Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Things about our surprise visit to Australia

Well, the last two weeks have been a bit of a blur....
It still feels a bit surreal that we really did fly to Cairns, spend 3
nights in a hospital, 5 more nights at a hotel, I successfully navigated
my way around Cairns so that Calvin and I could have some fun memories
form this trip, and then we flew back to PNG. We really wanted to give
Calvin some GOOD memories of the trip, so we tried to do some fun stuff too.

Here are some positive highlights from our trip:

Calvin and I go to eat at McDonalds (ordinarily, I wouldn't count that
as a positive, but when you live in a place with no restaurants AND
you've been eating hospital food for three days, this is a definite

We go to have pizza that I didn't have to make. (Ever since our days at
Biola, our family has a tradition of pizza on Sundays. Since coming to
PNG, I've had to master the art of homemade pizza. I can make a decent
piza from scratch, but somehow it never quite compares to take out pizza.)

Calvin and I got to go to the movie theater (We saw Rio-- it was a cute
movie with some fun music.) There are no movie theatres in PNG, so this
was definitely a treat. (We even treated ourselves to movie theatre

We found a fun playground in Cairns for Calvin to play at. (It would
have been a LOT more fun with his sister of a friend to play with him,
but I think he still had a good time.)

We read some good books while we were in Cairns.

We had fun shopping for presents to bring back to Chad and Sydney.

We got to have Ice Cream. (We haven't had Ice Cream here for quite some
time and even when we do have ice cream, I'm not sure PNG ice cream can
really be considered Ice Cream-- It doesn't even have milk in it. I've
made ice cream in our little ice cream maker a couple of times in the
last few months, but It was a treat to walk into the grocery store and
have a choice of flavors. We went with Cookies and Cream!)

We had yogurt too! (Yogurt is one of my favorite things to have for
breakfast. Unfortunately, we can get it here, I can make plain,
unsweetened yogurt here, but I love the creamy fruity flavored kinds you
can buy in the grocery store.)

It's kind of a sad commentary that most of this list involves food....
when you have a kid who's just been in the hospital with respiratory
issues, you can't exactly do really active things, so we didn't really
DO a whole lot once we left the hospital. Also, it just wasn't as much
fun without the rest of our family.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reflections on a medivac

The events of this week have left me pondering lots of things...While we were still in the hospital I began journaling some of these thoughts... I thought it might be interesting to share them with you all...

Excerpt from my journal--
Journal/Reflections on Calvin’s medivac

Wow… It’s a lonely feeling being in a hospital in a foreign country where you know no one. My previous experience with being in the hospital or knowing someone in the hospital is that loved ones come to gather round, visit and pray with the sick patient. The main caretaker of the sick person gets occasional breaks to stretch their legs, or even go home for a short rest and loved ones often bring in food for the caretaker and even the patient sometimes.

What a different experience it is having a medivac from Papua New Guinea to Cairns, Australia! There’s no one around to call and say, “Hey forgot to pack clean underwear. Can you bring some by?” Instead of a short, but tense car or ambulance ride to the hospital, there were several tense hours on an airplane with a doctor and a nurse working the whole time to keep the patient stable and unsure, really, if the altitude of the airplane will cause additional stress on the patient’s condition.

Once we arrived at the airport, we had to clear international customs before they would let us get on the ambulance that was waiting nearby on the tarmac. (Not to mention that fact that since our PNG visas had not yet been renewed we had to make a stop in Port Moresby to pick up our passports with ”hot off the press” visas.)

We’re in a place where, as soon as we open our mouths, it’s obvious we’re “not from here.” That leaves some people unsure how to deal with us. When we first arrived, one of the first comments I got was from a hospital admin who said, “You’re from where? And you live where? You know you have to pay, right?” To which I responded (thanks to our wonderful director’s office) “Here is a letter of guaranteed payment. (Now please go take care of my son!—okay I didn’t say that last part.)

Everything here at the hospital works just a bit differently or you’re afraid it might. I’ve been unsure of things like, “Is it ok for me to go get a fresh pitcher of water for my son? Are they going to let us have any food? Do they just feed the patient or the caretaker as well?” How much am I going to need to advocate for my son?’ How come we haven’t heard from the doctor yet?” Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been well taken care of, things are just a bit unsure and I have to force myself to ask lots of questions.

Once we got to the hospital and our doctor and nurse handed him over to the hospital staff here, it was just the two of us (except for our wonderful doctor who came back briefly to give me some toothbrushes and toothpaste—That’s one of the things I forgot to pack in the mad dash to grab what we needed for the trip) Speaking of that… how do you pack for something like this? I had to think briefly, what will we need in the hospital, what will we need once we leave the hospital since we’ll likely have several days here once we are out of the hospital. What is the weather like in Australia this time of year, etc. Part of the reason we’ve been a bit bored and lonely here is that I didn’t really have time to think through what I should pack to keep us occupied. I did pack a couple of things, but we could have used more. (I did pack a The Last Battle by CS Lewis. I read the entire book out loud to Calvin over the course of our 3 days in the hospital.)
It’s a lonely feeling sitting in a hospital room with a sick child and no one to talk to, give you a break, give moral support, etc. I get the feeling, however, that, in Australia, maybe people don’t come visit at the hospital they way they do in the US. I just haven’t seen the influx of people around the children’s ward that I’d expect to. It’s a bit isolated in terms of communication as well. We arrived at the hospital and there was no way for me to contact Chad and say, “Hey, we made it. He’s ok, here’s what’s going on, Etc.” As we sat in the emergency room, I kept thinking, “I need to find a way to get in touch with Chad. How am I going to do that when I can’t leave Calvin? I can’t just pick up a nearby phone and call him. I don’t have an international mobile phone… all I had here is my PNG mobile which has no credit left on it, doesn’t work internationally, and to top it off, I forgot to pack the charger and there’s no battery left on it!

Things I didn’t pack, but wish I did…

Toothbrushes and toothpaste (thanks to Dr. Carl who helped me out with this one)
Clean underwear for Calvin…we’ll be shopping for some as soon as we get out of the hospital.
Chapstick… that plane ride and being on oxygen is hard on the lips. (Thankfully the nurse gave us something for it once I asked).
Nail clippers and nail file… this would have been a great time to trim Calvin’s toenails (I had plenty of time to realize how gross they were) and give my own nails some TLC.
Tweezers… It also would have been a great time to fix up my eyebrows. =)
A magazine.. It’s hard to focus on a book right now, but it would have been nice to at least have a magazine to look at.

As I've walked this journey, there have been a couple of Scripture passages that have encouraged me. Allow me to share them with you. I pray they will encourage you as well...
Psalm 34
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 46:1-7
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Medivac Pics

  In the ER

By the time we arrived in Cairns he was ready for a good snooze

Starting to feel better-- you can tell by the goofy look on his face

You can do some fun things with your oxygen chord when you don't need it to breathe!

I told him with his toe glowing like that, he reminded me of E.T.

E.T. Phone Home!

Friday, May 20, 2011


 Wow.. it's been quite a week!   Calvin and I are sititng in our airconditioned room at Treetops Lodge in Cairns Australia while Chad and Sydney remaion back in PNG. I've done a bit of journalling about our medivac experience-- I've written about 5 pages already and I haven't gotten through all the details.

So, here's the story (in a somewhat shortened version)...
Last week Calvin started feeling sick (probably with a virus that has been going around school).  The virus triggered his asthma.  After a weekend on him feling really lousy and unable to keep down any food or liquid, I took him into our clinic.  He was a bit dehydrated, so they kept him at the clinic for dehydration and had me administer fluids every 5 minutes.  They were also a bit concerned about his breathing, but didn't make a big deal of that at first.  After a morning at the clinic, they sent us home with a promise to get more fluids into him, increased asthma meds, and prednisone.  We checked back in with the clinic that afternoon and they gave him a shot of meds that was supposed to help his breathing.  We had an appointment to return to the clinic at 11 AM the next day

After a restless night with a LOT of coughing, Calvin woke at 6:30 with a nose bleed.  Just as I got him cleaned up, the phone rang.  It was the doctor calling to check on him.  I gave him a report and he decided I should bring Calin in first thing rather then wait until 11.  

When we got to the clinic, his O2 level was low and he couldn't register a peak flow.  He was moved to the treatment room and put on a nebulizer.  It was at that point the doctor told me he wanted to send him to Cairns for treatment.  This was about 9 AM Tuesday morning.

Because Chad has not been working in his regular office this month, I was having trouble getting in touch with him.  I ended up leaving Calvin in the very capable hands of the clinic staff and driving out to the training centre to find Chad.  We rushed back to the clinic, talked with the doctor, and decided I would be the one to go with Calvin.  At this point, the director's office and aviation were hard at work doing all sort of important things related to an emergency medivac.  I made a quick call to the school principal letting him know of the situation so that he could make arrangements for someone to cover my class.  I also went to the finance office to pick up a bit of Aussie cash.  Finally, I headed home to pack and pick up important papers.

Typically, in an ememrgency medical situation, our airplanes are equipped to fly straight from Ukarumpa to Cairns, however, our passports and resident visas for PNG expired at the end of January and have been waiting in a government office to be renewed since mid January when we returned from furlough.  We needed those to travel internationally.  Our Port Moresby staff got to work for us, located our passports and managed somehow to get our new visas.

After sorting out all the details about the passports, flight plan, equipping the Kodiak airplane for a medical flight, dealing with medivac insurrance stuff, packing, and lots of stuff I'm sure I don't even know about....we loaded up for our 5 minute drive to the airstrip.

At this point, Calvin was requiring quite a bit of oxygen.  An oxygen tank was brought along in the van for the drive to the airstrip, but about halfway there it ran out. Calvin's oxygen levels was dipping down into the low 70's by the time we got the the aircraft.  He was quickly helped into the plane where they hooked him up to one of the on board oxygen tanks.  It took a bit longer to load up everything and handle all the details.  We finally took off around 1PM.  On board the plane were 2 pilots, a doctor, a nurse, Calvin and me. 

Our usual medivac plane, the King Air, is down for repairs right now, so we flew in one of our two Kodiak airplanes.  Flying time from Ukarumpa to Port Moresby int he Kodiak is about 1 hr 20 min so, at around 2:30 we touched down in Port Moresby.  We stayed in the plane while the two pilots cleared immigration and grabbed our passports.  Thankfully, we didn't have to refuel in Moresby, so it was a pretty quick stop.

Soon, we were back in the air with an estimated flying time of 2 hrs 40 min to Cairns.   Calvin remained stable during both flights with breathing treatments every 2 hours (we didn't have electricity onboard so he was getting treatments with an inhaler) and the oxygen support between 8 and 10 litres.  Once we touched down in Cairns, we were met on the tarmac by customs officials and an ambulance.  The two onboard oxygen tanks were nearing empty by this point.

I think we finally reached the emergency room at about 6:30 PM (We began our day at the clinic at 8:30 AM).  Calvin was wheeled in assessed, put on the nebulizer, blood work done, chest x-ray hooked up to monitors, etc.  The doctor and nurse came with us to the hospital to brief the staff there and stayed for a bit to make sure we were bieng taken care of.  They then left to get some food and a good night's rest-- they would be flying back to Ukarumpa early the next morning.  They did, however, take that time to go purchase toothpaste and toothbrushed for Cavlin and I (I had realized I forgot these shorlty after we took off).  I was very grateful for their thoughtfulness with that.

Once we got the hospital I knew I needed to let Chad know we'd arrived, but I couldn't leave Calvin and I didn't have a phone that would work internationally.  Thankfully, around 10:15 Chad figured out which hospital we were at and called us.  What a relief for both of us!

Around 10:30 they moved us out of emergency and into a triage area.  There were no available bed in the pediatrics ward, so we spent the night in this triage area.

Sometime during that first 16 hours, we learned a few things... Calvin's chest x-ray was clear (great news), hi blood sugar was a bit high (probably due to the prednisone and dehydration), his blood pressure was a bit high (many reasons for that), and his white blood cell count was low (indicating a possible viral infection).

Finally, around 11 AM the next day, we were moved to the kid's ward to a small, but adequate room.  Because of his cough and the fact that we were from PNG, we had to be in an isolation room.  So, there we sat for the next two days with occasional visits from nurses and doctors.

When we frst arrived at the hospital Calvin was requiring 6-8 litres of oxygen.  By Thurdsday morning we was able to be down to 1 litre.  Finally, the oxygen was turn off on Firday morning and we began talking about being discharged.  Because he hadn't been off the oxygen for very long, we were allowed to leave the hospital, but a having daily visits from "in home" nursing care until we see the doctor next week.

The plan is to stay here in Cairns unitl Calvin is medically cleared to fly and handle the altitude we live at in PNG-- hopefully sometime this next week.

Meanwhile, people in PNG have been wonderful about looking after Sydney and Chad who are still back in Ukarumpa.

We are so thankful to everyone who played a part in this experience.  Not just the doctors, nurses, aviation staff, director's office staff, member care staff, friends who are feeding my family in PNG, people who are filling in the holes I left at the school, but also those who have been and are still praying for us and those who have already helped with the extra expenses we'll have as a reult of this.

I could write much more, but this will have to do for now.

Thanks to everyone who is surrounding our family with Love and Support.