Catching Up

Our days at home in the last months have been full of fun celebrations, visitors, and new friends. The kids are growing at lightning speed and I only wish I could share (or remember) all of the hilarious things they’ve done and said that have kept us in stitches. But this photo blog should get you caught up on some of the other highlights on the PNG home-front!

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As our household numbers grew, we realized we needed a bit more space on the inside of the house! So some of our national maintenance workers helped to build this shed on one end of our back porch. Its been a wonderful addition!
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Despite living very near the river, we don’t often ALL make it down there. But when we do, you can be absolutely sure that someone ends up falling in. I believe it was Matthias on this particular occasion.
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I knew the kids would enjoy this swing-set (which was their Christmas gift from us and their grandparents), but I couldn’t have ever imagined the HOURS of play time it would clock in from all of the neighborhood children. Its one of the favorite “hang-out” spots for the dozen kids that play together each day.
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We continue to make “family rounds” and hospital evangelism a priority in our family. Its easy for me to be home with the kids everyday and forget the reason that we’ve come to PNG! THIS is what its all about. And I’m glad anytime my kids can see lives changed because of what God is doing in this place.
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Each year on Christmas Eve the missionaries go caroling at each of the four hospital wards. We usually also do some sort of nativity play. And it usually involves enticing toddlers to wear certain hats or robes.
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I tried to get a handle on pre-school with these two (despite the multiple interruptions due to their sisters), and even if we weren’t very consistent or it wasn’t very creative most days, they still have a love for learning. Now Simeon is gearing up for kindergarten!
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Praying with patients on the wards is one of my favorite things to do. There is an openness and gratitude that is so refreshing and encouraging.
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This was Naomi’s first time in the baby swing that Grandma and Grandpops brought back from Australia!
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Boxes from America are still an absolute highlight around here!
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Thanks to many of YOU who made donations toward a vehicle, we were able to purchase this 2001 Toyota LandCruiser. In the last few months is been to several bush churches, up a couple of mountains and taken many trips on the pot-hole infested highway. We are so grateful for the freedom and flexibility it allows us!
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And it wouldn’t be a typical day around our house without some Lego play.
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Tabea can frequently be found wearing one of my scarves or necklaces. 
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This here was one of the greatest days we’ve had in awhile!  Grandma Betsy and Grandpa Lincoln arrived on May 18th and spent six incredible weeks with us. We made memories to last a life-time. And after several trips on the Highlands Highways, Mom says she will NEVER ONCE complain about a bumpy road or pothole again.
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This was the day after their arrival and this scene was repeated multiple times throughout their six weeks with us!
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Ben’s youngest sister, Lydia, graduated from high school and we had a wonderful missionary gathering with food, games, a slide show and a sweet prayer time. Lydia has since returned to the States with her parents for their furlough time and we already miss her here!
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This is a fairly typical scene on any day that Joy comes. She is quick to wipe faces and trays, sit down and play games or take both girls outside to run and play.
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And this is probably a less busy day on the swing-set!
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My parents had the “privilege” of experiencing election time in PNG (which happens once every five years). You’ll notice the candidates’ posters plastered to the wall of a store near Kudjip. Every day, from dawn to almost 10 PM, we heard loudspeakers blaring music and speeches from the LandCruisers that drove through the area.
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We are blessed to have a fresh market just a short walk (or drive) from the mission station.
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Mom and I enjoyed shopping amongst the lines and lines of used clothes that are hung up near the market each day.
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Joy and Tabea enjoy a swing together!
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I believe this was the day that everyone was hot but no one could quite be shaded properly enough. It was a LONG quarter-mile to Grandma and Grandpops’ house.
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I will treasure this photo for many years to come!  What a an absolute gift to have both sets of grandparents in PNG with us at the same time!
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With election season comes a whole host of decorated election vehicles. And this typically comes in the form of grasses and ferns that then become dried and take on the appearance of some sort of hairy car beast. We affectionately referred to them as “fuzzy cars”!
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The first ‘bush church’ that we visited with Mom and Dad is the home church of David Wan who is one of our dear friends and an anesthetist at the hospital.
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This wild band of buddies was frequently found “attacking” intruders on the road. This was the start of several weeks of playing knights and kings and princesses!
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Aunt Sheena is a dear friend who has now left PNG for her home assignment time. She was our dentist here at Kudjip and will return to another mission here in PNG later in the year. We had a “beach party” at the river for her send-off!
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Just kicking off the shoes before church!
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This is one of my very favorite photos of my dad ever. Its not a great quality photograph from any technical standards, but the meaning behind it is what makes it so special. My parents just became part of the PNG family during their visit and that will always mean so much to me.
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Church is always more exciting when EVERYONE gets a lolli afterwards!
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Pastor Tony at Konduk church had a special way with our boys!
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The main market in Mount Hagen may be over-crowded and dirty, but this little strawberry corner makes it ALL worth it. One pile of strawberries in a bowl costs 5 Kina which is about $1.50. Bring your own container!
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We took my folks to see our friend Meti’s place. Here she is with her son Lesley inside their home.
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During our trip to Rondon Ridge, a lovely hotel and restaurant on the top of a mountain, we visited their archives room that has some beautiful photos. These two especially caught my eye. 
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It turns out that Father’s Day in PNG looks a good bit like Father’s Day in the States.
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Only Grandma would think its a good idea to do playdoh on the living room rug. But it kept some kids (and Grandma) busy for the better part of an hour!
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Everyday the girls find their way to the stool that allows them to peek out the window to the garden and road…and sometimes Grandma!
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On our trip to the nearby orphanage, the kids were pretty entertained by Naomi and Tabea. And, in this case, Naomi was pretty mesmerized by the half-dozen pigs in the field nearby.
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These election posters were mounted along the entrance road to Kudjip station where they’d get a lot of viewers. 
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In the Mount Hagen airport there is a piece of modern technology that scares our boys silly!  They’re smiling, but neither one of them will go close to that hand dryer.
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And it wouldn’t be a proper photo blog post without twins in a laundry basket!

 

 

 

 

Stretching, Learning, Growing….

We’ve had some great days, some long days and some challenging days here at Kudjip. It’s been a busy time of learning, stretching, growing, and relying on God, my family and my team at the hospital.  We are now doing surgeries that have never been done in the highlands of PNG.  Thanks to Samaritan’s Purse/World Medical Mission, Riverside Methodist Hospital, Storz, Dr. Mark Potter and Dr. Mike Pyle  we’ve acquired the equipment needed to allow the people of Jiwaka Province to enjoy the benefits of laparoscopic surgery. Here are just a few of the highlights in pictures.

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Sr. Vero preparing for our first laparoscopic surgery at Kudjip.  We did a video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) procedure for child with a terrible lung infection.  The Operating Theatre staff worked hard for several months prior to this to learn how to clean, maintain and setup the equipment.  They have been incredible.  We started with several thoracic procedures since we initial didn’t have gas for insufflation to do abdominal surgery.
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One of the most fun things about helping bringing laparoscopy to Kudjip has been getting to teach Dad a few new tricks.  Who says “old dogs” can’t learn.  For all the things he’s taught me in the OR and out I needed to at least try to bring something to the table.
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I teared up and I’m pretty sure Gail and Margret were actually crying when Dad did his first laparoscopic appendectomy at Kudjip, 32 years after starting the surgical work here.  In case you wondered, I’m so proud of my Dad and the commitment to God and the people of PNG that he’s exemplified!
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Learning how to elevate a depressed skull fracture.  It’s not rocket surgery, just neurosurgery 😉
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This x-ray represents not just all the orthopedic surgeries I’ve had to learn but all the other subspecialty cases that aren’t always part of the general surgeon’s repertoire in the USA.  I’ve had some excellent teachers.  A big thank you to Paul Hitchens, an Orthopedic surgeon from Sydney, who’s now visited twice and helped me to get better and offer more to our patient’s here.
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Dr. Andy Bennett (family practice doc emeritus) has taken care of the kids of the highlands who suffered from club foot deformities.  His skill with casting and various methods meant most of those kids never needed surgery.  I’ve been able to learn how to do several procedures now for those patients need an operation.  Thanks Andy for asking me to learn how!
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Mentor and Mentee.
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“It takes a village.”  Or a big team on this mission station to make the whole place run.  These are two of our faithful and gifted maintenance staff.  They keep the lights on, the autoclaves running and water in the pipes.  Philip and Kulang represent many others who work tirelessly day in and day out to allow me to minister surgically.
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This couple are two of Jiwaka’s early adopters.  They both benefited from laparoscopic surgery.  She needed her appendix out and he was relieved of his infected gallbladder a few months later. They just missed out on our two for one special.
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Junior here isn’t so sure about his doctor’s sense of humor with the pretend stabbing.  He is recovering well after he fell out of a tree and landed on a stick.  He showed up in the ER with his intestines hanging out and bleeding badly.  This scenario bought him a good old fashioned laparotomy.  Thankfully he lived close by and his mother brought him in quickly.
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We recently reorganized our two sterile stock rooms, our pre-op and recovery area, and the surgical storage in the old hospital that is used for a warehouse.  It was a monumental undertaking but the improvement was so worth it.  It wouldn’t have happened without Sr. Roselyn and Sr. Edna, two of my scrub nurses, who kept the rest of us going and saw the project through.
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Two of our organizational consultants.  From Simeon’s hat it’s apparent that we are in desperate need of disposable and Buckeye scrub caps.
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The organizational project was initiated in preparation for the arrival of Dr. Sheryl Uyeda, our third surgeon. Yeah! I’m not the junior partner anymore!
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Teaching on rounds. 
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Since we don’t have CT scans, MRIs and many other diagnostic options, the ultrasound is a surgeon’s best friend here.  
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For us young surgeons, who grew up with all the tech and toys, its a steep learning curve to master the ultrasound and learn to rely on it.  Thankfully we have a reliable guide to the sonogram 🙂
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Dr. Cindy is one of PNG doctors.  She is part of a Rural residency that we participate in.  We’ve had the privilege in teaching surgery to her and her classmates.  They each come to us for three months of the year their first three years of training.  Cindy is the only doctor at the remote hospital where she works.  Teaching her and her colleagues to become confident with basic surgical and ob/gyn procedures has been incredibly rewarding.  In the near future we hope to expand our teaching and training.  Please pray that the Lord will open the doors for us at Kudjip to help train the next generation of PNG doctors and surgeons.
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The Surgery Ward (C ward) Team.  We couldn’t operate if it wasn’t for the nursing staff and nursing students who care for the patients before and after their operations.
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Katherine’s parents just left after being with us for six weeks.  It was a privilege to have them drop by the OR for a morning during their stay.  If you every want to impress upon your in-laws the need to pray for you, have them drop in on a thoracotomy when you have to take out most of the left lung from a terrible infection and have to control some bad bleeding.
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It was a blessing to have Sheryl operating with me on the difficult lung case I mentioned above.  If it hadn’t been for her help and the Lord’s help, our patient wouldn’t have made it off the table. Our patient continues to recover on the ward and we are grateful for his ongoing improvement.
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When we moved back to this beautiful place that I’ve called home for so many years I didn’t know what the work at the hospital would look like.  It’s been an amazing start to what we feel is a lifelong commitment to this place, this people and this ministry of healing. It’s now a place that we all call home. Katherine and I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family.
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We don’t know exactly where the road ahead will lead but we trust God to guide and provide for our family.  Please pray for open doors to teach young PNG doctors, for supplies and medicines for the hospital and for peace for our staff and patients during the elections here in PNG (July-August).

Matters of the Heart

Being a general surgeon in Papua New Guinea means that some days I do orthopedic surgery, others urologic or gynecologic, and on others, trauma, plastic or burn surgery.  Variety truly is the spice of a surgeon’s life here. One of the more rewarding “surgeons” that I get to be is a pediatric surgeon.

Each week I have the privilege of getting to take care of children who are sick, hurting, and in need of surgical care. This past month seems to have been filled with more sick kids than usual. I wanted to share the stories of two of those children with you. Getting to take care of these small patients has been an incredible privilege.

Simpson is two-and-a-half-year-old boy who is almost the exact age of our second son, Matthias. Simpson came to the hospital short of breath and very sick. His chest x-ray showed an enlarged heart, several times bigger than normal. dsc_0152Based on the history of tuberculosis in his family, he was started on a course of treatment. However, after a couple of days of this his condition worsened. Dr. Erin, one of our family doctors, realized that something other than tuberculosis must be the cause. In the middle of the night he was having difficulty breathing and his blood pressure began dropping. After scanning his heart with the ultrasound, Dr. Erin drained a significant amount of pus from his pericardium (the lining that surrounds the heart). This temporarily relieved the pressure on his heart and allowed his vital signs to improve. The next morning I took him to surgery and did a procedure called a pericardial window to drain and washout the infection surrounding his heart. When we arrived in the OR we found that Simpson had no intravenous access because of the severe swelling from his infection. In the night, Erin had put in a special IV line directly into the marrow of one of his leg bones. Unfortunately, this was no longer working and we struggled to find alternate access. Simpson’s infection was so severe that it had caused a condition called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy (DIC), which was making the veins all over his body fill up with clots. I tried unsuccessfully to put a large IV  in one of the veins in his neck, legs or upper arms.

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Simpson and his family member got to meet Tabea and Naomi.

Dr. Paul Hitchen, a visiting orthopedic surgeon from Australia, was finally able to place another IV in Simpson’s bone and this allowed us to complete the procedure.
Simpson is still in the hospital and has had several setbacks along the way, but we praise God that he will soon be going home.  He’s alive today because of the Lord and thanks to the great team of doctors, nurses and volunteers we have here at Kudjip.

 

Remna is a ten-year-old girl who has been Simpson’s bed neighbor on the surgery ward for the past couple of weeks. Remna was initially admitted to the pediatric ward with fevers and several painful and swollen joints from septic arthritis. Unfortunately, like many of our patients, she had come to the hospital very late and her disease was extensive. Despite being started on multiple antibiotics, her infection spread and she began to have difficulty breathing and, just like Simpson, her blood pressure started to drop.

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This is Remna on the morning after surgery.

On chest x-ray, her heart, like Simpson’s, was enlarged. The ultrasound showed that her heart was struggling to beat because of all the pressure from the fluid. As we were getting ready to start the procedure to drain the fluid around her heart, her heart suddenly stopped beating and we had to begin CPR in order to save her life. I quickly placed a large needle under the edge of her breast bone and withdrew some of the fluid around her heart to relieve the pressure. Fortunately, it was thin, watery fluid and not pus. During CPR I was able to place a drain into the space around the heart that allowed the fluid to come out. The drain removed almost a liter of fluid from around her heart. During the next twenty minutes (which felt more like twenty hours) we continued CPR.

 

In total, Remna was defibrillated four times, but eventually she resumed a normal heart beat and regained a blood pressure. Clearly the hand of the Lord was upon Remna in those moments. The type of drain that we used to remove the fluid from her heart is not something that could be purchased here in Papua New Guinea. However, on the most recent shipment of supplies from Nazarene Hospital Foundation, we received a number of donated pericardial drain kits. This is not coincidence, but rather divine provision!

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Dr. Rebecca (a PNG rural registrar) is reviewing Remna’s case with volunteer orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Paul Hitchen.

When the procedure was complete, we eventually drained the infection from her joints and then prayed that she would wake up. When we checked on her later that evening she was awake, talking, and telling her mother that she was hungry!  Through her recovery she has shown no signs of any brain injury or damage. Remna still needs a lot of prayer and ongoing care. She now has a deep infection in several of her major bones (called osteomyelitis) that will require months of care, and possibly more operations in the future.

 

These two children represent the reward and privilege that I feel it is to care for some of the sick children who arrive at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital. They are a testament to how the Lord provides what we need exactly when we need it. Sometimes he sends the right person to do a procedure or sometimes its a medicine or specialized piece of equipment. These kids also represent the many other stories of children that I haven’t shared. Perhaps some of those stories aren’t as hopeful and unfortunately, in some cases, the families of those children continue to feel the loss of their little ones that we couldn’t save. But in the midst of it all, we know that God provides the hope, grace and comfort that each of our patients needs.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”           – Jesus

 

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I’m grateful for a mentor who models this truth–that while we treat patients and try to do our best, we must rely on Jesus to truly make the difference.

There and Back Again

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Since we’ve only been back in PNG for three months now, now seemed like a good time to share all about our journey home to Kudjip after the birth of the girls and a few things that have happened since. Several weeks before leaving Ohio, we found out that my brother Peter would “get to” travel with us and stay at Kudjip for a few weeks. And in hindsight, we could NOT have done it without him. Or I suppose we would’ve risen to the occasion and figured things out, but it would’ve been ugly. Here we are. All new and fresh and seemingly ready for the hours of work ahead of us. 
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Uncle Peter quickly became a sleeping buddy.
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And a carry-on packer extraordinaire.
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And a toddler wardrobe assistant.
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Back then we still swaddled the girls and it took a good bit of work (and standing and bouncing) to get them to sleep. Aside from a miraculous work of God, I’m not sure how we survived that trip.
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If we ever thought traveling with two young boys was a challenge, we got a WHOLE new taste of “traveling with young children” on this five-flight, 54-hour journey from Ohio to Papua New Guinea. When we took our first trip to PNG with (only) Simeon, I remember reading a lot of blogs about how to make life on an airplane (and in airports) much easier with small children. I was naive back then. But now I could write the blog. Fruit loops, iPads and earplugs. That about covers it. Well, not exactly. Most of you know me far too well to think I’d let the rest fall to chance. I was prepared as prepared could be and even so, we had some absolute meltdowns. But during this fine moment in the Los Angeles airport, we felt like we had conquered the world with our jammies and camping pad.
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And THEN, we moved to the other end of the terminal to wait for our 14-hour flight to Brisbane. And by now, its 2AM for those sweet little bodies and they’ve hit the wall. That is, until an ear-piercingly loud door alarm at our gate started blaring through the entire room. Our (somewhat) peacefully sleeping children were startled awake and restless for the 15 minute ordeal. And then they settled again…and we waited.
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Dr. Mike Noce is a volunteer who was on his way to Kudjip as well and we met up with him in LA. Remember what I said about Uncle Peter and how we couldn’t have done it without him? Well, the same applies to this man (who is a father of six and grandpa to many). Literally, we had JUST met him an hour before this photo and all of a sudden he’s carrying our children, our bags and anything else we could throw on his shoulders. Shortly before we thought our flight was to board, Ben looked over at our gate and saw a young family and someone in a wheelchair being wheeled through the door. Of course, we wanted to be among the first on the plane so we could snag all the overhead space and get sufficiently settled. After seeing those early boarders we realized we’d better load up and make our way to the gate. We carefully pick up sleeping children (two of which are babies already strapped to our chests) and balance our 10 carry-ons on any remaining limbs. We were a sight. We lumbered up to the gate and told the kind attendant that we were ready to board early with the other young family. And she sweetly replied, “Oh, its not time for boarding yet, but we’ll make an announcement when that time comes.” And I’m thinking, “Really? How is that possible? Could you graciously have mercy on our sorry souls and please let us on that plane?” So, we did the only thing we could. We dragged ourselves back to our seats, now with a deliriously awake 4-year-old who all-of-a-sudden starts crying (loudly) about his legs hurting and how I (since I’m holding all 42 pound of him at this point) should simultaneously hold both of his socked-feet while massaging his left calf in the process. Did I mention he was delirious? Like, night-terror delirious. He was absolutely inconsolable and hardly knew where he was. There wasn’t a comforting word or deed that I could do to calm him. His volume and requests only escalated. All 250 pairs of eyes were on us at this point. I asked the Lord for divine help in that moment. And several minutes later I was finally able to awaken Simeon enough for him to be distractible. And finally, after about 20 minutes, he fell asleep on my lap. Just in time for the door alarm to sound again.
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When we FINALLY arrived in Port Moresby with only a one-hour flight to finish our long journey, we were all exhausted. With tremendous help from a couple of immigration employees we transferred all 15 of our checked bags to the domestic terminal and quickly got our boarding passes because our layover was short and we knew we’d cut it close. We finally found ourselves in the humid 85 degree domestic terminal which was packed with passengers awaiting the last flights of the day as it was now 3 PM. We waited, paced, dripped sweat, tried our hardest to keep two deliriously exhausted boys as comfortable as possible and then we waited some more. After over an hour of delay with no word about our flight and after hearing the PA announcement of three other cancelled flights we began to worry. Sure enough, when we had reached our peak frustration and exhaustion level, we heard the dreaded words. Our flight was cancelled. To put it mildly, Simeon was a basket case when he found out. Really he was just expressing exactly what the rest of us were feeling in his own four-year-old fashion. The boy SO desperately wanted to be home and now we had to sleep in a hotel and do this all over again tomorrow. “No! I am NOT going to sleep in a hotel. No, No, No!” Over and over. There was no consoling him and frankly we all felt the same! But I donned a smile and faked a good attitude to try to encourage him that it wouldn’t be so bad and we’d all be together. We received our hotel and meal vouchers and lugged all of that baggage to the door where we’d wait for our shuttle. There was a small (lightly) air conditioned room next to the exit where we settled for a bit. Simeon was still a mess, crying and so upset. There were a handful of other passengers waiting there and this sweet lady noticed Simeon, got up from her seat and walked toward him. She stretched out her arms to him and said, “Come.” He (oh so surprisingly) lifted his tired arms to her and she hoisted all 43 pounds of him to her chest where he seemed to just absolutely relax in a way he couldn’t up to that point. He stayed there for some time before finally falling asleep in my lap. Every bit of it was beautiful.

 

 

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This is the only photo that I took once we found out that our flight out of Port Moresby had been cancelled. We got all of us and our luggage safely to the hotel. [This just HAPPENED to be the same day as some big riots and a couple of shootings at the University.] But, we neither heard nor saw anything concerning. We were safely tucked away in the Holiday Inn for the night. The boys were asleep on the beds instantly (only to be awakened a couple of hours later for a bath to wash off the layers of sweat and airport floor filth). But they slept the rest of the night until our 5 AM wake up call. This is us outside of the hotel waiting for the second 15-passenger van that would be our ride to the airport. We were all rested, clean and ready to be HOME! 
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And in the midst of all of the chaos, I was reminded that this is Peter’s very first time to visit Papua New Guinea. I realized how excited I was for him to see this place that we love. We had a REALLY happy welcoming committee! 
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And, you must remember that this is the very first time for Grandma Kathy and Grandpops Jim to meet their grandgirls in person. Wasn’t it nice of us to have a baby for each of them?!
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The seating arrangements for our 1-hour drive to Kudjip were prearranged…perhaps as far back as the day these girls were born.
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This is entry gate to the hospital and mission station. That building on the right is the hospital.  We were greeted by beautiful decorations and a lot of happy faces!
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Generally Grandma and Grandpops live about a quarter of a mile from our house, but since their home was being remodeled when we returned, they were actually living right next door. Grandpops found this especially convenient for some early morning baby snuggles. 
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I knew that when we returned to Kudjip there would be MANY helping hands. We’ve been loved in so very many ways since coming back. But I think my favorite thing is when one of our Kudjip family members takes the time to invest in our children. Emma Goossens is one of the younger examples of this! This precious young lady came to our home MANY afternoons during her summer to play with the kids and help me around the house.  
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As much as possible we attempt to get out of the house. Its a challenge sometimes, but very worth it. And if there are sports involved for Ben and the boys, its even better!
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This was our first Sunday morning walk to church. Or at least half of us are walking. 
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With Uncle Peter often comes a good art lesson or two. 
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A few weeks after our return these lovely ladies organized a baby shower in honor of Tabea and Naomi. 
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If any of you ladies ever organize a baby shower, do THIS! It changed my life in our first couple of months adjusting to life with four children here (let alone, twins!).  
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Baby shower attire. 
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Before we knew it, Peter’s three weeks were all spent and he was headed back to the States. I love it that he knows this place now. And that he’ll definitely come back!
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At the end of June, a work and witness team from Xenia Nazarene came to Kudjip. It was so fun to have Uncle Mike and Aunt Becky Hancock here along with the rest of the team. Their project during their 10 days was to work on Jim and Kathy Radcliffe’s home remodel. It was a complete gut job, so this group had their work cut out for them!
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Tabea will smile at most anything. But one of her favorites is definitely Naomi.
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Some of our dear missionary friends moved back to the States while we were away and they gave us their amazing popcorn machine. Thank you, Mike and Diane! To this day it has provided lots of entertainment. 
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Did I mention that Emma does dishes?!  She does and its amazing. 
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I tried to picture life back at Kudjip with the boys AND their new sisters. And everytime I imagined life here (at least in my dreams) it always included our Papua New Guinean friends. We had always had some help around the house, but I knew I’d need a LOT more help and probably on a daily basis. Joy has been one of the answers to my prayers about this. She loves and cares for all of us so well.  
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This is the Xenia team and lots of their national friends who helped with the house. 
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While Mom, Dad and Aunt Lydia were gone to take part in Priscilla and Wyatt’s wedding in Ohio, lots of folks here stepped up and filled in. We’ve had so many people in and out of our home now that anytime someone comes to our door, Matthias greets them, takes their hand and says, “Come in. Sit down.” And almost daily Simeon asks who our company will be! Aunt Judy and Uncle Andy Bennett brought us dinner once a week and Judy was a surrogate Grandma for a few weeks. 
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Ben’s sister Priscilla married Wyatt Mills on July 8th!  My sister-in-law, Bethany, texted me this photo that day and it made me so happy and sad all at the same time. We knew we needed to be here for the surgical ministry at the hospital to continue, but it was so difficult to miss a family wedding.
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But thank goodness for technology, because it allowed us (and some missionary friends) to watch the wedding LIVE!
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Like I said, we get out as much as we can. And this double stroller is pretty much the only way it can happen. 
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Here’s a diaper changing technique I’d never tried before.  
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We were REALLY glad when the container with some of our “twin” things arrived, including a second crib and these high chairs.
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Here’s the outside of Jim and Kathy’s house with a new coat of pain and some beautiful kwila doors. The inside is just as great.
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I have this photo to document the one (and only) time we’ve all ventured out since our return. We took a “quick” trip to town for some shopping and lunch at one of the few restaurants we have here. 
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Matthias had an outbreak of bug bites for a few days before we decided to undress the bunkbeds and wash and spray the mattresses. In the meantime, their room looked like this. 
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Joy was singing a song about blue eyes and brown eyes.  
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Frequently, Matthias wants to be a part of the sister photo shoots. 
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Matthias has adjusted well to the bottom bunk. He was still sleeping in a crib until we came home this time. I suppose his cars and trucks would be quite the deterrent to rolling out of bed!
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We’re enjoying life now that we’re settled and into a good routine. These four sweet children keep us so busy and so entertained. 
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Lately we’ve had a couple of opportunities that have reminded us why we’re here. Sharing Christ with those who enter the walls of our hospital is one of the greatest privileges of our lives. We’re thankful for the example of Dr. Jim and for the many years that he has given to serve the Lord here. 
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And what’s the end of a blog post without the latest and greatest photo of the girls??  Future posts are almost guaranteed to be shorter, but now you’re all caught up. And, if you want to stay in touch on a daily basis, feel free to find me (Katherine Stevens Radcliffe) on Facebook or (katherineradcliffe) on Instagram. 

 

 

Stateside

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Flashback to August 8, 2015 when we sneaked into the hospital here at Kudjip to do an ultrasound (since I’d known I was pregnant for about 3 weeks at that point). To our GREAT surprise we discovered TWO tiny babies growing in there, each with a perfect heartbeat and measuring 7-weeks size. After weeks of thinking and praying and receiving good counsel from our fellow physicians here, we decided to return to Ohio for the delivery of the babies. We wanted to stay through Christmas and enjoy that time with the entire immediate Radcliffe family who travelled great distances to be together at Kudjip. So, at 28 weeks along, we packed up our family for the five months we’d spend Stateside.
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On January 6th we began our long journey back to the States where we would wait for the birth of the twins. Here we sat in the departure lounge of the airport in Mount Hagen, PNG. AND, we got to enjoy the first two legs of our journey with Uncle Josiah and his girlfriend, Sarah, who were returning to the States after spending Christmas with the entire Radcliffe crew in PNG.
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Several days before departing PNG I started to experience some painful contractions which required me to take it REALLY easy and not do any heavy-lifting. We decided at the last minute that we’d need lots more help on the flights home and we recruited Aunt Cilla to join us. She was an absolute gift to us and kept us from missing at least one flight!
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It took 5 planes and an overnight stop in Brisbane, Australia to get us home to Ohio, so you can imagine how excited this 28-weeks-pregnant-with-twins mama was when several of our flights had room to stretch out a bit.
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After a fairly restful and uneventful overnight in Brisbane, we managed the short flight to Sydney before boarding our Airbus A380 (the world’s largest passenger airliner) for the 15 hour flight to Dallas. It never takes long for our boys to get acquainted with the technology on board. Oh, and you can’t tell from this photo, but there is actually NO SEAT in front of me. That’s right. I paid about a hundred bucks to upgrade to the one and only seat like this on the plane (its the spot for the emergency hatch to the crew cabin below). And it might just  be the best money I’ve ever spent on airline travel. 
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After arriving in Dallas with only a matter of minutes to run to our connecting flight to Columbus, Ohio, we arrived breathless at the gate only to discover the flight had just departed. So our 6pm flight was changed to a 9pm flight and after some McDonald’s, sponge baths and clean jammies, we were the first to board the small, almost-empty plane. And the very kind and conscientous pilot must have noticed our kids were on their last leg (ha!) and offered for them to sit in the cockpit. Excitement abounded!
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We didn’t arrive to snow-covered ground, but shortly after our arrival the boys experienced some of the white stuff for the first time in awhile. And since we lived with Grandma and Grandpa Stevens for our 5 months in Ohio, we enjoyed all the perks of their home and yard, including the fire pit!
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Another beloved activity for the boys was to accompany us to ANY store in order to peruse the toy department. And (almost) always, they knew they would only get to LOOK, but they were totally okay with that. On a good day we’d spend 30-40 minutes literally looking at the two aisles of wheeled vehicles.
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And with a trip to Mount Vernon comes a good bit of time at real, bonafide playgrounds.
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This was the last photo taken of my growing belly before the babies came a week later.
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Sunday, February 7th was Super Bowl Sunday. It was that day and the few days prior that I began to experience left side pain that felt very familiar. I had a history of kidney stones when I was pregnant with Simeon, so I was quite certain what was causing my pain. But I also knew that I was only 33 weeks along and we wanted the babies to stay put as long as possible. We were in Mount Vernon, but it didn’t take us long to determine we’d need to make the one-hour drive to Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus where Ben did his surgery training and where we planned to deliver the babies. I was evaluated in triage of the OB department and since I was contracting a fair bit by the time we arrived, they decided to admit me for observation. It turned out that I had multiple kidney stones in both kidneys and passing a stone was indeed the reason for my premature labor. We realized pretty quickly the next afternoon on February 8th that we wouldn’t be able to stop my labor. As is typical with twin deliveries, when we knew delivery was inevitable, I was moved to the OR in case there was a need for an emergent c-section (although both babies were head down and I was planning to attempt a natural delivery). After only a few pushes, at 9:55 pm, we found out that the first baby was a GIRL! After months of anticipation of their genders, we were thrilled to finally meet Tabea Betsy Radcliffe. She weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces and required no major interventions after birth. We were praising the Lord as Ben texted and called a few family members quickly to give them the news. But then…on to Baby B! The resident quickly put the ultrasound on my abdomen to find that Baby B had flipped to a breech position. This led to about 10 minutes of attempts by my (very seasoned) physician to turn baby in order for me to attempt a vaginal delivery. Once it was determined that this baby was not turning, the OB/GYN was planning for a breech vaginal delivery until he realized that the baby’s umbilical cord was blocking the birth canal and a delivery at this point would be life-threatening to the baby.
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So, we quickly determined to prepare for a c-section. I was transferred to the OR table, drapes and lights were positioned, and while everything was being prepared, I got to get a good look at Tabea for the first time. And then at 10:15 pm, we found out that Baby B was a GIRL too! I don’t think we ever dreamed that both were girls, but we were overjoyed when we found out.
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Naomi Katherine Radcliffe weighed 4 pounds, 7 ounces and was perfect as could be! She needed some CPAP to help keep her airways open a bit after delivery, but by the next day she was weaned from the CPAP and continued to do so well. I remember asking Ben shortly after they were born whether or not the girls were identical. And he replied that they definitely did NOT look alike! We were prepared for the fact that since the girls were 7 weeks premature they’d go directly to the NICU after they were born.
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After my c-section and short recovery, I was wheeled to the NICU where I got to visit the girls briefly before getting settled into the postpartum room.
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Since it was flu season in Ohio, there were strict limits on visitor to the NICU. We could list only four visitors for the entirety of the girls’ stay in the NICU and no children were ever allowed to visit during flu season. So, the boys came to see Mama, but didn’t meet their sisters in person for another 4 weeks.
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On Day 2 of life, Tabea had a rare few moments without any cords or tubes connected to her before her nasogastric tube and IV were replaced.
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After Naomi’s CPAP mask was removed, we enjoyed seeing more of her face too.
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Simeon and Matthias drove the hour with Daddy to the hospital on Valentine’s Day for lunch, a visit, and to make cards for their sisters.
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These were the finished Valentine cards for the littlest Valentines!
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We were only missing the two big brothers here!  This was one of the last photos in the main NICU before we were moved to C Room where we spent the remaining weeks. C Room is generally for babies that are just learning to eat and grow.
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Years ago the nurses in the NICU would c0-sleep twins. Modern day medicine has changed this, but there were a few nurses who encouraged us to put them together for a bit each day and it was so fun. The girls are 20 days old here and clearly they remembered each other from the womb. They were quick to snuggle up and no part of this photo was staged.
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There is something incredibly special about twins. I think I was aware of it before we knew we would have our own, but living each day with them for these six months has been a special (and most challenging) gift.
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I woke up this morning and drove to the NICU as I did each day before. I had a routine by now, since I’d done this for 24 days in a row. I arrived in time for the 8 am “care” each day. The nurse and I would tag-team taking vitals, changing diapers, adjusting bed positions, baths on Wednesdays and then feeding. I was allowed to nurse the girls during 4 of the 8 cares each day. So, I spent the entire day with them in order to give them the best shot at successfully breastfeeding. By suppertime I was exhausted and made my way to one of the two homes provided for us to stay during our time in Columbus. I attempted to eat 3,000 calories a day and drink 120 ounces of water in order to maintain my milk production. It was absolutely a full-time job, but as it turned out, probably the only way that I was able to do this was because the girls were in the NICU for 4 weeks and the boys were being cared for by Ben and my parents in Mount Vernon. Anyway, on this particular day, I was anticipating that Tabea (pictured here) would be discharged as the previous day’s doctor had informed us. But as we’d experienced twice before, there was a new (more conservative) doc on this day and she decided she wanted to see Tabea have more consistent weight gain before discharging her. I was so incredibly frustrated and disappointed. I had been so patient and diligent each day, but I had reached my limit. I called Ben right away and explained it all through tears. I felt alone. He encouraged me to drive to Mount Vernon that evening after the last care and spend the night with the rest of the family. He gave such wise counsel. I went to our “home away from home” shortly after the phone call and got an overnight bag ready for my trip later that day. But as the lunch hour progressed, I found that I was having some increasing abdominal pain. It was not the typical pain that I will sometimes experience related to my Crohn’s Disease, but I was uncomfortable enough that I decided to just drive on to Mount Vernon then (knowing the nurses had plenty of frozen breast milk for the girls). The discomfort progressed to pain as I pulled into my parents’ driveway. I was greeted by two very happy boys, but I immediately had to try to get comfortable on the couch. After pumping some milk and writhing around due to the ever-increasing pain, I called Ben in to help assess me. I was starting to feel as though this pain was similar to the pain I experienced with the bowel obstruction I’d had in 2010 when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. We quickly decided that I’d need to return to Riverside (where my surgeon practices) and go to the emergency room. After a very sad goodbye to two boys I’d only seen three times in the last month, I proceeded to experience the absolute worst one-hour car ride I’ve ever experienced in my life. Increasing pain came in waves every 20-30 seconds. We finally reached the ER and since Ben had called ahead to some of his previous colleagues, I was literally in an ER bed with an IV and pain medication in a matter of minutes. And then I was on to the CT scan that indeed revealed a bowel obstruction that would require emergent surgery. My surgeon happened to be on call that night and I believe in record time I was in pre-op, on the OR table, and then in PACU before I hardly could take it all in. Of course, we were worried all along about the worst possible scenario being a Crohn’s flare. All that I remember from my post-operative time in the PACU was Dr. Toscano coming to the bedside once I was barely awake and informing me that he did everything laparoscopically because the closed-loop could simply be “untwisted” to relieve the obstruction AND he scanned the entire bowel to discover there was NO evidence of active Crohn’s Disease. Never had more reassuring words been spoken! A loop of bowel had been twisted around one solitary piece of scar tissue from my previous surgery and once the babies were delivered, the anatomy shifted enough for this to occur. We were praising the Lord that He knew just where we needed to be during this time, with access to a CT scan, my surgeon, good medications and a laparoscopic procedure. AND, can you imagine if Tabea had been discharged that morning as planned and we’d taken her home?!  The girls were still safely tucked away in the NICU and the boys with my parents.
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This was my post-op room where I spent two night before being discharged in record time!
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It was an incredible gift to be in the same hospital where the girls were. The day after surgery Ben wheeled me to the NICU where I received the BEST medicine.
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Ben’s shirt says it all!
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Four days later, and after 28 total days in the NICU, we FINALLY got to go home and introduce these sweet bundles to their family!
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My brother, and our kids’ beloved Uncle Peter, had never held ONE baby this small, let alone TWO!!
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And so the visiting commenced! Ben’s sister, Bekah, and her family were in town because of their daughter Sylvia’s open-heart surgery at the children’s hospital in Columbus. So we had the privilege of introducing them to the girls. We have some pictures like this of them with their identical twin girls, Dora and Sylvia, 6 years earlier! (They reminded us that they forget a LOT about those early days.)
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And the fun continued for these boys as we explored a nearby “real” train!
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Every once in awhile Tabea got really blessed in her sleep.
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We had the privilege of getting some family photos on the girls’ due date, March 26th. Ben’s cousin’s new wife, Larisa Radcliffe, is a gifted photographer and helped to capture the look and feel of these girls at 7 weeks of age.
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Every bit of this journey has been a team…or perhaps a VILLAGE effort. But if I, for one second, thought that I could have done this without Ben by my side I’d be lying to us all. We would easily classify the first 8 weeks home with these girls as the most difficult of our married lives. But with great tribulation comes the greatest blessing. I know for certain that we’ll forget the hardships, the never-ending diapers and spit-up, the constant holding and bouncing and consoling, and the utter exhaustion. But as we often remind each other, good things are still coming!
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There’s hardly a caption worthy of this photo.
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And Grandma Betsy has THE greatest playroom. Its so great that when we FaceTime from PNG these days, the boys ask to see the play room and all the toys.
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Without fail, when one of the girls was just inconsolable, my dad would say, “Let me try.” He’d prop her against his chest like this, holding the pacifier with his left hand and he would often bounce straight up and down very gently while singing a medley of songs, which always included, but was not limited to…Oh Happy Day, Precious Name and Battle Hymn of the Republic. And without fail, in 5, 10 or 30 minutes, she’d finally calm. He was always available and always persistent.
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We never planned to be back Stateside after 11 months in PNG, but one of the blessings of those five months was getting to spend time with my brother Adam and his three children. Cousins are a special thing.
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I’ll never forget when Simeon was about 5 months old and I was preparing to finish up the last months of my family medicine residency. I asked around at church if there was anyone that might be willing to watch him. I was given the name Sue Noll. And here we are 4 years later and she is one of our VERY favorites. She and her husband gave us their home to use during part of our NICU time and then she drove from Columbus to Mount Vernon twice after we were home to help hold babies, play with boys, and bring us delicious food.
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To this day, Simeon has held the girls only maybe a handful of times. He’s a firstborn with high expectations of himself and he admits that it makes him nervous. But, boy oh boy is he sweet with his sisters. It took him a good two months at home before he really was confident identifying them properly (despite the fact that they look VERY different), but he’d find a toy and sit next to them, often saying in the highest pitch possible, “They’re so cute!”
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Matthias, on the other hand, asked frequently to hold “twooo bobby”!
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We train them young to love cars. At least that’s what Matthias thinks!
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We wore the girls a good bit in the first weeks. This was mostly because it was absolutely necessary if we wanted to do things like say, make supper or go on a walk.
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We celebrated a lot of birthdays in Ohio this year. Matthias turned TWO. And when you have an almost four-year-old brother you’re bound to have some help opening gifts.
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The girls were given a BEAUTIFUL shower by dear friends Karen Doenges, Ami Workman, Steph Diehlmann and Sonja Smith. Great Grandma Beam got a kick out of trying to hold two babies at once!
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Whit’s Frozen Custard opened while we were home too. We didn’t enjoy it one single bit.
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Goldfish and cars are close-at-hand when Matthias is on baby duty.
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My older sister and I shared the joys of pregnancy at the same time. We were due just 3 weeks apart and here after delivering Lola Rae just two weeks earlier, she and her husband drove 7 hours to be with us before we returned to PNG.
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Behind the scenes of a “triplet” photo shoot!  Tabea (L), Lola, and Naomi (R)
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We had a coordinated visit with the EIGHT Stevens cousins. It only took about 65 shots and 22 Tic-Tacs to make this photo happen.
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These girls were swaddled until they were 5 months old. And this was not an unusual place to find Ben.
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We squeezed in a trip to Xenia with all four kids so we could visit with Great Grandma Beam and the rest of the family there. And her new kittens, of course.
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Simeon turned FOUR on May 30th and we celebrated with a Paw Patrol cake with all the family!
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And hardly a birthday would be complete without an ALL-FAMILY water balloon fight. Adam didn’t last long in that hammock.
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When Grandma Betsy left for 10 days to be with Sarah, David and their new baby Lola in Virginia, we hardly knew what to do with ourselves! She was the constant cuddler, consoler and comic relief. Tabea seems to agree, I’d say.
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Another day. Another playground. Aunt Bethany and Baby Betsy joined in on the fun!
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We loved being in the same town with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Radcliffe. And Great Grandma took every chance she could to hold these girls. We made some sweet memories.
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Naomi (L) and Tabea (R) turned four-months-old just before we left the States for PNG.
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It takes a good bit of work to take a family photo these days, but I say its worth every fuss and holler. Stay tuned for a photo tour of our return to PNG and all that’s happened since!

A Day in Pictures

I’ve been meaning to get this post up for over a month now but haven’t been able to get around to it.  What follows is a collection of photos from one Monday at the hospital.  This was a busy day that included forty-nine patients in the clinic, three minor procedures and two major surgeries.  Thanks to our amazing staff and my doctor colleagues I still made it home in time to play with my boys.

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Monday mornings start at the Chapel with Morning Report
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The chapel is one of the original build and stands at the center of the hospital grounds.
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Chaplain Moses leads the staff in a devotional thought to start the week.

After morning report I head for the pediatric and medical wards to see consults and then to the surgery ward to round.  As I’m starting rounds we find out there is a cesarean section that needs to be done before I start seeing clinic patients.

The operating theatre staff (yes, the British colonial influence lives on) had the patient ready and mother and baby were soon headed back to labour and delivery safe and sound.  I couldn’t do what I do without such committed, caring and compassionate co-workers.

With the case done we all head for the surgery clinic to get started, a little late but all the patients are still there waiting.  Walking through the ER on the way I find Dr. Bill and Dr. Erin  stopping the bleeding from a patients arm who had been assaulted with a machete.  Looks like I have another case for a little later.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent bouncing between the clinic and the minor procedure room.  Later in the afternoon we head to the Operating Theatre to finish patching up the man from the ER.  During the case the skies open up with a downpour, it’s finally raining in PNG again!!.  The afternoon rains also serve another purpose, they cool of the OR.

I take one last look at the ER door through the trees as I make the turn for home, hoping I don’t get called tonight. On the walk home I enjoy the views and the smell of a rainy PNG highlands afternoon. I’m almost home when I hear, “Daddy!” and see Simeon sprinting up the road towards me. It’s now a very good day. I’m grateful that we are here.