The Georges in Peru

Sunday update

28 Jun 2020

As lots of people want to know what is going on with Mary Beth's health, we will be updating this page several times a day instead of trying to update everyone personally.  Thanks for praying.

This morning a got a call from the emergency evacuation insurance company at 2:10 am.  They are in the UK, so that is a normal-be-awake sort of time of day for them.   Yesterday, they had asked how early they could call and I told them that if they had something important to tell me to call any time.   Humorously, he told me that they would be calling back later in the morning after they had more of a plan.  Must have been an accidental dial.

8:38 am

The guy from the insurance company called back to say that because of the state of emergency they couldn't get a Canadian to the USA at this time.  They aren't even sure they can get an air ambulance out of Arequipa.  But they think they can.  They found a hospital in Lima that they think can do the surgery.  I asked for a phone number of the surgeon in Lima to find out directly from him if they do the type of surgery Mary Beth needs.

9:32 am

The insurance company emailed me saying that we need to get a permission to travel from the ministry of health to be able to go to Lima.  We will need to get tested for COVID first.

10:10 am

Talked to CT surgeon, Dr. Homes in Lima at the Clínica Inca.  He said that his colleagues do the surgery and asked me to send him a video of all of the CT scans of Mary Beth's thorax.  I was surprised how well it worked to take a video of my computer screen going through the slices of the CT.

1:48 pm

I contacted a lab about getting the COVID test done.  Since today is an all-day curfew and tomorrow is a holiday (Peter and Paul day), they said they can't do it until Wednesday.

1:54 pm 

Tania Catacora, the director of MMI volunteered to help us find a lab that is open to do the test at the latest tomorrow.  Pray she can find a functioning lab.

2:43 pm

Tania can't find any labs open today.  She promised to keep searching in the morning.

3:12 pm

Mary Beth's mom found this article about another woman with a very similar experience.  https://dailyjournalonline.com/news/local/local-woman-has-new-lease-on-life/article_0ae31a21-3df0-562c-bb8a-600aa724ba70.html

 

You can't get there from here

26 Jun 2020

As you my know, Mary Beth hasn't been feeling well for a little over a month.  It all started with a migraine, and then daily headaches.  We got an MRI of her head.  Normal.  EKGs.  Some benign abnormalities.  A 24-hour heart monitor (Holter).  Some runs of increased heart rate, nothing definitive.  Checked her vision.  Close to perfect (and she still married me! Love IS blind).  Orthostatic blood pressures were very abnormal however.  Some rib chest pain on Monday gave me a clue to what turned out to be the diagnosis. 

Mary Beth was born with a pectus excavatum abnormality, which is when the sternum goes inward and can put pressure on the heart, affecting its ability to pump blood.  Growing up, while playing with classmates, she noticed that she was very short of breath after running short distances.  She was diagnosed with asthma and given inhalers that didn't really help.  Monday night we got a CT scan which confirmed what we suspected:  Her heart is getting squished.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone in Peru who does this operation on adults.  It is usually done earlier in life.  There are places in the USA and Canada that do the surgery, but with the borders closed to international travel how do we get there?  We have evacuation insurance with Aetna and they are currently working on getting us to North America, though we don't know if it will be tomorrow or in a week or even where we might be going!  In the meantime, Mary Beth is very weak and can't stand up for more than about 30 seconds at a time.  If she is lying down, she feels okay. 

Her heart is squished like a jelly bean in this CT scan.  

Here is Allen's CT of the Thorax.  The heart isn't being compressed.

Pray that we can get her to North America soon and that the surgery is successful.

They say speed bumps cause more accidents than they prevent...

20 May 2020

Today I dropped off Mia at the church where we are packing bags of food for Venezuelan refugees and poor Peruvians and headed to Economax for what was supposed to be a quick trip to get a few things.  Four blocks from my destination I thought, "There are police near the entry of Economax.  Where is my permission to be out during lockdown to show them."  I glanced toward the passenger seat where I thought it was and it wasn't there. BAM!  I hit the car in front of me!  He had slowed down for the really big speed bumps on the avenue and I hit him in the moment I had looked for my permit.  Ugh!  Thankfully, the driver was super nice and didn't start yelling at me.  And thankfully, he wasn't hurt!  I called my insurance agent who sent a claims person who arrived on a motorcycle 30 minutes later.  By then, the other driver and I decided it would be easiest for me to just give him $200 (he only asked for $170) and go on our ways and not spend the day filling out forms in the police station.  

This is a picture of the car I hit.  Give thanks that no one was hurt.  Our SUV has a barely crooked front bumper now.

update 27JUN2020:  Paul and I were out for a run (running errands) and we saw this car again near where I hit it.  It was fixed and looking good as new!  

Packin' Papas

05 May 2020

'Papa' is the word for potato in Spanish.  It's also the word for 'Pope' which has made for some pretty hilarious menu translations in some restaurants.  (e.g. 'baked pope'!) Right now potatoes are cheap.  This week our emergency relief project bought 3 tons of potatoes for 3.34¢ (USD) per pound!  (CAD 10.33¢/kg)  Our job today was to divide them into plastic bags of 3kg each (6.6 pounds) to give to hungry families this week.

Mia and Mary Beth stand in the midst of our task.  Each sack of potatoes weighs about 220 pounds (100kg).

If you want to help feed hungry Venezuelan refugees and poor Peruvians please consider donating here.

Food for Refugees

22 Apr 2020

For over a month, Peru has shut down all but essential businesses to try to contain the corona virus.  If you have money saved up you can survive easily enough.  You can order food delivered to your door and go to the banks and pharmacies still.  But if you are a refugee from Venezuela (there are an estimated 800,000 in Peru alone), life is much harder.  You probably don't have any money saved up.  Your job as a waitress in a restaurant is gone.  You probably don't have a home and the landlord of the tiny apartment you are living in is probably threatening to kick you out for not paying your rent.  Even begging on the street is hard as few people are out and foreigners (even us from North America) are held somewhat suspect during crises like this.

Because of this, SIM Peru has been delivering bags of food to Venezuelan refugees here. Today Mia, Mary Beth and I helped prepare 289 bags of rice, potatoes, spaghetti, tuna, evaporated milk, lentils, sugar, beans and a Gospel tract that others will take out to people on Friday and Saturday.

 

If you are interested in helping out with relief efforts like this, you can donate through this website.  If you are in Peru and would like to help, contact me and I will give you bank information.

Keeping our Distance

29 Mar 2020

We are now day 14 of the State of Emergency.  It was extended until Easter, but looking at the 'new cases in Peru' graph makes me think we won't be getting out of this that soon.  We're playing lots of board games and doing telemedicine, just like my doctor colleagues in the USA.

Everyone gives others a wide berth (unusual for this culture where personal space is usually much smaller!) while waiting in line to go into our neighborhood store.

Unfortunately, our new cases continue to rise exponentially despite the quarantine efforts.  Though it would probably be even worse without them.

Nothing going on in Peru

22 Mar 2020

People have been asking how we are doing, so I thought I better write an update.  I don't have any pictures.  I guess I could show streets without cars taken from our rooftop.  We can't drive our SUV under threat of having my license taken away and the SUV impounded.  We actually aren't supposed to leave the house except for Wednesdays and Saturdays to buy food.  We had 10 kg of potatoes delivered to our house this morning.  There is plenty of food for sale in our neighborhood store.  One can't buy alcohol which makes me wonder about alcoholics going into withdrawal and no hospital willing to treat them.  Coronavirus cases might be dropping in Peru; we'll find out in a few more days.  This morning, we had church via internet, watching Christ Community Church's service (cccomaha.org) at 9 and then the Blumenort Community Church's service at 10:30.  Since we can't run outdoors, I've been doing sit-ups and pushups and going up and down the stairs of our 3-story home.  I've been losing weight despite not running.  All my patients are virtual now.  They either message me or call.  Mary Beth is happy to finally relax after the camp season.  Paul is bored and improving his juggling skills.  I've taken up guitar.  Mary Beth and the kids are playing piano.  I hope to get a lot of continuing medical education done too.  Mia is still doing classes online from Azusa Pacific U.  We're playing lots of board games and skyping often.  Most of my meetings are being held on Skype or Zoom.  I'm finding plenty to do!  

Mia Arrived!

16 Mar 2020

Saturday morning, Mia asked about coming home since her university was closed. MB and I both prayed during our devotional times and when we finished we both felt strongly that God was telling us to get her home ASAP. So after we talked to her we bought her flights for that same night. She had to frantically pack her things and a friend’s parents took her to LAX that night. We were worried that they might cancel her flights since Peru was talking about closing its borders, and worried that she might get stuck in Mexico City or Lima along the way. Thankfully, the rains in Arequipa stopped yesterday afternoon and her flight, though delayed, arrived at 10:45 last night! Tickets were only $366 despite buying the tickets last minute! She said the Mexico City to Lima flight was still pretty empty. There were tickets as cheap as $78 on Spirit for Wednesday. >I really doubt that they can pay for the extra fuel for carrying Mia for that price. But that flight isn’t going now. I just checked Travelocity and they are still offering flights through several airlines for Wednesday, but those flights aren’t going to be landing in Lima either.

Both Mia and Ben are supposed to be finishing their semesters online.

Things are shut down here. We are only allowed to leave the house to buy groceries, or go to the bank or the hospital/pharmacy. I'm not even allowed to go running.  

"If we don't work, we don't eat and we die either way!"

13 Mar 2020

“For some of us, quitting work and quarantining ourselves for fear of Corona Virus is not an option.  If we don’t work, we don’t eat and we die either way,” our taxi driver (an ex-vice president of a large beer factory in Venezuela) told us last night.  We were talking about all the schools shutting down in Peru and how it seems like the economy will probably grind to a halt here during the next few weeks.  He said the Corona Virus would be extremely devastating in Venezuela if it becomes an issue there, though pretty much the only border movement is with Colombia at the moment.

Makro, the Peruvian equivalent to Costco, has been inundated with shoppers preparing for the 'siege'.  Things that Peruvians buy are toilet paper and cleaning supplies as well as food essentials such as rice, eggs and sugar.

What did we sign up for again?

22 Feb 2020

For lunch today we went to Papa John's Pizza to celebrate summer camps being over for the season.  The last camp, an equestrian camp, finished yesterday and we came home in the pouring rain.  Thankfully, all the parents were able to pick up the kids in spite of a few roads being closed because rain destroys desert city roads unprepared for large amounts of water.  

In the past, parents have asked me (Mary Beth writing) what 'equestrian' means and I tell them it is horse-riding camp.  This year, two boys showed up expecting 50 other kids and a week filled with large-group-games and Bible teaching.  "Where's the big bus?  Where are all the people?" the mom asked me as the 10-seater van drove up and the small group excitedly gathered around to say good-bye to the seven campers.  Uh oh, I thought... I hope these boys like horses.

I had a counselor cancel last minute for this camp, so with much prayer, going off a tip from someone, I sent a message to fellow SIM missionary, Siegfried Reuter, to ask if he'd be willing to step in. He and his wife helped start the camps in 1993.  Since he was on vacation and planning to return to Arequipa 1 day before the camp, and because he's a stereotypical German in that he likes to be well prepared, I was dubious he'd come.  But to my great surprise, he was overjoyed at the opportunity.  He told me later that the Lord had been speaking to his heart for months that he should be willing if the opportunity came up.  He was so excited about the horses and great at making the two young men feel loved and motivated even though they were extremely out of their comfort zone and riding horses was not what they expected.

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