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Once upon a time (21 July 2011 to be exact) triplet girls were born at Nkhoma Hospital.

 

Sadly their father had abandoned them long before birth and tragically their mother, Margaret, died of severe anaemia when they were just nine days old.  Happily their Auntie Vigil saved their lives by caring for them at Nkhoma’s Kangaroo Mother Care.  She carried them next to her skin. 

It was difficult to care for all three and many of the hospital staff helped her to feed them formula, with syringes.  Auntie Vigil had other children at home and when she went to them it was round-the-clock work for volunteers.

The whole community donated blankets, formula, clothes, nappies, and other things.  One of the maternity staff gave them names. He named them Tamanda which means “we give praise,” Takondwa, “we are loved,” and Tadala, “we are blessed.”  Their birth weights had been about 1200gm and they lost some of that, but soon started to gain.

Then, three weeks later, into the KMC came three little boys who had been delivered by C-section.

Again, their father was gone, but they had a strong, loving mom, Lucy, and a wonderful, devoted Auntie Linda.  Nyathipa, the clinical officer who delivered them, named them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They had healthy, full term weights but stayed for a few weeks and developed friendships with the three girls in the next bed.

When it came time for them to go home, parting was sweet sorrow.

Tamanda, Takondwa, and Tadala grew and grew until they too were ready to go home.

But Auntie Vigil wanted them to stay at Nkhoma.  Working with the District Social Services the girls were placed in foster care with the staff who had been caring for them for two months. Tamanda went to live with Ellen, the nurse in charge of maternity ward.  Takondwa and Tadala went to the home of Nyathipa and her husband, Justice.

 

While all these babies grew toward their first birthdays, a new development was growing at Nkhoma Hospital.  In partnership with an American organization called Y-Malawi, the production of a food supplement for malnourished children was established.  Y-Malawi built and staffed a factory at Nkhoma Hospital which makes PB + J (Peanut Butter + Jesus).  It is a therapeutic, fortified peanut butter product. The peanuts are bought from the local farms, so supporting the community.

Then, Lucy and Linda were asked to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in for assessment.  Sure enough, the boys were found wanting some nutrition. Lucy could barely feed them all herself.  They were loaded up with enough peanut butter food supplement for two weeks.

Upon returning, Shadrach and Meshach had gained a kilo each. Abednego not so much. But then they returned home to feast on some more peanut butter, and even Lucy is now taking it as well so she will have more milk to give them. Their progress will be monitored every two weeks.

Hopefully they will all become strong enough to ward off malaria and pneumonia and live happily ever after.

The Beginning

Kenya

The last two weeks we spent in Kenya at the CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) CME (Conintuing Medical Education) conference where David acquired a lot of credits with about 100 other missionaries in Africa. It is an excellent program and not just medical education but a great spiritual speaker as well. And I attended a spouses program aquiring skills to make useful things like paper beads and diapers out of Tshirts. Lots of good ideas for the Chisomo group (handicapped people at Nkhoma) to make things here to sell for a living.

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We took a trip to Crescent Island which is in Lake Naivasha. There are many animals and no carnivores so you can walk among them. Our herd numbered about 60 so I think the animals were quite frightened of us. It was a very different experience than when we went with Philip and Sam 14 years ago in a little rowboat and had a close encounter with a hippo. We took Abel Sambani, Nkhoma’s anesthetist. He had never been in a boat.

 

Some interesting flowers. The ones in the blue dish were a gift from a friend who had gone up the mountain to pick them.


Also, New Year’s Day we spent with Stoms and Clint and Jenn. We had a smoked salmon from Costco.

Then the children’s ward  packed out –  exactly the same timing as last year. Today, the 5th, we admitted 50 new patients. The total is rising higher and hovers around 145. That’s 290 people in 52 beds and surrounding floor space.  We are better organized this year and are able to add extra staff around the clock but there are only two ward clerks so we are pretty worn out.

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The update on the triplet orphans is that they are all doing well at around 5kg each. Tadala (‘we are blessed’) and Takondwa (‘we are happy’) are being fostered through the Dedza Social Welfare office by the clinical officer who delivered them. She and her husband have no children of their own and hope to officially adopt them someday. Tamanda (‘we are grateful’) is being fostered by the maternity nurse-in-charge who also has cared for the girls since birth. I have been away from them for two months and am just getting to know them again. I would say that developmentally they have caught up to normal birth weight children. They are chubby, smiley and noisy.

Christmas season at Nkhoma Hospital feels very unlike Christmas. It is hot, dry and dusty. There are no decorations and little attempt at caroling. But one thing the staff puts together is a a parcel for each patient containing rice, sugar, soap and oil. This will be presented on the 17th of December to those who are inpatients on that day.

The maternity and paediatric wards are quite full now averaging about 80 and 50 respectively. Pray for the coming month of January. Last year as the malaria season began, the children numbered over 1000 during the month.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers.
Christmas greetings to all.

This is David, sitting in SeaTac airport waiting for my flight to Amersterdam as the first leg on the 35+ hour trip back to Nkhoma.

Rebecca is remaining behind in Seattle as things have not been fully arranged for the care of her father [after the recent tragic death of her mother in a car accident]. She may be in Seattle for 2-4 weeks or for however long it takes to get things set up. It is a complicated process and so far we have had multiple appointments with social workers, home care nurses and an insurance agent. So far we have learned that there is no medical coverage for what we need to keep her father at home, which the medical insurance and medicare guidelines consider “custodial care”, as it basically is having someone in the home with him for however many hours are needed that family cannot cover, to make sure he is safe and to do some basic tasks involving cleaning, some meal preparation, and any necessary communication, as his condition involves a significant expressive aphagia, and some cognitive dysfunction.

There is a chance that because Rebecca’s mom was killed in an automobile accident, considered “catastrophic” as two people were killed, that there may be some kind of financial settlement that will help cover costs of what is needed for her father. So please continue to pray for Rebecca and her two brothers and sisters-in-law as they all sort through everything to come up with the best solution.

For me I think this is the most difficult journey back to Africa as I am leaving Rebecca here for a time, and also because this has been a hard year with so many deaths. Continue to pray for us, as we know God has us in Malawi and believe that he will continue to make that possible. Pray for a good adjustment back for me, with all of the issues I left hanging just before leaving to come here, that I can be focused, and rely on God’s strength and wisdom as well as his comfort. Also pray for my brother, Dan, who has just completed a stem cell transplant at the Cleveland Clinic and is still having some complications. I am so grateful I was able to spend a week with him in his hospital room in Cleveland during my time in the States.

Thank you so much for all of your support and prayers.
David

More triplet news

Just a few more pictures of the triplets. Last Sunday Jenn was here and we spent some time with them. Their Aunti Vigil had gone home for the weekend so we were helping out Aunti Restless (an unrelated person that we were paying to care for them). Yesterday, Ritu Jones (the wife of our pharmacist) took Tadala to her house to foster her for a while. She reports that she is eating very well and she will be bringing her back to the hospital every other day for weighing.
Their current weights are 1720 (Takondwa) 1400 (Tadala) and 1610 Tamanda.

Boy triplets

Last night triplets were again born at Nkhoma. These were delivered by Caesarean section. All boys and quite a bit bigger.

Meanwhile I have taken a few more photos of the girl triplets. They now have names, very good ones too. They are Takondwa (We are happy) Tadala (We are blessed) and Tamanda (We are grateful). However, they are still not gaining much weight. They are three weeks old and still around their birth weight. We are going to figure something out tomorrow hopefully. Crisis Nursery will take them but we have to get the weight up before they can leave.

The girl triplets

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