Sunday, December 30, 2012

Made it!

Greetings from Guinea!
I have arrived safely aboard the m/v (motor vessel) Africa Mercy as of last night about 9:30 pm or so (I can't really remember what time...)
All of my plane departures were late, but that worked out fine!  The scariest part was going through customs, for some reason I could not find my French letter to the customs police granting a visa waiver.  They made me look through all my stuff and I still couldn't find it.  Finally, I found it stapled to a couple of other papers.  I had gotten a little shaky thinking this was going to end up badly, but thankfully it did not!  Of course my luggage was the last of our groups to be found, but the cooler of meds I transported arrived safely!! 
Our ship's security is handled by Gurkhas - highly trained Nepalese soldiers - so that's pretty awesome.  Apparently they go on long fast runs in the mornings...of which we can join...I just don't think I would be able to keep up, so maybe there will be other routes where people run slower!!
I am hopefully going into town a little this afternoon, and tomorrow, get to take a boat ride out to the nice islands about 14 minutes away that have a nice beach.  The ship is on 'holiday' for the New Year, so I will not have my rehab orientation until Wednesday.
I am in a 6 person berth, and there will be another newbie arriving next week!  I was able to successfully take my 2 minute shower (I think...didn't actually time the amount of time the water was running, but I'm pretty sure I was under time...  wet down, soap up, shave, rinse off.  Try not to drip water out into the bathroom floor.  Our bunks are right next to the men's locker rooms, and on the other side of that are the operating theatres, labs, Xray, etc.  (I am on the 3rd technically about 3 feet underwater)   On the starboard side of the 3rd deck are the patient wards (4).  I attended church there this morning - African led and the patients and some staff attend.  The drumming was awesome, and the dancing to accompany it at the end of the service, well, let's just say it would make some Zumba instructors jealous...  :)  The patients were fairly calm - there are not many here right now because surgeries stopped 2 weeks before Christmas.  Things will probably pick up later this week.

I'll put pictures and such up later!!

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Getting Ready!

So I suppose I should preface this by saying I'm a recovering procrastinator and there will be a few things that won't be done until Friday morning as I'm getting ready to walk out the door...

But I have started packing!!!  :)  Mama says the room looks a bit like a 'war torn country'...  I don't think it's quite that bad.  But I got a humongous, cheap, rolling duffle bag at Walmart, and my goal is to fit everything in it and a backpack carry on.  (I will receive a package of medicine with it's own duffle bag and cooler tomorrow, so if I can keep down to 1 bag for myself, Mercy Ships (and myself!) will save money because you get 2 bags to check when going overseas.

So what do you pack for 3.5 months in Africa?  Of course, my standard, go-to Tshirts, a few pairs of pants and shorts, a couple skirts/dresses that cover my knees, a bathing suit and beach towel, a couple random ridiculous looking hats (hopefully they will be used and seen in future blog posts...Nick, my boss, says there are lots of random things on the ship where a wig, hat, crazy looking clothes might just come in handy.  So I've also packed my striped green and white basketball warm up pants from high school...  :)  I got some tasty gummy vitamins from Daddy for Christmas...AND a harmonica with instructional book (I had been contemplating taking my harmonica that has been in the house for as long as I can I don't know how to play)...but what better time to learn than in Africa.  Oh my bunkmates will love this ;)  hahaha.

Here's the debut of my harmonica playing skills at Christmas...try not to laugh too hard.  The actually good instrumentalists would be my dad on guitar and my grandmother on autoharp.
Not so Silent Night
Here's a brief reminder of roughly where I'm going - I definitely appreciate your prayers in the upcoming days (traveling 12/28-12/29) and then over the next few months as I am so excited to see what God has in store in Guinea!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thank you from your Sponsored Child!

I am so amazed, humbled, and blessed by the support of my time with Mercy Ships - the things people say to encourage me have been VERY encouraging, the financial gifts have been so generous, and the excitement seems like an overflow of my own.

Because of you, 60% of my $4000 goal is raised, and those of you that have given financial gifts just amaze me - I know so many of you have gone through big transitions recently - babies, moving, marriage, new jobs - and so many of you are either on fixed income or have student loan payments you're working on.  It really just humbles me so much to know how much you want to give to support what I get to be a part of, of God's ongoing work through Mercy Ships and in west Africa.  I feel like it also makes me want to be the best PT I can, the best Courtney I can, because you've put your trust in me in a very tangible way.  So THANK YOU!  I will do my best!!!  I know I'll mess up sometimes, but I'll trust that God is able to work though my mistakes for His glory.

I tend to have a very independent, I can "take care of it myself" mentality, and I know that this can sometimes be detrimental in community - after all, God said it 'wasn't good for man to be alone'.  I think that is one reason it is so humbling for me to be able to see all of your support, both verbal/written and financial, I have asked for your help and you have been SO generous that it's somewhat overwhelming to receive all this goodness at once!!  :)  So again, thank you!!

And a funny story - one of my friends received my prayer letter, and as I had mentioned in the letter, put it in a place (on the fridge) where she would see it often to remember to pray for me.  Her husband came home and glanced at it, then asked her - 'Did you sponsor a kid in Africa?' (or something like that).  She was in a different room and didn't know what he was talking about until she realized he was referring to my letter.  Hehehe.

So in one way ya'll are actually sponsoring lots and lots of children and adults in Africa, just a very specific physical therapy sponsorship!!  :)  To see of bit of the Guinea Screening Day and therefore some of the people I will actually be seeing, here's a video!  Thank you so much from your sponsored children (me and more!)!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Where I've been working...

Falling Springs waterfall on the side of the road on 220N
So this is my first taste of home health, and I'm out in the beauty that western VA provides, driving around through farms, next to waterfalls, turkeys, deer, horses :), and lakes.  Pretty awesome scenery if you ask me!  Plus, it's been fall, so I've gotten to enjoy all the lovely leaves that I missed last year out west!  So here's just a sampling of my scenery, and a story...
Lake Moomaw where I saw a pt in a campground

My trusty steed admiring the view

Charles Ingalls overlook for my "shortcut" from Monterey to Lexington

Heading thru Goshen Pass

Sunrise on my way to see a Lexington pt
I was visiting a patient for the last time, sitting talking with her and her husband, when something catches my eye behind her husband.  A mouse jumps down from the wood pile onto a shelf.  I say, "there's a mouse!" (no, I did not scream, just was really confused as to why this mouse was so slow moving), and the hubby puts on his leather work glove that just happened to be next to his chair, reaches out and picks up the mouse (again, why didn't the mouse run away?!)  He stands up and talks with us a little more, lets me look to see the mouse's tail is atleast moving, and then takes it outside.  This is the same family who the week before had been awakened by a noise, turned on the light, didn't see anything, then went back to bed.  Upon hearing something near the window, hubby shines his flashlight right out the window near his face and a bear snout is looking in at him.  He pounded the window sill and the bear ran away.  They showed me the window, and it's about 5-6 feet off the ground.

Driving down a pt's driveway...the sheep paid me no mind

Humpback Bridge is just off the road where some of my eastern pts are!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A little more about Mercy Ships

So I've learned a lot the last couple weeks since being able to email with Nick, the rehab team leader from Mercy Ships.  He is also a PT, so I will not actually be the only PT (YAY!!!), and he will help orient me with learning how to do the Ponseti club foot casting, learning how to read Xrays (there's also a MD that works with us, Dr. Frank, to help make those decisions as well...I don't know if he's always with us, but I think he plays a large part in things), and just generally helping me understand what to do! 

One thing that's different than I thought is we actually see our outpatients OFF the ship - in a big white tent called the Dockside Rehab Unit, that has parallel bars, theraband, plinths, casting supplies, and all those little things that make a PT's heart smile.  :)  And it's air conditioned!  :)  So this has the added bonus of I probably won't feel quite so clausterphobic because I will be going off the ship everyday for work!  We do a lot of club foot serial casting, and we will see a LOT of outpatients who had their ortho surgeries done in the months of Nov and Dec (right now!!) as that's when the ortho surgeons are there.  So 2nd praise, not only will I be working off the ship some, I will also be seeing a lot of outpatient ortho (which is my 1st love when it comes to PT).

I was able to look through the current PT's blog whose spot I will be replacing, and she also had some photos of a group excursion or two to the beach and upcountry where they did some hiking.  So 3rd praise, I might get to do some hiking!!!  :)  (obviously it's a coastal country, so mountains (high point = Mt. Nimba at 5, 700 ft) aren't that high, but still!)  I look forward to getting to explore a little bit on the weekends!

I'm working on the details of my airplane tickets currently, and hope to have that finalized this week!  I am so excited!!! If you'd like to see my official Mercy Ships webpage, and my basic prayer letter, go here!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dolly Sods Wilderness

So for the last couple years I've really been wanting to explore the Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV and the Art Loeb trail in NC.  Beverly was kind enough to be my hiking companion for a weekend in Dolly Sods a few weeks ago.  They say the scenery is more like Canada than West Virginia (never been to Canada, so I'll trust everyone else).  We were past blueberry season, and a little past peak leaf viewing season, but it was pretty awesome.  I love being up on ridgelines and high meadows, and we did indeed find a little of that!  As well as plenty of thankful for waterproof boots (although after you've already made it to the campsite 7 miles in...and misjudge a rock in the stream, you'll still end up wet! ;) ).

On the drive up we stopped by Seneca Rocks (and got a map of Dolly Sods because I oh so smoothly forgot it at home...)

Ready to go (yeah my sock cap is kinda covering up my eyes...)

Heading down the trail - although the sky looks ominous, we didn't have any hard core rain, but did have some off & on

one of many stream crossings...

or beaver dam crossings...

 We had such diverse scenery - the open bogs and pine trees, hardwood forests, streams, rocky highland meadows (but who can resist a little rock scrambling...

our fall-side "glamour shots"

The sky turns a little pink at sunset...

a little water "feature" near our campsite!


Home sweet home for the night...

Probably my favorite thing about camping is eating...and finally getting to get up in the morning because I didn't really sleep all night (but that's what I expect at this point)  Since it was pretty chilly (didn't freeze the water though, so I'm thinking upper 30's, 2 nice fellas who let us share their campfire since our attempts with wet wood (that's why we brought a stove...) were unsuccessful gave us a couple hand warmers, and I brought one of those thermal heat wraps you stick on from the Dollar Store and stuck it on my backside.  Totally helped.  New strategy for sleeping - hand warmers in the socks, thermal thing on the back, ear plugs, and tylenol pm (which I got, but forgot in the car...)

Hot chocolate! (old school boyscout wear & new age squishy bowl)


a couple miles into the 10 miles on day 2

If we'd been there a week early, the place would have all red!

Looks like an unexploded missile to me!

a little bit of ridgeline...
gotta admire the view!
 Hiking and getting away from it all is usually where I feel closest to God - look at what an imaginative, creative Creator we have.  It's like every breath you breathe out there is an act of worship.
ahhh nature!

Bev demos how the wind blows & tree limbs point in 1 direction
holly berry?

The hills are alive!

Taking it all in...

on top of the mountain!
Gourmet lunch, ala Dottie

Delivery?  not even close...about 3-4 miles left!

beautiful day!

one last stream crossing!
I definitely would recommend some Dolly Sods hiking...if you're doing the northern section, waterproof boots would be advantageous as well...or something you don't mind getting wet in warmer weather.  I think another trip when the blueberries are in season is in order!  :)  Art'll have to wait til I get back from Guinea and I can figure out when to do about 30 of the prettiest miles in NC...  :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Random Musings on Guinea...and Covington...

So today I just had a few random thoughts on going to physical is now in, so it should just be a matter of days before I am officially approved!

Is my 're-entry' shock going to be harder than after living in Honduras for 2 months since I'll be there almost twice as long, or will it be easier since I'll be working on a boat where the usual language is English and I'll be surrounded by lots of non-Guineans? 

I should really take a self defense class at some point...  Conakry will be the biggest city I've ever "lived" in at >1.5 million people.  (I know, I know, that's not that big...3x the size of Tucson, 1/4 the size of Phoenix)

How many times am I going to start randomly speaking in Spanish expecting French to come out?  (I did this in Kenya...someone spoke Swahili to me and I answered in Spanish...silly brain)

I hope I can find some friends that would like to explore the more mountainous regions inland...there are supposedly some nice waterfalls!  I'm hoping I'll be able to see the mountains from the boat - I think they might start about 30 miles inland, but since I'll be going during the dry (and MANGO) season, it's more dusty so visibility might be low.

However, before I get to Guinea, I will be near Covington, VA (known for its lovely smelling paper mill) working for a home health company starting in about 1.5 weeks until Christmas.  I have not done home health before, so that will be interesting in and of itself, as well as the fact that I'll be driving all over these tiny towns and rural countryside to get to my patients, which I will have 30 a week to see. 

I tried to go today to see if I could find a place to live (because it would be 1.5 hour drive each way to get to my office from all the driving between patients...that would put me on the road for probably 7 hours a day, and I tend to get sleepy with lots of driving.  Not a good combination.).  I've struck out so far...part of me just wants to take my tent and camp and come home on weekends.
However...that would probably equal a very stinky PT, with even less sleep and therefore even more likely to fall asleep while driving...  and I would like a refrigerator...  I could get by with a camping stove, but a fridge is a little harder to come by camping.  Unless I dehydrated all my food beforehand ;)  And by the time December comes around, it might be a little cold (although I do have a 0 deg sleeping bag...sometimes it still is hard to sleep when it's in the teens...thinking back to Cold Mountain...brrrr)   Yeah, my patients might not like me sleeping in a tent.  (good, I just justified my way out of that one...shew.)  ;)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Africa bound!

Today I verbally commited to making a dream come true that I've been dreaming about the past 4 years...  to be a PT on Mercy Ships.  WOW.  Pending my physical gets approved, I will be spending 3.5 months on the Africa Mercy stationed in Conakry, Guinea, on the west coast of Africa.  I will leave a few days after Christmas and return mid April...

While I applied for a PT opening in August, I really just knew that several others had applied and then I didn't hear anything for about a month (they said they would take 4-6 weeks to approve an application).  I was able to reach them on Friday to see if I was still a candidate or if anyone else had already filled the position so I would know if I needed to end my next rotation as a travel therapist at a certain time.  They said the Jan-April position was filled, but they might be opening up a spot for a 2nd PT in November for a couple months to help with all the orthopedic surgeries they planned to do, but it had not been approved - they would try to let me know Monday or Tuesday this week.
So after going for a walk this morning, I returned to a voicemail, saying they did indeed have an opening then, as well as the longer opening from Jan-April as the other person had to back out. 

Decisions, decisions...  leave earlier for a shorter time (6 weeks) or leave later for a longer time (~15 weeks).  I had been talking with God a little bit about if the short term one came open (originally she had stated for early October - November, which would be about 3 weeks from now) I was really a little nervous about getting ready in that time period - money, self prep, medical stuff (shots, physical, dentist, etc) and not getting to work in that period meant a little wasted time in my opinion (not that it would actually be wasted, but I knew my insurance benefits would be cut off a little before I could take care of all those physicals and shots and things...).  Then I was given the choice, 2 good choices, and it was one of those things where I felt like God just wanted me to choose my desire.  (Sometimes I don't like choices though, because I can be a little indecisive at times and both options allowed me to be home for Christmas, so that was not a determining factor)  I asked Kristin, the woman helping me through the process, which time they had a bigger need for.  She thought for a while and said the Jan-April spot because we don't have a PT lined up then at all.

Well, that made the decision for me.   BUT oh WOW, I'm going to be the ONLY PT??!!  Yikes.  Now I've been used to being the only PT from time to time, but this is acute care, I know there will be burn and plastic surgery patients, and probably all sorts of other cases I have not seen before.  (I do love my outpatient ortho...)  Yikes, what if I have to do wound care??  So I think I'm going to be in a little over my head... 

Thankfully God's not in over His head.  I've got a feeling I'll be thinking James 1:2-5 quite often these upcoming months.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish it's work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking anything.  And when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, tossed by the wind.  Since I'll be on a boat, that wave of the sea may take on new meaning to me...

Right now I'm riding a wave of excitement and nervousness...  This is going to be awesome!  and hard!  I think the thing that may scare me the most (honestly more than treating things I've never seen before) is the fact that I will mainly be confined to a 500 ft boat.  If you know know I like to get outside and explore...  particularly mountains...  The rooms are tiny, so I don't forsee myself spending much time there...take a look at the single's housing here.  I'm not really clausterphobic, I just like to get out and see wide open land (not buildings or even sea for that matter, and I'm going to be right in between those 2 extremes).  So I think my biggest need for prayer may be that I don't get too 'antsy'.

I will keep you posted on my progress!  :)  Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

My New Toy

So for about 2 months I have been spending a lot of time experimenting with my new toy:  a food dehydrator!  It was a lovely birthday present from my parents.   So I've just been playing around with the variety of different things you can do with a dehydrator - right now I'm trying my first batch of chicken jerky, to be followed by the beef jerky while I'm sleeping tonight.
So obviously you can do jerky...this was marinated in Kikkoman's Teriyaki Takuma Collection which was AWESOME if I don't mind saying so myself.  Think mouth wateringly good...atleast if you like teriyaki like I do!
And then you go to the Farmer's Market and go overboard on buying fresh and happy fruits and veggies and have plenty of ways to 'experiment' with them...
My very first experiment was just drying plain zucchini and squash...nothing special.  Then I did the walnuts and almonds after first soaking them to make the easier to digest (dehydrating just dries them back out after soaking them...they are still considered "raw" if you keep the temperature of the food under 118 deg if you're on a raw food kick).
Then I decided I better step things up a notch, so I tried making some kale 'chips'.  (No, even through they're in a Fat Free container, they do still have fat)  You basically wash kale, rip it into pieces, put a little oil and whatever seasoning you want on it, then throw them in the dehydrator for about 4-5 hours.  I had a garlic parmesan mix that was very tasty on them, as well as just salt.  They're light and crunchy, definitely with a little bit of the bitterness that kale has, but I personally enjoyed them very much!
 Of course there are the regular other fruits: blueberries (took FOREVER to dry), sliced strawberries, halved cherries (also took FOREVER...aka a couple days), star fruit, cilantro, "sundried" tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes), apples, peaches, bananas...  I haven't tried very many veggies yet, so I'll have to work on that some more.  I did try to make potato 'chips', which did not turn out very well - they got grey and were very starchy.  So I pounded it down into little pieces and figure I can use them as a soup thickener if I ever need to...

One of my favorite things has been making fruit rollups!  The ones pictures are actually just applesauce I had in the fridge I decided to experiment with.  I also did ones made out of dragonfruit, tomatoes (again to make into a sauce), cherry banana - blending in any leftover zucchini pieces to get in a bit of veggies!

On a similar note, I used Rawmazing's banana crepe recipe to try out the fruit rollup idea further - obviously mine don't look quite as amazing, but it was fun to try!
I also tried to make a kale-flaxseed cracker/wrap and they were AWFUL.  I'll have to try to make something a bit better than that and see if I can come up with some sort of tasty cracker type recipe...

So as the word 'experiment' came up quite frequently in this post, that would be the most appropriate word for how I've been eating recently...I've also read a book or 2 that make logical sense to me as far as eating the stuff you digest most easily (fruit, then veggies, then protein) first so it can get through your system the quickest.  Very interesting stuff indeed!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to Work!

So, update in order - this one is mainly job related...

I finally managed to land a job near Daytona.  I've been at Florida Hospital - Deland's outpatient clinic for 4 weeks now and I am loving it!!  :)  Orientation was a fabulous start, where they kept on emphasizing Christ centered compassionate care (it is owned by Adventist Health Systems), talked about the start of Adventist Health (basically the brothers that originally made Kellogg's corn flakes were in charge of the 1st Adventist "hospital" and the health system still holds to the idea of healthy eating, exercise and fresh air.  I mean, really?  Can I have a better fit in values in a place to work for?  I think not.  So we get to have lunch for free and I get to eat some pretty amazing salmon that's like $3.40, add in broccoli, carrots and a bottle of Aquafina for <$6 (and good crushed know the kind...).  The salmon was better than the salmon I had at Red Lobster a week before.

Now I get over to my clinic (which is about 6 miles from the I don't get to partake much in their amazing cafeteria...) and there are 2-5 therapists (all ladies - I'm filling in for the only man out on medical leave) there each day depending on the day of the week.  They all seem to get along, work as a team, joke around, and learn new things and try to show me new things.  Thus far, those main "new things" are Graston technique with the tools (which are $2700 to buy) and Kinesiotaping. (yes, that's the stuff you're seeing on all the Olympic athletes right now)  So I'm getting to learn the basics of both of those (probably almost as well as I would in class which would be about $500 each for a class), and I've gotten to share some Strain-Counterstrain (Positional Release) with them...well, my book atleast...never taken a class on it!  It's been great!  Being here reminds me the good ole days of working at Laburnum...we had a good team and a lot of fun :)

The patient population is quite fabulous, too.  I've gotten to work with a 6 year old up to those in the 80's, from orthopedic to neuro.  We get 45 minutes to treat, 60 minute evals without any overlap, and a little documentation time!  Probably my biggest challenge actually has been on the neuro side - particularly Parkinson's disease.  Thankfully there just happens to be a free series of modules on APTA's Learning Center right now that I have been able to go through to get a few new ideas!

This has been an excellent change and about face from my time spent in Ft. Myers where I didn't have many patients, no other therapists at my clinics, and a small set of diagnoses.  YAY!  :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Honk for Jesus: Part 2

Ok, so just to show that I'm not all talk, I wanted to showcase my Honk for Jesus shirt...  (I actually made it when I was still in Ft. Myers so over 2 months ago...Daytona is just keeping me a lot busier than Ft. Myers was so there's not as much downtime for blogging!)

The supplies:
Drifit shirt and iron on letters from Walmart:   (they're a little smaller than I wanted...oh well)

Ironing on:

And the finished product!!  :)
This is after using said shirt to do a very sweaty mountain biking ride at Spruce Creek Preserve near Port Orange, there were not any vehicles for me to actually try out my experiment on, but it works just fine in 105 heat index temperatures as it was today...