Sunday, April 22, 2012

Health care, cleaning day and two beautiful women's smiles...

I DO NOT ever want to get sick..I fight illness like a plague..[a little play on words], I fight vomiting to the point of ridiculous and for the most part, refuse to allow my body to succumb to any stray virus it encounters.  I am SO grateful my Heavenly Father has blessed me with a relatively healthy body...I get a rare head cold but can honestly say I VERY rarely am ill.  Well, my friends, I have made one decision for sure...I DO NOT WANT TO BECOME ILL AND HOSPITALIZED IN THIS AREA OF THE PHILIPPINES!  

Two weeks ago, we had a sweet sister who had been ill and confined to the local hospital.  Elder Shaner and I decided to visit her on one Tuesday afternoon and were appalled at the conditions in this 'health care facility'...and I do use that word very loosely.  The patients here are required to [if they want to use them] bring their own sheets to put on the split vinyl mattresses, blankets, pillows, and they must also bring all their own food, water, etc.  We entered this room that was probably 30x40 where there were set up, in two rows along the walls, 20 beds.  Each bed had an ill person in it and another to attend to them.  IV's were hung on poles and inserted into the arm of each patient.  There was NO privacy!!  [this will come into play in a minute]  There was one FILTHY CR [bathroom] that had no door and one toilet.  While we were there, a 'nurse' came in wearing a mask to check on her patient.  Everyone in the room stops and after observing, knows everything that is happening to that particular person.  The air was stifling hot and not a breath of wind.   

Well, Sister Marco's health declined so they transferred her to a nearby city to a 'modern hospital' and last Tuesday we decided to take our district Relief Society president with us as we visited her in Ilagan. That had to be better, right????

Sister Saddul told us that in Ilagan, the hospital also required the patient and family to bring their own food.  We decided to stop at SaveMore [the local grocery store that is as close to an American store as we can get] and pick up a few things but also, to let Sister Saddul help us choose some things that Sister Marcos and her husband might need.  We bought a huge bottle of water, some bread, cheese spread [like Cheese Whiz] a couple of cans of fish, fresh fruit, etc.  After walking up the three flights of stairs to find her 'ward', we were so disheartened to find the same type of set-up.  Her room was smaller, maybe 20x20 and only had 8 beds but it was as 'sad' as the one in Roxas.   Our hearts were broken to see the situation in this facility.  One area of the 'hall' had 9 beds stacked along the wall-these were patients that could not afford the 'ward'.  

When she saw us, her face lit up and she said her hubby was getting her final report so she could leave.  What a blessing we decided to come right then-we could give her a ride home instead of the hour-long Jeepney ride that she expected...she would have been riding in a bumpy, hot, crowded, congested jeep!!  After picking up the x-ray that was on the nightstand and not being able to see anything,  Sister Saddul went to the nurses station to get the report.  [no privacy policies here!].  Her hubby appeared and the orders were confirmed..she could go home!  A nurse came in to remove the catheter, [now remember this room is filled with probably 25 other people and NO curtains to pull] and we were on the way.  It reminded Elder Shaner and me of what we supposed health care facilities would have been like in the late 1800's or early 1900's in the US.  There are modern hospitals in the Philippines, but most Filipinos would not be able to afford to go to one of them.  What they have is what they can afford. I will continue to drink my Zija every day, get my sleep and continually use my hand sanitizer!!!!  I will NOT get sick....I will NOT get sick...I will NOT get sick...
The ward in Ilagan

dark photo but you can probably sense the crowded condition..this was the medicare
ward across the hallway
In July, when the Russell's go home to Oregon, I think I told you in an earlier post that our responsibilities will change some-they are now in charge of the missionary housing and upon their return to the US, that stewardship will be ours.  In the past few months, we have helped them with a few issues but this past week, after Sister Russell had battled a virus for three weeks and they found themselves behind on their apartment checks, they asked us to help bail them out and we were very willing.  They did the check of the Ilagan Zone and we did Roxas Zone.  Because there were eleven apartments to be visited and the driving distances were great, we decided to do it in two days.  We started with the farthest apartment and worked our way back.  It was actually a good experience-I was so surprised at the cleanliness of most of the apartments.  Sister Russell has these cute little 'awards' that she gives depending on their preparation for our visit and most received a 'Celestial Apartment' award.  The few that received 'needs improvement'  were sad and I think a little surprised.  I also took sweet treats and the Celestial Award Elders/Sisters got three from that box whereras the Needs Improvement companionships got three from a different box.
They are all great missionaries and we felt the spirit in each of the apartments.

Elder Cuartel and Elder Roceberte have their food set up like a little 'tindahan'
on their table-we teased them about their extreme organization and cleanliness...
A great companionship for sure!!!

Elder Bean and Elder Makiling showing off their Celestial Award-these are
mighty great guys!!!  Wonderful missionaries...

When we arrived and President Carlos assigned Elder Shaner to be a counselor to President Agustin in the Roxas District Presidency. He had no idea how he would come to love and admire these men.  They meet weekly and work together to learn the handbooks and make changes to conform with what they learn.  They also discuss how they can strengthen individuals and families, how to help the branches follow the handbooks, and in doing so,  they are finding success as the branches follow their counsel.  They visit each of the six branches in the District monthly on a rotating basis, participate in their meetings and providing training to their branch councils.  They hold regular training meetings with the Branch Presidents to help them understand and fulfill their responsibilities.  It has been a great experience for him and he has learned much as he works in his leadership support assignment.
Notice this cute white face?? I always thought HE was dark...haha!
We have known Elder and Sister Breese since 1977 when they first moved to Omaha.  At that time, they were young, [weren't we all!] had a growing family but were not particularly active in the church.  They had not 'caught the vision' so when we moved back to Omaha in 2003 and saw them again IN THE TEMPLE we were very surprised but happy for them.  Since that time, they have become precious friends and we were so happy to share this mission experience with them.  Since August of 2010, they have served faithfully as the 'mission office staff' for President and Sister Carlos.  When they first arrived, it was only them and the Carlos' and they became each other's support system.  As other senior couples were assigned to this mission, the workload became more manageable as they spread the blessings around.  Well, it is now their turn to return to their family in Colorado and they will be missed!  Last Friday night, we gathered for a farewell dinner and they will fly away home next will be bittersweet for sure-they have left their footprints on the hearts of many of these wonderful people and they will take so many great memories with them to cherish for eternity.

Farewell dinner at Ryka's..(picture taken by Elder Shaner)
I want to tell you about Sister Imelda...when I first came and was asked to direct the district choir, I met Imelda.  She was, without a doubt, the most positive and cheerful person I had ever met in my life.  She is a single lady, the age of our oldest daughter, and is dying.  Last year at this time, she was sent home from her work assignment abroad because she was found to have breast cancer.  After having surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in the local hospital, she was in remission and we all rejoiced!  During the choir performances, she was wearing a hat because she had lost all of her hair and a few months ago, I encouraged her to 'strut your stuff, girl', and remove that hat-her hair was so cute and reflected her perky personality.  I even offered her some of my 'goop' to spike it up but she passed on that!!

On Friday the 13th, she was told that her cancer was back and had spread to her liver with a diagnosis of stage 4 liver cancer.  Being single, the only member in her family, and close to her siblings, she had decided to not get further treatment and impose on her family so has a projected lifespan of 4-5 months.  The day after she got her news, she wanted us to come visit so we sat in her cute buhay kubo [outside covered seating area] as she described her diagnosis and her plans.  I wept...I LOVE this woman and as I write this, tears are streaming down my cheeks as I project myself ahead to her funeral. 

She is a very creative lady-at Christmas time she made Sister Carlos and me this hanging star made from straws and since that time, has designed many other fun hanging and sitting decorations from straws.  I showed one to Sister Russell and after talking to her branch Relief Society president, invited Imelda to come teach this skill in her branch.  Last Saturday was the planned day and after picking her up, we traveled to Cabatuan for a fun activity.
Sister Imelda teaching the sisters...what an awesome woman!!

Sister Russell and others struggling to make a flower
As we sat in her buhay kubo, she told us of her desire to attend the temple for her own endowments.  She had never 'made the time' before and that was on her bucket list.  Genealogy has been something she has recently had an urge to do...last month she took a long bus ride to the place where her parents were born and gathered names and dates from living relatives.  She showed me her list and we were thrilled for her.  Enter President Carlos...

We love this man...we have known him for almost 10 years and never before have our hearts been so full as this past week when we found out that after visiting with Imelda to give her a temple recommend, he took action and within 24 hours had all of the arrangements made for her to be accompanied by her branch president, her Relief Society president and two other escorts for a quick trip to Manila!  When we saw Imelda on Saturday and she told us of her marvelous experience the previous week, we were so happy for her.  What a glorious experience she had and all thanks to a great man who listened to the Lord.  Her plans are to return next month if she is still feeling good to do the sealings but she was able to get all of the other work finished during her stay.  She was is so wonderful and humbling to see the Lord's hand in so many of these people's lives..

Sister Fema was finally baptized!!  I have told you about this sweet sister before.  She is amazing...she has been a member of MANY churches in the past years, always searching and trying to find truth.  Each had some truth but she knew, in her heart, that something was missing. 

When we first met her, she had just begun her journey and the culmination of her study led her to the waters of baptism last Saturday.  Never before has anyone been more prepared-this is a very smart lady and sometimes the intelligence gets in the way like it did with Elder Shaner.  After study and an awesome confirmation experience, she knew the path that the Lord wanted her to take and being an obedient spirit, she obeyed.  We were so happy to be part of her story and look forward to many more shared experience with this great saint!
Sister Fema with Joseph (in white and a great family friend)
and her brother on the other side who goes into the Manila MTC on May 19.

Sister Fema with Elder Velez and Elder Griffin, the elders who taught her.
You all know that in July, we will be moving across the street.  Our home was only a one year lease and the home across the street [where the Russell's currently live] has housed senior missionaries for years.  It is a nicer home, cleaner, the grounds are nice and comes with a three-day-a-week housekeeper!!  YIPEE!!

I was visiting Sister Russell yesterday and look what I spotted!!  There are four pineapple plants outside the back door...I have only seen these in Hawaii when we went with the Thorpe's in 1992 so I was totally shocked to see them growing along the side wall.  Another benefit I guess.  There is a nice garden space along that wall and Stephanie is including some American sweet corn and slicing tomato seeds in the box with the crochet hooks.


And speaking of crochet hooks....I LOVE WENDY LUNDY from Wisconsin!!!  Last week I received this package in the mail from a person I didn't know...I recognized the last name because Elder Lundy is one of my favorites!  He arrived here all alone-the only missionary in his batch because of the closing and renovations of the MTC in Manila.  His attitude is so great-always a huge smile.  He was assigned to Ilagan and because we were going there frequently and it was close to us, we hand delivered many packages to him over the past months.  Well, apparently his mom was a follower on this blog and when reading of my plight with the hooks, took action!  I love people who take action-and I do love surprises!  Well, Sister Lundy, you blew me away with your generosity and your compassion.  I texted the sisters in San Pedro [they have been begging me for months to teach them to crochet] and told them 'I HAVE HOOKS!'  I will visit them later today and bring them a color board showing samples of purchased plastic bags for them to order if they want-I will purchase them in Ilagan and deliver them when we have our class in May.  Thank you so much, you sweetie you!!!!  You have made the day of 15 sisters in a little branch who are praising your name!!

Another week has come and gone and we are still plodding along-not as quickly as before because of the extreme heat.  Last night at 5 p.m. it was 97* outside on our porch and 94* inside-we just sit around in our undies and drip...oh, by the way, call before you come.  Don't want you all catching us in our all-together!!!!


  1. I've never seen a pineapple plant. Thanks for sharing! How sweet of Sis. Lundy to send those hooks. I can imagine the 15 women being so excited. I love Sister Imelda's short hair! What a beautiful woman. I pray that she has as much comfort and joy in her last few months. What a difficult decision to make. Sure do love ya!

  2. I love your blog! You will NOT get sick! Yikes!

  3. Janette Fredericks Porter commented on your link.
    Janette wrote: "I am so touched by your blog!"

  4. iana Slack McInelly commented on your link.
    Diana wrote: "Love it!!!"

  5. Do NOT get sick! That's an order. My son Matt had to have a tooth pulled while he was on his mission in South Africa. He showed me a photograph of a sign in front of a dental office (not the one he went to). It was an old piece of cardboard with "Dentist" scribbled on it. Doesn't inspire much confidence!

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