The Best Worst trip…

As I was putting the stitches in Heidi’s knees I reflected upon our little adventure this morning. It had held such promise… We haven’t been to Rio Coco in several yrs, and in my mind it was one of the prettiest hidden gems in my (limited) experience of Honduras. A wild place, rarely touched by man. With cascading waterfalls, pristine pools, and vining jungle, this place sits at the end of the northern road from La Ceiba.

It was on our agenda to visit this magical spot during our brief trip, and Saturday was my only day not working, so we had to make a run for it. Several folks agreed to join (with a bit of cajoling), and so the Hotz, Alexander, and Geer families packed up their crews and made the dusty journey with us.

Not everyone was quite as enthusiastic about this exploit. You see, when you live somewhere for a long time, the amazing opportunities from that place that once enthralled you eventually lose their luster. If you live in Anaheim, eventually Disneyland loses a smidge of its magic. If you live in Hawaii, one awe-inspiring sunset starts to look like another. But, as the say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. We have been away from this beautiful country for over 3 yrs now, and what once was commonplace is now, again, captivating. And so, we went with this hope in our hearts to Rio Coco, the river that runs through the little village of the same name, hoping to rekindle the enchantment.

The trip got off to an inauspicious start, as we came to one of a few river crossings, near Rio Esteban. It appeared that the whole village was out doing work on the precariously steep approach down to the river, so we had to take a ‘detour.’ A detour off a road in the rural jungles of Honduras should set off several red flags of precaution. Luckily, we and our friends were driving rigs made for off road travel (we have actually been driving our old truck, Goldie Matilda. She’s a sweet ol’ diesel Nissan pickup—named after Heidi’s grandmother— that served us faithfully during our time living here. It still smells a bit like the sweaty Scottish gentleman we bought it from years ago–no offense Ian, I didn’t say that it was a bad smell :-). The alternate route took us through some pasture lands, then jungle forest, and eventually across a shallow spot in the river.

After a couple minutes of disorientation following the crossing of the river, it registered that we were basically in someone’s ‘back yard’ and after a few 5-point-turn-abouts, we were back on track and headed down the old red road again. What we didn’t realize was that one of the rigs in our caravan hadn’t caught up, and had lost their way (the Alexander gang). We waited for quite a bit, wondering what had happened… Had Dave and Mer stumbled upon a hidden cartel drug smuggling route, and been gunned down trying to expose the operation? Had the spirit of the jungle awakened, sensed that there were Texans present, and decided to open a sinkhole beneath their Toyota and consume them whole? Or maybe the Rapture had occurred, and damn!– we didn’t make the cut…

It turns out that, stranger than any of my other hypotheses, they had just gotten slightly lost. But then, they got unlost. We all eventually reunited, parked the cars at the ‘trailhead,’ (which was just a wide spot on a fairly narrow road) and went for a short hike to the grotto. After crawling through a barbed-wire fence and making a bee-line through the jungle, we arrived on the edge of a precipice overlooking the river, the sound of the waterfall beckoning to us in the background.

2 things struck me as we carefully tiptoed along the cliff edge down to the water. First, is that the water was not quite as clear and ‘fresh’ looking as I had remembered it. It definitely had that “Giardia/poo-poo party” vibe going. Second, and saddest, was that there was garbage strewn about the moss covered rocks and creeping tree roots. An image burned in my brain from my youth long ago surfaced, the crying Native American in his canoe. (does anyone else remember this ad campaign? It seriously stuck with me…).

Despite the disappointments, we all hopped in the water and it was wonderfully refreshing on this hot and steamy day. Some of us wandered upstream, to the pool that welcomed the waterfall. The waterfall was such that it didn’t fall straight down from the cliffs above, but rather slid down a steep grade of slippery rocks. In the past, during the Summer when the water flow is less forceful, people would scramble up the cascade to the pool above. After centuries of flow over the rocks, one can imagine how much flora has built up on these rocks, as well as erosion, to cause the way to be quite slick. A couple of the boys (Owen, Jacob and Josiah) were lobbying hard to make the ascent. I held them off for awhile, but they eventually wore me down, and so up they went. And then they all fell to their deaths. Well, no, but I certainly threatened them that it could happen. But it didn’t.

But what DID happen was this: Heidi was making her way back down to the lower pool by way of a gigantic boulder. This, too, was worn smooth by time and water. I didn’t see it happen, but apparently her wet feet betrayed her and she fell off, bouncing down the boulder into the river below. Several people saw this happen.

Dave was watching, and says he yelled her name as she was falling, several times actually, but she just kept falling. Where she landed was out of his field of vision, but he says her pink North Face hat eventually came floating down the river to him, with no Heidi attached.

Our oldest son, Will, saw the whole thing start to finish. She landed in a shallow portion of the river and Will says she just laid there, face down, for a bit. He was terrified, but within seconds she was moving and sitting up. She said later she was just assessing if anything was broken, or if she had wound up in the Good Place.

By the time I got to her, she was in a little bit of shock, but after a quick survey we surmised that she hadn’t broken anything, miraculously. she had bruises on her chin, chest, elbows, knees, foot, and probably some girl parts. There were several scrapes, 2 scratches, a slash and a gash, 3 abrasions, a contusion, a green lesion, a bunion, some funyuns, and 2 lacerations (that I eventually closed with 5 stitches, back at the hospital…). But all in all, she missed her head, and we were grateful because the whole thing certainly could have been worse. What if she had broken her cookie makin’ hand?

A comment on our dear friends, The Alexanders: They have been to dozens of streams and waterfalls during their 8 years of service here at Loma de Luz. They have swam in rivers and seas, have snorkled and scuba’d, and hiked in jungles and on mountains. They have jumped from cliffs and killed snakes, spiders and scorpions. They have had plenty of adventures here in Honduras. I think this morning what they would rather have done was share a cup of coffee on the patio, while we ate sweet-treats and reminisced. However, they went on this uncomfortable trip with all it’s hiccups just so they could spend time with us, and for that we were immensely grateful and touched. (Hotz and Geers, we are grateful you guys went, too!!)


I’ve been working here almost every day, and so far my favorite hospital moment has been one spent with Carolien, who is a nurse mid-wife, from the Netherlands. She has been working here now for over 4 years, I believe, and recently married a wonderful local national, named Marlon.

I was struggling a little bit with a delivery, a lovely lady having her first baby. She was doing great, but pooping out toward the end, and so I was considering putting a vacuum on. I always call for some help when I do this, because sometimes bad things happen when you start yanking baby heads out. Carolien came, and we had a sweet time together, helping this woman and her husband with their own personal little miracle (she was in her 30’s –ancient for her first baby here in Honduras– and had suffered 2 miscarriages). Carolien has delivered hundreds of babies (1000’s?) and yet the tenderness and attention to care with which she lavished upon this family was beautiful; Like it was her first delivery. It was a true testament to her service and passion in the name of Jesus.


This is a whip scorpion, or cave spider; we’ve seen a few of them here over the years. They look absolutely terrifying, but it turns out they are quite docile. They are so scary looking that one was even used The Goblet of Fire Harry Potter movie (check out the link). It seems like it should be an imaginary creature…

Juliet’s not afraid a’ no whip scorpion…

Will found a walking stick bug

Will found a ‘Walking Stick’ bug…

Hospital Loma de Luz, Balfate, Colon, Honduras

Heidi, getting her stitches

Heidi’s knee, stitched…

Juliet, on the road to Rio Coco

The fun we had with this dead water spider (they are a type of fish-eating spider, can run across the water…)

Owen and Will, walking down the Loma (hill) as we went to Casa Sanctuario to play some ultimate frisbee.

the Infamous, Goldie Matilda.

until the next time, friends.

Airport Zombies

Sunset over Balfate, and the Caribbean Sea

Welp, it’s been what? Like 3 years since I wrote on this blog? It’s been laying dormant, like a Cicada, waiting to burst forth and make a loud noise. Let’s see if I can pour a few creative juices into it, and enlighten y’all, my friends. Or in the very least, entertain you. There may not be a ton of juice; It might just be a light glistening of sweat, as I write about our return to our previous home in Honduras.

Our story starts last night, as we began our journey back to the land of deep waters.

When booking flights for a journey like this, a person obviously tries to pick the most comfortable path possible. But sometimes the idea of efficiency gets the best of us. Enter, the ‘red eye…’. No, I’m not talking about a highly contagious infection of your sclera (conjunctivitis), nor a crass term used by 17 year old boys for one’s anus. I’m talking about overnight flights. Urgghhhh.

Of course, airlines are going to offer them = $$$. But, dang, they suck. I think they are a bit like childbirth, or running a marathon; Incredibly painful during the event, but swiftly forgotten after. And, in fact, eventually remembered as a ‘good idea.’ Well, I’m writing this down so that you can benefit from our misfortune: overnight flights are a bad idea.

I can think of 3 reasons to support this claim. First, you end up tired the next day. Second, you can’t sleep during the flight, so you end up extremely sleepy. And third, It’s horribly uncomfortable so it’s impossible to sleep. And that sucks…

I had delusions of grandeur. I would strap on my neck pillow, put my seat way back and stretch out my legs, and just sleep for 5 and a half hours straight. But instead, I tossed and turned, startling at things like turbulence; and the person behind me kicking; and other neighbors passing ‘airplane toots.’ My dreams of capitalizing on entering the ‘time portal’ of sleep + flight were never realized.

Heidi held no such illusions, she knew she would struggle. So we planned ahead, and I gave her a tablet of Xanax that was prescribed for our dog over 3 years ago (Xanax is bad…). She’s said it instantly disintegrated in her mouth, in a puff of dust and mold. Apparently all the ‘magical’ properties of this oft-sought-after sedative had been leached from the pill over the years of storage. Her sleep, or lack there of, was unaffected.

Juliet was slumped forward, resting her face on her neck pillow upon the tray table, like a drunk who had passed out face first into her bowl of soup. She slept a little.

The boys were in and out of slumber, mouths gaping open on occasion. On other occasions I could see them concentrating on their phones, doing activities that are very meaningful and edifying, such as playing video games.

The result of this fiasco was that we were left in a so called, ‘zombie-traveller’ state, where one loses all sense of personal hygiene, nutritional integrity, and intimate spacial modesty.

We’ve all seen those people at the airport. Their clothes are dishevelled, their eyes are puffy (AND RED!), they aimlessly wander about looking for a Starbucks, and invariably their bodies are just strewn about on the floor anywhere they can find the space (often Directly on the floor of the airport, where about 200 million people from all over the world drag their grimy shoes across a nidus of carpet.)

This was the sorry state in which my family and I found ourselves. Half of us were doing the coffee/breakfast zombie-slow-walk thing. The other half, including my middle son Owen, were passed out on the floor in a waiting area. Owen was so disinhibited that he was sleeping more on his side, almost with his face down. His face was, in fact, dangerously close to touching the floor.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the patch of carpet that was occupying the space just below Owen’s slumbering face. He had a drool stream that threatened to kiss the filthy rug, with grimy germs from a thousand origins waiting to march up into his mouth.

I’d like to discuss three of the germs, in particular, that were waiting to enter Owen:

  1. There were a few molecules from a fish taco deposited 5 days ago. 22 year old Brandi partied a little too hard the night before her return from Punta Cana. While awaiting the outgoing flight, she unloaded the contents of her stomach in an airport toilet. There was some moderate splattering of vomitus scattered around the base of the receptacle. That’s where Janice age 63 from Kansas City came on the scene. Her eyesight isn’t so good, and she traipsed right through the puddlettes of partly digested mahi mahi mixed with rum, and took them for ride on the plane, eventually landing on the carpet inches from Owens mouth.
  2. Next, there was a globlet of mucus that took flight from Jacksonville Jared’s nose when he sneezed 8 hours ago. Jared had been feeling more tired than a trip to Miami’s beaches for a week ought to elicit. The sneeze came without warning, so Jared was unable to bring the fossa of his arm to his nose in time to hinder the projection of snot and aerosolized microbes from rocketing beyond. A selection of this offering touched down upon Owens carpet patch. Yep, chocked fulla’ the ‘Vid…
  3. One final example brings us to a pasture in Choteau, Montana. DJ wears his cowboy boots everywhere, all the time. And Jeans. Even when he visits the Caribbean. (What’s the deal with cowboys and Caribbean beaches, btw? There’s a whole sub genre of country music devoted to singing about cowboys getting drunk on the sandy shores of paradise…). DJ is still sporting some cow turds clandestinely coating the smooth undersurface of his clodhoppers. Not much, but just enough to leave a little something for Owen to potentially ingest from our popular carpet repository.

At any rate, I’m not sure if Owens lips ultimately made touchdown on the ‘carpet.’ I was too tired to care. Eventually I layed down next to him and fell asleep. Hours later, I woke up with a weird taste in my mouth…


I’m happy to report that we finally, indeed, reached our destination: Loma de Luz Hospital, on the North Coast of Honduras, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. I look forward to writing a few updates on the work I am going to do there, and the beautiful, strange, exhilerating, sad, happy, and heart-warming experiences that we have.

If you peruse the website, you will see that I need to do some serious updating. It has been just over 3 years since our time living and working in Honduras. Nos Vemos!

As always, a couple photos…

Josiah Hotz, playing with the Boa that they discovered today in the playhouse. (don’t worry folks, no animals were hurt during the process of decapitating this snake…)

This is the the kind of thing that jungle kids find to play with. Well done, young Josiah

Above is a baleada. ‘little bullet.’ it may look like poo poo with eggs in it, but it is seriously one of my favorite meals. They don’t make tortillas like this in the States (or Mexico, sorry amigos…)

Bridge to Loma de Luz hospital

Well, see you in another 3 yrs… 😉

Bodies that are Foreign…

I’ve had a nice rest since the 46 days of Lent series.  Ready to get back to some bloggin’….

Warning, Meme alert:  I’ve just discovered this brand new communication technology called “memes.”  They are little snippets of soundless video that often have snarky captions.  I went hog-wild with them…  Enjoy.

Foreign bodies can be intriguing.  I’m not making any sort of provocative innuendo, here.  My wife is domestic, and I only have eyes for her.  I’m talking about stuff that gets lodged/wedged/stuck/imbedded/trapped in all manner of locations in the human body.  Every week someone comes to the hospital in the hopes that we can remove whatever thingy has got into them. Continue reading

Day 45, Reign of Terror

45/46 of daily Lenten blog…

This past week I rounded a corner in the hospital and there was a bit of a crowd assembled.  There was some buzz.  I worked my way forward to see what was going on.  It turns out, it was because of an increasingly common occurrence here at Loma de Luz:  First steps…  The crowd was witnessing a middle-aged gentleman’s first steps with a new prosthetic leg, and it was like he had his own cheering section assembled.  This is a beautiful thing to witness.  Fun to see restoration of function and dignity.  We are so grateful and excited about the new Prosthetics Lab that is up and running at Loma de Luz. Continue reading

Day 43, The Probe, part II

43/46 of daily Lenten blog…

Today I had a couple interesting folks to see.

Moe (not his real name) 53, tells me he was sitting in his home this past December when a bullet tore through his elbow, fracturing it.  The bullet wasn’t intended for him, but bullets have a funny way of traveling a long ways before they stop. Continue reading

Day 41, Remote…

41/46 daily Lenten blog…

One of my first patients this morning was a friendly chap from an area of Honduras called La Moskitia.  Sometimes I think that we live in a remote area of the world because it takes 1 1/2 hours to drive to a city, and we don’t have stores or restaurants anywhere nearby (the closest Starbucks is in El Salvador, a 12 hour and 22 minute drive away).  But then I consider the folks living out in La Moskitia.  This fellow, Ned (not his real name) first took a boat ride down a tortuous river for 6 hours, and then drove another 12 hours just to come see us. Continue reading