February 12, 2010
When the missionaries come into Suva for Special Occasions, a lot of them live here or within easy driving distance. The ones from the outer areas stay with the elders or sisters here. The GA's stay at the Holiday Inn in Suva. It isn't much but it is the nicest hotel here in Suva. The missionaries are on there own for food except the meals we furnish. For those, we eat at one of the chapels. We got so burnt out at Christmas with 5 days of big meals and snacks that The President's wife decided that if she wanted me to make it another year she better make things a little simpler. This last time we had one big lunch during zone conference and the rest of the time they were on their own.
We have a really good doctor here. He and his wife are both from Fiji and they are both doctors. Their experience is limited but they are very thorough and we have a very good rapport with them. They work out of a clinic at the Hospital so we usually take or send the sick missionaries to them. They are both amazed at the vast experience I have had and the things I have done in my career. We are so glad to have them here. The Hospital isn't bad but certainly nothing like IMC.
For any other medical questions I need help with I call Dr. Fuller, the Area Medical Advisor. When I sent the elder to New Zealand Dr. Fuller met him at the air port and took care of him in New Zealand. The Elder is doing much better and because he is from a tiny island here in the pacific he realizes that to be hospitalized and have his problem taken care of is a huge blessing for serving a mission. He is great. He goes back to NZ for a follow up visit in March If the stents worked he will not have to have the major surgery on his Kidney. Another blessing. I often wish I could accompany him to NZ but it works much better to have him stay with Dr. Fuller.
The other missionary with the headaches and possible glaucoma is stable and will just continue with daily eye drops til he goes home in 8 months unless his headaches or white spots get worse. In that case he will either go to NZ or back to California where he is from for an MRI. I called Dr. Doty, in Salt Lake, the medical advisor for the entire church to get the name of an Opthamologist that the church uses to consult with. I called the Opthamologist and he gave me a lot of reassurance that we were doing the right thing for this Elder. As you can see we am not all alone for which we are very grateful.
The bush is way out with very little resources for any medical care and very primitive living conditions. Basically shacks. Lots of bugs, and no filtered water. All of the flats in our mission have filtered water systems to keep the missionaries from drinking dirty water. They do fine if they drink only bottled or filtered water but when they get lax and drink the unfiltered water they get a mighty dose of diarrhea. They don't get a lot of sympathy from me when they do.
About half of out missionaries are native from here in Fiji or surrounding Islands. The palangi's (Caucasion) are from all over America. The natives are healthier because they are used to the conditions but they are usually the ones that are always in trouble for obedience issues. The Americans are tough, good, strong missionaries but they have more of an adjustment to the living conditions. We also see a lot of stress, related illnesses with the palangi's. Missions are tough, especially when you are in such a different part of the world and in a third world country.
We take care of a lot of problems by phone. Some experience has taught me what to tell them to do to take care of their ailments. The biggest problem we have found is infection of open sores. Missionaries are not the cleanest any way and with the humid, warm climate it is a breeding ground for infection. When they call with an infection we send them to the clinic for Antibiotics. Infections rarely get better on their own. We get a lot of calls about heacaches and stuff that. I think they just need a "mom" to talk to.
We have a lot of resources but we carry the load of finding the right resources.
One of the biggest problems we have is the missionaries on the outer areas. I have learned good assessment skills that have helped me a lot. Usually on the first call I just tell them to take Tylenol or Ibuprofen see how they feel in in a day or two. Usually on a second call i send them to the closest clinic. It usually just involves getting an antibiotic. In the case of the two elders that were really sick, they were on their way here for Zone Conference anyway but if they hadn't been i would have had them brought here the on the first plane they could get on. They were scarry because they were so sick and so far away. We said a lot of prayers for them that day.
We are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are getting better dealing with things by phone but sometimes we have to tell them we'll call them back after we have had time to think about it. We then call them back and tell them whatever we feel prompted to tell them. We have received a lot of help this way. Sometimes we have them e-mail pictures of any skin problems they have. One elder took a picture of his tonsils covered with white spots, definitely needed an antibiotic! Another one sent a picture of a large infected boil. Definitely gross and in need of medical attention! Another sent me a picture of a fungal infection of his foot. Again a definite gross and antifungal treatment! That Elder actually had to come to Suva for Medical treatment. Anytime we feel a need to bring them to Suva we consult with the Mission President and his wife and get their permission. It is nice to have someone to bounce things off of. They have been very supportive and trust my judgement.
We hope this has answered most of your questions. As you can see we are busy but things are getting easier and experience is helping us a lot. By the time I get home I won't want anyone to call me about anything wrong with them physically. Even now some days I want to tell them to "take a number" or "take two deep breaths and call me in the morning". It works for me.
We have both been healthy for a while now so hopefully our physical adjustment time is over.
Life is good, we have been blessed and we know we are here doing what needs to be done. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that "It isn't doing what you like to do but liking what you have to do that builds strong character"
Well that's life in Fiji from my perspective. Dave will have to give you his own perspective. All I can say is that he is FANTASTIC. He loves the missionaries and the Missionaries LOVE him. He is known as the guy who gets things done. Everyone says, "If you need something done, Elder Seare is the one to do it". We love serving together and we love serving the Lord.