Christmas Day was greatly enjoyed by staff and patients, starting with songs, bible readings and a nativity presentation by the hospital staff, with 4 songs and a short talk from Jenny on the meaning of Christmas. Presents were then distributed to all the patients and we then shared breakfast with them – hot drinks, fresh bread rolls with jam and as always some of Jenny’s banana cake! The afternoon was peaceful and when it was dark enough, we projected a DVD for the patients outside between the wards. Everyone enjoyed this, but it was interrupted for as as two patients came with injuries, one of them having fallen off the back of a truck and landing on his shoulder.
Since then we have been able to rest a little and also to catch up on a few jobs. Drs Dina & Zotei are packing up their house with items accumulated over 11 years. They will fly home to India on 6th January and will be greatly missed by hospital staff and the whole community. Our Director of Nursing is also preparing to move to his new post at Gizo Hospital.
The weekend before Christmas and there is an air of anticipation. Many of the hospital staff have left for their home villages, whilst others come to spend Christmas with their families here in Munda. The hospital wards are quiet and we are preparing to share a Christmas morning Lotu and breakfast with the patients that remain in hospital.
It has been a mixed time of work and parties. Two unrelated episodes of violence have led to the transfer of two patients to Honiara over the last week: one with a stab wound to the chest and the other a serious eye injury. Graham escorted the first and our visiting paediatrician and midwife from Brisbane were able to act as escort for the second. Dr David was the first doctor to visit us from the Wesley Hospital and we hope to see him again. Socially it has been a busy mix of Christmas parties and farewells to our Director of Nursing Chris Leve and Drs Dina & Zotei who have now finished routine work at Helena Goldie Hospital to concentrate on packing up, although Dr Dina has spent the week in Gizo with a queue of patients hoping to have surgery before he leaves.
At this time of family we are aware of the distance that separates us, but we pray that the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas.
Last week was busy with the 2nd United Church Youth Convention. Almost 1,000 young people came from all parts of the country for 8 days of fun and fellowship, led by a team from Australia. They returned home by ship yesterday (Monday) morning. Meanwhile at the hospital everyone was busy preparing for the farewell dinner for Chris Leve (Director of Nursing) and Drs Dina & Zotei. This was an enjoyable occasion with singing, dancing and feasting until the early hours. Every department was represented in the presentations. Unfortunately Graham was not present for the occasion as he had to escort a patient with a chest injury to Honiara. Fortunately the National Referral Hospital was not busy so he was taken straight to theatre for insertion of a tube to drain the blood and air from around his right lung. The following day he was much better, so everyone was relieved.
Dr Dina is back in Gizo this week for another round of hysterectomies before he leaves at the end of the month. At Helena Goldie the wards are emptying for the Christmas period; we have a visiting paediatrician and midwife from Brisbane for five days.
Back in Munda we are being treated to blue skies and sunshine and we are finding it too hot! Fortunately it is interspersed with some tropical downpours, cooling us down and filling the tanks for drinking water. We returned to find our home in good order with no unwelcome visitors, the only problem being a non-working shower. The problem was caused by the tap which has now been replaced with a plastic tap that does not require a washer, so this problem should not recur!
As it is now confirmed that Dr Dina, Dr Zotei and their children are leaving in early January, there is a lot of activity preparing a series of farewell functions for them after over 11 years of service at the hospital. Today (Saturday) they have gone for a pic-nick on a nearby small island with the nursing staff from Children’s ward. They are sad to be leaving and will be missed.
Unfortunately at present we have no working steriliser, making it difficult to do much surgery. As a result we have to send surgical instruments, gowns and swabs to the new hospital at Gizo to be sterilised. It is very hard to maintain equipment in working order here due to the hot & humid climate and the lack of skilled people to service the equipment. The challenges here continue to be considerable.
We are back in Munda after another successful tour by Marovo Medical to Seghe and the people of Marovo Lagoon. Jenny managed to get there as planned on Sunday so was able to join the team for the second week of their tour. With six doctors in the medical team and all the back-up from nurses, pharmacists and others, we were able to see all the patients efficiently. Meanwhile, the surgical team performed over 40 operations during the 2 weeks of the tour. Unfortunately graham only made it for the last full day, but our luggage did arrive safely and he was able to use the time in Honiara to see various people and do some jobs.
Uepi Island resort where we stay was as beautiful as ever with its unspoilt habitat and wonderful hosts who give their full support to the medical outreach and without whom it would be a very different story.