Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hope and Belief

This is the beautiful rainbow that I saw just before I sat down to write my last blog. Once again, I’m amazed at the beautiful reminder the Lord gives us of His hope. Thank you all for the prayers and the comments after my last blog. The prayers have definitely been felt! Last weekend was restful and a time of refreshing. During Bible study last Sunday, a comment was made that went something like “Belief is stepping out of the door into the dark”. This really left an impression on me, especially in light of that tough week. God calls us to step into the dark sometimes – to go places we are totally unsure of, not confident of, so that His power can shine. It was an encouragement to me to trust Him even when I’m called into a situation or to do something that I’m not comfortable with or feel inadequate to do. I pray that this thought will encourage you as much as it did me. As a side note, the Lord blessed me with a fairly quiet week this week. I am currently at Tenwek hospital (a large mission hospital in Bomet, Kenya) visiting some friends, which is also a blessing. I’ll post more on that later.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Paradox

I am now nearing the end of a weekend of rest after what has definitely been the hardest week I have had here in Kapsowar. I had a wonderful time this morning worshiping with my new church family here and marveling in the sounds of about 200 Kenyan children as they praised the Lord with their voices. And now, as I type this, there's a beautiful rainbow over the valley outside my window - a reminder of the Lord's promise that He loves us and is faithful.
So, this was a very full week. Every day seemed to bring many surprises and emergencies. There were emergency C-sections, retained 2nd twins after a traditional birth attendant allowed a woman to labor at home knowing she had twins, too many D&C's to count including a couple that were in shock. On top of all of that, Ben and Cathy Sawer, who I have written about before, left to return to Canada. They left a hole here on station and we were all very sad to see them go.
The most consuming patient of the week was a 19 year old girl - we'll call her V - who was transferred from a health centre where she had delivered her baby prematurely and then developed postpartum hemorrhage. When she arrived at Kapsowar, she was hypotensive and had a hemoglobin of 6 (should be at least 12). She was given blood and seemed to improve a bit. Then, her blood pressure became high (probably what it was before delivery) and she complained of a severe headache - she had severe pre-eclampsia (toxemia). Who knows how long she had had it. So, I started her on appropriate therapy and she seemed to improve. Then, on Thursday, I noticed that her abdomen was becoming distended. Her exam was consistent with ascites, which can come from the liver being affected by pre-eclampsia. On Friday, it was markedly distended and an ultrasound confirmed that she had massive ascites. We decided to drain some of the ascites to make her more comfortable. As I was coming to do that procedure, I noticed that she all of a sudden was not very responsive, responding only to pain but not able to communicate. This was a definite change from how she had looked just an hour before. We quickly did what we could, but decided she needed to be transferred to Eldoret - a 2 hour drive and the closest ICU. One problem - our only functional ambulance was currently in Eldoret. So, we had to wait for it to get back in order to transfer her. We prayed over her and reassured her scared husband that we were transferring her where she could get better care. As we saw her off, I had a bad feeling. Why had she suddenly worsened? Was there something else I could have done? Should we have transferred her sooner? Only God knows the answers. All night that night, I couldn't sleep. I just felt like something wasn't right. I said so many prayers for V - that she would recover, that her newborn child (her first) would do well, that her family would have strength through this difficult time, that they would come to know the Lord.
I found out the next morning when I went in for rounds that V had died at 3 am. My first maternal death. She was only 19. The unfairness of it all was overwhelming. Why couldn't I have done anything else? Why couldn't I do the labs I needed to do to determine why she had become nearly comatose? Why would a 19 year old be taken away from her newborn child? As I sat and cried, I was comforted by one of the labor nurses and one of the cleaning ladies. They reassured me that this happens here in Kenya and it would be okay. But it's not okay I told them. It's so unfair.
While I will continue to mourn V, I think that the Lord had a lesson to teach me through all of this. First, He is in control and He does have a plan. Second, I am not in control and no matter how much I think I know, ultimately, my patients' lives are in His hands. Third, I have to just trust God that what I am doing for the patients is the right thing and leave the rest to Him.
So, despite the fact that it was an exhausting, overwhelming, and challenging week, I think it will be one that I will look back on as a turning point, perhaps. I now know, more than ever, that He is in control. And I praise Him that after we have come through the flood, He provides a rainbow of hope to remind us that He is there - yesterday, today, and forever.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mexican and a movie – a great combination

While we were in Eldoret, Ben bought a video projector to give to the local church to use for outreaches. We decided collectively that we should try it out to make sure it worked properly before he gave it to the pastor. So, we made a Mexican feast (it was great!) to share with everyone. Then, we set up the video projector and hung a bedsheet in front of the window and had a theatre experience, complete with popcorn. Thomas, our anesthetist, and his wife as well as Mikel joined as us well. We watched “Miracle” – the movie about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team that won gold. It was a great movie to watch on a big screen. I didn’t think until later that maybe it would mean nothing to Kenyans, but they seemed to enjoy it. It was a good night for all. It never ceases to amaze me how little it takes to really make my day now J It’s going to be tough now, though, to go back to watching movies on my computer – which suited us just fine before the projector came into our lives.

The movie watchers
Our big screen

Kapchesewes Children’s Home

Last weekend, we took a walk to a nearby orphanage. It is a place I have wanted to go to and this is the first chance I’ve had to go. The walk there was, like most hikes here, breathtaking and challenging. But definitely worth it (see picture below).

This is a children’s home run by AIC (Africa Inland Church). It is home to 35 children, 25 of whom are there during the school year – the other 10 go to a boarding school for high school.They range in age from 6-18. Some are there because they have lost both parents. Others are there because their families cannot afford to care for them. They are raised in a loving, Christian environment. For the last 5 months, the “parents” to these children have been Rebekah and David. They are a wonderful Christian couple with 5 children of their own who work there as volunteers. That’s right – they run the orphanage and parent these children for no pay whatsoever. Even though they do not have much money of their own, they give selflessly of their time and their talents to give these children a loving home. There is a tie to Kapsowar Hospital, as both Rebekah and David used to work for the hospital.

At the children’s home, the children learn vital life skills. They are all involved in cooking, cleaning, managing a small farm as well as tending after sheep and cows. All of these things are skills that will serve them well in life here in Kenya. They also are taught scripture and worship songs. As you talk to the children, it is evident that they love the Lord and that they have great goals for their futures. Just a few that I talked to said they wanted to be doctors, teachers, pilots.And they believe that they can accomplish this. Laura Rhodes, the wife of the long-term missionary surgeon here, has established an education fund which allows these children to go to secondary school (high school) as well as to college if they qualify.

While the home is full of love, it is significantly lacking in physical comforts. The children sleep two to a bed in beds that most of us would complain about sleeping in by ourselves. The mattresses are thin and worn and sag in the middle. The blankets they have are thin and have holes. Up in the hills in Kenya, it can get pretty cold at night – even I broke down and bought a small space heater. They also cannot all eat at the same time, because they don’t have enough bowls, plates and cups.

Several people here have been impressed by this place. Just being there, their joy surrounds you and is infectious. There are plans to build bunkbeds and buy new mattresses, as well as build new cabinets for clothes.

I was so touched by these children, as I am by most orphans. There’s just something special about them. I hope to take many more trips there.

The beautiful walk there

Tons of maize (corn) laying out to dry. The kernels will be
ground into cornmeal and used to make ugali, a Kenyan staple food
A bunch of the boys with Mama Brian, Kim and Eliesa (2
medical students)
Me with some of the kids and Dave with one of the sheep
Me and the kids and Rebekah and David (the parents)
The shower

31st Birthday!

So, for the second year in a row, I celebrated my birthday in Kenya (October 26th – I’m a little behind on blogging). It was a very busy day at the hospital that day. However, the night was great and very relaxing. Mikel, one of the hospital employees and our station “hostess” and my Kenyan mom, hosted my birthday dinner at her house. We had about 12 people there and had a wonderful pot-luck feast. Mikel and Drew had made me a cake (see picture below) and they all sang me happy birthday. I was then presented with gifts – Kenyan sarongs. It was a wonderful night spent with new friends and I felt very blessed. I also received several special calls from home that day and voicemails from my “nieces” Violet and Anara. All in all, it was a great day!

The next day, I traveled to Eldoret with the Sawer’s to pick up 2 new medical students from Australia (actually from Canada, but going to school in Australia). Ben and Cathy treated me to lunch at a Chinese restaurant to extend the birthday festivities. It was a wonderful birthday!

My birthday cake
Me in my gifts with Mikel
Part of the gathering - from Left to Right - Trudy Peterson,
Cathy Sawer, Ben Sawer, me, Dave Peterson, Mikel, and James


More blogs are coming, I promise. For now, I wanted to ask for prayers for a patient and friend. E.S. is a very sweet lady in her 50's who has become a dear friend. She is also a wonderful woman of God. About 4 weeks ago, I did a hysterectomy on her for abnormal bleeding. At the time of surgery, we were suspicious that she might have cancer, as she had enlarged lymph nodes. I finally got her pathology report back today and she has metastatic cervical cancer. This is a difficult diagnosis no matter where you live. However, in Kenya, where there is only one place in a country of 40 million people where she can get the radiation she needs, it is even more difficult. Especially when the waiting list can be up to one year.
So, please pray for ES and her family. In the last year, her family has spent the majority of their savings to pay for hospital bills for her daughter, who is HIV+ and was very sick but is now doing well. She is unsure where she will get the money for radiation, but I assured her that the Lord will provide. So, please pray for peace as she deals with this news. Please also pray for healing and strength and that we would be able to help however possible so that she can get the treatment she needs. If any of you are interested in donating money for her specifically, you can mail a check to the address listed on the sidebar of the blog. Then please send me a message letting me know how much you sent and that you would like it to go to ES.
Thank you for your prayers! I will give updates as available.