Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Automated Rejection Letters

I have been applying for jobs at our new home. I know that the perfect job will be offered to me at the perfect moment. I am not forgetting that as easily as I have in the past. 

However, today I received an automated rejection letter for a job I thought I really wanted - a job I thought was perfect for me. It was a position at an outpatient infusion center which is where they give chemotherapy, blood, antibiotics, etc., to patients that can walk in and out of the hospital each day. 

But then, later today, I applied for another job that I really want. I was thinking to myself, "kt, what do you really want to be doing career-wise in ten years?" And the answer is that I really want to be teaching nursing students. I love the thrill of seeing students understand something for the first time - of bringing them to that point skillfully. I love being with them when they experience their first patient death, when they experience their first victory in independent problem-solving, or helping them recover after their first patient yells at them. 

So I applied for a position teaching LPNs at the tech school Thomas is going to. And I was even so bold as to write in my cover letter that I've received a job offer for every interview I've ever had! That might've been a bold move, but I'll tell you: I'm tired of not getting face time. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


A couple of days ago, I was sitting at the table and my arm started itching. I told my mom I needed to get the pest killers here. They come to the complex every Friday. Then yesterday, I got some itchy hives. I took benedryl and went to bed. This morning, I woke up with hives all over my body. My palms look like I'm developing graft vs host disease, but I haven't received any transplants lately, at least not that I know of. I think it might be fenugreek seed, an ingredient in the granola.  

They've gone down now after a nice concoction of zyrtec, prednisone, hydrocortizone, and benedryl. I'm blaming my sleeplessness on the prednisone. I found out today that we don't have any transitional health insurance, so that's really nice. At least I went to Urgent Care. But I learned in Uganda that money doesn't matter as much as I thought, so I'm not stressing about it.

I got back from South Sudan last week. In case you don't know, Sudan has been a war-ravaged country for many years. They are now rebuilding in a period of peace that began, at least on paper, in 2005. The war took many lives. There are many orphans. The country is very poor. 

Death is a cultural norm. Resources spent on life are sometimes considered wasted. A child on the compound has chronic hepatitis B and esophageal varices. The blood vessels in the esophagus are swollen and have potential for bursting. In that case, a patient will puke blood and likely die from blood loss. Treatment was available for $2000. Someone said, "Why are we treating him if he's just going to die anyway?" This attitude pervades. On the compound, there is a different attitude, because there is the Lord, who breathes life, who created life, who offers hope. And the purpose of Cornerstone Children's Home, where we spent the majority of our time in South Sudan, is to bring a hope and a bright future to children who otherwise would have none.

I helped some kids. I took them to the doctor and gave them medicine, and they got better. I thought some toddler twins had tuberculosis based on the reports of their long-time symptoms: fevers, productive coughing, neglect after birth. But they got better after five days of antibiotics and cough medicine. Their lungs were totally clear when I left. This was the best part of the trip. But it was also the worst part, because five days of antibiotics probably would have made them better a year ago or maybe two years.

One child, Simon, stepped on a nail, and it almost went right through his foot. He went to the hospital, and said they put an injection into the wound. I'm guessing tetanus, maybe antibiotic? I dressed it a couple of times, told him how to baby it, gave some painkiller...not much, really. But he got better and was playing soccer like normal before we left, and he wrote me a note before we left that makes me cry like a baby. 

One girl, Betty Mundua, was having recurring ear infections. I gave her five days of antibiotics and ear drops. Things were clear before I left. I have a hard time believing that it is totally clear, because she has been battling this for something like years. She probably has nerve damage and chronic hearing loss from a simple childhood ear infection left untreated...and that's even if it's totally healed now.

No-nyo is the nickname which means "little girl" in Madi, one of the prominent tribal languages, of my small friend Dorothy. She had malaria and an upper respiratory tract infection that took her down. She was feeling better after a couple of days of medicine.  

Helen is a woman who is married to Juma John's son. She helps with the cooking regularly and can be seen with her own son around the compound. She had malaria, pyelonephritis, and chronic headaches. I gave her 10 days of IV antibiotic therapy. Her symptoms were resolved sometime around day 7. 

All these children were treated for about $40. But a notebook is something like $8. Materials are expensive. Meds are cheap.

Travel was nightmarish, especially our first attempt at getting home. I think it was the first time in our marriage when Thomas and I were both really angry at the same time. I'll spare you the details, but really, I'll spare myself from having to remember them. Although, it really was kind experience. 

But, as you can see displayed at Jimmy John's in Lawrence, Kansas, "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted." And so I am now more experienced than before. You think I should put it on my resume?

I'll give you the short version. Taxi drivers continuously shouting in Juba-Arabic about us, around us, to us... if you've heard Arabic before, you know it sounds like people verbally ripping each other's heads off, even when they are saying thank you... Juba-Arabic is no different... driving 70 mph toward equally fast oncoming traffic with no visible sign of reverting to the correct lane and "boda-bodas", or motorcycles, everywhere... in between every car, 24 hours of missed appointments, stopping to buy chickens multiple times on an already late bus, arguing with airport officials, emergency travel service at $100/hr - which I only found out after the fact due to poor connection...the list goes on... $4000 for new tickets home (very painful, especially in full knowledge of how far $4000 would go for the children), and an unexpected night in Uganda. 

That morning, we ate better than we had in three weeks, and Africans sang songs to Jesus in English really loudly. It was the most beautiful sound I could have heard, like salve to my soul. We got beautiful souvenirs for our family that afternoon, and we arrived with several hours to spare at the airport. The officials kindly let us into the airport - something we had trouble with before - and all our flights home were on time. So I really can't complain. That one more day in Africa was beautiful.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Believing God

You know? John the Baptist was beheaded when Jesus walked the earth. And the fact that this happened is helping me right now, because things have happened that feel like great defeat.

I'm studying David right now, and there's a defeat that he experienced. Beth Moore said something about it to me today, something like wishing, every time you read through David's life, that somehow, this time, he'll run for his life from Bathsheba at the first sight of her, as if you're reading in the present, and you just know he'll make the right decision. But soon, you remember it's not happening; it happened, and it can't be changed.

I find myself saying sorry to the Lord in deep sincerity about some of those things that have happened, things in the world that miss his mark. That's what they must have felt when John the Baptist was beheaded, like God forgot about being able to save people.

I'll just say I'm feeling it a little bit now: the mother of a six-year-old succumbing to cancer on Tuesday, a nice old man stroked out and unable to speak with me, only pleading for me to understand, somehow, what he can't say, Law and Order shamelessly announcing the most horrible things anyone could ever imagine as to entertain.

Yet He lives, doesn't He? We know He died, and they must have all felt the weight of that as a gruesome mistake in the kingdom - they must have thought that, after spending all that time with Him, He wasn't the One.

But Jesus didn't stay dead. And He is making all things new. And it tears up my heart. It's the only thing that helps us lift up our heads again. We ought to, you know. We ought to lift up our heads, because it's the action that comes out of believing that Jesus is alive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm there.

I just found out I didn't get into the program I was trying for. I was sitting in church the other day thinking about so many things. Should I have made my essay more beautiful like a cookie-cutter? Should I have put a line in my resume about pursuing oncology certification? Should I have left out that part about how walking with people through what seems a premature death makes me starved for greater knowledge? And I thought about the death I was thinking of when I wrote that part, the death I still feel responsible for in a small part of me untouched by intellect. 

Then I remembered asking Him to intervene for every word of that essay, to sway it one way or another in my mind changing the words on the page, or in their minds changing their decision. I said, "Have it Your way, whether I become a nurse practitioner or not." 

And He said, "Every minute, I'm there. All along the way, for every nuance they didn't like, for every minute of your life, even that day when your patient fell asleep for good, I was there. I am."

He prepares us with each minute for the next, and what is there left to do but completely let go and trust the One who's here? He is.