Sunday, September 27, 2015

This Time the Surprise was Mine

An Unexpected Award

          Wednesday of this week was the annual Mercy Day Celebrations; it is a day that all the long term employees are honored.  And it is like all other events: ten, twenty-five years of servitude announced; person goes up front and receives pin,etc; gets a photograph; and clapping from the assembled throng...

          However, this year with my shortened stay the only room big enough for the event is a classroom - my classroom!  And Housekeeping has to come in and clean and arrange the room before my afternoon class and all my tutors have to go to the event ..... so I had to cancel my afternoon PBL class and the next day was a holiday so that meant that no class till Monday afternoon as I can't have the afternoon class in the morning because students would have to do their research over lunch.   I was grumping to anyone who would listen about why the hospital has to always use the classrooms for every event - and have Housekeeping clean it during school times.   I tried to get my students to stage a protest; however, all I got from them was a slow coordinated groan,   
I complained to the CEO and director of HR...  no avail.   So I found some lunch and headed back to my flat to eat, get a shower ands put my feet up.  

          You know it is a  terrible thing to be raised Catholic.  At least, for the permanent residual resurrections of guilt!  "Are you not a Mercy volunteer?  Are not some of those people your ex-students?  Weren't you there when they got their previous pins?"   So I put my pants on and headed back to offer my clapping support... still grumping over the loss of my class time.
          After everyone got their pins, I was sitting there assessing the programme to see the time left before I could leave, I heard, "Blah, blah, blah Rev. John...."   I looked up to see Helen Browman , the CEO waving at me to come forward from my comfortable back "pew".     The hospital was presenting me a special award for 13 years of service to Mercy Hospital, especially the School of Nursing.     I heard things like for all your teaching time and financial contributions, etc.    This was followed by an engraved plaque, handshake for the picture and applause.    I am probably biased but the clapping seemed genuine!
Here I am among the real hard workers at Mercy.

          I was totally surprised to be recognized and honoured... and even more guilty for thinking I should skip the whole thing.   So this time the vestiges of my good old catholic guilt saved me.
They knew better than to give me the chance to make a speech, but if I had ..... I would have thanked them for giving me the opportunity to bring meaning to my living by sharing my gifts with all the people of Mercy (especially the students) -- including the bunch that will get their ten year pins next year!    And then the series of thanking my wife, my children, my producer, etc... and having the luck of the gods to be able to spend a season each year away from my Canadian life.   I would thank all of you who have supported me financially and with prayers. (Did I say financially? Remember, the plaque said "and for many years to come." Yes, I know, I am becoming more like Elmer Gantry all the time.)
Wow... I was impressed.

          I looked around and saw the fruits of your efforts in the tiled classrooms, the spiffy room-divider, the desks and chairs, the students' tablets, the library full of textbooks, the "Faculty flat", etc...   I am aware of so many people who have enabled me to be here and make a difference.     So to all of you who are regular or one-time donors, big dollar providers, or who just give a few bucks to my beer fund:  I share my  award with you.  More importantly, I share the fact that your contributions have not gone unnoticed nor unappreciated, but are valued  .....  Thank you.

          And thanks to Sister Mary Corona for all the lessons in guilt!

Mille is Dead

          In case I did't mention it already:  I have had a big rat living inside the entrance to my flat.  I can hear her in the night scurrying around and digging.  (I didn't really inspect it to know if it was male or female but every morning it was all cleaned up around her entrance.)  It was a little freaky at first and then, probably through some form of Stockholm Syndrome, I grew to appreciate her point of view.   I thought since we were developing a relationship after a couple of weeks, I'd call her Mille.  

          I had complained to our wonderful Maintenance guys and they told me they'd remove it... Well, the poison control people came and sprinkled poison all over.  In the morning the poison was all eaten and that night Mille was still there .....  (I tried to buy some poison later in the week, but as it is an option for suicide here, it was not available -- and that is a good thing.)  Finally, maintenance told me they were coming to fix the problem.    Great!   However, when I got back from classes there was a big blob of concrete entombing Mille -- and I found I was a little sad.    I said a few prayers from the Rat's Prayer Book .....
RIP Mille

A Real Church

          I did make my yearly pilgrimage to the LEFTI church near UG.  My friend and colleague, Tabitha Mallampati, and her husband are missionaries who have been here many years from India.   Tabitha first taught at Mercy and then went to UG where she has been the leader for the development of the B.c. Nursing degree.   In my opinion, she has done more to advance nursing than anyone else I know.   (When Dr. Tony Carr was here, he worshiped there regularly and helped with the music and choir.)   I was going to include a video of the musicians and choir, but was told my life would be in jeopardy as they were not happy with their performance; so just a few stills:
Shekar delivered the Bible Study

My friend, Tabitha
Isaac, their son now runs
the AV controls.

Bhola an old student
now physiotherapist

Anything but Teach 

       I decided that I was tired of hearing myself talk and the students probably were too, so I got another faculty member, Robert Binda, to come and teach them how to do blood pressures... just in time to practice at the Mercy Health Fair on Saturday.  They really appreciated doing something practical... and  "Nursey".

      Dr. Emilee returned here late on Friday night and will be my guest editor for the blog next week.   I have been corrupting her and on Saturday morning we were were at a local bar to watch an English Football Game on TV .....
At Frenzies' with Rashleigh who has never missed a free beer.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Big Surprise... [drum roll, please]

Dr. Emilee Flynn Arrives

On Monday night, Emilee arrived in Guyana.  Emilee has been trying to come to Mercy Hospital for about a decade to see and work with me.   Yet for one reason or another, could never get here.   Now she is so important, a distinguished senior paediatric resident aSt. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, that I am really just helping her.   I have known Emilee ever since she was born.  She is the oldest child of my sister Monica and her husband John Flynn (I think he's also a doctor  ).   It has been many years since I actually have seen Emilee in person, so it has been a great time to catch up with her life and living... and get some new and embarrassing stories about my sister which I'll be able to use the next time the clan gets together.
Emilee has matured into a wonderful woman and sensitive paediatrician -- and she has been on the go ever since she arrived.   Emilee is interested in practicing medicine in some developing country after she finishes her residency this year, so is here to look at how children are cared for here and has accompanied a local paediatrician Dr. Malika Mootoo on her rounds and clinics for a couple of days.  When she returns she will team up with Dr. Rohan Jabour another long-time paediatrician here, as well as a new (to Mercy) Cuban Paediatrician Dr. Rosa.   

In the middle week she is travelling to Linden and then back to GT to lead a programme on Helping Babies Breathe -- a course in neonatal resuscitation.   

Emilee is walking around the Bourda Market.
with Dolly  Karran
who has a stall at the market
 and is an old friend of mine. 
I have gotten her out in the city walking around. Don't worry, Monica: she had me and my awesome strength to ward off any muggers.   As well, she has been helpful with the PBL course and other classes.  In fact, I was going to cancel my afternoon class and walk Emilee around the city; however, the students so wanted the chance to talk with her about her life and becoming a paediatrician that they begged me not to cancel.   I did not realize how much of an embodiment of their dreams Emilee represents; she is a symbol of the kind of person they wish to be.  Emilee gave them a chance to see themselves in the future .....  and for a few moments it was close enough for them to taste.  

Of course we went to St Ann's (see slide show at upper left); she also met my friend Dr. Bhiro Harry and attended several planning meetings at the Everest Cricket Club where she enjoyed some Banga and Shark as well as Plantain Chips.   She watched Bhiro and me imbibe a few drinks and she stuck to water.   Georgia, Bhiro's wife, invited her to their home for dinner.  She met Indira who is Bhiro's and Georgia's favourite daughter and a doctor who is pursuing further education in psychiatry to be able to help cure her father ..... and their favourite son Pravesh who is a dentist.

Emilee came to a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention meeting with the local press corps and the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Norton.  She was introduced as part of the team of technical specialists working for the Ministry!

It is good to have her here; I have been honoured by her wanting to visit me and see my life here.   I am sure she will be in more of these blog posts, but for now - enough.

My Health

I have been recovering from my cough etc., and now feel only about a decade older than I actually am .....  I went of my own accord to see Doctor Devi who lives in the flat next door and who has been checking on me every time she comes or goes.   She put me on a bag-load of pills and tonics and home-squeezed fruit juice! Now I do feel well -- and I hope this means that I won't get my usual bronchitis after I get home.

A New Ambulance for Mercy

A colleague, Chris Klaffs, who has been coming to Guyana for many years and is from the Florida Synod of the Lutheran Church has assisted her friend, Pastor Mike Mielke who lives about 30 miles from her in Florida and has the great Wilderness Lake Church.  He has friends/family at Banks Distributing -- my beer company, eh?  He loves Guyana, and several of his congregation are Guyanese.  He and his church raised money for two ambulances -- and one of them is for Mercy!  This is a great service for the hospital and its patients.  Thanks!!

Some Thoughts on Receiving Donations

Here are parts of a recent email from Dennis LeBlanc who has been down for the last two years and is planning on being here again in October.   He had a reflection on asking and giving that I want to share.

Hi Jo'c,

Yesterday you wrote "I am always humbled by donations" . . . that is a word I have always felt and used myself. I carry all sorts of baggage about asking for money, but a couple people have pushed me beyond my self-imposed limits around "fund raising" over the past few years. I can't say it's gotten any easier, but I have tried to be a little more bold and creative (the tin cup routine never worked well for me) in asking for money for causes important to me.

This is the outdoor "playground" at St Ann's we are trying to improve.
When people give, I am still truly humbled by their care, concern, generosity and support. Well, I've had a lot of practice in humility lately! Today at the nursing home, three staff people came up to me (separately) and talked about the newspaper article and how they "wanted to help out a little". One hundred and fifty dollars ($150) later, I staggered back to my desk, overwhelmed by their words and gifts. It has truly been "a wonderfully humbling day"!  The total amount raised now is $704 (that's good 'ole U S of A dollars, not Guyana dollar value)!
Thanks for reading... More next week. John
except .....  does anyone know what this is?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Once more unto the Breech...

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit..
[Willie Nelson, I think ..... or was it another Willie?]

First Week at Mercy

I do look forward to returning to Mercy... and I do not like the overnight flight; and now everything stops in Trinidad, so adds another couple of hours.  Initially, I was excited as I had the row to myself and it seemed that everyone had boarded - wrong.   A rather large woman (How large you ask? Well not to make any politically incorrect statements, let me just say that she had her own personal seat belt extender) sat on the aisle seat and the middle seat as well.   The flight was fine except for being held captive for over an hour in Trinidad while they cleaned the plane and changed crews.  Funny, the crew needs to get off and stretch, but the passengers can stay.  

Waja was at the Guyana airport to greet me and I arrived at Mercy with little fanfare, but did receive a warm welcome from everyone I met.  I headed to the flat to meet my new roommate Dr. Edi, a Cuban dermatologist, who is working here at Mercy.  I had even brushed up on my Spanish - which is still atrocious.  However, there was no sign of Edi. He is staying in the Team House. I wasn't disappointed as I do like to be alone much of the time.  I took the bedroom that I had last year.   Then, the first thing I noticed was that there was NO shower downstairs -- until I saw that they had not closed off the second floor as they said they would, so the upstairs bath was still there... and working.
Maintenance fixing the doors, new locks, including the front door,
repairing screens, replacing lights, etc.. Great work
Actually, the whole flat had been painted [including the light switches which were somewhat stuck initially] and two extra bedrooms were now on the first floor.    Not bad: they are a good size and nice new doors and spiffy locks though no one actually checked to see if the doors closed.   Small problems, and the guys from Maintenance fixed almost all of them on Monday:  I was impressed. The flat is very adequate for a slob like me, but I will need to up my game as my niece, Doctor Emilee Flynn, is arriving on early Tuesday Morning.   (More later about Emilee.)  The fridge is the same manic-depressive one there for years - sometimes it freezes everything and sometime it cools nothing.  It seems like home to me, like I belong here.

 Church on Sunday

I decided to get to Calvary Lutheran Church on Sunday as I did not get there last year and they even put me up in their manse several years ago.   They are without a minister and wanted to know if I needed a job, so I wasn't expecting many at church.  However, it was pretty crowded and with lots of young people and lots of people who remembered me.  I remembered them, too, but their names have long since disappeared.  Surprise: it was National Youth Sunday Service... The youth were energetic and involved; it was great to see for the first hour, less so the second hour, and by the third hour I might have faked an injury, but I was warned that they wanted to welcome me in the announcements at the end of the service ......

Do you know how some sermons are memorable - some for the right reasons and some ..... Well, there was a seminarian from Jamaica Seminary here for the youth and he delivered the sermon. When you are beginning your talk in the third hour -- wellm even Billy Graham would have trouble.  

He chose a sermon text from Ephesians 5,3  "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."  However, he kept referring to it as sexual immorTality, and I do have to admit it made the sermon more interesting.  And when he was describing the woman who had bled for years in Luke 8, he said that the reason she was unknown was that, "she was probably wearing a hoodie."   A smile-filled sermon.  

I started with my first class as if I had just finished the last one the day before.  (I do admit that I sometimes get a little worried that I may have "lost it" over the intervening months and no one told me.  Luckily for me, with friends like mine, they would be lining up to tell me.) 

Here are my bright and eager students.

Changes at the Hospital

There have been lots of changes.  I guess the most important overall is that the "new" CEO Dr. Bridgemohan resigned in order to start a venture with some family members.  He had brought a new enthusiasm to the hospital about patient volumes, new services, etc.  We wish him well in his new venture.  Helen Browman is back as Acting CEO while the Board begins a search for a new CEO.

However, the bigger news from a selfish perspective is that the walkway from my flat to the hospital was raised a good six inches... so maybe I won't need to put my wellies on when it rains.

The Main Entrance walkway is much higher.

The school walkway, Sister Sheila Way,is now elevated a whole 12".
but it does mean that you have to step down and then up...
 There is a nice outdoor patio eating area for the cafeteria and numerous baskets of plants make it an attractive area for eating and chatting.   I will surely come back if the next improvement is a Pub.

Doing it in Reverse

When I go home after three months here, I almost always get a respiratory infection.  This year I decided not to wait and got one right away.  I even went to Emergency here at 3 am on Friday morning.  I got great care, an xray and some medication, and I was back in the flat by 4 am.   I have not been feeling up to par and the doc said "Don't go spreading your germs around!" so I didn't get to a big meeting on Thursday nor to my girls at St Ann's ..... I have been in my flat all the time, except walking over for meals.   But I am well looked after as everyone from the Board Chair to some of my old Bosco boys who volunteer here knew I was in Emergency.  And my neighbour, Dr. Devi keeps checking up on me, including bringing me her honey and  lime syrup to sooth my throat as well as a few mangoes.   I think I am getting better and have Sunday to recover before the big event on Monday night.  You will have to come back next week to discover what or who the big event is.

Have a good week and thanks for reading.