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Saturday, January 29, 2022

a little good news

So, we returned this week to WVU for the results of Jennifer's battery of neuro-pyschologic tests which she did last week. The first thing our PsyD said (the one who scores and interprets all the tests) was "Let me put you at ease - this is all pretty good news."

As Jennifer and I have debriefed this visit with a few people, Jennifer likes to say, "Scott heard the good news - and I heard the bad news."

So, yes, there are some areas where Jennifer struggled a bit. Dexterity with her right hand - due to injury in the parietal region of her brain. Her short term memory is not what is was. She said, "Yes, there are mild residual cognitive deficits which is very much in line with the nature of the traumatic bleeding..."

But the vast majority of the results were stellar.  

"Your have great spatial skills - perfect." 

"Verbal: your ability to find your words and get them out perfectly fine."

"Your reasoning skills are absolutely superb."

"Your ability to focus amid distraction - really really good." 

"You have good insight."

"You are only four months out and we know you will continue to get better over time."

Bottom line - she has demonstrated a fantastic level of recovery. This evaluation has given us confidence that she is functioning at a level that allows her to safely re-engage with her work as a pediatrician and as a manager of people in our mission. 

Thanks to all of you who have prayed for her.

At this point, she has been given a green light to think about returning to Uganda this spring. We have begun to think through the possibilities and considerations. We hope to correspond with a travel agent soon. There are many things to think about. And, of course, we are thinking of all the people we haven't seen since her injury. Omicron has made it so difficult for us to see people. It's distressing, but we feel like it has been the responsible thing to do.

Prayer request: wisdom as we consider the timing of our return to Uganda, discernment about what our work schedule will look like as we seek to balance responsibilities leading the Uganda Team, our Africa Area (ten teams!), and clinical work in the hospital.  We do NOT intend to have Jennifer resume her work life as it looked pre-September-6th! The hospital work is the place that will be the slowest ramp up.

So, prayer warriors unite! We need a lot of prayer. Bundibugyo is a tough place to live with a lot of needy people and problems. We've been living lives of relative comfort and few demands. No one is knocking on our door with severe medical problems. There are no buses which are hooting their horns beginning at 4:45am. There are no mosques blaring their calls to prayer while it is still dark. But we do desire to get back in the saddle and re-engage with our life in Uganda. We know it will not be easy--but it is that unique place where we find an intersection between our hearts and the needs of a broken world.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Stay tuned

 January has been full of challenges.

We discovered that our furnace here at our farm in WVa died during trip away. Thankfully, our wood stove and firewood stockpile allowed us to survive until a new furnace could be installed--but not before the pvc pipes in the bathroom wall froze and burst- resulting in a week without showering. But all's well that ends well.

This past week, Jennifer followed up with the neuro-ophthalmologist at WVU who gave a good report. He documented continued improvement in extra ocular movements and reduction in size of her dilated pupil. Most importantly, he definitively stated that corrective surgery for her eye muscles will not be necessary. He recommended a routine follow-up appointment in 6 months - which basically means she's doing well and nothing more to do except an occasional check-in visit. Her eye is not normal, but as the nurse helpfully stated, it's live-able. Yes. 

Friday, Jennifer endured four hours of rigorous and exhausting testing - cognitive, memory, coordination. "I'm going to read you a list of 20 words, repeat back as many as you can remember." Then 5 minutes later during another exercise - "Hey, repeat as many of those 20 words back again." Again 30 minutes later. "Here's a list of random numbers - now repeat them back to me; now repeat them back to me in reverse order; now repeat them back to me in numerical order." "Now - here are three letters: B, W, Q. Repeat them. Now serially subtract 3 from 81." In the middle of that serial subtraction exercise she taps on the desk and she must repeat the three letters. Now here are three different letters and a new number to start the serial subtraction. Go. And on and on.

Four hours of that. It will take some days for the exam to be scored and evaluated. We must return next week to receive the results and recommendation. Please pray for that visit. That she can receive the results with humility and grace.

Meanwhile, we are fully engaged with our work as Area Directors. We had a week of meetings with our Area Directors in the second week of January (Zoom). We have regular zoom call with those we supervise in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, DRC, and Malawi. We've been helping work through some of the complicated issues with the Christ School-Bundibugyo restart. While we wait for these results--we're busy!

Sunday, January 02, 2022

There and back again

 On December 7th, we embarked on a cross-country journey in our white Tacoma (affectionately known to the  family as “ShadowFax”, the trusty steed of Gandalf the Gray—that’s me) to spend Christmas with our kids and my mom (Nana). Why drive 6550 miles in winter? Well, primarily to stay “COVID-safe” in this crazy time of Omicron. We avoided airports, restaurants, and non-family human encounters as much as possible.

For many legs of this journey, we felt like hobbits trying to fulfill a quest. We began within hours of the terrible tornadoes in Kentucky. From Denver, we headed north to drive around the steepest peaks of the Rockies on I-80 West—only to find it closed—and then turned around and drove over the steep Loveland and Vail Passes, our 8 hour day turning to 15.  But we passed over and though to Salt Lake City.

We hiked, talked, and drank bottomless cups of coffee with our kids—until it was time to head west again to spend an extra week with my mom, picking her up in California and bringing her back to SLC for Christmas. But again, ShadowFax was pushed to her limits. Winds in western Utah blew over 18-wheelers. Ice and blowing snow in western Nevada caused others to jack-knife into the ditch. And a blizzard in the Donner Pass (famous for stranding early settlers in the 1840s) threatened to impede us. But, as they say in Uganda — we reached.  

Christmas in Salt Lake City was magical. Fresh snow provided gorgeous backdrops for our dog walks and skiing outings. We spent three nights on the slopes of Alta above Salt Lake City—with enough food for a month (just in case). Homemade lasagne (homemade noodles and all), our traditional Norwegian White Dinner on Christmas Eve (all the food is white), then steaks, fresh sourdough cinnamon rolls, and French cassoulet. What a celebration!

But we were nearly stranded again as a foot of fresh powder fell on the night before our departure—so we shored up the hooves of ShadowFax with chains—and galloped out beautifully.

So, many times these last three weeks, I’ve felt fearful.  Fear that we wouldn’t make it. That our precious time with our family would be cut short or lost. Fear on the top of the mountain that I might not ski to the base without injury. Fear that I might collide with another vehicle on icy roads. All legitimate fears.

In Scott Erikson’s Honest Advent, in the final chapter he posits this statement: Be Not Afraid could be a legitimate substitution for Merry Christmas. For Christmas is Immanuel—God with Us. Why should we fear?

As we enter 2022, there are so many threats looming—threats to our lives and health, threats to democracy, there threats to our goals and dreams, threats to our communities, churches and families, threats to our very planet. In Serge, every year, our Leadership Team does a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The strengths and weakness are internal; the opportunities and threats are external. The threats lead to fear, and the more we love that which seems threatened (i.e. connecting with kids!)  . . . the harder is to overcome them with faith and courage. 

Erickson ends with this: Today, let our fears be the starting place of divine connection…Let us not be afraid, for Love has drawn near.