What do snakes, bicycles and mango trees have in common?
The answer is they’re all causes of injuries and trauma that have resulted in Michelle Proctor being called into the operating theatre at Mukinge Hospital in Zambia, where she’s been faithfully serving for more than 25 years.
Michelle, sent by All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, started in mission as a children’s nurse but has since fulfilled a huge number of roles at Mukinge.
Today, she helps with anaesthesia and also takes responsibility for SIM’s member care for the team in Kasempa, where Mukinge Hospital is situated.
“Trauma is one of the biggest reasons for admission to the hospital,” she says. “Africa is famed for its wildlife and people travel from all over the world to visit the game parks, but the local population has grown and spread to areas where animals live, so the very same creatures that many come to see, can be a daily problem for those living with them.
“The rains bring seasonal conditions and problems, including an increase in snake bites by cobras and puff adders.
“Mangoes on the trees mean children climbing trees, falling out of them and breaking bones, so it’s not unusual to have three or four cases a day of broken arms needing to be fixed in theatre!
“There are also more cars and motorbikes around and big mining lorries on the road. All this, along with a high incidence of alcoholism, accounts for much of the trauma we see.”
Despite seeing many changes over the years, Michelle says it’s a daily blessing to use her nursing skills in a place where she can share her faith, pray, and even sing songs of praise with patients on the ward.
“If as a mission hospital we were to focus only on the healing (medical and surgical) side of things then, no matter how good we are, we’d just be another hospital in rural Zambia. What makes us different is our vision to reflect the glory of God by not only healing, but also through teaching and preaching,” she adds.
Prayer plays a central role in the day-to-day life of the hospital. “We’re blessed to be free to pray on our wards and with patients. We always pray before an operation and every hospital meeting starts and ends in prayer,” Michelle explains.
The hospital also raises money to pay for four chaplains, who support patients and visit them on the wards.
“Sometimes our best is just not enough and theses are hard days, but there’s always a chaplain on call for the difficult situation,” says Michelle.
“For example, I recently asked the chaplains to see a 14-year-old, who’d come into hospital feeling unwell and within 24 hours had delivered a premature baby. She had no idea she was pregnant and one of our chaplains was able to spend time with this new mum, counsel her and pray for her, all in her own language.”
“The chaplains aren’t just for the patients, but also play an important role in supporting the staff and our students.”
The nurses training college is a big part of the hospital and the hundreds enrolled have a weekly Bible study as part of their education.
“Most of our students will be posted to other hospital when they graduate and our hope is that they go not just as excellent nurses but as believing nurses, who will make a difference where ever they are posted,” says Michelle, who’s been spending more of her time recently caring for the premature babies in the hospital’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
“It’s been a welcome break and change of pace from the busy days, and often nights, doing anaesthesia,” she says.
“I love caring for these little ones and getting to know their mums. These very premature babies are fragile and without specialised care – such as ventilation, high-tech monitoring and drugs to help the lungs mature – their chances of survival are poor.
“However, time and time again, I’m amazed by their will to live and how much can be done with what we have (keeping them warm, tube feeds, basic respiratory support, and antibiotics to fight any infections they get). These babies are our little miracles!
“It’s a difficult time for the mums and walking through it with them is an opportunity for us to show the love and care of our God.”
By Kerry Allan
- Give thanks that Michelle is using her skills to follow Christ’s call to care for others.
- For the appointment of more anaesthetic providers in 2024 to help keep the busy theatre running.
- That Mukinge Hospital will continue to reflect God’s glory not only through healing, but also through teaching and preaching.