The plane’s engine could be heard in the distance, as it circled above making it’s way down to the airstrip to land, the staff rush out to the airstrip to meet those getting off the plane. For weeks they knew a doctor was coming, they had told the surrounding villages and communities when to come to see the doctor, and now she (me) was here.
Imagine being a nurse in a remote part of PNG which is either a 30 minute airplane flight or a 2 day walk to Mt. Hagen, the 3rd biggest city in PNG and the closest hospital with doctors. Imagine seeing patients with severe pneumonia, bad lacerations involving tendons and bones, fractured bones, moms with complications in delivery, abdominal masses and TB, and all without a doctor, a lab, a way to do an Xray or Ultrasound. This is the everyday life for Naomi, Gibson and Nuvi, our 3 health workers, and Nathan and Captain, our 2 laborers, at Sangapi Health Center in Madang Province in PNG
Everyday, Naomi (a nursing officer), Gibson and Nuvi (community health workers, husband and wife) wake up and serve the patients in this remote part of PNG the best they can with the skills, knowledge, training, and supplies they have. For most all the patients who come, their training is sufficient to care for all their needs, but for some patients, they wish they could do more to help the people they are giving part of their lives to serve.
For one week, I got to work with Naomi, Gibson and Nuvi in Sangapi. Together we cared for and treated over 200 patients, using those patient encounters as opportunities to train and help show them ways they can do what they are doing even better. As much as we might like to recreate another Kudjip at one of our health centers, it is much more complicated that just bringing a doctor out, you need the infrastructure, the lab, the operating room, the ancillary staff, the maintenance guys, etc. But instead of building another Kudjip, we can strengthen the staff at the NHM Health Centers, to give the best care possible.
We gathered each day for devotions before the patients arrived and then we would have “school.” We sat down and they asked me questions about patients that had seen, about conditions they were sure how to treat, and about medicines they had that they didn’t know what they were used for. When their questions were done, we went through the PNG Standard Treatment Books (guide for healthcare workers in PNG) discussing each condition they commonly saw and what they should be looking for or how to best treat the condition. They looked forward to “school”, and each day they came with more questions, furiously taking notes, trying to absorb all they could in my short time there.
When our hour or so of “school” finished, we then had a practical period where we saw patients and used that time to help them in their physical exam skills. We listened to someone with pneumonia, seeing the child’s retractions, went over a knee exam having them feel the fluid collection and then drain it, we examined patients with back pain, discussing when to consider TB and more. Each case was not just a patient, but an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge and skills.
As much as I enjoyed my week in the bush of PNG, seeing and experiencing something different from everyday life at Kudjip, the highlight of my time was working with the staff. Seeing their dedication to the community they serve, to the patients, seeing their desire to want to know more to better care for their patients, they inspired me. They are the real missionaries here, they are the ones who have given up the potential for a nice career in city with good schools, easier access to stores and electricity, but they have chosen to serve the people and God at Sangapi.
Sangapi is, currently, one of six Health Centers (go here to learn more about Rural Health Services) that are a part of Nazarene Health Ministries, but we are in the process of having 4 more. Please pray for our workers at each of these centers and for the chances they have to continue to learn and train to better care for the patients they serve so far away from everything else. If you would like to help support Rural Health and the work they do, go here.