My Brother Joseph’s Monthly Update February 2014

joe bday
Greetings to everyone during the best month of the year!
Why is it the best month you ask? Because my mother and I were born this month. Plus, it is unique since it has fewer days than all other months and even gets an extra day once every 4 years. Sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like to be born in a leap year on the 29th. I would only be 7 years old!
As always, thank you all for your prayers over the past few months. I have truly been blessed and provided for during this time and cannot complain. God is and will always be One who provides – Jehovah Jireh.
Regarding updates, I am happy to say I am in quite good health these days, and I am truly thankful for it. Every day in the hospital is a continual reminder of how much I have – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. We take our senses and abilities for granted, so I hope you will join me in thanking God for these simple yet very important gifts he has given us.
As it turns out, there was a last minute change, and I was moved to the Surgical ER instead of the Peds ER. For those that were praying that children would warm up to me, the good news is that 33% warm up to me while 66% cry on sight. I don’t blame any of the kids that cry out fear because I am now the dreaded “doctor holding the needle and sutures”. Usually, I can get them to crack a smile when I am done, but some give me a look as if I have traumatized them for life. One important lesson I have learned while suturing children is this – never ever tilt your ear towards their mouth unless you want to be deaf for the next 5 or so minutes.
It has been almost a whole month since I have been in the Surgical ER. It might be due to the size of the building or just the staff in general but things seem to run a tad bit more smoothly here than in the Medical ER. It probably helps that the senior house officers are more easy to get a hold of. If I could sum up my experience this past month it would be the following: food, slap, bullets and blasts, sutures, and opportunities.
Since I have joined the team of junior house officers in the Surgical ER, two of the married doctors have taken it upon themselves to feed me from time to time, which has been absolutely awesome. Just two days ago there was a big feast with pasta, salad, chickpea soup, chicken stuffed with rice, and non-sticky rice. There was no particular reason than the doctors being very generous and motherly; however, I consider it as an early birthday party.
So next comes the slap. I must say that in my entire life, this was a first for me. I have been smacked in the face and arm with pillows (sprained my arm when I was a child while pillow-fighting my sister [boy, was she strong back then]), been hit by a metal bat right above my eyebrow, and even had a lunch pail broken on top of my head, but a slap on the face? Never, until now. While treating an elderly patient, who was more confused than I initially thought, I was taken by surprise as he stared at me and slapped me quite suddenly across the face before I even pricked his finger for a blood sugar check. I didn’t have time to react and the ironic part was that he was a former stroke patient who had had some weakness in the very upper limb that supplied this slap. I am under the impression the physical therapy he underwent was quite effective. The family was very apologetic but I could not help laughing a little. The poor guy was confused, and I most likely took him by surprise (as far as he was concerned) so the fault lies with me for not being more cautious. Anyone working in the medical field, beware a confused elderly patient. They pack more punch than expected.
Being one of the better trauma hospitals in the area, any patients suffering blast injuries, gunshot or stab wounds come to us from the nearby villages and cities. We get at least two or three blast injuries a week and one gunshot wound a day. Of the cities, Mosul, aka Ninevah, is one of them. Yes, Ninevah from Biblical times where Jonah was spit out of a fish after spending three days and nights in its belly. Unfortunately, although it is only 1.5 hours away from Duhok, it is a danger zone where I have been told I would most likely be killed on sight.
One fascinating discovery I have made is that people who are from Ninevah still practice fasting for three days in the middle of February. If one recalls, when Jonah told the Ninevites that God was going to bring judgment, the king ordered a fast of repentance for three days and nights for all living creatures in the city, humans and animals alike. Although the fast has been altered to be a meat fast, the tradition has been continuing since Biblical times. How awesome is that?
Though I have never been very surgically inclined, I have been able to attain a lot of suturing experience over the past few weeks, and I feel quite competent at this point.  I have come to actually enjoy suturing, which surprises me since I was always so afraid of doing them. As they say, practice makes perfect, and it builds up confidence in the process.
Opportunities are always out there. It is just a matter of taking a few risks to grab a hold of them. I have found the surgical attending physicians to be more amiable than initially expected. Some have even offered to supervise me doing a CV line or a thoracostomy. I have yet to get the timing right with a patient that requires it with a physician willing to let me perform it, but I do have another month in the surgical ER so we shall see.
From a less medical side, I met a teacher at the nursing school who offered to give me a tour of the medical university beside the hospital. The university has a school of medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacology. I even sat in for a few minutes on a lecture teaching nurses suturing techniques. On my way out, I finally got to meet one of the doctors who I had heard so much about. I love how God makes these divine connections in the simplest of ways. A family physician from Germany, he is currently a lecturer in the school of medicine. Though we only spoke for a short while, I look forward to more opportunities to talk with him and get to know him.
Well, I hope everyone enjoyed taking a glimpse into my life this month. Once again, thank you all for your prayers. Prayer requests this time around would be the following:
1. Continued health – physically, mentally, and spiritually
2. A  group which includes my mother will be coming to provide medical care for a few months in Kurdistan from the end of March to early May with two weeks in Duhok. They are currently in training so if everyone could pray for them (an extra dose for my mother) and for their team leader Bob.
3. My grandmother is not doing so well back in California with a fracture in her lower back. If you could join me in praying for her recovery.
4. Continued improvement in Kurdish. I seem to have plateaued again and my brain seems to have overloaded. Sometimes, I get so confused what the next word out of my mouth should be as 4 or 5 different words in different languages are at the tip of my tongue and I get all tongue-tied.
5. Ranking for residency match finishes today and match day is next month. This will determine whether I stay here in Duhok or return to the states for training before returning to Kurdistan with more medical knowledge under my belt and better equipped to serve the people living here. I have given it to God and whatever happens, I will be at peace.
God bless everyone and until next time,
Joseph Lee