Akron has ‘Iowa Hospital Hero’

Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:41 pm

j STEMM Jennifer Milby.tif

By Julie Ann Madden

It was her first mission trip, and its impact was life-changing for Akron Mercy Medical Clinic Nurse Practitioner Jennifer (Hadley) Milby.

Several years ago, a Tanzanian obstetrician came to Sioux City for back surgery after becoming acquainted with Siouxland Tanzanian Educational Medical Ministry (STEMM) through Dr. Steve Meyer.

Milby provided housing to the obstetrician during his recovery in Siouxland and he invited Milby to visit his country. However, it just never seemed to work out even though STEMM volunteers go to Tanzania about every six months.

About a month before STEMM’s May 2017 trip, Meyer asked Milby to go and she decided that no matter what she’d make this mission trip work.

Milby, along with church executive director/athletic trainer Kevin Negaard and nurse Manda Volkers were the last three to join this mission trip. They were part of Meyer’s medical team who would be opening a new orthopedic clinic in the remote area of Singida.

The team was to help at orphanages, work at village feeding programs, make medical “house calls,” and visit several medical centers to get a feel of what medical care is like in a Third World country, said Milby. The 10-day trip also included two “free” days for the team to go on safari, visit national parks and shop.

When they arrived in Tanzania, the team learned there had been an administrative staff change and there were no appointments scheduled for the Singida clinic. Therefore, Meyer suggested the trio take one of the “free” days early.

Just ask Milby or the team and they will tell you how God was working a miracle through them.

“When we got ready to leave our camp that morning, I couldn’t find my camera — it was right where it was supposed to be even though I looked there five times,” said Milby. This delayed their departure. “Then we were stopped by some villagers selling souvenirs, causing us to be about 90 minutes behind schedule.”

As they came around a curve, they saw a school bus had crashed into a ravine.

Although their Tanzanian driver/translator didn’t want to stop, Milby was adamant.

People were already forming a human chain from the roadway to the bus to bring the bus’ occupants up to the roadway, said Milby.

Milby, Negaard and Volkers immediately set up a triage area as the human chain passed body after body to the STEMM team. Those who had a possibility of surviving were loaded on trucks that went to nearby hospitals in Karatu and Arusha.

Later, this was called the worst school bus accident in Tanzanian history as 32 students, two teachers and the bus driver died.

The next day as they shopped the three saw a newspaper detailing the accident and learned survivors were at a hospital just six blocks away.

“We were the only white people for miles around,” said Milby, explaining the hospital guards recognized us and let us in.

“We got to see them,” said Milby, “and all other plans were thwarted.”

The STEMM team, led by Meyer, spent the next few days arranging to get the three survivors — who had more than 20 bone fractures — to Sioux City’s Mercy Medical Center. Wilson, Doreen and Sadhia came with their mothers, their doctor and nurse.

The trio spent three months recovering in Siouxland. Doreen also did rehabilitation through Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, Lincoln Campus.

Negaard and Milby traveled with them back to Tanzania. There was a large reception on the airport tarmac for the three dubbed “Miracle Kids of Tanzania.”

For the one-year anniversary, Milby returned to Tanzania for about a week this past May.

In October, the trio came to Sioux City for their one-year medical checkups to make sure they were healing properly. Doreen is still facing more therapy and possibly surgery. The children also shared their gratitude to the missionaries.

“It was definitely life-changing,” said Milby, explaining she’d been at a spiritual low point before the trip. “I needed to do something…why not go on a mission trip?”

“There’s no way I couldn’t see how God had a hand in it,” said Milby as she talked about deciding at the last moment to go on this specific mission trip — how each delay happened in order to get her to the accident scene at the right moment. “I’m just a normal person but God has a plan.”

On Oct. 10, Milby, Negaard and Volkers received the Iowa Hospital Heroes Award from the Iowa Hospital Association for “going above and beyond to help someone in healthcare.”

On Oct. 27 at the Hole N’ The Wall Lodge in rural Akron, Meyer and U.S. Rep. Steve King shared this story with about 50 supper guests at King’s annual Colonel Bud Day Pheasant Hunt.

Akron’s Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Susan Juilfs led grace before the meal.

Meyer has written a book called “Answer The Call” about STEMM and the Tanzanian Miracle Kids as they are now called.

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