First Sight

The eye clinic celebrated its one year anniversary this past week.  God has blessed us with a team of six capable, caring Burundian staff who, a year ago, knew nothing about eyeballs.  So, it has been a year of firsts for us.  When we saw our first patient last January, all we had was a paper eye chart and a flashlight.  A year later, we have a very well equipped clinic and two operating rooms capable of delivering advanced eye care.  In fact, more than 5,000 patients have come through the doors to date and hundreds have received sight-restoring surgeries.  

Some of my favorite firsts of the year:

1.  One of our first cataract patients, an old mama, seeing again for the first time in years after cataract surgery.  Most people who go blind in Africa die within 5 years.  We are currently the only place in the entire country outside of the capital city where intra-ocular surgery can be done.  In fact, people come every week from other countries due to the lack of eye care in the surrounding regions.

2.   Fides, a mother, seeing her seven month old baby for the first time after having cataract surgery.  She had been in hiding for nearly two years trying to keep others from knowing of her blindness given the social ramifications for her family.  She was heartbroken every time she would hear her baby coo or laugh but was unable to see her smiling face.  Here’s a link to a moving video she starred in for Serge Mission.

3.   Burundi’s first corneal transplants were performed at Kibuye thanks to the help of Moria (surgical instrument manufacturer), the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley and Dr. Sadeer Hannush.  Hats off to FedEx who delivered the donor eyes from Philadelphia to the very heart of Africa in less than 48 hours.  Below is a photo of the team with the five recipients.

The mother of the youngest recipient had been praying for eye care to come to this region for years because her little girl had gone blind and she was too poor to take her to the capital city let alone to another country for a transplant.  She told me the eye clinic was God’s answer to her fervent prayers.  One week after her transplant, her daughter was seeing 20/20!   

4.  The very first full-blown retina surgery took place on Burundian soil yesterday on a 14 year old boy who had a stick go through his eye two weeks prior.  It only took seven hours to complete his surgery:)  Until now, if you were the average Burundian and had a retina problem that needed a laser or surgery, you simply went blind.  Now we have the only functional retinal laser in the country and are just now capable of providing retinal surgery for detachments and other complicated problems (thanks to Synergetics, Iridex, Occulus, Great Lakes Eye Care, Retina Global and many others).  

5.  A first about to happen.  On Sunday, at the break of dawn, the eye team plus Dr. Eric McLaughlin, will be heading out to do our first ever mobile surgical eye camp in Eastern Congo.  We would appreciate your prayers on our journey.  After Somalia, DRC in considered the second most failed state in the world, in large part due to the instability of Eastern Congo.  People need help there.  We’d like to be Christ’s hands and feet to offer that care.  Pray for gracious border officers who will not attempt to extort us or “tax” our critical eye equipment and supplies.  Pray for safety on lawless, remote roads.  Pray for the many patients who need care, that God will provide a way for them to get to us despite often impossible odds.  Pray that we will be able to share God’s love with them in our words and our deeds.


On the Consumption of Termites

From Guest Blogger Abraham Paternoster, who is more than half-way through his six-month stint with the team in Burundi

            If you want to come into contact with as many living organisms as possible, visit a jungle. If you want to come into contact with as many insects as possible, visit a jungle with a flashlight. If you want to come into contact with and eventually eat insects at the bargain price of 6¢ a pile surrounded by friendly onlookers, visit Kibuye. While Burundi may not be at the top of many culinary tourism lists, I think it’s fair to say that the team has been intrigued by several types of fare here. Bananas, manioc, roasted goat, and now termites have in varying degrees captured the attention and adventurous spirits of Kibuye’s ex-pats.

            What to say about downing these protein-rich arthropods? Tastes like bacon bits, according to some. Its subtle flavor might be improved with a pinch of salt and, properly seasoned, could conceivably make a delicious party snack at a gathering of open-minded individuals. I highly recommend this as a literal illustration of G.K. Chesterton’s statement about the relationship between an open mind and an open mouth. Other evaluations likened the taste to nuts or suggested they be sprinkled on top of a salad or taken with coffee. Perhaps the only downside to this otherwise pleasant and enriching dining experience is the somewhat unpleasant thought that you are, in fact, eating a bug. That and the legs that get stuck in your teeth.

            Recent visitors Drew and Kim Huang had their curiosity stirred upon hearing that these delicacies were available at the dukas (vendors of local produce) just behind the hospital, so a couple weeks ago they invited the Fader girls and myself to walk up with them to buy the little creatures. For 200 Burundian Francs the woman combined two small handfuls of termites and put them in a little bag for us, but not before offering a few to Drew to see if he would actually eat them. He obliged her and the many spectators that had gathered by popping a couple right then and there, much to their astonishment and delight. We thanked them and carried our prize home, Anna holding the samples we’d been given and eagerly sorting out the heads as the tastiest pieces.

            We arrived back at the Quadplex and proceeded to offer our purchase to all and sundry near and far; several obliging souls partook and found satisfactory while others resisted even the heartiest coaxing. If you’ll pardon the expression, once one peeked, one’s interest either piqued or peaked. It was only among the children that the buggy flavor was occasionally measured and found wanting, suggesting that the composition of cooked termite can go against the child’s sensitive palate. The termites did feature as a sort of a party snack later that evening during a board game, however, lacking salt or other embellishment, they were eaten but gradually and remained unfinished at the game’s close.

            In case a merely descriptive account leaves the visually-inclined readers unconvinced, please refer to the pictures below (photocreds to Drew Huang).


Welcoming World Med

by Rachel

January has been a month full of visitors.  Last week, we were privileged and excited to welcome a group of six from World Medical Mission.  WMM is a branch of Samaritan's Purse (SP), and we McCropders have enjoyed a long relationship with them these past years.  World Med is committed to supporting missions hospitals around the world by sending short term doctors for coverage and assistance and, recently, by sending recent residency grads for a two year stint through the Post Residency Program (PRP).  Even before our two year tenure as Post Residents, World Med has been important in our paths to get to the missions field. Jason Fader remembers WMM calling his (physician) father in Kenya years ago, offering a short term doc so his family could take a needed vacation.  World Med helped arrange a short term trip for Eric and me to Bangladesh in 2007 so I could learn vesicovaginal fistula surgery.  I have never been anything but impressed working with SP and WMM.

And now, several years later, World Med contacted us to see if they could evaluate us as a potential site to send docs in the future (through the PRP or short term help).  We have been overwhelmed by the support shown to us through SP and were thrilled to welcome them for a week.  The team consisted of Dick Furman (World Med's founder), his granddaughter Ebby, Ed Morrow (head of WMM for 15 yrs), Paul Osteen (surgeon and friend of ours from Tenwek), Allan Sawyer (an OB-GYN who has served on many short term trips), and Roy Graham, one of Franklin's sons.

Dick and Ebby getting ready to watch John do surgery
They jumped right in, going on rounds, sitting through morning staff reports (in French of course), observing surgeries, touring the area, providing advice and wisdom from their many collective years working with missions hospitals.

Paul checking out the eye equipment

Allan helping out on rounds
We really enjoyed getting a chance to socialize and visit with old friends.  They also got a chance to go and visit some local attractions like Kayero Falls.

Roy and Ed at the Cropsey house
Trip to Kayero Falls along with Nathan ad Michelle Rose, friends of Carlan

It was great to see everyone and we hope to continue our relationship with World Med for many years to come.  Thanks for the visit!


HMA and Ophthalmology Miracles

From Alyssa

So our team has unfortunately entered a season of someone almost always being gone from Burundi. We all arrived in Burundi together but now, for medical education and patient care reasons, we can't all leave at the same time. And our terms with Serge require four years in Burundi and one year "Home Ministry Assignment"- which can be divided up flexibly. What is the purpose of HMA? According to Serge, "Home Ministry Assignment provides time for field workers and their families to be physically and spiritually renewed, to reconnect with family and friends, to retool for future ministry, and to reassess their calling in God's Kingdom work."

So, all that to say, Carlan was in the US for three months last summer, I'm in the US for four months now, McLaughlins will leave when I get back, etc. It's sad to not be all together in Burundi, but I'm enjoying seeing family & friends, being back at my home church, "retooling" in several key educational areas to hopefully benefit the Burundian medical students, and representing the team with mutual connections in the US. And I also of course am enjoying the amenities of consistent water, electricity, internet, favorite foods, etc.

Being Stateside, I had the privilege of seeing the final results of the video crew who came out to Burundi from Serge a few months ago. Unfortunately my teammates at Kibuye don't have the internet bandwidth or data to view such things, so they will have to take my word on what a great job the videographers did! I love how beautifully the first video captures what amazing work God does through John Cropsey in the eye ward. He's only the second eye surgeon in the whole country of Burundi and he literally gets to make blind people see! Also, the English voice-over for the patient in the video was a med students who generously and cheerfully worked many hours with the video team and who was greatly impacted by her four months rotating with us at Kibuye to the point that she is now considering missions and caring for the underserved through medicine.

[Here's the link if you can't see the video below: http://vimeo.com/113349898]

And the second video ties in well with the blog Heather wrote a few days ago about cleft surgery and Serge. It highlights the vision of our mission agency and features footage from Burundi and clips of interviews with both John and me.
[Second video link: http://vimeo.com/113346454]


Cleft Week

By Heather

Today at the hospital, I saw a 17-year-old who has an unrepaired cleft lip.  Can you even imagine going to school with an open cleft lip?  In a place where many people believe that genetic malformations like this are the result of a curse?  I did not have the heart to ask whether I could take his picture, but you can imagine that an open hole from his nose through his lip makes him look like a sure target for a whole lot of teasing in any school in the world.  This young man is here at the hospital today, because tomorrow, his lip can be repaired. 

Our friend Drew, a craniofacial plastic surgeon, is here for the week, and we are so glad for his visit.  Most of our team met Drew several years ago when we were all working in Kenya.  Drew and his wife, Kim, have traveled the world, working in hospitals on three continents.  They came to us this time with quite a bit of luggage for a 10-day visit.  They brought precious gifts like chocolate, and they also brought lots of instruments needed for cleft lip and palate operations.  
In anticipation of this week, the hospital arranged for radio notifications all over the country to alert patients of this opportunity.  Normally in Burundi, there is no one who can close cleft lips or palates, except for occasional visiting teams of plastic or ENT surgeons.  So this week the Kibuye Hospital hallways are crowded with patients hoping for cleft lip and palate repairs.  Some of the little ones have been too malnourished to schedule for surgery, but quite a few cases can be done this week.
This little sweetheart’s lip was repaired yesterday, and she should go home in a few days. 

Our sending organization’s name has recently changed from World Harvest Mission to Serge.  I was thinking about this today, because the word serge means to stitch together two rough edges of material to make a strong seam.  I wonder whether repairing cleft lips would almost qualify as serging. 

Please pray for the operations this week and for the patients as they heal.  May they grow to be people who praise the God that loves to heal brokenness, to create beauty, to stitch together rough edges.