2 April 2000
Safe Arrival at KRCH
Greetings from the Kwai River Christian Hospital in Huay Malai, Thailand! After about 30 hours of flying with stops in L.A. and Tokyo we very much welcomed the two days we had in Bangkok to recover before making the day-long journey to Huay Malai. On our second day we were especially surprised to run in to Dr. McDaniel in the hallway of the Bangkok Christian Guest House where we were staying. When we met him, he was just arriving from his day-long drive from the hospital. It turned out that he was able to coordinate a supply-gathering trip to Bangkok with our arrival so that we could travel to KRCH with him in the air-conditioned hospital truck instead of the HOT public transportation. It turned out to be more of a blessing than we ever could have imagined, because about half-way there a horrendous rain storm started, so that by the time we reached the dirt road, it was treacherous mud and none of the public transportation was making it through.
We're pretty well settled into our apartment. We are actually very fortunate because they've given us the apartment of a full-time missionary who is home on furlough. The reason it is so great is because it has two ceiling fans and a hot water heater (you wouldn't think that you'd want hot water in heat like this, but no matter how hot it is, a cold shower early in the morning is always a bit rough). We have a helper named Suratt who cooks our lunch and dinner each day and another helper who hand-washes and irons our laundry (she also does the McDaniel's laundry). We feel a bit guilty being waited on like this, but we understand that the nationals would consider it very selfish of a "farang" (foreigner) to not employ a local when they certainly have the means to do so (all of our "room and board" costs less than $10 a day in total for both of us!). It is our understanding that Suratt is the helper for the missionary who is on furlough, so she is happy to have someone else to continue her employment. She speaks Thai and Karen, one of the tribal languages around here, but no English. So all of our communication with her is through body language!
I (Eric) am enjoying my work at the hospital. In the morning I see patients on my own with a translator. I've been doing pretty well except for my evaluation of the mission school's headmaster. I was ready to send him home with a diagnosis of viral upper respiratory infection (i.e., a cold) when in fact he had both vivax and falciparum malaria. Thank goodness, everyone who walks through the door here and even whispers the word "fever" automatically gets a blood test for malaria! Yesterday I delivered a baby on my own for the first time--well, on my own until I realized that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, and I let the nurse-midwife take over and called for help. Everything went fine--we just clamped and cut the cord while the baby's torso was still in the mother and then delivered the rest of the baby quite quickly. The Thai people make the most unusual sounds in the delivery room. The laboring mother is expected to moan very loudly, and the family and nurse-midwives all scream this high-pitched battle-cry-like sound during contractions (sort of an "Iey, Iey, Iey!"). Since I've been here, Dr. McD and I have done 2 hernia repairs and a pelvic tumor removal. There is another medical student here right now named Lucy. She is about 5 years through her 6-year course in England at Cambridge (they start right out of high school without a bachelor's degree). She does not seem to be very interested in surgery so when there are cases in the O.R., she prefers to manage the outpatients in the clinic while I help with the surgery. It seems to be working out very well for both of us.
Jennifier has worked with Melodie, the McD's daughter with developmental disabilities, for three days now. Each day she directs Melodie through a series of mental and physical exercises to help her development. The additional big project that Jenn is taking on is to teach Melodie to ride a bike. Tomorrow Jenn is accompanying Dr. McD and Victoria (a missionary from Sweden) to Sangkla (the nearest town, about an hour away) for the day to shop for a bike for Melodie and run some other errands.
Today (Sunday) we went to church for the first time here. The service lasted 2 and 1/2 hours. Parts of the service were translated from Thai into both Karen and Burmese, but not into English, so we were pretty much in the dark except for the summary translations that Dr. McD writes down for us. After church, Jenn and I drove the hospital truck to Sangkla to buy a whole bunch of Coke, Sprite, etc. It was nice to spend some time alone and also some time in air conditioning. Thank you to everyone who has sent us e-mail. We hope that you'll understand that we won't be able to respond to everyone because the one computer with access to the internet is in the McDaniels' house, and we want to respect their privacy as much as possible.
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