Painting Class: Rest for the Mind and Conversation for the Soul

March 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Thanks, everyone, for the great conversation about raising money for development yesterday. I loved hearing your unique perspectives and enjoyed the dialogue about the topic. Check it out HERE if you missed it.

Since dealing with my health challenges from last year, I decided to pick up a new hobby of painting. In the midst of dealing with some intense emotions and physical pain, I needed an outlet to focus on and dedicate my time. Coincidentally enough, I found a free painting group at a local cafe and have grown to love my weekly time of painting with these women (there are men in the group also but we tend to segregate).


My first attempt at faces…don’t laugh!

We started off with drawing to learn the basics of contrasts and how to observe correctly. Finally, we moved on to painting last month. I started with acrylics but want to eventually try my hand at oils. « Read the rest of this entry »


Update on Nathaniel’s Surgery: The Cast is OFF!

March 7, 2013 § 1 Comment


Nathaniel having his cast (plaster of paris) removed by the nurse

We were back at Beit Cure Hospital again on Tuesday and Nathaniel had his cast removed!!!! It was a great day and he LOVED taking a full-on bath that night (I loved that full-on clean child smell). I anticipated him having a cast being much more difficult than it was. He was (fairly) understanding about not getting it wet, even though playing with water is one of his favorite things (especially in this warm weather). No proper bathing meant that Mama got to use those nursing skills to teach Daddy how to do a proper bed bath.

The surgery seems to be successful as his foot is very straight. We will continue physiotherapy and work on encouraging him towards walking. He has to understand that walking is less painful and more efficient than crawling on his knees and he’s not quite there yet.

We have plans for swimming this weekend with friends, playing with his “buckety” outside, and at least one “baffa” a day.

This is Zambia: Diet and Weight Gain

March 4, 2013 § 8 Comments


Scale (Photo credit: chrisinplymouth)

“Laura, you should gain some weight.” – Pastor Z.

This is what my pastor once said to me at a dinner at his house. In Zambia, being fat does not necessarily have the same connotations that it does in America. « Read the rest of this entry »

Update on Nathaniel’s Surgery

February 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

Nathaniel is doing very well after his gastroc recession surgery 11 days ago. Ben commented on my “mean” post-op nursing care making him work doing stretches and walking (plus a “bowel regimen” to counteract the pain medication). You do what you have to do.

He now has physiotherapy 3 times a week and is getting used to walking on his cast and now (almost) straight leg. He had discomfort for almost the first week and was quite irritable. He didn’t like taking the pain medicine (acetaminophen with codeine) because of the wooziness but he was grumpy when his leg was hurting. It was the lesser of two evils. He did however refuse to stay home from school and wanted to go every day. I would have let him watch TV at home. He didn’t know that though.

He is missing his “baffa” and playing outside with water and keeps asking me if we can take the cast off. Sorry, not yet, Kid. His little plastic motorcycle is still a hit and he will zoom all over the house and outside.

In the midst of his recovery, he has taken up an “Eh-faniel do it” attitude about everything. He wants to put toothpaste on his tooth-brush, feed himself with a fork even when its a challenging food, and hates when a fun activity is all done. I also got him to sit quietly for AN HOUR by giving him construction paper and scissors. He was hooked.

Developmental milestones.

Seizure Management in Zambia

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment


EEG shows abnormal activity in some types of s...

EEG shows abnormal activity in some types of seizure disorder, but may or may not display abnormal findings in PTE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Today, I gave a presentation to the Special Hope Network staff about seizure disorders. Although I don’t have specific data to back me up (yet), the prevalence of seizure disorders amongst the Special Hope children is incredibly high. This is mainly due simply to the kinds of disabilities we see – cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, global developmental delays, autism, metabolic disorders, etc.

A seizure is a disturbance of the normal electrical activity in the brain. There are two kinds of seizures: generalized tonic-clonic (affecting the entire brain) and complex partial (affecting only a portion of the brain). These can generally be distinguished in the clinical setting by observing or hearing a report the symptoms of the seizure activity. Although only further clinical testing (i.e. EEG) can determine exactly what the brain’s electrical activity is doing, if it can be caught at just the right moment.

There is limited access to neurological specialists in Zambia – it may take 3-4 months to even get an appointment at the large government teaching hospital (UTH). This combined with poor health care education of the parents, limited access to anti-seizure drugs (there are frequent shortages), and the politics of poverty can make managing seizures very difficult.

A common scenario is that a mother will say that her child is having “fits” (seizures). When you question her further, you find:

1) that she stopped giving her child the medication because it made the child too sleepy
2) they ran out of medication 2 weeks ago because the government clinic/hospital was out
3) The dose is given at various times of the day rather than on a strict schedule
4) The child is taking the dose as prescribed and the drug is not therapeutic (meaning the child still has seizures)

It is unfortunate that many of these situations could be prevented by patient teaching and better medical management. Special Hope is working on providing such resources to the families we serve to help bridge the gap to these parents.

Contrasting true seizure disorders, we find that often times muscle spasms are diagnosed as seizures at local clinics and treated accordingly. Perhaps this accounts for some of the drug shortages?

In case you’re unfamiliar, the reason why it’s important to treat seizures is to prevent further brain damage and increased developmental delays. For some of these children, the continuous seizure activity is devastating to their development and great hinders their progress in school and therapy.

One of the many things that Special Hope Network does is provide medication when the family has run out and education to the families. They rely on donors like you and me to support the critical work they are doing for children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia. I see the work they are doing every day and donate both my time and money. For me, every child is just like Nathaniel but without the money, resources, and education that I have received so freely. I have to fight for their cause.

If you know of anyone with any kind of disability (which you do, because you’re reading this blog and know our son Nathaniel), click over to Special Hope Network’s donation page. Even a small donation of $5.00 would help.The general fund includes the purchase of medications for these precious kiddos. Better yet, become a monthly donor. Monthly donors are the most critical to the ministry because of the regular support they provide. Do it now and know that you really are helping the least of these.

On behalf of these precious and vulnerable little ones, I say thank you.


Back at Beit Cure

February 13, 2013 § 3 Comments

Nathaniel is having surgery on his leg tomorrow to lengthen his tendon and reduce some of the contractures.
It seems as if we have come to the end of physical therapy for a bit and now need surgical intervention to help aid him in learning to walk.
Although its a relatively simple procedure, the policy is to be admitted to the hospital the night before and the night after surgery. I will be staying with Nathaniel in a private ward so at least we can be together. He’s had multiple rounds of anesthesia since he’s been home with us and is one of those kids that ALWAYS cries when he wakes up, poor baby.
Even though I am a nurse it’s always hard when it’s YOUR kid having surgery. Sometimes I think I know too much. If I can help it, I try not to tell the staff I’m a nurse too but it inevitably comes out.
We would appreciate prayer for the surgery and recovery time. We will update as able!

Report on the Fistula Outreach

October 17, 2011 § 7 Comments

Zambia from the air, otherwise known as broccoli florets

We flew up north and spent 10 days in rural Zambia doing a fistula repair outreach (see HERE for more info). The surgeon quipped that the landscape looks like broccoli florets from the sky and I think it’s a fair description. Overall, the outreach was a wonderful success and we treated 58 women (we planned for 40).  We hope that most of them will be dry and that their lives will be different because of the surgery. It was, however, very hard work. We worked 11 hour days Monday through Saturday took Sunday off and only did ward rounds and did more full days Monday through Wednesday, including travel time. I got lots of practice placing IVs and was dubbed the “IV Queen.”

The IV Queen at work

The team was incredible to work with. We had a common vision to help these women through the outreach and we all did our part to make that happen. We enjoyed musical hits from the 1980s and 90s to pass the time in the OR while we worked. Also, I found out that American Country music is very popular outside the US, particularly in the UK. I had no idea! It’s strange to see the things that American’s have exported.

The team - we are Irish, South African, Dutch, Zambian, and American. Quite diverse!

On our day off on Sunday, we traveled to an safari camp and wildlife preserve for the day. We hiked down to the river and enjoyed some gorgeous views of waterfalls and swimming holes. We recently had some rain here, which turned the trees all different colors. It was reminiscent of Autumn at home in Seattle, my mother’s self-proclaimed favorite time of year.

Mutinondo Wilderness

Basking in paradise

My favorite moments of the trip were talking to the women and hearing their birth stories. Most of the women had had long prolonged labors without access to proper medical attention. The fistulas resulted from the baby’s head pushing against the tissues in their pelvis and cutting off the blood supply so that the tissue died and then created a hole. The OB-GYN explained it this way:

Obstructed labor + obstructed transport = Fistula

Getting the stories


Our anesthesiologist

On the last day, the OB-GYN taught a group of 38 midwifery students. The last section he taught was about neonatal resuscitation. He looked over at me and said, “Laura, you know this part. Why don’t you teach the last half hour of the class. Here are some notes for you.” I panicked, but soon got my brain back on track. He was right, I did know this part. As a pediatric ICU nurse, if there was one thing I knew, it was my ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation). The funny part was that the doctor introduced me as “Dr. Laura” and then told the class I was a pediatric nurse. They were so confused and had no idea what I was.

The group of midwifery students

I felt that in some ways during this trip that I had reached the climax of my nursing career. This is what I wanted to do when I first thought about becoming a nurse – I wanted to work with childbearing women as a nurse in rural Africa. I felt so thankful to the Lord for this opportunity.

The happy women after their surgeries

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