Monday, July 6, 2015

Kathleen Hospitalized



Kathleen is in the hospital at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California.

She, Mike, & Daniel went up to California 10 days ago to see Coury as Che Guevara in a production of Evita and instead she wound up in the hospital with a bleeding spleen. She’s had two surgeries; they’ve removed her spleen and are now monitoring two pulmonary embolisms. After 10 days in ICU, she was finally moved to a regular room yesterday.

We are grateful that so much of the family has been there to support Kathleen and each other: Mike, Tiff, Coury, Daniel, Jessica, and Coury's girlfriend Cassie were all there initially to support her in so many ways (Cassie is a doctor at the hospital where Kathleen is). Daniel has now come home to Nicaragua and Jessica has returned to her kids in MA, but the others are always close by and Mike hasn't left the hospital yet.

Since the surgeries, each day has been a battle with one sort of complication or another. Kathleen has been extremely uncomfortable with all the tubes, but they are beginning to remove those and we hope she'll be able to rest better. They still have her on oxygen and she still has fluid in her lungs.

We hope she's now beginning the long process of recovery. Yesterday she was able to walk a lap around the ICU - the first successful walk since the surgery - and she is now able to eat a little food. But it's going to be a long road. We expect Mike and Kathleen to remain in CA over the next several months as she gets better.  

We are immensely grateful for the excellent quality of care that Kathleen has received. We are also grateful for the prayers and good thoughts everyone has been sending, keep them coming! 

If you'd like to write a note of encouragement, you can send it to jhc@jhc-cdca.org.  Thank you!   -- Becca, for us all

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Help in Times of Trouble


Jill Floerke
While Mike and I were on vacation in faraway Italy, Kathy and Pat brought their mother Jill
to Nicaragua to live after she had broken her hip… two weeks later we received notice that Jill died while taking a nap in the car with Sarah.  They were waiting outside of the Lenin Fonseca Hospital, while Kathy was inside trying to get Jill an appointment.

Death here is a hands-on experience.  Unlike the States, when someone dies here the bodies do not go automatically to the morgue or to a funeral home.  Most families care for and bury the body of their loved ones themselves.

As the story over the next few days unfolded, our hearts were filled with gratitude for our friends.  Penn, a friend visiting Pat from Pennsylvania, stayed with Pat until Sarah brought Kathy home with Jill’s body.

B
Rogelio
ecca, who was holding down the office, told Rogelio, the CDCA’s construction genius, of Jill’s death.  Rogelio, who had never touched a dead body before, though so many in his family have died, organized the CDCA’s security guards to stand watch for Sarah and Kathy's arrival.  They all gently carried Jill’s body into her home to be cleaned and dressed. Daniel's girlfriend Claudia came right away to give her condolences and share the memory of her joyful visit with Jill a few days earlier, when Claudia brought her puppy, much to Jill's delight.

Josefa & Jorge

Jorge, the clinic’s full-time radiologist, and Josefa, the clinic’s administrator, walked Pat and Kathy through all the avenues of declaring the death, the paperwork, and finding a place to cremate the body.  With Jorge and Josefa’s help, Sarah and Becca took care of  the logistics while Kathy and Pat sat by their mother’s body until the funeral home came to take the body away.

Little Eibhlín and Orla wanted to come immediately to give their love to them because they also know of death.

The following day, Jenny, who works fighting the horrors in Honduras, came and visited and did a cleansing ceremony for Pat and Kathy.  Another friend named Kathy, who was caring for her own mother’s health, brought finger foods for guests.  Daniel, our son, drove Pat and Kathy to pick up the ashes.

Messages poured in from all over the world as many of us sent word out of Jill’s death.  Sarah, Becca, Paul, Daniel, Joseph, and all the CDCA’s staff gave Kathy and Pat the space to grieve.

This is how most Nicaraguans deal with death… an outpouring of support and aid.

When I came home and thanked Rogelio, Jorge, and Josefa for their care, they looked at me strangely -- and not because of my terrible Spanish -- but because, as they said “of course, of course”… because - in other words - why would ANYONE do differently?

-Kathleen

Monday, June 22, 2015

Not Normal

Another mass shooting in the United States…that phrase in-and-of itself is terrifying…“another mass shooting in the United States.”  When did mass shootings become so common place?

Equally terrifying is the response.  There are no Senate and Congress meetings and hearings trying to address this enormous problem.  President Obama is not pushing an agenda to end mass shootings.  There is acceptance on an active level.  Do the people in the States think that mass shootings are normal?  Because they are not…not in the least.

Killing nine people in a Bible study is not normal.
The shooting in an African Methodist Episcopal Church Bible study (Charleston, SC) brings up many questions that need answers…and I, at least, know the answers even if the pundits or politicians do not.  So here they are….
1.    Is racism an issue?  Yes, it is.
2.    Is our mental health system addressing the vast growing needs of the mentally ill?  No, it is not.
3.    Do we need gun control?  Yes, we do.

A day when racism is no longer an issue seem eons away, which is why the government, the judicial system, the law enforcers, and those who believe that there really is a God of love…HAVE to PROTECT those of darker skins…not shoot them.  Not imprison them.  Not take away their voting rights.  And for the believers…NOT BE QUIET any longer.  Silence is killing our darker skinned brothers and sisters. 
Several who know the young man reported to be the shooter say he has Black friends…they also say he has a problem with drugs and, reading the bits that I have, he seems obviously unstable…which leads to question #2…
Mental illness is not being sufficiently diagnosed or treated in the States.  Funding care for people who are ill has been routinely cut.  If someone is – by miracle – diagnosed and given medication, there is no assurance that they will stay on the medication.  We are learning so much about the brain today and maybe in 20 years we will be able to treat more permanently, but until that time, funding for diagnosis, funding for treatment, and a plan to help people stay on their medication is critical. 

Equally important is not allowing people who cannot decipher reality from fantasy the implements to blow holes in other people, which leads to…

One of the most controversial topics in the States – the hated gun control. 
“What about our 2nd amendment?” People ask, without understanding the amendment at all.  The second amendment was designed to protect the nation…not individuals.  It was designed to give the populace a method for defending the nation against intruders and against tyranny within the government…or  in other words, the ability to overthrow the nation. 
If we truly hold to those principles, then we belong with those living in the hills of Idaho waiting to overthrow the government.  If we truly believe the amendment should not be changed, then we should be allowed not only guns but also bombs, tanks, etc., because in today’s time the only way to protect against an enemy nation invading or against the U.S. military is having weapons no one in their right mind would consider having…well, no one who *I think* is in their right mind.
So let’s quit quoting the 2nd amendment and let’s look at realities.  Guns are dangerous.  You'd have to be really well-trained to be able to knife multiple people to death within seconds.  The young man arrested for the AME Church shootings had gotten the gun as a birthday gift from his father in April. 

Guns lead to deaths in matters of rage…

Compare that with what happened to me and Joseph, our son, in the street in Managua. A truck ran a bus into a median and…talk about road rage!  The bus helper came out swinging and the truck helper came out with a pipe.  More people from each vehicle joined the melee.   I laid down on my horn and pedestrians came from all over to intercede.  The fight broke up.  People got back in their vehicles, and we went on.  But what could have happened if guns were legal in Nicaragua?  Some of the fighters, pedestrians or even Joseph or I could be dead or injured in a hospital.

I look at the States from afar and I feel a huge dread in the pit of my stomach…the violence that is accepted seems to be growing.  People are not shocked as they used to be.  People are more content to be yelling than problem-solving…including our own federal government.  Those of us who do not live in the States are more and more shocked by the complacency we see in the people who live there.  People from other countries - Nicaragua included - are completely baffled.

This level of violence is not normal…and if it becomes normal, then the whole of society needs to do an abrupt turn and change “normal.” -Kathleen










Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Father's Day link

For Father's Day...


If you want to give a gift in honor of your Father, you can give online.

For more information, the link, which we forgot to include in yesterday's blog is:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Give Hope on Father's Day

Yesterday as I was lounging in a chair pumping blood into a bag as part of a blood drive in a friend’s home, I read this poster:


We have four adult sons, and yet almost all of my focus at the clinic is on women and children…and girls.  I realized that boys here suffer as well…men are not allowed to be who they are meant to be in any sexist society, especially those men who are poor.

They are expected to care for their families, but in this society monogamy for men is not a priority and neither is condom usage; therefore, they have abundant children…BUT there are no jobs for the men.  What do they do then?  They turn to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.  The catch 22 is that drinking, smoking, and using drugs takes money away from the families and the children they know they must care for…and so guilt and depression set in.

Depression runs rampant, but “strong” men are neither depressed nor do they ask for help.  Much of the depression leads to anger which comes out in most inappropriate ways.  In Nueva Vida there are five gangs of boys and young men, and though they are not as deadly as the gangs one might find in other countries, they are deadly and destructive to the souls of the gang members.

Boys need to be reached.  They, not unlike the girls, need hope.  Hope for a healthier, more peaceful, and happier future.  Hope is what keeps boys out of gangs.  Hope can help them grow to be whole men and good fathers.

Education can promise a better future where they find jobs, have only the children they want and can care for, and help them stay healthy.

At the Nueva Vida Clinic we want to reach the boys as well as the girls…sometimes hope is the best preventive medicine one can give…but we need funding, and our clinic is already running in the red.

This Father's Day, if you want to honor your father or remember your father or any father who left a positive mark on your life, you can help us get this program started.

-Kathleen

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rainy Season

It began raining in Nicaragua last week. The heavens opened and it poured for hours with lightning flashes so frequent it looked like strobe lights and thunder so loud it shook the ground and woke me from my bed.  

Since then:
  • We lost power at the Clinic for several days
  • We’ve lost power in the office nearly every day, for several hours each time
  • Our land line was out for three days
  • The thunderstorm fried our internet system
  • We got it back but the internet provider went out
  • Dirt access roads have been less “road” and no “access”
  • Our main road has flooded with traffic stopped for hours
  • Our bathroom flooded, so seriously that the video footage (oh yes, there’s video!) looks like we had a shower installed directly in the drop ceiling

  • And yet, I love the rainy season. I will take all of these inconveniences and more, gratefully.  Because here’s what else happens in the rainy season:

    The air clears of dust and smog, and the whole world comes into focus.

    Sounds come closer, everything gets quieter and greener and a little bit foggy and cooler and a LOT more humid.

    When the internet goes out, and the telephones are down, we get up and go find each other to give messages.

    When the electricity goes out, so do we. We sit down somewhere cool and have conversations that wouldn’t happen if the lights were on.  And when it’s dark those conversations are more intimate and immediate than they would be with lights.

    Best of all, nobody expects anything to run smoothly in the rainy season.  On Friday I went to a big event at the Batahola Norte Cultural Center with hundreds of people in attendance under the center’s main roof – which is open-sided.  It was late afternoon, when it often clouds up.  Predictably, just as the event was beginning, we got a downpour.  So much rain blew in the open walls of the Center that people put their umbrellas up inside and staff were sweeping water back outside as fast as it was filling up the stage-front area.  But there was no wailing and gnashing of teeth, no short tempers or angry patrons.  There was a lot of good-natured smiling and shaking of heads and shrugging of shoulders. There was huddling children together, and sharing of umbrellas, and lots of patience.  When the Center’s damp students finally took the stage, there was wild applause and the show went on despite intermittent electrical outages.

    During the rainy season in Nicaragua, we lose the illusion that we are in control.  We make plans and they are thwarted, we try to go somewhere and find we can’t, we watch as roads become rivers powerful enough to pull cars off their paths.  We are reminded on a daily basis that we’re not in charge, and that is very good for us.

    I love the rainy season.  I love its unpredictability.  I love its intimacy. I love its generosity. I love that during the rainy season we have all the time in the world to stop and help pull a neighbor out of the mud, to have a conversation, to laugh and shrug our shoulders.

    The rainy season makes us humble, and that is good.  - Becca 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vaccines: A first world problem?

In the United States, whether or not to give your child vaccines has become a controversial issue.  As a result of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, diseases that had been previously unheard of in modern times like measles and pertussis (whooping cough) are making a comeback.


Here in Nicaragua, the government does a widespread campaign a few times a year, sending health care workers out to homes to vaccinate kids that have not made it into a clinic to get their vaccinations.  Parents pull out vaccination cards and happily hold their kids while health workers administer vaccines.  Unfortunately, Nicaragua is poor and cannot do as wide a spectrum of vaccines as is offered in the States.

Hepatitis A and B vaccines are only provided through private care physicians and are expensive, even though Hepatitis A and E are among the highest infectious diseases here in Nicaragua.   All versions of hepatitis damage the liver.

Photo: Greg Goodman
Nicaragua has the highest mortality rate of any western hemisphere country due to cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus…again vaccines are available, but only through private care.
Nicaraguans, especially poor Nicaraguans, would love to have access to all vaccines but they only have free access to basic ones: polio, tetanus, pertussis, measles, and TB for infants.

In the States, these basic diseases are creeping into society again…mostly because people are afraid of autism.   The study linking vaccines to autism has been debunked again and again.  In one recent study, children who had older siblings with had autism
were given vaccines and still the autism rate did not change.

It seems that choosing not to have vaccines is a first world problem…one that we in the developing countries cannot for the life of us wrap our heads around.

-Kathleen