Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shantel update

Shantel had surgery on Tuesday and they removed her 30 cm spleen!  She is in ICU for the past 2 days but has done very well.  They asked the father to bring some pampers so she wouldn't have to get up to the toilet because of pain.  She they put one on and told her she can just wet in them and she said "NO way, I am not a baby!"  So from the first day she was up and walking to the toilet and doing very well.  They hope she will be moved to a regular bed today but she is enjoying ICU since she has her own nurse!

Thank you for your prayers and pray this will be the solution to her problems.  She told me on the phone she needs a new dress!  We will look for a skinny dress!  

Friday, January 22, 2016


Shantel Kajowa is 5 years old.  She is Major’s cousin, Regis, child.  She lived at our village in Batanai until recently when they moved closer to Chidamoyo.

 Shantel has a younger sister Cailtlin who is 6 months old.  Regis’s is in his last year of Bible College training to be a pastor and will finish in June this year.

Last year in December we noticed that Shantel was getting a big stomach and when she came to the hospital in January we noticed she had a very large spleen.  All the tests we could do here turned up no reason for the spleen enlargement.  

In March I took her to a private Pediatrician in Harare for more investigations.
Through many tests and doctors we found out she had liver fibrosis due to bilharzia (a common parasitic disease here) found in rivers.  Almost 95% of children in our area are infected but she is one of a few who gets severe, life-threatening complications.  This was causing her spleen to enlarge.

Since March 2015 the doctors decided to treat her conservatively and try and save her spleen.  Unfortunately her spleen continued to grow and when I returned in December she was not doing well and her spleen had doubled in size.  I took her in a couple of weeks ago to the doctor she was seeing.  We did more tests and decided we would see surgeons to see if they could help. Her spleen was now into her groin and unable to expand anymore.  It was in danger of rupturing!

Through all of this she has been very sick.  She looks 10 months pregnant and it is hard for her to wear clothes and she is wasting away because she can’t eat hardly anything because all the organs in her abdomen are being squished!  As soon as she eats she is full.

Her platelets have been running dangerously low for one year (24-27) and her Hemoglobin is also low. The spleen eats up all her platelets and red blood cells which makes it dangerous for her if she were to fall or have an injury.   On Saturday we had to transfuse her blood.

Wednesday we saw very qualified and wonderful surgeons and they are going to  take out her spleen on Tuesday at Harare Children’s Hospital.  They will cover all of her expenses and they felt confident she could be helped.  We will have to buy her new skinny clothes to go home in from the hospital!

Everyone who meets her is so impressed with her.  She is very sweet and always has funny things to tell me.  She was sitting in my office this week and I had to draw blood work on another kid.  I put the tourniquet on and was getting the needle ready when she went through my basket and found an empty blood tube and said “you need this too you know!”  She may grow up to be a doctor or a nurse here!

Please keep her in your prayers and that the surgery will solve all her medical problems.  She is being admitted today (Friday) to prepare for the surgery.

In Memory of Jim Minnis

Major and Kathy with Jim and JoAnne Minnis in October 2015

It was with great sadness we received news on 20-January-2015 that Chidamoyo alumni Jim Minnis died at the age of 88.  He had been suffering for several months and we rejoice that he is now in a new healed body and singing around the throne of God!

Jim and his wife JoAnne first came in 1997 to Chidamoyo to help us for 6 months. They were retired and they choose to work where they could for the Lord and not just sit around.  Jim did everything from digging out full septic tanks (his first day!) to driving our ambulance to fixing whatever we broke.  He had several “honey-do” lists every day!

He so enjoyed working with Tapson and Oliver, our maintenance workers.  They respectfully called him Sekuru Minnis (which means grandfather with great respect) and they loved working and joking with him.

We kept JoAnne busy cooking for myself and all my visitors—which turned out to be 5 other people for all of the time they were with us.  We all became like a family and spent much time around the dinner table discussing the days’ events.  Many times, JoAnn reminded us if we didn’t stop talking our descriptive medical talk she would quit cooking for us, and Jim always supported JoAnn, so we quickly “cleaned up” our language!

They became Ma and Pa to us when we took them to Mana Pools Game Park and we woke up one morning with a big elephant next to where our kitchen was.  They both were in the PJ’s looking out the window at the elephant and it reminded us of Ma and Pa Kettle of the movies—so Ma and Pa it became forever!

Everyone knows how Jim loved to read.  He always had a book out.  We had great fun reminding him of a time when we were at Mana Pools and an elephant came right up behind him as he read away.  We got a picture and then warned him the elephant was behind him.  He looked up for a minute and went right back to reading as a large elephant walked right by him!  Nothing disturbed his reading!

When they returned from their first trip here in 1997 they became my forwarding agents for a few years and helped in our banking and keeping our mission money coming.  Pa always said—“don’t tell Kathy how much money is in the mission bank account because she will spend it!”

Ma and Pa took me as one of their own children.  I was richly blessed as my parents had died much earlier and now I had another set of parents.  We remained very close and they continued to come to Zimbabwe to work several more times until Pa’s health made the long trip impossible.  Their hearts ached to come back and whenever I talked to Pa on the phone he begged to come back!  I always talked to them before Saturday dinner my time (Saturday am their time) and he always knew I was cooking T-Bone on the braii and he would always say “cook one for me!”

We had some adventures and always laughed a lot.  We met in London in Dec 1999 and toured London for 2 weeks before leaving there on Christmas night and arriving here the day after Christmas to have another Christmas dinner and presents.  We cooked a wonderful turkey dinner in Dr. Michelle Withers flat in London before we left, we heard carols sung in Westminister Abbey and went up in the London Eye.  We drove out to Stratford on Avon and spent the day and ate Kentucky Fried chicken several times because of Zimbabwean with us!  What great fun we had.

When Major and I came to visit Ma and Pa in October 2015 it was a difficult visit.  Pa was ill, not thinking well and falling a lot.  We did get him out to go to the Aquarium in Long Beach with us and to the bank and got his hair cut and to a church group.  We knew with a heavy heart his days were short and when we left we knew we would not see him again before we all met in heaven.  So it was really not a shock to hear he had gone on ahead to heaven yesterday, but it leaves a BIG ache in our hearts.

We are so thankful to Ma and Pa for all their hard work in their retirement.  They both made such a difference to our work at Chidamoyo and to my life.  Even when they couldn’t come anymore Ma would be sewing away theater drapes and uniforms for the hospital and Pa would help her pick up the material.  I felt very fortunate to be known as their “African daughter.”  I did enjoy telling the other kids I was the favorite and most loved—but it was too obvious to all how much they loved all their kids! They have always been very supportive of me and my work and what a joy it was to have 2 fathers in a lifetime!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lots of work to keep us busy!

We have had a busy start to the new year as the Lake Union Crew continues on our Waiting Mothers Shelter.  Every Wednesday team members leave and new ones come.  We have met many people and they have all been a wonderful help to our project.  They are finishing the project on the 27th of January and they are ahead of schedule--so that is exciting.  Many people have remarked how beautiful it is!

Nicki Nichols from the group came 2 weeks early to work with us in the hospital.  She is an RN and Massage Therapist and she has been teaching the staff massage and we have been practicing on each other--they liked that!  She is now spending her last week with the group and she and 2 other ladies have been cleaning and sorting a storeroom.  This is a big help to us and we always need to be more organized.  Last week another group cleaned a hallway out!

Last week one of the builders that came was Dr. Julie Heyn.  She is a cardiologist in Seattle and she was a big help to our doctors and patients.  She would help us in the morning and then go dig trenches after that!  We so appreciated her work.

Of course our Seattle team was celebrating the Seahawks victory on early Monday morning our time.  They brought out their 12th man flag to hang on their project!

We have really had 2 weeks of hot and dry weather to start the year.  What crops were planted were drying up and wilting!  It was great joy that last Sunday evening it started to rain and we have had some good rains since then for a week--it has cooled us down and we appreciate that!  We lost power for a couple of days due to the storms--but got it back.  It was cloudy and cool and rained a lot to day so we are thankful!

One of the Lake Crew members, Ellen is a doula in the US and she has been working with our waiting mothers.  She had friends who donated for her to give cotton wool and soap and other gifts for the waiting mothers, so she handed them out on Friday to over 40 waiting moms!  They were so excited!

On Friday we were happy to announce that Dr. Nura Isala, our Medical Superintendent, paid labola (bride price) for one of our nurses, Loraine Mutimusakwa--we had a fun time congratulating them at devotions.

Last night our surgery team from Harare arrived.  Mr. Chihaka and Dr. Kajese came to do 3 hysterectomies and 3 hernia and another surgery for us.  We are so thankful for this volunteer time they put in for us.  Mrs. Kajese was able to join us and they brought their 4 month old daughter Alexis with them.  Major's daughter and niece babysat her today so she could help be a scrub nurse.  They left at 4 pm and I went to nap for a couple of hours!

Seattle fans from Lake Union Crew

Lake Union crew and local volunteers 4th week

Nikki leading massage class

Dr. Munodawafa and Dr. Julie working on a cardiac patient

Lake Union Crew putting on the siding

 Cutting the siding

Making shelves for our storeroom

 Cleaning the storerooms

 Ellen handing out the goodies to the waiting mothers

Surgeons here for work

 The new Mrs. Isala

No and Shield Kajese with daughter Alexis

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome to 2016!


I hope you had a good week between Christmas and New Years.  We enjoyed some time off from the hospital and no emergencies--so that was nice.

On Wednesday a visitor joined me from Seattle, Nikki who is an RN and massage therapy person.   She is with me for 2 weeks until she joins the Lake Union Crew for a week after that.  She has been helping with Well Baby Clinics and dressings and is going to teach us some massage techniques.

We worked until mid-afternoon of the 31st and then got to go home early for the New Years holiday.  We had church from 8 p.m. until midnight and the place was packed.  No one went to the township but came to celebrate with us.  At midnight Michael Mereki lit up the fireworks and they were loud!  Everyone enjoyed and then started to go home after 1 a.m..

New Years Day I started to take down my Christmas decorations   It was also very hot and I ended up jumping in the pool and then work awhile and back into the pool to cool off.  We haven’t had rain in a week and the fields are really needing it!  Pray for rain please.

We had a visitor in my jacaranda tree NY morning when we found a monkey!  He is eating the mangos and other fruit!  He has stayed around for a couple of days now. We haven't seen a monkey here in over 5 years.

The group building and Nikki went off to the village at Batanai to see Major and our village.  They enjoyed that and saw the Sanyati river.  There is a hippo that is walking around in one of Major's fields.

Today we went to work this morning and then got the rest of my decorations down and Monica came to do my hair.  It was up to 100+ today and no sign of rain!

The Lake Union Crew are making great progress on the Waiting Mother’s shelter.  They are almost half way through their time here.

Happy New Year and blessing for a great year in 2016.

Waiting Mothers Shelter progress

Russ, Kathy and Ann working on installing windows

Monkey in my Jacaranda tree