This is Zambia: What’s in my mobile nursing kit?

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

I first visited Africa in 2006 with World Outreach Mission Fellowship in Uganda. I assisted with a few medical bush camps and had my first exposure to nursing outside of the US.

After another medical mission trip to Uganda and working as a nurse in Zambia for a year and half, I have gotten good use of my mobile nursing kit. Like many nurses, I often get calls to come look at a sick or injured person day or night and so I always keep the kit available to me. For those that are curious, I thought I would share what I keep in my nursing kit.


Medical kit and water/sharps bottle

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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.

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.

Home from surgery!

February 14, 2013 § 1 Comment


Nathaniel is all done with his surgery! He came through it just fine and we are very thankful. Dr. L at Beit Cure hospital performed a gastroc recession to lengthen his tendon and prepare him for walking. The doctor said he wants to see his cast beat up when he comes back because he’s been active so much.

The medical care at the hospital was great. I was very impressed with the anesthetist and how he explained the procedure to me (without knowing I was a nurse!). He was great at managing Nathaniel’s pain too! He didn’t cry after surgery at all.

The nurses were good although they wouldn’t let Nathaniel eat after surgery even though he had bowel tones and was hungry (I checked, even though they didn’t). I told the nurse he should come sit with my cranky child if he wouldn’t let him eat anything. He relented and said water was OK. When he held that down ok, I took the liberty of advancing his diet and ended up sneaking him half a plate of nshima and chicken. Naughty Mama!

I also convinced the surgeon to discharge us today instead of tomorrow. We are glad to be back at home with Nurse Mama on duty. I do like having control, what can I say??

Nathaniel was a little celebrity at the hospital as many people remembered him from when he was small. We even got to meet his neurosurgeon and thank him for saving Nathaniel’s life.

Tonight, we are tired but very, very thankful for our sweet boy.

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

Menenberg News: We’re moving to Africa!

April 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually writing this post. Ben and I have wanted to move to Africa for the past year or so and when we visited in September (see here and here), we fell in love with the land, the people, and the life we could have there.  Now, we’re going!! Here’s the details of what we know right now:


Map of the African continent.

Image via Wikipedia

World Vision is sending us for an initial trip of 3 weeks in May. After packing up our earthly possessions, we’ll likely be leaving for good in summer of 2011 (exact date of departure TBD). The initial contract is for one year.


We’ll be headed for Lusaka, Zambia, which is located in mid-Southern Africa. It will be the cold-dry season when we get there, highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s-60s. We will probably end up trying to rent a furnished house or apartment with plenty of room for guests. Also, there’s an Acts 29 Church that is in the process of being planted in Lusaka so we may even be able to help with that, as well.


Ben will be working in the finance department at World Vision. I will initially take care of our household. Food is almost completely made from scratch (with no microwave dinners in sight) and you hang your laundry out to dry on a line in the sun. In some ways, it sounds the romantic old-fashioned life I’ve always wanted. I could anticipate volunteering as a nurse in some capacity but I think it’s unlikely that I’ll hold a proper job there. I’m also considering the possibility of going back to school with some online programs. I have no doubt that plenty of volunteer nursing opportunities will readily present themselves.


As you can imagine, as our big move is only a few weeks or so away, we are furiously preparing for our departure. My to-do list is growing by the minute. The story of how we got here is quite amazing. As I stated before, we had been wanting to go for quite some time but nothing seemed to be opening up. Because we hadn’t heard anything, we started calling the apartment office where we live to sign another year lease as well as attempting to make numerous commitments here in Seattle. Miraculously, no one called us back. In fact, Ben and I were starting to get pretty frustrated at the lack of response we got from our leasing office. It was only after we heard from World Vision about us going that we realized that the Lord had stayed our hand so that we would be ready to go. We were so thankful.

My plan is to continue this blog while we are living over there although I know for a fact the internet is not as reliable as it is here. Stay tuned for updates!

{Quotables} On enjoying the moment

January 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a good mantra to remember while I’m at work…treasure the moment…treasure the moment…treasure the moment (as I’m changing a diaper or holding a vomit bucket!)


We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

– H.G. Wells

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