- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 14 March 2017 14 March 2017
Our Mercy Medical Team safely arrived in Madagascar in the early morning hours. After a safe journey and collecting all our checked bags of supplies, we had a short, restful night at the guesthouse on the compound of the Lutheran Church of Malagasy in Antananarivo.
After a homemade breakfast, we loaded up the van and traveled by ground 160 kilometers to the town of Antsirabe. The four-hour drive offered beautiful views of the Madagascar landscape of rolling hills, rice paddies and flowing rivers. The cyclone damage is not noticeable in this part of the country, but the rivers are roaring with the additional water. We see farm work being completed by hand with hoe, pick and ax. Crops of corn, wheat and rice are prevalent. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also grown. The red dirt is used to make handmade bricks. The countryside, road scenery and small towns along the route provided a great introduction to Madagascar.
We arrived at the Lutheran Hospital of Antsirabe midday and were greeted with an elegant lunch of zebu, chow mein, rice and potatoes at the guesthouse. Following lunch we unpacked and sorted all of the donated supplies from the United States. For a team of only five, we collected many items that will be useful this week.
This afternoon brought a tour of the Lutheran Hospital where Dr. Harison, our host, works as a surgeon and oversees the hospital. The majority of hospitals in Madagascar require that a patient prove their ability to pay for care prior to service. However, the Lutheran Hospital treats all patients who come in the doors. They see some of the sickest and poorest patients in the area. Through donations they have a “poor fund” used to assist those who are unable to pay for medical treatment. This Lutheran Hospital has 180 beds with 140 staff members. There is one building where some staff members and their families stay. There is one room per family, so there may be seven or eight people living in each room for the workers.
The hospital has many services provided: a laboratory, x-ray, ultrasound and even a dental clinic. There is a medical records department and a quality control area as well. Within the hospital are various departments: medical, pediatric and maternity units; a neonatal area with an incubator where premature babies stay; an operating room; and a post-op area for patients who have recently had surgery. Most of the units have eight to ten beds in one room where all of the patients are together. There are some private rooms, but these cost more money.
The hospital operates in a unique manner compared to how care is provided in United States hospitals. A family member is required to stay with the patient in the hospital and provide care. The family cooks all meals for the patient and completes laundry of the linens. There are nurses and doctors who provide the medical care, but the family plays a huge role in the care. There is a call light system in the rooms. There is a button on the wall that the patient or family can push. This lights up a light bulb at the nurses' station area. Each light bulb is labeled with the name of the bed. I did not see a single call light ring while we were touring!
This evening we were able to watch our hosts, Dr. Harison and his wife, Domoina, practice with a choir from their church. They are preparing to record a song that will be shared throughout the Malagasy Lutheran church to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Lutheran church here and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The recorded song will go out to all congregations so all can sing the same jubilee song.
Tonight we were treated to another excellent dinner. Domoina's brother is a chef and is cooking for us this week. He prepared vegetable soup, chicken, rice and french fries. And we even had ice cream for dessert. We closed the evening with devotions and packing and preparing supplies to take to our first clinic tomorrow. We are hopeful for a restful night to prepare us for the work set before us tomorrow.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?