5 hours, 390 vaccines, 2 interior villages
I wasn’t suppose to be at the clinic last Thursday, but I accidently forgot to drop Aubrey’s French horn off at the school and so what else is a crazy Mom Nurse like me suppose to do after dropping off the instrument? Why, go help out in the clinic, of course. I hadn’t been in the clinic for more then 10 minutes when Dr. Di comes out of an exam room, with two ladies I had not seen before, questioning, “Who is ready to go give measles vaccines on Monday?” To which Wendy, Mandy and myself all opened our eyes a bit wider and thought, “YES, I’m ready!”. The Indonesian government had given us a 1,000 measles vaccines to be given in very remote, hard to access, villages. A measles epidemic is creeping it’s way through these tropical villages. Leaving behind, dead children and empty arms. Put a disease like measles into a 3rd world child and they don’t fair well. 10 days of high fever, cough, itching body (inside and out), sore eyes and its not long before pneumonia sets in and malnutrition takes over the already compromised child.
I was very willing to step aside and let some of our other nurses go. Well, for about 5 minutes!!!! Because I soon learned that these two ladies were Kubili and JoAnn, team members to our friends who stayed in our home this last summer. What???!!! This was to our friends village? How cool would that be???! Sorry fellow nurses, I want this village! : ) Graciously, all my fellow co workers were willing to let me go AND thankfully Mandy decided that she would come too. Also Jacob would go, because he is good friends with one of the son’s of the missionary family. The weekend flew by as we made preparations to give many vaccinations. Preparations like meeting with Kubili and JoAnn and discussing our team approach. Purchasing treats for those to be vaccinated (suckers and rubber bands). Flights arranged on the mission plane. All the supplies gathered for this vaccine clinic. And soon it was Monday morning, and Jacob and I were at the airport by 6:30 a.m.
This was an unplanned flight for the team that works in Tumdungbon. The couple seated in the front row of the plane had been medically evacuated a week and a half prior as the Mom was post term and hemorrhaging. This mission team makes it part of their budget to offer these life saving flights to “their” people. The Mommy had to have a c-section and her baby died within seconds of being born with all of its organs on the outside of its body. Mandy is seated directly behind the village Mom, with JoAnn snug in between us, myself behind the village Dad and Kubili tucked in the back. These ladies have already worked 7 years in this village. We were going to their home!
Jacob was co-pilot. Uncle Zach was pilot (Mandy’s husband). He was super gracious to Jacob and let him “fly” for about 10-15 minutes. What a privilege to have a mentor like Zach on this day. Making this just an extra extra special day in the life of an 11 year old.
Jacob’s reflection is in the shiny knobs. : ) He enjoyed clicked photos when not flying. I marveled at the terrain. This was my first trip interior…..I did not understand the vastness of this jungle we live in. I did not appreciate the remoteness that hundreds of our missionaries serve here until this flight. Nor the challenging land that our pilots fly over daily.
Our flight was about an hour and thirty minutes (I think). Upon landing, most of the people were waiting beside the grassy airstrip. We unloaded the plane, shook hands and headed straight for Lexie and Porter’s house. Where after using the bathroom, I could think! : ) I loved their flushing toilet, toilet paper and lovely but simple home. Leaving the kids to play we all headed down to an empty building. There was much work to do.
This team was so organized. As Mandy and I began filling up the syringes, names began to be recorded. Also screening for those who should and should not get the shots. The missionaries had already been training a local man to help them with clinic stuff and so I taught him how to fill the syringes and give the vaccines also. He did a fantastic job and had a great way with his people. He really made my job easy in this village, because once he was trained all I had to do was keep encouraging him and help with traffic flow.
Right outside where Mandy and I (and health village worker) were giving the shots, the villagers peered through the window. So typical. So lovely ……just like jungle clinic nursing.
Everyone was utilized. From filling syringes to recording names. To giving vitamin A. To handing out suckers, ramen noodles and a rubber band. In 2 hours we gave 170 vaccines. I loved watching Lexie with the villages. She truly loves the Tumdungbon people.
I am SO SO glad that Mandy went too. There was no way, I could have given that many shots without her. She was, as always, a great team player.
Meanwhile, the children had a great time hanging out. They drew, built Lego’s and talked. Jacob said that this was his favorite part of the whole trip, getting to see his friend.
By 11:30 we were all done with the first vaccine location. JoAnn and Kubili had flown in a lovely lunch for us of sub bread and fresh veggies. (Pure luxury for them, a more typical lunch would be roots and greens from sweet potatoes). We got to see their pet KusKus. And all too soon it was time to say good-bye to these dear ladies and a brand new missionary family, who had just been there for less then 2 months. What hearts. What commitment.
Porter and Lexie flew with us to the next village (less then a 5 minute flight). To help facilitate the second vaccine clinic of the day. They would hike home later (2 hours). I really had the sense of being a missionary as we took off from the airstrip and waved goodbye to the villagers and our new friends and Lexie and Porter’s children…..
Very soon we were in the next village. Judging by the crowd that was waiting for us, we had our work cut out for us. As soon as we got out of the plane we headed for an empty building. Immediately we decided that we would mix and fill all the vaccines that we had left. It was noon and we needed to leave by 2 p.m. It took us over 45 minutes to fill all those syringes. That was with 6 of us filling.
Even Zach filled syringes and Jacob unwrapped them. By One O’ Clock we began immunizing. First we started with the children and then the elderly. Later we allowed the adults to take what was left. Most didn’t even flinch. A few children flailed and screamed in anticipation. All were rewarded by Jacob with a sucker. Time ticked by as humanity pressed forward. I kept calling out the time. 1:30. 1:40. I kept looking at our boxes with still 50 + vaccines in. Mandy and I, gave shot after shot. Trying to still be humane despite the mass assembly line. Sweat poured off us as we worked from the wooden floor. Sitting, kneeling and sometimes standing we wiped arms with alcohol and pushed in the live vaccine. We saw all kinds of “other” things, that if only we could have slowed down and treated. But time would not allow. 1:45…. Porter jumps in and gives shots too. 1:55 we give the last shot. 220. Not enough…… more villagers wanted some, but hopefully enough to save villages and language groups from being deeply affected.
We walk back to the plane. It rained while we gave the vaccines and now a steamy humidity rises from the earth. I stop a Mommy to admire her baby being carried from her head in a traditional bag. This is LIFE.
2:05 Uncle Zach closes the door. We’ve shaken many Papuan hands. We’ve hugged the missionaries. And were off……but our hearts will never be the same. No pay check could even touch the satisfaction I feel in my heart. As rain pelts the windshield of the airplane my eyes get all misty as I think of the commitment and the love of my friends serving in Tumdungbon and beyond. May their work move forward with God speed and may these people receive much more then a life giving vaccine. May they drink in living water so that they may never thirst again.