Thoughts on Returning to Burundi

(from Eric)

Having accomplished the rare “just before departure” blog communication a couple weeks ago, I have been wanting to follow that up with some initial thoughts on returning to Burundi.

It is the rainy season here in Burundi, and today was a sunny day.  What that means is that the rains still come, but they come quick and sharp and are followed by period of bright equatorial sunshine.  Within a half an hour, the temperature drops fifteen degrees, and this has happened multiple times today.  As soon as the big dark clouds pass, the sun comes back out, and I take my jacket off.  Again.  I have some bread dough rising, and I have pulled it onto the porch and then back into the sunshine multiple times in the two hours since I made it.

It struck me that today’s weather is a pretty good image for what it’s like to come back to Kibuye.

After a long series of flights, we arrived ragged and exhausted to stay at a guesthouse near the airport.  I slept well that first night (having slept zero during the journey) and when I awoke, I heard birds.  It’s the sound of the year-round six o’clock East African sunrise, and I’ve grown to love it over the past six years.  I walked out onto the back veranda and saw palm trees and bright flours.  I heard the distinctive ibis call.  After a while, we wandered over to breakfast and had a scalding cup of chai and a mediocre (but distinctively Burundian) omelette.  It was all wonderful, and I realized how much I had missed it.

I’ve had a lot of moments like that.  The kids running around the neighborhood, playing outdoors for hours at a time.  The return of Friday night homemade pizza.  The green hills all around and warm greetings from friends.  I was walking up to the hospital in the rain yesterday to round.  I was carrying my umbrella, and a lady that I passed was hurrying along with a mid-sized banana leaf over her head.  They are the warm and sunny moments.

Yet there are other times.  On Wednesday, three out of my eight hospitalized patients died in the space of twelve hours.  For at least one of them, I kept wondering the entire next day whether I could have avoided his death if I had done something different.  One of the others was a young mother in her thirties, dying slowly from liver cancer.  We would go and see her every day, watching her waste away, being cared for by her ten year-old daughter.

The overall transition has been more than we expected, which is probably just a sign of misplaced expectations.  But much has changed.  It took several pretty full days to move back into our house.  We have met lots of new teammates.  There are some solutions to old problems, but now there is a whole new set of problems to navigate.  It felt like we had been gone a long time.  However, a couple weeks later, that time seems to be quickly shrinking.

I’m thankful for the cloudy moments as well.  Being back in the hospital has been a good reminder of just how worth doing this work is.  These problems are worth working to solve.  It is, in fact, a joyful thing to be able to be a part of it.  There is a lot of goodness happening all around us.  Yes, there are many things we have to put up with.  Yes, the power can go out for 3 days at a time.  Yes, I have to keep bringing the dough under the porch eaves, because it is raining for the third time in three hours.  But in the end, the dough will rise, and the bread will be made.  It may just need a little more time.

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” - Matthew 13:33


COTW: Happy Visit

By Alyssa 

I was walking home for lunch on Monday when a lady stopped me to enthusiastically greet me and introduce me to her smiling toddler Desi who was running around in the grass outside the maternity building. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her until she began to remind me of her story. Desi was born at 27 weeks gestation weighing only 900grams (2lb). Babies that small and premature don't generally survive here in Burundi. But she delivered at Kibuye Hope Hospital at just the right time in May 2014 and Desi was the first infant we placed in our new homemade incubators (designed and built by Jason Fader with the help of a Burundian carpenter). 

Desi at age 2 days

Desi at 2 weeks old - receiving IV antibiotics and aminophylline to prevent apnea of prematurity as you see above his incubator

Happy mother with 2 week old Desi

Anna nicknamed him "Baby Doll" as he was so tiny

Amazingly, against all odds, Desi thrived.
Desi at 6 weeks of age ready to go home from the hospital

I always wondered what happened to Desi. He was still pretty tiny at discharge (4lb) - did he succumb to an infection or to hypothermia? Did the mother have enough milk for him? Would he have long term complications from prematurity? 

It was a gift this week to see him at age 19 months happy and healthy and on track developmentally.

And I was so encouraged that Mama Desi (women are named here by their firstborn) wanted to visit the NICU and encourage the mothers there with their own 1000g babies who think the day will never come when they will go home. She stayed a long time there answering their questions and encouraging them while Desi ran around exploring the place where he spent his first 2 months of life. 

There aren't very many Desis running around in Burundi. Most babies born that early don't survive. In fact we unfortunately lost a baby this week born at 28 weeks gestation. But seeing Desi on Monday encouraged me and gave me hope for the future. As we tediously make feeding calculations and treatment decisions for the 11 premies currently in our NICU, celebrating each day's weight gain and each happy discharge, who knows what's possible? Thanks to all who helped develop our NICU here and who hope with us for more joyful stories like the gift of Desi. 


Holidays at Kibuye

By Alyssa

We've experienced quite the joyful holiday season the last month here in Burundi with many encouraging visitors and community events and thought we'd share some (actually many!) pictures of our celebrations.

 We all enjoyed the traditional drummers at a Ministry of Health sponsored event at Kibuye...
 especially Micah...
and Liam!

And what fun it has been to welcome many family visitors over the past month - and to take them all to the nearby waterfalls:
 including Jessica's brother Jeremy,
 most of the extended Fader family, 
and my parents. 

 Micah welcomed lots of guests for his 7th birthday party (above and below)
 And we gained three new pets (above left) and also enjoyed the nearby hot springs (above right)
 Lots of cousin fun!
Visiting the southernmost source of the Nile River. The visitors who previously lived on the Nile in South Sudan were especially interested in this tourist attraction!

 Christmas activities included singing in church, 
visiting the hospital to share the Christmas story and pass out donated baby blankets and toys, 

 a med student Christmas party, 
 a kids' nativity play, 
making gingerbread houses, 
 delicious meals together, 

 a white elephant gift exchange,
 smiling for the camera, 
a movie, 
and an ultimate frisbee game. 

 And there were lots of group games for New Year's...

...and the traditional ball drop. 

 Our team enjoyed being a part of two traditional dowry ceremonies over the holidays - always interesting to experience new cultural events and to honor our Burundian friends and colleagues by participating in and learning about these ceremonies. 

And we put our visitors to work, too! :) Our visitors have blessed us so much with their thoughtful questions, encouraging presence, and also their ingenuity and industriousness in jumping in to help out in so many ways including with the satellite internet (above), 
 photography opportunities, 

and teaching. 

And finally, we all appreciated the year end hospital party yesterday which was quite the community event! 

 Employees who have worked at Kibuye Hope Hospital 10 years each received a goat
 and those who have worked more than 20 years received a bicycle. In speaking with the employee who has been working here the longest (40 years), I was so interested to hear his perspective. He's seen a lot of changes over the years and is happy to continue in his work on the pediatrics' service. I'm thankful for his wealth of experience and that he and many others were honored at the ceremony yesterday. 
 The speeches were inspiring
 and the gifts much appreciated. 

 And of course everyone enjoyed the meal together. 

We're so thankful for our community here at Kibuye and look forward to many more years of holiday celebrations here with our Burundian and missionary neighbors!