The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, February 28, 2011

Full and Empty Days...

Well, the last two weeks have been full…and empty. I have been very sick, but very busy, and then on top of it all, missing my dear friend and husband’s company and support. Okay, I miss his back-rubs too!

Sick: I finally got them! The stinking amoebas that all of my neighbors seem to always have. And when I got them, I got them good! (or bad) Cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, the works, and it lasted a whole two weeks! It was awful, and I whined a lot! (Obviously, I am still whining) I finally broke down and went to the doc last week, and he gave me parasite medicine, told me to give some to Dani, who cooks for us at times, and to Yari, who eats and drinks what I do. Today, 15 days after it began, I am well. Tired, and a bit skittish of eating, but better, thanks to God!

Busy: School Time! We been shoppin’ till we been droppin’ – literally! Thanks you all so much for your help for these young ones! We have purchased uniforms, shoes, socks, books, notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils, and all kinds of other school supplies for 14 very grateful children. If only you could see their faces as they look into the bags and see what you have given them, many of you would cry, I know. I hope to get a few pictures this week, as many of the children pass the house on their way to classes.
Yari and I traveled the road to and from Frontera so many times we know it by heart. ‘Frontera’ means ‘border’ and so most call the town there by that name. Just before the border is a check station manned by armed guards who check the documentation of each person that passes. The poor guards just wave us through now, not checking our bags, papers, or anything else. A good thing, in some ways. They know me, and trust me. But I have spent way too much time shopping! Why do we go to Frontera to shop? It is about 1 ½ hours from our house, a little further than David, but there are two very good reasons to make the trip – 1) Their prices are about 12% cheaper than in David, and 2) They now have a McDonalds. Now before you think that I am a glutton – the kids only have the chance to go to McDonalds when they go shopping with me once a year, and they LOVE it! It is a treat they remember all year long.
Yari was talking with the last group about the first time she went to McDonalds with us and that was 5 years ago! I had not realized what an impact it had until the others began sharing when they first went to McDonalds, and each time it was with Lynn and me in years past. Silly to us, but very important to them. Each one had a story of their trip, and the new ones eyes were bugging out with excitement. I had to keep secretly wiping the tears from my eyes as I drove.
Again, I need to say thank you to those of you who support this work. I am so grateful that I can spend part of my life helping, and making a difference in these children’s lives, and I know that it is in part because of you. You give the money, I get the hugs. Doesn’t seem fair, but I would not trade places for anything! I know God will repay you in time, but I am all about instant gratification in this case! I pray each of you is blessed richly now and later!

Empty: Lynn has been gone 2 weeks now, but it seems like 2 years! While I am thrilled that he can spend the time with family there, and I am talking with him daily, I still miss holding his hand and snuggling up with him at night. Okay, enough already, I miss the guy, but am glad that he is with his mom right now. He will be back in just two more weeks, Lord willing.

Other News:
• We are very grateful that Roy Thompson is at home and recovering from his surgery.
• We are also grateful that Yari is walking better all the time.
• We are excited that we have a campaign starting this weekend, and honored that our brothers and sisters (about 15 in all) from Dolega (about 1 ½ hours from here) will be spending the weekend with us here at the house. It will be full of fun and fellowship!
• Yari and I are taking a day to go to the beach and relax tomorrow!
• God is Good All the Time!


Friday, February 18, 2011

A Trip to the Dentist

Lynn has arrived safely for a visit with his mother, the family, and the church in Arkansas. I am left here with Yari holding down the fort for the month. I am glad that he can go, and glad that we do not need to leave the house in other hands again. I also miss the old man!
Yesterday I went to the dentist. I have a kind-of regular dentist here. His name is Ben Hur. Yep, really! He speaks a little English, and does a good job, but in the past he has gotten a bit more expensive each time I went, or sent a child to him. He has always been good, if the child appeared to be indigenous, to lower his price, but the prices for others I brought in seemed to get ‘Americanized’ and would run about 50% more than the indigenous. And about 30% more than he charged others, most of the time. So I haven’t seen him much recently. I should note that this dentist is in private practice, and most others are less expensive ($2-$5), but you must wait hours, and as I mentioned, no anesthetic. I am a wimp when it comes to dentists, so…

I broke a tooth, and had to get it fixed. It was cutting my tongue, so I went to Ben Hur. He gave me an appointment for yesterday afternoon, and so it was.. that I got the ‘Ben Hur show’! As soon as he had seen the problem, he said ‘I can fix it!”, and promptly turned to his computer and started the music. Opera – French opera began to play, pretty loudly. I thought, okay, I like a little opera - that might relax me. No happy gas here, so music would probably be as close as I could come to help relaxing in the dentist’s chair.
As he prepared the injection to take away the pain (yes, that is why I come back to him – he gives pain killers and most others here do not!!!!) he began belting out the tenor’s solo – I mean BELTING out! I jumped in the chair, but he had his back to me and did not see. He seemed to have the filling process timed to exactly 6 songs, and he knew the words to all six, and actually stayed with Pavarotti, but an octave lower. He was really quite good, but still, when I am laid out with my mouth stuck open and a tube sucking the drool from one side… and you know how close the dentist’s face is when he works… well, let’s just say when he came to a …profound part (i.e. loud part) I was about blasted out of the chair, and somewhat out of sorts!
And I must add, he sang with plenty of emotion and body movement. It was an experience I will not soon forget! I am not sure how much I paid for the filling, and how much for the show, but I felt I got a bargain at $20.00!
When the last song ended, he turned and gave me a rinse, and said “Ya!” which means finished. The room was silent, he made a receipt, noted on my chart what he had done, and said thanks. No mention, ever, of the music, the tooth, nothing, the experience had ended. I went home with a good filling and a song in my heart! I can’t be sure, but I think he did too! Ah the life!
Okay, because I know when Lynn reads this he will want to mention it, Ben Hur is also quite nice to look at. Yea, but that has nothing to do with why I go to him. Well, not much! It was really his English that hooked me to begin with.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lynn's Musings

Yesterday we came home from a couple of nights at the beach (Las Lajas). We had intended to stay three nights, but we had some noisy neighbors and were not getting much sleep. The days were very relaxing – temps in the low 90’s – just right for taking a dip occasionally to cool off. We thought about the 0 degrees and snow in northern Arkansas, but did not dwell on it.
At the beach Joy spends most of her time reading and I sleep. We spend a lot of time talking. This trip, although not on the agenda, we concentrated on cultural differences. One day for young kids rode up the beach on a four wheeler and struck up a conversation. Come to find out two of the kids were from a small town close to where we live. They were vacationing with their families at another resort nearby. One of their questions was if we had any food that we wanted to share with them. We said no, but later regretted it. Their question was the spark that ignited our discussion about cultural differences. ….and you thought I had forgotten about the subject.

Another thing that happened that afternoon was that a large extended family group moved into the cabana next to us (about 25 feet away). We were quietly sleeping on our little porch, and they were being very loud and boisterous. It seemed very rude to us, but they turned out to be very nice folks, and I’m sure never considered their behavior inconsiderate. I know we have written about cultural differences before, but (after 5 years) the longer we are here the more we understand how little we understand.
I was brought up a traditional church of Christer. It is very difficult for me to separate tradition from scripture, but it is extremely important to do so when trying to persuade a soul to become a disciple of Christ. We are finding it incredibly difficult to be an example to folks we don’t understand. After a couple of days at the beach we think we have our heads on straight but fully realize we do not.
Joy and I and our marriage are good – probably better than ever. I will see some of you next week when I will be in Yellville for a month with my Mom. Joy and Yari will be holding down the place while I’m gone.
Thank you for your prayers for us and the young Christians here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Socialized Medicine

Here in Panama there are three options for health care: Private, Insured, and Public. I thought in light of the current ideas in the U.S. I would share a bit of our world here, with socialized medicine.
Private Hospitals cater to those who have accessible cash. The hospital has a contract with an insurance company that offers a hospital/ clinic only policy that is affordable to approximately 3% of the people in Chiriqui. However, should I ,one of the fortunate who have this insurance, need to enter the hospital on an emergency basis, have tests, X-rays, or bloodwork, I will need to pay cash, and then be reimbursed. The service is better than other options, because, of course, it costs a lot more.
Insured workers, that is, people who work for larger companies - store chains, or big building companies, have a different clinic where they can go and be seen as an outpatient for a small co-pay. There are approximately 10% of the people here in Chiriqui who are insured. But at these clinics they can get prescriptions, X-rays, and other exams. The quality of the care will be lower than that in the private hospital or clinic, and the wait time can be upward of 3 days for an appointment. The ‘insurance’ is taken from their check by the government, and used to sponsor the government run clinics. Regarding wait time, you can get an appointment earlier in the week, but will be seen in the order that you arrive at the clinic. So, with an appointment at 9:00, you arrive at 8:30 and can expect to be seen around 2:00 in the afternoon because every fool knows to arrive at 3:30 in the morning if you want to be seen by 9:00 am.
Then there is public health care – the other 87% of the people. It generally costs from $.50 to $5.00, and is available to the entire public. In the hospital you will sleep 12 to a room, one duty nurse and one aid per 4 rooms. They will provide you with absolutely no essentials, including toilet paper, washcloths, and towels. They will expect a family member to take care of your every non-medical need- food, clothing, help to the bathroom, change bedding – everything. Besides the conditions in the public hospital, you will be put on a waiting list for any non-life-threatening surgery or treatment. Should we have opted for the public hospital Yari would have waited an average of 12 days to have her foot put back together. They would have sent her home with the compound fracture to wait for her appointed time. We have a friend now who is waiting to have a DNC. She is bleeding profusely – to the point that her hemoglobin is at 7 - and her surgery is scheduled for late May – 3 months from now. Should you need to go in for a test, or just see a doc for a small problem, the most time-sensitive approach is to arrive at the clinic before 4:00 am to get a ticket to be seen, then wait for 6 or 7 hours for your turn to see the doc or technician.
Of course the public health system also provides folks with (mostly) free medications, that are very limited in supply, so more often than not you are turned away because they do not have what you need, and will not substitute without you going back to the doc and asking for a different drug, which, of course, will take you another day of getting up at 3:00 am to get another appointment. And there are only certain types of prescription papers that the pharmacy will honor. Wrong paper = no meds. If you get your prescription from a doc who treats insured patients, and he forgets to give you the right paper, you are out of luck. It isn’t that you have to pay; they just won’t give it to you. Loads of red tape and hoops to jump in order to get this, less than average quality medical care. We had a friend who went to David for an appointment last year at the public hospital (Regional). Two weeks later she finally returned. When we asked what happened, this was the story. She needed a surgery, but to have the surgery she needed to donate a pint of blood beforehand. She was left alone, the IV came loose and she poured out too much blood onto the floor while the nurse had gone to another room. She passed out, they put her in the hospital. She only had money to go to David and return, with nothing leftover to buy food, but she had to stay the night, so she had to buy food. She then had no money to return home, so was stuck sleeping in a chair in the hospital for 4 days before she could get money to come home. I know these people are poor, but for a system that is supposed to take care of the poor, somehow there has got to be a better way.
So, I guess, when it is all said and done, I question whether the U.S. really needs to be going in this direction. On the bright side, there are little if any mal-practice suits.
We continue to live and learn with Yari’s medical problems. Thanks to God, she is doing well. Her mom has insurance that would not help her have the surgery unless we were willing to wait the 12 days, but it will cover x-rays and therapy, we think. It did cover the x-ray in the Insured Clinic. We arrived there at 9:00 am for an appointment that actually took place at 1:45 that afternoon. There were (and this is not an exaggeration) over 350 people waiting for X-rays or tests when we arrived. I counted, and that was only one half of the building. The staff was nice, but overworked.
At any rate her X-ray looks good and we return to her surgeon on Tuesday to see if she is ready to begin therapy. Another adventure, just around the corner!
God is very good.