During their last week in Malawi, the international rescue and relief team was asked to provide medical care to displaced victims of Cyclone Idai in the southern part of the country. Read the updates here.
[Posted on March 19, 2019]
Update #10—Saving a baby
by Ian Johnson and Daele Binns
This past week was very intense as we started rotations at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees runs the camp as well as the clinic in which we are working.
Throughout this last week, we have had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Duehrssen, one of the founders of IRR and an emergency medicine physician. We have been exposed to many interesting cases here such as asthmatic emergencies, dermatology, malaria, trauma, and domestic abuse.
Two of us, Ian and Taylor [Deddens], had the opportunity to accompany a woman in labor who was transferred to the district hospital from the Dzaleka clinic due to numerous complications during birth. Upon arriving at the hospital, they worked with Dr. Duehrssen in resuscitating the baby. If we had not been there, the baby girl would have been immediately written off as dead. She was a miracle baby and through numerous prayers and over 30 minutes of stimulation and ventilation, she eventually came to and become stable enough to breathe on her own. It was a busy week but very rewarding, which made the long days worth it!
On Sunday, some students made the best batch of cinnamon rolls that has ever ever ever been made, while another group of students hiked Mount Nkoma. This mountain is the highest in the area and provided wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
We are excited for what is about to be our last full week working here in Malawi! It’s been a wonderful few months here, and we are ready for what the next few weeks have to offer here in Africa.
[Posted on March 11, 2019]
Update #9—You think the snow is bad …
by Janae Schumacher and Stephanie Pflugrad
It’s time to learn what’s new in Malawi! This week was full of some solid type two fun (fun that is only fun later and not in the moment).
We worked in Malamulo mission hospital again this week and learned a lot as we shadowed the doctors in maternity, pediatrics, under 5, surgery, community clinic, general ward, and outpatient clinic. We were able to get some hands-on work giving vaccinations, placing IVs, taking vital signs, examining patients, finding and listening to fetal heart tones, watching surgeries, making rounds with the doctors to assist with diagnosing patients and prescribing medications, and many other things. The doctors at Malamulo were very good to us and great teachers.
This week was also exciting in the weather department. It started raining early Tuesday morning and did not stop until Saturday, and this brought its own share of complications to our week. We did laundry on Tuesday and the only way to dry laundry is out in the sun. But the sun did not show itself for five days, so our laundry hung in the rain for days and then in the house for several more days. We all washed laundry by hand and trying to dry it inside because everyone was running out of dry, clean cloths.
We spent several days without power. Some days the power flicked on for a minute or so and then turned off again. With no power came no water, ut the no water part was easier to solve because it was raining so hard that we were able to shower in the rain and collect enough rainwater to cover our needs.
Wednesday night was filled with excitement when we discovered they guys house had flooded. We spend a couple of hours cleaning out of the house and fishing their things out of the water.
This was also a great way to greet Caleb Haakenson, a Union student videographer who will be with us for a couple of weeks. He joined us on Wednesday evening and got in on the flood in his first couple hours in Malawi after experiencing a fun/very scary landing to his flight in the rain.
This week created very bad travel conditions everywhere. There were many accidents, washed out bridges, boulders rolled off mountains and houses collapsed in the rain. Everyone was told to not leave their houses and to stay away from trees and any other large things that had the potential to fall on you.
Stephanie also wrapped up the second and final week of her development class. As the only student, she did a fantastic job keeping Andrew and Kalie [Saunders] busy teaching her everything they know.
We’re off again to a new location! For the next two weeks we will be staying in Lilongwe and working forty-five minutes away at the Dzaleka refugee camp.
[Posted on March 4, 2019]
Update #8—Working at Malamulo
by Jeff Middleton and Carlea Peters
On Sunday we left the beautiful Cape Maclear and our week of relaxation, drove back to Blantyre to pick up some things, and then made our way to Malamulo where we have been sharing living and eating space with a lovely family of 10 and a few other nurses and doctors.
This week we have been learning at Malamulo Adventist Hospital. We were broken up into pairs at the beginning of the week to do our different hospital rotations. Those include following doctors around in the general ward, outpatient, maternity, pediatrics, under-5, surgery, trips out into the surrounding community clinics, and our two pre-dental majors even had the privilege to shadow an orthodontist for a day. We’ve had an interesting week.
We are excited that the hospital has allowed us to watch surgeries while we are here. We have to wear hairnets, clean scrubs, face masks, and some fancy crocs into the operating room. There have been several interesting surgeries witnessed including C-sections, hysterectomies, an open tibia and fibula fracture repair, and an esophagectomy.
On Saturday most of us took a hike on part of Mt. Mulanje. Part of the group took a long steep three-hour hike to the top of a plateau—where they could see miles of the beautiful Malawi landscape and mountains—and then to a waterfall. The rest of us went on a more direct path to the waterfall and were able to swim in the extremely deep and extremely cold pools below it. Some were able to have lunch at the waterfalls, but before everyone could eat there was a rainstorm that ended our adventure and we had to hike back to the cars soaking wet.
We miss all of you back home. Have a wonderful week!
[Posted on February 25, 2019]
Update #7—Spring break!
by Nathaniel Brown and Taylor Deddens
It was our spring break this past week—super chill and sunburn-y. We stayed at the totally groovy Funky Cichlid at Cape Maclear. The lake was beautiful, full of fish, and probably schistosomiasis worms. No worries, we’re all getting some heavy-duty worm-killing drugs.
We started the week out strong with paddleboarding, kayaking, and haggling with the vendors trying to sell us souvenirs on the beach. Most of us were very red at the end of the day, had heads full of sand, and were extremely happy about all of it. In the following days, we took to exploring the island, eating at all the different lodges on the beach, and lounging around like bums at Funkyʼs.
There were several animals that hung out at the lodge, went paddleboarding with us, and snuck into our rooms at night—two super cute dogs and two very cuddly cats. Wednesday morning, some of the group took a boat trip out to fish, snorkel, and feed the fish eagles. Another otterly amazing spot was Otter Point, where one otter was observed and some tummy-turning cliff jumping was experienced.
We were all sad to say goodbye to the beach and the sun, but we are all ready to face the challenge of hospital rotations, which next weekʼs duo will give an awesome update about.
[Posted on February 20, 2019]
Update #6—Finding other missionaries
by Racquel Amich and Jared Fandrich
On Sunday, Feb. 10, we switched our bus for three different four-wheel-drive vehicles and headed out to Matandani. We weren’t sure how necessary these vehicles would be until we experienced the muddy and washed out the roads. Thankfully no one got stuck… for long. When we finally made it up the rocky roads and figured out the living situations, we ran into three student missionaries from Southern Adventist University. They walked into our guest house and were immediately welcoming. I think we were all delighted to see each other and finally have some different faces to talk to.
Clinics started the next day with really busy mornings and slow afternoons. Each day we saw 100 or more patients and on Thursday we saw 152 patients by lunch. We saw a variety of symptoms and diseases. Some of us had very interesting cases, such as a collapsed lung, swollen fingers (full of puss), enlarged spleens and a 114-year-old man. Stephanie [Pflugrad] had the privilege of attending a Neno District development meeting where they were making plans for the next quarter of operations.
On Sabbath afternoon, the student missionaries invited us on a hike to a waterfall. The people who stayed decided to rest while Ian [Johnson] and I (Jared) decided to play in the rain and sail paper boats down the tiny raging rivers created by the torrential downpour (there was some hail involved). The group that went out on the hike were soaked by the time they reached the waterfall. They completed the hiked in about 3 1/2 hours and came drenched and scratched up by the various plants in their path.
Sunday morning we had to wake at 4:30 a.m. We packed up and headed back to Blantyre to switch out our clothes for spring break. We ended up with a really cool pink coaster bus and went our way to Cape Maclear for spring break.
Catch ya later bros! Tionana!!
[Posted on February 10, 2019]
Update #5—Working in the medical clinic
by Arlynn Ambriz and Erika Villegas-Perez
Moni tonse (hello all),
The first week of clinicals has flown by. This week we partnered with the AdventHealth clinic in Namasalima, where we all got great medical experience. Every morning we had worship with the clinic staff, then we split into different parts of the clinic, such as maternity/antenatal care, triage, pharmacy, lab, and ART (antiretroviral treatment). Each of us had the chance to work with Dr. Chibaka or Dr. Faith and do patient assessments, where we obtained patient histories, ordered lab exams, and made diagnosis and treatment plans for each patient. Those who were in lab ran many malaria rapid diagnosis tests (MRDT), urinalysis, and complete blood tests (CBT) for which they had to draw blood. In the ART clinic, we helped find patient files and organize the existing files.
After an exciting week of clinics, we worshipped at the Namasalima church. Our group directed song service in Chichewa and English and Edward [Hardy] gave the sermon. While we are sad to be leaving our Namasalima family, we’re excited to go to our new village.
We asked the group to share their favorite moments of the week.
For Daele [Binns], Nathaniel [Brown], and Jeff [Middleton], their favorite experience was drawing blood and doing malaria tests in the clinic lab. Racquel [Amich] enjoyed playing with the babies in the postnatal ward. Dustin’s [Bongiovanni] favorite moment of the week was successfully placing an IV. Taylor [Deddins] and Edward [Hardy] were excited that they were able to take out sutures. Ian [Johnson] enjoyed working with Dr. Chibaka and interacting with the patients. Stephanie [Pflugrad] had fun working in the pharmacy. The highlight of Janae [Schumacher], Jared [Fandrich], and my [Arlynn Ambriz] week was delivering babies. Carlea [Peters] and I [Erika Villegas-Perea] enjoyed listening to fetal heartbeats and measuring the fundal height of pregnant mothers.
Tionana (until next time)
[Posted on February 4, 2019]
Update #4—Learning to build relationships
by Dustin Bongiovanni and Edward Hardy
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a doctor? We students quickly came to a rather startling realization this week. All the stats I learned in Global Health are more real than I imagined and now I am learning to take care of people who have diseases I’ve never even heard of. Yikes!”
Dr. Chibaka asked us questions this week such as: how do you treat Malaria, how do you treat food poisoning, or how do you tell the difference between the two so you don’t give them the wrong prescription? The usual response consisted of blank looks or desperate attempts to formulate a teacher-pleasing answer, to no avail.
Most of the students here are Emergency Medical Technicians and that’s fantastic in an emergency situation. In the hospital, things are different. Building trust with the patient using the little Chichewa we learned our first week becomes a much higher priority. It also requires that we use the training we received in Travel and Tropical Medicine to recognize symptoms, order the needed labs, make a proper diagnosis, educate the patient on preventative lifestyle habits, and order medicine if needed. New and exciting information saturated our minds this week, and the coming weeks in the village clinics will put our training to the test.
Cafe Grazzia continued to be the hotspot for many students for the coffee, crepes with gelato, tea cakes, and other delicacies. However, the students only visit the Cafe after going to places like Veg-Delight for lunch as a change of pace. Veg-Delight is an Indian restaurant that dishes out a savory spread of rice, a wide variety of curries, garlic naan, mint chutney, and apparently a rat. Stephanie and Nathaniel were graced with a brief glimpse of a furry rump disappearing into the ceiling upon entering Veg-Delight. Thankfully, we have eaten at Veg-Delight several times and no one has had food poisoning, so c’est la vie.
Laundry struggled to dry this week in the wonderful city of Blantyre. The sun shown as long as our laundry was not waving in the breeze. But as soon as the lines were heavy with wet clothing, the heavens thundered with their mighty humor and tipped their buckets of rain clean over. Our wet clothing came to live with us, draped over our bed frames and makeshift clothes-lines stretched from wall to wall. Adaptability has been a theme so far for this trip, and that’s an understatement!
This week we have learned to be thankful. We were thankful when the water turned back on and we did not have to take bucket showers. We were thankful when the few sick people in the group recovered. We were thankful to find new shops and restaurants to fuel our sense of adventure. We were thankful when the sun came out and our laundry finally dried. We were thankful for the introduction this week brought for the clinics. We are thankful for the friends we have made here and we are excited to continue to learn and to give back.
Namaselima is the first clinic destination and we will be headed that direction on February 3. Students will be rotating between stations: pharmaceutical, lab, triage and clinical care. We students are excited and nervous, mostly nervous. Despite our nervousness, our professors, previous classes, life experiences, and friends/family have prepared us to be confident in our skills and humble in our mistakes as we learn to serve others better.
In closing, we all have expressed our longing to be back home with the people we love and in the places we call our own. But, we are all about to step way outside our comfort zone and now is not the time to look back. We ask that you continue to pray for this group as we begin a challenging week of clinic work. We will update you again in a week!
[Posted on January 28, 2019]
Update #3—Meeting the wildlife
By Ian Johnson Daele Binns
Last weekend, a group rented a Toyota Landcruiser and traveled an hour and a half southeast to Majete Wildlife, where we drove around the park searching for animals throughout the bush. As it is the rainy season here in Malawi, the bushes and trees are very dense, which made it difficult to see very far. The roads throughout the park are all dirt (or in our case, mud) and the 4×4 vehicle was absolutely essential to navigate throughout the park. As we first began to explore the park, it felt like they were in another world! Or Jurassic Park. We opted to not take an armed ranger with us and stay within the vehicle at all times. We saw many types of antelope, as well as tortoises, kudu, baboons, hippos, giraffes, and herds of zebras to name a few. We also got stuck behind a herd of elephants traveling along a narrow road, adding an hour to the drive back to camp.
Upon arriving back in Blantyre Sunday evening, we began to prepare for the long week of classes ahead. We took on Global Health for our second out of three classes. This was an extremely interesting class that covered all sorts of public health issues currently found throughout the world. We learned about things such as patterns and trends of burdens of disease, the importance of having a vital registration, and current global health campaigns such as the 90/90/90 principle, which is essential to AIDS prevention. The 90/90/90 principle states that by the year 2020, 90% of people infected will know they have the virus, 90% of those with the virus will be receiving anti-retroviral treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment will experience viral suppression. While we have not quite reached this goal, there is still some time left, and great progress being made!
It rained this week for essentially four days straight, so we spent a lot of time indoors. We had class from 9 a.m. to noon, stopped for lunch, and then continued with classes from 3 to 6 p.m. We often went to a few different cafes during our lunch break to study and chat, one of which was Cafe Grazzia. They have delicious coffee, pizza, and some amazing gelato. The rain finally subsided by the end of the week and we were able to enjoy a little sunshine. We are expecting to have clearer skies and better weather for the next few weeks, but who knows?
Throughout this upcoming week, Dr. Chibaka, a Malawian physician with whom we will be traveling for the next few weeks, will be teaching us Travel and Tropical Medicine. In this class, we will refresh our memories with information that is necessary in order to work effectively in different clinics and hospitals throughout the country for the next two months. We are moving through classes and this semester so quickly, and things are only going to get faster as we transition next week to our first remote village and begin clinic work! Hope all is well back home, and we will be back in a week with another update.
[Posted on January 22, 2019]
Update #2—Learning about our new home
By Stephanie Plugrad and Janae Schumacher
Blurry eyed and loaded with luggage, we boarded our first flight, briefly stopped in Chicago, then were ushered out of the country on a 14-hour flight bound for Africa. The pilot came on the loudspeaker first in Ethiopian, then English, and it finally started to hit us that we were not in the United States any longer. Looking out the window, we could see first glimpses of a hazy and dry-looking city: Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. As we scurried across the airport, we stood out because we looked like a large group of Europeans, and this became our permanent label while in the country. Our last flight was riddled with clouds until finally we caught our first glimpse of Lake Malawi and began descending into the capital city, Lilongwe. At first glance, the differences between Malawi and Ethiopia were apparent—we had crossed the equator and gone from a country in dry season to a country in the midst of a lush rainy season.
Exhausted from travel, we made it to our first destination, all baggage and personnel accounted. Then we got our first taste of traditional Malawian food, made for us by Andrew Saunders’ mother and the head chef of the clinic where his parents live. The food was absolutely amazing! And better yet, all the ingredients were fresh.
The next day, with the help of Edward [Hardy] and Ian’s [Johnson] Tetris skills, we got all our luggage in the back row of our small bus, lined the aisle with supply totes, and clamored in (with Janae and Carlea volunteering to sit on the totes since we didn’t have enough seats) for the seven-hour trip.
Side note: the Malawian countryside is downright amazing! Every inch of the ground is either wild plants or crops, and there are mountains everywhere!
Finally we arrived in Blantyre, our home for the next three weeks and the major city of commerce for Malawi. Since we had been traveling for the past three days, we got settled and welcomed the Sabbath. Over the next couple of days, we explored the city and were able to summit two of the nearby mountains.
Monday brought our first class, Cultural Integration, taught by a local Seventh-day Adventist pastor Denis Matikenya. We learned basic Chichewa, Malawian culture and history in the morning. For three afternoons, we were assigned to go out into the city do something educational, recreational, and nutritional. We were assigned groups and set out finding local cafes, museums, markets, art galleries, and joined the locals in cheering for the favored soccer team.
The weekend took us different directions. Some attended the Kabula Hill Adventist church, fellowshipping with the locals, while others went to further explore the Malawian countryside and spend the weekend in nature. We are gearing up for another full week of classes and studying, as well as looking forward to more opportunities to get out and interact with the people of Malawi.
For now, Tiri bwino! (we are well)
[Posted January 11, 2019]
Fourteen international rescue and relief seniors departed for Malawi, Africa, this week to begin a semester of courses in community development and global health. Led by IRR faculty Kalie and Andrew Saunders, the group will spend time in several different locations around the country and help operate medical clinics for remote areas that receive very little medical care. The team will also staff a medical clinic for two weeks in a United Nations operated refugee camp housing 65,000 displaced people.
The overseas semester is a regular part of the international rescue and relief curriculum, which prepares students for careers in medicine, dentistry, public safety, emergency management and community development. This is the first trip to Africa; previous groups have worked in South and Central America.
Please pray for these students as they learn new skills and serve the people of Malawi. We will add regular updates and photos from the team to this story.
Arlynn Ambriz, TexasRacquel Amich, FloridaDaele Binns, BermudaDustin Bongiovanni, ArizonaNathaniel Brown, ColoradoTaylor Deddens, FloridaJared Fandrich, NebraskaEdward Hardy, NebraskaIan Johnson, CaliforniaJeff Middleton, NebraskaCarlea Peters, CaliforniaJanae Schumacher, North DakotaErika Villegas-Perea, WashingtonStephanie Pflugrad, Alaska