death is one of the things that really causes emotions to really spring forth in me… even if I don’t know that person very well.  I feel for the family that is hurting.  Strength is not really something that I consider myself having when dealing with death.  God is the true source of all our strength!  I am now beginning to realize how close God feels to us while here in Zimba.  I love it!  I am seeing God in many situations that I encounter at the hospital… in the hurt and the rejoicing.  I long for that to follow me back to the States. 

It is crazy to think that we only have 2 more days in the hospital before we prepare to leave (we will spend our last week in Lusaka, about 6 hours away from Zimba).  We have already been here for a month… it feels like 2 weeks maybe!  Time has really flown by.  I’m not sure how much I like it flying by so fast… maybe that is God telling me I need to come back soon…

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Busily Fantastic

Sorry for the delay in posting an update!  I know some of you have probably been wondering how things are going.  I have been adjusting well and finally starting to settle in to life here in Zimba.  The days are long and busy, but fantastic!  I am still learning so much, especially from Dr. Joan.  I am strongly considering taking her back to the States with me! :) 

Last week I was working in OPD (the out-patient department/clinic) Wednesday through Friday.  Monday and Tuesday last week were holidays in Zambia.  My time in OPD was very busy!  I saw around 17 patients per day, and didn’t feel like I was even making a dent.  This was OPD yesterday. (It looked like this last Wednesday as well.)  Most of the time, there was another provider there besides me, but there were times when I was by myself. 

One of my goals during my time here was to take time and pray with each of my patients, particularly times when I am in OPD.  The first day I was in clinic I achieved this.  It was hard for the first patient, but then it got easier throughout the day.  Due to the insane busyness in OPD lately, I have not gotten a chance to pray with them.  I want to badly, but I also know that there are hundreds of patients waiting to be seen and I have already taken at least 10 minutes just trying to figure out what is wrong with them.  I’m not exactly sure what to do in this situation… Prayer request:  reassurance in knowing that prayer is better than any medicine that can be provided, and that it is more important than any number of patients I feel I can see in a day.

This weekend we went to Chobe, Botswana on a safari!  When in Africa, one must go on a safari at some point.  We left for Livingstone Friday afternoon and stayed at a place called Jollyboys Friday night… lets just say that was one very interesting night filled with very little sleep!  (At Jollyboys, most people stay in large rooms filled with at least 10 strangers… who enjoy their alcohol).  It was all good though, and an experience nonetheless! Lol 

The safari was a 2-part experience.  The morning was spent on a boat riding down the Chobe River in Botswana.  Prior to Saturday, I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I was on a boat… it felt nice to be out on the water!  We saw several elephants, hippos, impala, crocodiles, and lots of birds.  The afternoon was spent riding through the wildlife park.  This is where we saw a ton of animals!  Some up close and personal!  We saw 2 female lions and several giraffes along this ride.  It was a glorious day spent with lots of animals!

Today after I did rounds in the male ward we headed off for outreach in a nearby town.  To me, outreach in Africa takes on a whole new meaning.  I love that thought!  The outreach had 4 parts.  The first was general health counseling lead by Mrs. Chebwa, the most joyful woman I think I have ever met!  Next were child immunizations, family planning, and antenatal care.  I worked with Mrs. Chebwa in antenatal care.  I have always had an interest in this area, so it was good to help manage these particular patients at this wonderful point in their life!

After all the patients were seen (about 3.5 hours), we packed up to head back to Zimba.  We were beginning to load the Range Rover, but the other door needed to be opened.  I opened the other door and began to climb in… what I encountered next was very unexpected.  I was half in the vehicle when I saw a chicken sitting in the seat next to the door staring me in the face…  So totally random and hilarious!  I still don’t know why or how that chicken managed to get in the back seat of the vehicle!  Definitely a highlight of my day!  The chicken rode with us all the way back to Zimba (after being moved to under the seat) and didn’t even make a peep!  :)  This is our new friend…

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recap of a wonderful first week at Zimba

It is crazy to think that today is already day 8 of our time in Zimba.  Time is flying too fast.  I wish it would slow down a little bit!  The first week was full of learning:  from learning my way around Zimba Mission Hospital, to learning many names of new friends, to learning some Tonga, to learning how to treat and manage my patients.  It was wonderful! 
My first official patient here at Zimba was Daisy.  Daisy has been in and out of Zimba for several weeks battling congestive heart failure.  She was admitted this time for a very low oxygen saturation.  I saw her for 3 days this week.  Daisy speaks some English so I was able to interact with her well.   Dr. Joan and I diagnosed her with pulmonary hypertension due to her accumulation of fluid in her lungs, her abnormal heart sounds, her hypertension, and the fact that oxygen through nasal cannula never seemed to bring her oxygen back up to a sufficient level.  On Wednesday, her oxygen saturation was at 84%.  You would think she would be short of breath, but Daisy said she felt well.  She had also gained 2 kg in 24 hrs.  We were thinking fluid.  But she was not swollen and her lungs sounded great.  We increased her Lasix and continued to manage her blood pressure and hoped for the best.  Thursday morning, I come into the ward and take a peek at Daisy.  She looked great!  I asked her how she felt… she felt great!  I took a peek at her vital signs.  Her blood pressure had normalized, and her weight had remained stable.  The true test came next:  her oxygen saturation.  We checked it… it was above 90%!  Praise God!  Her lungs also sounded great!!  So, Daisy got to go home on Wednesday!  This is Daisy.

Yesterday (Saturday) continued a 2 day marathon of surgeries!  We had a OB/GYN surgeon with us who is originally from Ireland but has lived in a city 2 hours away from Zimba for several years.  I first assisted on many cases with him.  He had to leave Saturday afternoon before our final case was done, so I worked with Dr. Dan for the remainder of the day.  Our next to last case was a C-section!  I was so excited!  I assisted Dr. Dan on this wonderful delivery!  Before we began, Dr. Dan prayed for the mother and a healthy delivery of the baby.  I was very moved by this!  We got going and when he cut into the uterus, I saw the baby’s head!  Dr. Dan was pulling and pushing on the uterus trying to get the baby out.  When he finally did, it was unforgettable!  She was a big baby!  (3.6 kg)  Beautiful baby!  It makes you just awe at the power of God at work in creating this living being!  Wonderful end to a beautiful Saturday!
Today (Sunday) we experienced Sunday morning church in Zambia.  Words cannot describe how wonderful it was!  From the singing, to the message, to leaving service at the end.  The Zambians know how to sing and worship God with everything!  The Spirit of God was totally in that place!  I could have stayed there all day!  Reverend Chabula's message was out of Nehemiah and he talked about rebuilding broken walls in our life.  Very good and relevant to everyone!  The end of service was one of my favorite parts.  As we all were walking out, we all formed a line.  As we formed the line, we shook everybody's hand.  When we found the end of the line, the people after us shook our hand.  This resulted in shaking hands with every single person in the church!  It was fantastic!  Something that should definitely be started back in the States!  Today is a wonderful day of rest with great friends.  Much appreciated after a long, but wonderful week!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Adventure Begins!

Hello all!   Thank you all for your prayers for safe travel, as we have made it safely to Zimba, Zambia!!  The flights were long, but good!  I was fairly anxious for the first flight to Chicago, but I soon calmed down for the longer flights!

We arrived in Lusaka at 6 a.m. yesterday morning and we made our trek down to Zimba (about 6 hrs away).  We got to see a lot of Zambia and let me just say… beautiful!  We arrived in Zimba about 4 p.m and toured the house and then the hospital.  The hospital is the equivalent of a maze to me at the moment… I’m sure that I will be getting lost several times this week! :)  Day 1 ended with something completely non-medical, but very enjoyable… painting!  The inpatient male ward is in the process of getting a face-lift, so Meg, Britton, Julie, and I helped out by painting, filling holes, scraping paint off windows until about 10 p.m. last night… awesome night full of getting to know new friends!

Our first official day at the hospital was today.  We started out with chapel this morning at 8 a.m.  We were running a few minutes late and as we were walking down to the chapel I heard something truly from Him above:  the voices of these wonderful Zambian people singing praises to the Most High!  It was the most beautiful thing I think I have ever heard!  I could do nothing but smile the entire time!  At the end of the chapel service, the people of the church officially welcomed us in their own special way!  It was incredible!!

I then proceeded with Dr. Joan to the female ward for morning rounds.  It felt great to start learning medicine on the job again!  I was just following Dr. Joan this today, but still learning an absolute ton!  I’m excited to really practice my physical exam skills… and to learn how to really read a chest X-ray!  :)  

Tomorrow should be fun… I think we will be let loose… we’ll see! :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In the beginning...

As most of you know (and have seen a lot on my Facebook page lately), I am going to Zambia, Africa for 6 weeks this summer for my last rotation of PA school.  Talk about ending with a bang!  :)  I am super excited, but I am also beginning to get a little nervous at what it will be like. (aka the title of my blog, “Parts Unknown”)  I have never been to Africa before, but from what I have been told by a good friend of mine, I will never be the same!  I’m not quite sure what that means yet…

Some of you might be wondering what my story is and how I came to the conclusion that I was planning on going to Africa… well here you go!  So sometime last summer our class was told to come to a meeting one afternoon where 2 missionary doctors were going to be speaking to us about their life in Zambia.  I was looking forward to their presentation because missionary medicine had always interested me… but honestly, I never saw myself going to Africa… especially not as a PA student. 

I had been to Peru twice on medical mission trips and loved both trips, but Africa just seemed a little bit too far for me.  The main reason being that I really do not like to fly.  I have a fear of heights.  If you could drive to Africa, I’d be the first one in line to go… but driving a car across the Atlantic Ocean isn’t quite feasible currently.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this fear of flying was really inhibiting me in completely carrying out God’s call on my life.  I know how much I love to help people, especially in medicine (and God knows it too)… I just thought I could sit tight in my little Tennessee bubble and help people here locally without having to get stretched out of my comfort zone… God had other plans…

In January of 2012, I had the opportunity to accompany some of the college kids at my church to a conference in Atlanta called Passion.  The theme of Passion in 2012 was fighting modern-day slavery all around the world by “doing something now.”  I will never forget the morning service on the 3rd day of the conference.  The entire service, we were asked to remain standing.  The message that was brought was directly out of Ephesians… the entire book of Ephesians to be exact.  Four members of the Passion team took turns reading the entire book of Ephesians while we all stood and followed along.  Periodically they would pause and remain silent so we could wait on God to see what He wanted to teach us.  During one of the pauses, I felt God put Africa on my heart and point out to me the only reason that I wasn’t willing to go to Africa.  That reason… my fear of flying.  He helped me see through my selfishness that having a silly fear should not stop anybody from doing His will.  It was then when I realized that He wanted ME to go to Africa (completely out of my comfort zone!)… Perfect timing because when we returned back to school for the Spring Semester, we had to turn in our “Wish Lists” for rotation sites- needless to say, Africa was on my list!  :)

So the rest is history!  I filled out the application to go to Africa, had a telephone interview, and was luckily one of the 4 selected to go to Zambia!  I will be in the second group going (Rotation 8), and Julie and I (my partner in crime in Zambia) are set to head out June 22, 2013! 

I know without a doubt that God is behind all of the preparation, fundraising, etc. that is going on before I even get to Zambia.  Honestly, I struggle with completely letting go and letting Him take control due to my incredibly Type A personality.  I am working on that! 

I could still use some prayer though!  Will you commit to pray from now until we return from Africa at the end of July?  Here are some specifics to guide your prayers:      
  • Pray for Julie and I as we study and prepare our hearts physically, mentally, and especially spiritually for our time in Zambia.
  •  Pray for safe travels to, from, and within Zambia. 
  • Pray for the hearts of all who hear my story about Zambia, especially with the issue of fundraising. 
  • Pray for our preceptors, Drs. Dan & Joan Jones, to continue to be resilient towards their call to the people of Zambia through medicine. 
  • Pray for the people of Zambia to be receptive to Julie and I as we treat their physical ailments, and also as we point them to the True Healer, our Great Physician- who can give them the ultimate spiritual healing.

If you feel led and would like to support me financially on this amazing journey, click here.  

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”