The Georges in Peru

A little bit of normal

19 Mar 2021

I haven't posted much lately because we've been paralized a bit by the pandemic and the third wave of new cases that popped up after Christmas.  But today, Arequipa's 7-day average for new COVID cases dropped below the 300 new-cases-per-day line, which is the criterion we've been waiting for to see patients and go out to eat at a restaurant!  A new seafood restaurant opened last month about 2.7 km from here (Mary Beth measured the distance on her Garmin since we walked there) so we decided to try it out.  It was great to go out to eat for the first time in months!

In the afternoon, we saw a patient that has been begging to get an ultrasound because she is pregnant and felt that she is bigger than she should be and her husband thought that she must have twins.  Nope.  Just one appropriately-sized fetus, who appears to be waving at us.  It gave me a chance to try out my new ultrasound machine on a pregnant patient.

Pray that we stay safe from COVID and can minister better to those around us in person.

“If the fire is hot enough, anything will burn.”

27 Jan 2021

No, that isn't some theological quote!  That is a quote from a marathoner, who bragged he could eat anything he wanted because he ran so much it would keep any atherosclerotic lesions from building up on his coronaries.  It always seemed a bit misguided, since Jim Fixx, a runner credited with making distance running mainstream after writing his book, The Complete Book of Running died of a heart attack at age 52 (Yikes!  That's a year younger than I!).  But nonetheless, we runners tend to think we are bullet-proof as we go back for another bowl of ice cream after a platter of fries.  

My family is lucky to have low cholesterol.  Since my parents were the only surviving children from their respective families, our family history doesn't have enough numbers to give good statistics, though none of us six kids have had any coronary problems.   So I didn't worry about heart issues.  If anything, I bragged that I was extremely low risk.  So when I started getting sudden attacks of chest tightness while running just over a year ago, I was surprised and concerned.  Pulmonary and cardiac workups didn't reveal anything.  My cardiologist here inflated my ego by telling me he doesn't get many people my age that can do his complete treadmill protocol.  My symptoms became concerning enough (hard runs interrupted by light-headedness and having to stop) that Dr. Porter (thanks again!) recommended that I try to see if I could get a CT coronary angiogram here in Peru.  As it happens, two years ago, a local radiology clinic started offering that study.  So last week, I had it performed.  

You maybe can see here that my coronaries look good, with good flow.  

The arrow points to the problem.  Coronary arteries are supposed to run on the surface of the heart, but one of my coronaries burrows under the heart muscle for about 9 mm.  When my heart squeezes, it blocks the artery.  When it relaxes, the blood flows again.  Actually, when anyone's heart squeezes, it temporarily stops the blood flow into it, but when the heart relaxes the flow resumes.  If the coronary goes under the muscle and the heart is beating really fast, then it can't relax quickly enough to resume blood flow and then it starts telling its owner to 'slow down!'

So now what?  I'm not at any immediate risk as long as I don't race, so I won't do anything drastic at this time.  When we go to North American in July, we will probably have Dr. Porter do a few more tests.  Meanwhile, I'm going to cut back on the ice cream and butter.

First Return to Clinic

14 Jan 2021

Yesterday was our first day of seeing patients at the Dorcas Project since the government-mandated shut down last March!  We saw about 15 mothers and their babies.  The majority still come in having been told that their babies have hip dysplasia, something that normally has an incidence of 1/200 newborns, but here they tell almost everyone that their babies have it to sell them harnesses and other 'services'.  Not surprisingly, none of the babies I saw had hip dysplasia.  

Things were different from our normal clinics:  I had a gown that I could throw away at the end of the clinic.  Gloves make the constant hand washing (which we physicians should do even when there aren't pandemics!) more tolerable on the hands.  Mary Beth took all the notes on the patients from across the room to avoid contact.

The Dress Still Fits!

29 Dec 2020

It has been an exciting week.  Yesterday, we talked to a Baptist pastor who is enthusiastic about the possibility of sending a competent young couple out from his congregation to pastor a new church with us along the coast.  Today, a dear sister in Christ, who is knowledgeable about the towns and their congregations, donated her time to accompany us on our first scouting trip to the coast to see where the gaps are in church planting.  On the way, we saw much need and several believers begged us to come work in their towns, but one area struck us especially.  Nestled in a valley a few kilometers off the coast, we found four medium-sized towns where no doctrinally-sound congregations meet (as far as we know).  There is much work to be done yet, but it is fun to see and dream about the possibilities starting to arise.  What a good way to spend our 3rd anniversary of marriage!

Thankful our SUV waited until now to break down

19 Dec 2020

Yesterday, on our way to our team Christmas party our Nissan Patrol started overheating.  I noticed a small leak last week and already had an appointment for today to get it repaired.  I pulled over to take a look and found the small leak had turned into a big leak and the radiator was approaching empty.  Thankfully, there was a irrigation canal next to where we stopped and 1200 ml at a time (we had 3 old Powerade bottles in the car) I refilled the radiator.  It was enough to get to the Christmas party, where we refilled it again.  That allowed us enough time to get to the mechanic, about 10 minutes away, with a trail of water marking our route!  We are so glad that that happened here in Arequipa and not on our 17-hour trip through the desert from Lima 3 weeks ago!  Carlos, the mechanic, says he'll have it fixed today.

PS.  Carlos called and said our SUV is fixed!  Total cost:  $79.72!  I love Peru.

Back in Peru!

01 Dec 2020

We made it!  We are back in Arequipa, quarantining again, until December 12th.  Things were looking a bit uncertain the day before our flight because we hadn't gotten our COVID test results back yet.  Peru requires that those entering the country get a COVID test done within 3 days of their flight, but COVID tests take around 3 days for results.  With Thanksgiving in the midst, we worried they might take even longer.  Thankfully, at 9:46 pm we got our negative results so we were good to fly out the next morning!

Immigrations and customs in Lima were the quickest we have ever experienced and we were at the SIM guest house early.  Our faithful Nissan was waiting for us in the garage.  The government mandated us to go to the guest house and drive to Arequipa the next day, not stopping for anything unnecessary.   The trip took over 17 hours instead of the normal 15 because there were so many slow trucks grinding up the mountains.  I'm so glad that not only is Mary Beth feeling like a new person, but she can drive too! 

Our friend Luz, who was housesitting, bought us groceries and left a clean house for us to move back into.  It has been a bit surreal.  We have a kind of a 'what just happened?' feeling as our brains wrap around the events of the last 4 months.  

Yesterday, I had 3 virtual patients.  They didn't waste much time finding out we were home!

Photo 1:  COVID-19 testing station in Chicago

Photo 2:  A truck accident that reminded us to drive carefully

Can you Bring me a St. Bernard?

11 Nov 2020

courtesy wikipedia

Whenever we go back to Peru we get requests to bring things.  We've been asked to bring computers, guitars, iPhones, projectors, candy, books, wetsuits, communion platters, Buzz Lightyear and many other things.  If we have space we try to help out.  But usually, we are bringing so many things that we need we don't have room.  Our favorite request has to be, "Can you bring us a Saint Bernard?" 

We couldn't pull that one off, but that does bring me to the reason we are posting to our blog:  We're planning on going back to Peru November 28th!  

We know far better than to say, "We're going back to Peru" because this is 2020 and things are a bit uncertain.  (James 4:14-15)  But that is our plan.  As you may have heard, Peru just sacked her president and there are demonstrations in the streets, so pray for things to work out.  We will fly to the States on the 20th to spend Thanksgiving with the kids and then on to Lima on the 28th.  On the 29th, we will drive to Arequipa where we will quarantine in our home for 2 weeks.  

New Mary Beth World Record

09 Nov 2020

Back in July when I was lying on my back, Allen would encourage me saying, ‘Just think Mary Beth, once you get your Pectus fixed, you’ll be able to run faster than you ever have in your whole life’.  I held a reserved hope that maybe he was right.  When my first 5km run post-surgery was only off my record for that speed by 7 seconds I could hardly believe it.  I decided that as soon as I actually broke a record I’d write a blog about it.  It took longer than I thought it would, but today I smashed my 3km record by 23 seconds!  Yeah, I know I’m bragging, but this is one of the most encouraging things that has happened to me in my life. 

Our bodies change as we get older, in a bad way, and when I reached my mid-30’s I noticed I was having more trouble keeping my weight under control and my back was beginning to ache, a lot.  I’ve always tried to keep active in some way, thinking ‘When I’m an old woman, I want to still be able get out and walk’.  So instead of sitting back and accepting my fate, and inspired by the 2016 Olympics, our annual mission ‘Race to the Rocks’, and a few past room-mates, I decided to change my diet (more veggies, less bread ) and start running. 

I’ve never been a runner and I felt like I looked incredibly dumb when I did, not like most lithe and athletic people I see running down the side of the road but more like a lumbering ox.  I figured I was old enough not to care.  It was also excruciatingly hard.  Often, I’d count my breaths as encouragement to keep going… 1,2,5,3… I would get mixed up because it was hard to focus.

Contrary to what I had previously thought, I’ve discovered that most people don’t run for the health benefits or even to have great looking bodies.  Most people who run, run because they actually enjoy it! (except for doctors and nurses- lots of them do it for the health benefits).  And runners are excited about anyone who wants to join the club, fast or slow.  It’s not a competition at all.  That was a myth buster for me!  

After 4 years of running a few times a week I didn’t have to count for encouragement anymore, and could even sometimes follow a conversation while running!  But I was discouraged because I still couldn’t keep up with anyone unless they slowed down for me ( l looked back at my times today and realized I had actually been getting slower instead of faster despite my consistent training).  Mia and Allen were great!  They were always willing to join me, even on days I couldn’t listen or talk to them.  One in three runs usually ended in an ‘asthma/panic attack’… or as we know now, heart stress.

It was such a relief to find out that there really was something wrong with me and now, months after surgery to rejoice that the problem has been fixed!  Allen says that someday he’ll have to ride a bicycle alongside me as I run just to keep up. We’ll see…

Cancelled due to COVID

31 Oct 2020

Today was going to be our 2nd picarones/buñuelos cooking event.  Picarones are a Peruvian pastry, much like a donut but made with sweet potatoes.  Last Saturday we had 30-40 people come out to the farm as we made picarones over an open fire and talked about Peru.  Today we had to cancel because of the rapidly-increasing COVID cases in Manitoba.  As it turned out, the weather wasn't very nice either with 1˚C/33˚F temps and 40kmh/24mph winds.  We also felt it best to cancel our evening visits with supporters next week as Manitoba enters 'level orange' which limits the number of people one can have in gatherings.  Once again,  "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Prov 16:9 NIV)"   

   A picture from last week's event.

1 in 22 Million

16 Oct 2020

Sometimes visiting with supporters can be very interesting.  One of the pastors at my home church, who makes special effort to make sure missionaries are supported on the field and did our marriage counseling, discovered he and Allen had a mutual hobby in metal detecting.  Together they decided they needed to go sometime.  Yesterday, a chilly autumn day (Allen’s from far enough south he called it winter), it finally happened.  My dad, who also has a passing interest in metal detecting suggested his old school yard might be a good place to find old coins.  Today it’s just a patch of grass with a few trees planted around it but he had some fun memories to share with us of where everything had been and what they had all done there.  Pastor Anthony was super excited to find an old silver quarter and a silver dime and Allen came home with a penny worth 1 in 22 million.  In 1954, for some reason, only 22 million Canadian pennies were minted as opposed to the usual 70 million minted yearly in that time period.  My dad has been collecting pennies ever since I can remember and he needed that one to complete his set.  It was an exciting day.

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