Finding PURPOSE in November

One of my favourite images of FAMILY love…. this beautiful Grandmother and her sweet wee granddaughter!

PURPOSE... finding a reason bigger than yourself to exist.

PURPOSE… finding a reason bigger than yourself to exist.

We meet this sweet Grandma and baby in the North of Laos when I was visiting my cousin who was finishing up years of amazing work in the country. The mother and father turned up with the baby having noticed there was something different about the babies left foot.

Happy Yao baby getting checked

A super smiley and happy baby getting checked

Everyone was impressed that the family had noticed the club foot and acted so quickly to come and get advice on what could be done. In developed countries we don’t see many kids with club feet as they are fixed shortly after a baby is born but in so many developing countries the club foot is not recognised early enough or access to medical care is not available so the child goes without treatment and the chance of being able to walk normally, as any other person born without club feet.

Babies club foot

Babies club foot

Sweet mum and baby

Sweet mum and baby

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The baby’s parents traveled down to Luang Prabang and surgery was performed that same week as the diagnosis. The future is bright for this wee one with the treatment and follow up she will walk normally and lead a happy healthy life. The procedure to repair the foot was a simple surgery cutting the achilles tendon to release the tight pressure on the back of the heal.

About to have the small surgery

About to have the small surgery

The foot is then cast several times for a varying amount of time depending on the patient and then the child wears boots with a metal bar to keep their feet shoulder width apart for several months. The boots may need to be worn during nap times for several years depending again on the severity.

Finishing up in surgery

The cast going on after the short surgery

In surgery the cast going on

In surgery the cast going on

I’m not sure on how this baby is doing… I would love to know but with the love and commitment the family showed I have no doubt she is up walking and still smiling. Having the access to education on medicine and access to healthcare is something I won’t take for granted again after seeing so many children be denied this across the developing world for things that could change their lives.

Opening Hearts in Rwanda

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to join an amazing team visiting Rwanda in October last year. The Healing Hearts Northwest team from the USA is one of four teams that come to Rwanda annually to perform live changing & saving surgery every year. Hearts were opened, repaired and sewn back up… my heart was filled with admiration for a team so committed and talented truly changing lives.

Looking into surgery

Looking into surgery

The visiting team had brought a photographer/ videographer along to document the stories of some of the patients and she was more than happy for me to join her in following the team which I was truly grateful for the opportunity.

Here are just a few images of the amazing work that took places and the hands at work. For patient privacy I have not included any images post op of the women who were incredibly tough and up in moving with in 48 hours of surgery.

Surgery prep

Surgery prep

I learnt a lot about the process of surgery, the different ways surgeons operate and the loving after care that goes into the work. Over 8 days 16 surgeries were performed, sometimes the surgeons were in surgery for 8 hours attempting to first repair a value before having to replace it. They stood in one place for that entire time; no drink, no toilet breaks, in the same spot. I on the other hand sat, stood, walked in and out of the operating room, moved from the foot to the head of the bed, went out for a snack and drink – they stood, worked and problem solved. I was in awe of their work, the way their hands moved, hearts were moved to bypass and then powered back to life.

electrical cutting

The initial incision is made though an electrical cut

Of the patients operated on 14 were women, a lot of them young women who had not yet had families. Why does this matter? In Rwanda (as in many countries) a huge amount of womens value is placed on being able to bare children and have a family. Once someone has their valve replaced then they have to stay on medicine for the remainder of their life, pregnancy can cause blood clotting issues and potential death, therefore it is incredibly risky for women to get pregnant following valve replacement.

First incision is made

The sternum has to be cut through

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Incredible focus for hours

Teamwork

Teamwork at its best

Monitoring

Monitoring

Precision

Precision as the new valve goes into the heart

Many hands doing precise work on the valve

Many hands doing precise work on the valve

Bypass machine

Bypass machine

 

Seeing is Believing – Eye Care in Kenya

In September last year I joined a Hope Global team from Australia who had come to Kenya to work with Early Childhood teachers and also screen students for any eye problems which were potentially causing learning and/or behavioural issues in the classroom. Some educational sessions were done with students and teachers on eye care/ health and initial eye testing was completed. I was fortunate to be able to return to Kenya a month later to help coordinate and document some of the children’s journeys through surgery.

Pick me

Pick me

In classrooms we saw students eager to learn and contribute to discussions. However, we also found a lot of the children with eye problems had not talked to their teachers about the challenges they had and were sitting at the back of the classroom unable to see.

Group work

Group work

While identifying the eye issues was one factor we soon realised that there was a huge education piece missing in terms of eye care and health that needed to be integrated in all schools.  There were also some myths and cultural beliefs surrounding the treatment available that had caused some small eye problems to become big issues that were too late for treatment.

Testing

Vision screening

Eye testing made fun

Eye testing made fun

Cataracts

There were also some older community members who came to have their eyes tested.

Many of the elderly patients had cataracts which can be fixed with a quick and simple procedure. Although the surgery is performed regularly and has an incredibly high rate of success the patients were still scared of having it done. They believed that they would have their eyes replaced by pigs and a also faced huge fear of going blind from the surgery without considering if they didn’t have surgery they would eventually go blind.

Testing

Eye checks

A young teacher watches on as one of her students is seen by a doctor from Sabatia Eye Hospital at a screening session in the community.

Simple treatment

Simple treatment

Some of the students had simple allergies and were able to head home with just eye drops.

Sabatia Eye testing

Back at Sabatia Eye Hospital  testing

Further testing was performed back at Sabatia Eye Hospital a non profit eye hospital in Vihiga County North of Kisumu which specialises in eye care.  

Eye testing

Eye testing at Sabatia Eye Hospital

This was incredible to watch unfold… she exclaimed in a completely bewildered voice “I can see!” once she had the right glasses fitted. Her mother burst into tears.

Waiting pre surgery

Mothers and their children waiting for surgery

Surgery prep

Surgery prep.

A young boy watches as the needle goes into his hand pre surgery. He had no idea what was happening and was not happy when he felt the needle inserted but kept watching with interest despite the pain.

Surgery

Surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Incredible precision in eye surgery. A visiting doctor observes as the surgeon performs ‘sight’ saving surgery on a young patient.

Surgery

One of the children about to undergo cataract surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Recovery

Post surgery recovery

In recovery

Nurses monitor the patients in recovery

Leaving surgery

Many patients waiting for their surgery as a nurse transports one of the children back to the ward.

Meds

The medical supply cabinet

Treatment is only as good as the post operation care which has to be explained in detail to caregivers in order for the surgery to be a complete success and for patients to avoid infection.

Too late

Too late

This teenage boy has a piece of debris removed from his eye which has been lodged in there for 5 years. He mentioned he had eye pain since something had flung into his eye years earlier when he was playing with friends. The optometrist removed it within a few seconds through a simple procedure (pictured here). While he is now pain free, if he had treatment when it first occurred he would likely still have his vision in this eye. Access & health education are still a battle facing many in rural areas of Kenya.

A monoclor

Making learning a little easier

A young boy is given a monocular as a short term tool before he gets access to glasses. His reaction from looking through it at the blackboard was priceless and his friends all wanted a turn as well.

Gaining independence

Gaining independence

After years of being restricted and feeling so alone at times this young lady gained back some independence by being shown how to use a walking cane. She took to it so quickly and when I returned a month later expressed such gratitude for the new lease of life she had gained.