PLATTSBURGH The Spronk family recently experienced a feeling akin to stepping out of C.S. Lewis's famous wardrobe from his book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
On Aug. 17, Dr. Wayne Spronk, an internal medicine physician at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, his wife Suzanne and their three young children, Pascal, Emma, and Andre, returned to their Plattsburgh home after a successful six month missions trip to Gabon, Africa. They found everything in Plattsburgh about the same as when they left, but like Lucy and her siblings returning home from Narnia, they felt they had lived a lifetime of strange and unusual experiences and adventures while they were gone.
When the Spronk's left Plattsburgh last February, they were not chasing adventure, but seeking an opportunity to love others and live out the golden rule. While in Gabon, Wayne volunteered at the Bongolo Hospital of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), where most of the staff and patients speak only French and Nzebi. This fact was a challenge for Wayne as was the shortage or complete lack of many of the supplies, technology, and medications doctors take for granted in the United States. Wayne knew exactly what to expect though, as this was his third medical missions trip to the hospital.
Waynes patients exhibited a gamut of medical problems, but about 75 percent of his inhospital patients had full-blown Tuberculosis (TB) and 50 percent of those had AIDS.
These patients had to remain in the hospital for at least 8 weeks to prevent drug resistant TB and so I got to know them well, he explained, and I have so many stories about them. Many of the TB patients were so far along in their disease that they were sure they were coming to the hospital to die, but many returned home with restored health.