The Pediatric Wards of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre

Written by Chris Warner-Carey

Every day is a mixture of gift, challenge, heartache and hope.

As Lisa has already shared, our group visited the hospital, accompanied by Bayana and some of his youth and young adult team. We visited several pediatric wards, where we offered words of encouragement and blessings, if desired, and distributed small gifts of soap, which the hospital seems to be unable to supply. We were welcomed by the parents and other relatives of the children, who are responsible for much of the hands-on patient care, so they are at the bedside much of the time. The hospital is too understaffed to provide much in the way of personal care, so the nurses must limit their care to the pressing medical issues.

As much as we had tried to prepare the team for the realities and conditions of a hospital in a very poor country, there is no way to truly describe the realities-one must personally witness them. Even those of us on the team who have medical experience and have traveled in developing countries were taken aback by much of what we witnessed in the pediatric ward. The most heartbreaking sight were the numerous children suffering from hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus (from Greek hydro-, meaning "water", and kephalos, meaning "head") is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. This causes increased intracranial pressure inside the skull and may cause progressive enlargement of the head if it occurs in childhood, potentially causing convulsion, tunnel vision, and mental disability. It was once informally called “Water on the brain” (from Wikipedia) Even in well-developed healthcare systems, hydrocephalus can be difficult to treat and manage. The treatment often involves the surgical placement of a shunt (a flexible tube), to drain the excess CSF and relieve the pressure on the brain. Unfortunately, the tubes can become clogged and the swelling returns, requiring multiple surgical procedures. It is truly amazing that the surgeons and other medical staff are able to provide the care that they do, given the constant shortage of medications, equipment and other supplies that we take for granted.

When we visited the ward, we all swallowed hard-to get a sense of it, see the photos that Lisa posted. We share these images, knowing that they may be disturbing to view, but the thing you may find surprising is that the mothers wanted us to take the photos. I had brought a small portable photo printer with me, and I was able to instantly print out photos for the mothers. As soon as I printed one photo, all the mothers clamored to have a photo of themselves with their child. I printed photos for all the mothers in the ward, and then the hospital staff asked for photos as well, but by this time I had run out of paper. I suspect that most of the mothers have never seen a printed photo of themselves or their children.

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Church: music and new friends

We attended the English Worship Service at St. Michael’s and All The Angels Church in Blantyre.  It is the oldest church in this city and is a beloved national monument.  The service was full of music, scripture, prayer, and a sermon on walking like Jesus walked.  After the service many people came up to us and wanted to know all about us – they definitely have a welcoming spirit!

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Breakfast, the most important meal of the day

This morning started out with breakfast at at hotel.  Our youth were especially impressed. Made to order omelettes and sausage were a big hit. And the jam provided for the toast was “almost as good as Lois Murdoch’s.” They loved the juice that was labelled “tropical” and spent the rest of the day scouring advertisements and billboards trying to identify what this juice might look like on a store shelf so that they could buy some. Three of our group members have serious food allergies that cause more uncertainty in trying to order, but so far so good. Our hotel uses vegetable oil (not peanut oil) which allows our teammate with nut allergies more safe choices on the menu.  Breakfast was easy and most comfortable of all of our meals so far because we could see the food before choosing it.  It may seem strange to focus on the food for this blog entry, but when mealtimes are full of unknowns requiring courage and an adventurous spirit, it is a real cause for celebration when it works out as well as breakfast did.

Sunrise – the view from our hotel

We have arrived! 

After 36 hours of traveling with 12 people, 21 pieces of checked baggage, 12 carryon bags,  3 planes,  3 airport security screenings and 2 immigration checkpoints. We arrived in Blantyre, Malawi where we piled the luggage and people into vans and cars.  We were able to hand Bayana bags and boxes containing donations to his ministries here from friends in the Bay Area (AV and soccer equipment mostly) and then get settled in our rooms. Shingi and Bayana provided us with an enthusiastic and warm welcome that made us all feel like family.  Around the dinner table we shared some of the standout first impressions of today.   Here are a couple:

  • The friendliness of everyone from airport personnel to people at the hotel.
  • The general sense of happiness of everyday people, even when they obviously have many struggles
  • How much faith is part of the language and culture of people here
  • How many different thing women carry here either on their heads or their backs:  from charcoal to water, babies to building supplies

Here are some pictures from the last 36 hours. 

We flew South African Airways. Since this was Cerue’s first trip on airplanes, South African Airlines gave her a couple of goody bags and announced her name over the loudspeaker!

Still Smiling: 34 hours into the trip, waiting for our third and final leg
Boarding the third flight Johannesburg, South Africa to Blantyre,Malawi.  Some of our group had never boarded a plane from the tarmac before. 
Our youth gathered with some of our luggage, which included a lot of donations for Wings of Hope.
Dinner. A chance to share our memories of the day, pray in thanksgiving for our safe travels and look forward to the time ahead.


We are on our way…

Well we made it to the airport,  checked in, and made it through security.   Chris looked amused as they patted me down.  Maybe the Clergy collar made me look extra suspicious?

Please say a special prayer for the parents of Shane, Elise, and Cerue cause it’s hard to let your kids go so far away…

Please Pray For Us

cropped-church2.jpgAfter more than a year of planning, dreaming, praying, and fundraising we are scheduled to leave tonight!   Please pray for our team of 12.  At our commissioning service on Sunday, we asked folks in the congregation to pray for our whole team, but also for each person to have a special prayer intention for one member of our team.  We split those special prayer assignments up as follows: If you were born….

  • in January, pray for  Lisa Warner-Carey
  • in February pray for Steve Okonek
  • in March pray for Evelyn Moseley
  • in April pray for Bonnie Okonek
  • in May pray for Sharron Thompson
  • in June pray for Omer Thompson
  • in July pray for Micah Warner-Carey
  • in August pray for Shane Regan
  • in September pray for Cerue Richards
  • in October pray for Josh Warner-Carey
  • in November pray for Elise Quick
  • in December pray for Chris Warner-Carey

Preparing to Go…

doll picture

150 handmade dolls for us to bring as gifts to children we will visit in Malawi.  Thank you to the team who made them with lots of love and prayers: Evelyn Moseley, Kirstin Hagen, Ariel Moseley, Michelle Cleave, Jeanette Emerson, Sue Hoffman, Susy Kakin, and Kristin LaBerge.