Someone You Should Know: Peggy Briggs - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Someone You Should Know: Peggy Briggs

by Pam Warnke

MARSHFIELD (WAOW)-- When you meet Peggy Briggs it's evident there's a light. She's kind-hearted, caring, sincere in a way you don't often find.  During her 25 years as an emergency room nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital Briggs has made use of not only her compassion, but she's honed her skills.

"It's busy.  You take care of just all kinds of patients," said Briggs.  "That's what I like about the ER.  You have different kinds of patients: cardiac, medical, surgical, trauma."

Briggs recently returned from a second trip to the Congo where she's put both to good use.

"Our son-in-law's brother asked us to go along to Africa with their family and so we went then and then this time, the founder of the missions in Africa, the hospital there asked us to come over."

Briggs's husband accompanied her to Impfondo from January through March.  He did mechanical work, including building a house.  The veteran nurse worked for the Global Outreach Mission at Pioneer Christian Hospital.

"It's an old communist youth camp that's been converted into a hospital.  It's a mission hospital so the focus is telling people about Jesus," she said.

The avenue for this spiritual service comes through the hands of medical caregivers and their devout faith and purpose at Pioneer.  Peggy says it's not hard to do. 

She said, "Because life is spiritual and physical.  Life is telling people about Jesus."

What takes more work is adjusting to the Congolese culture of health.  Those needing help come early everyday.  Often times waiting in a field to be seen.

"It's not like here.  It's not like you have a scheduled appointment.  They just come and they wait.  A lot of people don't come until they are really sick," Briggs said.

If they're admitted to the hospital they pay roughly 5000 francs a week.  Most don't come for minor things, it's usually serious sickness.

"It's usually malaria.  Malaria is huge over there.  The people that come are extremely sick.  You see those people right away."

There's an emergency room, but unlike St. Joseph's 18 bed facility it only has four.  Often times those patients are injured in a territorial war going on across the river.

"There's no monitors.  There's not EKG.  There's not respiratory therapy like we have here," Briggs said.

Peggy says everything is a team approach.  Three mission doctors and a Congolese surgeon oversee the operation.  They see not only malaria and war wounds, but a lot of tuberculosis and HIV.  There are antibiotics, but not a lot of other medications.  The use of pain control is limited.

"There's no general anesthetic.  Everything is done under a spinal or we use ketamine.  It's like a conscious sedation.  So all the surgeries are done under that," Briggs said.  "These people are up and walking immediately afterwards and the most that I ever gave for pain medication was Tylenol.  They don't demand it.  They don't ask for it and it's not readily available."

During their hospital stay the staff makes rounds and performs skilled care, but the patient's family gets a list of instructions they're responsible for.  The method is referred to as garde malade.  The direct translation means home nurse.  It's the Congolese belief that someone who loves you is the best caregiver.

"The family is responsible for taking care of them, bathing them.  There's no sheets at the hospital so the family brings in sheets from home to cover the cots.  They do the laundry.  There's a well on the property so they bring their bucket and soap and clean the sheets, clean the clothes.  They are responsible for feeding the patient so there's an area set up that.  There's a fire and they bring their own pots and pans," said Briggs.

It's a cultural difference, believed to make the difference with healing.  Peggy says they are grateful for the care and she is grateful to give it.  She hopes to go back again to share her help and heart.

"Just helping the people there and encouraging them and loving them because they're no different there.  They want someone to love them," Briggs said.

Online Reporter: Pam Warnke

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