Sunday, September 4, 2011

Moving forward

It's been 3 weeks now since the attempted Sugarland concert and I've got some great news to report- Andrea, the woman we took care of, has left the hospital. She is now in a rehab facility and has a long road ahead of her, but the fact that she is doing as well as she is is a miracle. The neurosurgeons told her family that she had a matter of a few minutes between her living and dying when she arrived. To God be the glory! I have met with her family on multiple occasions and can truly say that they are incredible people. You can read more about them and follow Andrea's progress here. I know that we will stay in touch with them and we are looking forward to the day when we can really meet Andrea.

Kerwyn and I are both in much better places now than we were a couple of weeks ago. To say I was shaken up by the whole experience would be an understatement. All the trauma surgery training in the world can't prepare someone to be in the midst of all of that chaos and tragedy and to not be affected. I would be more concerned if I wasn't so affected by the incredible loss of life and health that the collapse inflicted. There are images and video reels that are seared in my mind and that I'm sure I'll never forget. I met with a counselor through IU Health to talk it out once which was moderately helpful. After my residency director got word of my involvement I had a mandated couple of days off which really helped me to get some space to rest a little and reflect and pray.

All in all, we're moving on and talking about things related to that night far less. I'm sleeping like a rock (thanks mostly to being on night shift for the month) and while my concern for Andrea and the others hasn't lessened, I am choosing to internalize it less because it's just not healthy. I feel immensely blessed to be equipped to be of some help in these situations. It has definitely further solidified my love for medicine. Tyler, Andrea's brother, posted about us on her blog and said, "We're never more like Jesus than when we're rescuing others." I love that and will definitely take that thought with me as I continue my training.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just another day

I'm going to type all this as a sort of therapy for me so bear with me here. It's been a traumatic couple of weeks.

Times in the OR have been abnormally intense for a couple of weeks. I felt like I was beginning to bounce back from it and was excited for my day off with Kerwyn to go on a date. Our plans included dinner at St Elmos steakhouse followed by the state fair. One of my staff had convinced me that we should go to the Sugarland concert (he had already given his 6th row tickets to someone else) and so we bought tickets after the opening act was over and walked into the grandstand. We got comfortable and were excited for the show. We noticed some lightning in the distance which was news to us since we had no idea a storm was coming. We were kind of excited for a great concert and a fun lightning show in front of us. Someone in front of us showed us their smartphone weather radar which made me a little concerned but someone came on stage and explained that the show would continue and that they would let us know if we needed to evacuate.

Just a couple of minutes later an erie wind picked up and sent dirt flying everywhere. Before we could even react the tarp blew off the set and seconds later the whole stage collapsed. It was terrifying. I was afraid it was a tornado and that the grandstand would be coming down next and wanted to get out of there. Kerwyn had a different plan and pinned me to the bleachers so we didn't get blown away or trampled. He told me to start praying and so I sent a desperate plea to God to get us out of there. It was chaos with people screaming and crying and scrambling for cover all around. A long 30 seconds or so later I convinced Kerwyn that we needed to get off the bleachers. We climbed over bleachers to avoid the crowd on the stairs all the way down and ran onto the track to help.

There was an oddly clear path for us to the far end of the stage from where we were sitting so we just ran up there to see how we could help. En route someone threw a paramedic bag at us which I really think was divine intervention. We came to one girl with her cheek ripped off but otherwise ok so we moved on to another girl who was unconscious. We assessed her and got out a bag/mask device and began breathing for her. She had a pulse but was unresponsive. We just stayed with her while others came to help as well. The stage structure was clearly still unstable and people were moving it trying to get people out from under it. It was terrifying. Someone else held a tarp over us so our patient wasn't drenched and hypothermic in the process. We used some chairs as a makeshift stretcher and carried her out to where the ambulances were supposed to be coming. We saw a couple of dead bodies in the process and lots of other seriously injured people. It felt like forever before the first ambulance showed up.

Kerwyn fought and got us on one of the first ambulances with another sick patient. We rode in breathing for her all the way to Methodist. Once there I quickly informed the trauma team (my fellow residents and staff) that there were tons more that would be coming and more resources were quickly mobilized. Kerwyn stayed and helped keep ambulances moving through quickly and I took care of several of the other trauma patients.

It was amazing to see how everyone pulled together. I did some quick procedures that helped stabilize a couple of patients and then helped keep people moving through the ED with countless neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery consults. Our initial patient was the first one whisked back to the OR with the neurosurgeons.

Today I got to meet her family who were so relieved to meet one of the people who took care of their daughter/wife/mom/friend. It was really emotional as they just thanked me profusely and realized the miracle it was that God put Kerwyn and I there to help get her quickly to the ED and off to surgery. The neurosurgeons said she got to the ED just in the nick of time. I'm not sure what her outcome will eventually be but I'll keep a close eye on her and spend more time visiting with this family that I have an instant bond with.

I am so thankful for my medical training in instances like this. We had several other doctors come up and offer to help and every patient there had multiple trained medical personnel with them. It was incredible but awful. There was something neat about taking care of a patient with Kerwyn and experiencing what it is like to try and get anything done while the ambulance is careening around the city. It has been amazing to reflect on the whole experience and realize how it all lined up perfectly for us to even be at the concert and to be equipped to care for this one girl and quickly get her to the hospital.

I've been thinking about the Mother Theresa quote, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." While I'm ok without all this action I pray God continues to bless me with opportunities to reach out to others in whatever form that takes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Duncan Hospital

The main place we wanted to visit in India was Duncan Hospital. It is part of the Emmanuel Hospital Association network which is a Christian organization that has lots of hospitals throughout northern India and is led by Indians and staffed by I would guess 98% Indians at least. Most of the doctors are from southern India which has a much higher concentration of Christians than the north. They are as much missionaries as I would be in the sense that most are thousands of miles from their families and their children are in boarding schools equally far away. They get a few western physicians that come for a while, but their focus is on equipping Indians to serve Indians. I love the organization and have huge respect for the work they're doing. Duncan Hospital is the largest of EHA's hospitals. They have 2 fulltime surgeons whom we spent most of our time with. Dr Sunil (in picture below) is the senior surgeon and heads up the medical aspects of the hospital. The other surgeon is a female- Dr Minee or something like that- I never actually saw her name printed but everyone called her "Mini".

We were amazed at how much time they spent with us while we were there. Kerwyn and I basically hung out with the surgeons everyday and had some really neat conversations along the way. We went into the trip wanting to explore further how we could best serve the people of India specifically with my training in surgery and the staff there seemed to understand this. It became clear to us that they really don't need another surgeon here- not to say that there isn't the need for surgeons in other parts of India or the world, but not here.

What they seemed most interested in was bouncing ideas off of me and seeing how we do things in the US. They are not as advanced as we are with laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery) and really wanted me to teach them how to do some bigger surgeries laparoscopically. Unfortunately for them, I am rusty after a year off and don't have a strong liking for laparoscopic surgery. Either way, it gave me motivation to care more about laparoscopic surgery knowing that I could take these skills overseas and train other surgeons in them. It blows my mind to realize I've already done as much or more laparoscopic surgery than their most senior surgeon and I'm only through 2 years of my surgical training.

Through several conversations we got varying views on how the west could best come alongside them. They all acknowledged the barriers to westerners really being effective in a missionary capacity compared to native Indians. One physician said, "Jesus didn't ask who would pay but who would go" which was definitely food for thought. Other than that physician the others seemed to suggest us adopting more of a supporting role in what they are doing- pray for them, send money, come for shorter terms and teach them different techniques, watch for equipment hospitals are getting rid of as they upgrade and send it to their hospitals.... It was amazing as they showed us around how much of their equipment that allows them to do what they do was donated from overseas- for example, all of their laparoscopic equipment was sent when a hospital in Germany or somewhere was upgrading their equipment. I had never thought that big before- that I could help them get valuable equipment that our hospitals would probably just dispose of that would enable them to provide a higher level of care than before its arrival.

So all in all, we had a fantastic time with them. They would love to have others visit so let me know if you ever want to go and I'll give you their contact information. I have no doubt that we will visit Duncan Hospital and hopefully many of their other hospitals when I finish my training and have much more surgical experience and skill to offer. When and where we go and for how long are up to God but we're certainly enjoying the journey and open to wherever God leads.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Trip Recap

We got back last Sunday from our whirlwind world tour. We had a blast and did surprisingly well with all the flights, trains, long car rides, etc.... I feel so blessed to be married to Kerwyn. In nearly 3 weeks of nonstop time together I never got sick of him and we got along splendidly.

The trip was a dream come true for me in a few ways. 1st- I was in India with my husband. He adjusted well to the unique oddities of India better than most and is open to returning in whatever capacity God leads us. After my first trip to India I said I was never returning there and kissed the ground at the Bangkok airport (1st ground I touched after leaving India) so I'd say he adjusted much better than I did. I'd like to think that I'm a much better trip planner than Teen Mania was with me, but regardless he handled it very well. We did number his meltdowns along the way, but more for comic relief than anything else. They were never anything major but moments when the differences between the US and India just became overwhelming.
2nd- He proposed to me at the Taj Mahal :) That was always my dream way of being proposed to and so it was a hilarious gesture that drew a lot of attention.
3rd- We rode a gondola in Venice which was on my life goals list. While I wouldn't make a good travel agent for Venice the gondola ride was as magical as I imagined it would be.

I'll fill you in on some fun stories in the upcoming days but I'm going to get back to work for now- I only have 2 weeks to finish all my "research work" before going back to real work in the hospital!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We're Off

We're heading to Chicago for our flight to Helsinki to begin our adventure. As I have been communicating with the surgeon I am going to be spending time with my excitement keeps building for our time with him. Here's a quote that I resonate with:

When the dream of our heart is one that God has planted there, a strange happiness flows into us. At that moment, all of the spiritual resources of the universe are released to help us. Our praying is then at one with the will of God and becomes a channel for the Creator’s purposes for us and our world. -Catherine Marshall

It's been 8 years since I've been in India- a place and people that I know God has given me a special love for. I can't wait to be back!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I stumbled upon this quote today from Katie Hammontree- a girl my age who died of leukemia a few years ago. I might have posted it before but I love it so I'm posting it again.

I am a Christian. Not because my grandfather is, not because his grandfather was…not because Grove Level planned the best activities when I was in middle school. I am a Christian because I have studied the life of Christ and it is good and it is love…and it is triumphant.

I have never thrown my arms up in excitement or run around the sanctuary or shouted out to God during a sermon or fainted or swayed or been “slain in the Spirit” or spoken in tongues…or handled snakes (smile).

It’s all I can do to clap in time to praise music…but I can hear Him whisper and I have felt Him only inches away if any at all and He has touched me and my insides stand in attention and my heart is red and it beats hard and fast and if you turn me inside out like an orange there would be some fantastic celebration with parades and ferris wheels and fireworks and marching bands and jelly beans and pinwheels and fire eaters and hula hoops and…fat ladies in polka dots and lions and popcorn and acrobats.

I pray that you might know my insides and realize that although I don’t believe as you do…I believe with passion and with love and with direction of thought and purpose…not with a simple, gross obedience to a church or a pastor or a cause….All I know is that in the end it will be as God has planned and man can not interfere.

And God is love. Love is everything.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Travel Insanity

This week Kerwyn and I embark on the coolest adventure yet in our married life. We're traveling to Finland, India, Nepal and Italy. How you might ask could we afford all this? It is due to the sheer insanity of the itinerary that we got an unbelievable ticket price. Oh, and we spend less and save to have money to travel with. Your next question would logically be "why?". As a lover for travel I say "why not?". We wanted to take some sort of epic trip before I go back to real work in July and as I mentioned a while ago I really felt like we should go to India together as this is our last chance to do so for a long time. As we started looking for flights to India we found this crazy itinerary and booked the flight at 2am one impulsive morning. Here are the predicted highlights of the trip:
  • enjoying an authentic Finnish sauna experience
  • serving alongside an Indian surgeon in rural India
  • walking the streets of India with my husband (man have I dreamed of this for a long time!)
  • an elephant ride safari in Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal (on Kerwyn's bday)
  • 22 minute (white-knuckled) flight on Budda Air to Kathmandu
  • boat ride on Ganges River
  • 2 overnight train journeys in northern India (I imagine lots of people grabbing my blonde hair and even more shouting "chai, chai, coffee, coffee, chai")
  • touring the Taj Mahal
  • wandering the streets of Milan
  • gondola ride in Venice
  • gelato, gelato, and more gelato followed by a few good crepes
  • two and a half weeks of uninterrupted time with my husband
God is so good and I am full of gratitude and anticipation for all that we are going to experience together. I promise lots of good pictures and stories when we return!