Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Memory of E

Yesterday I experienced yet another Kenyan cultural first, although this one was one I wish I could have avoided. I attended my first Kenyan funeral. It was for a patient and a friend.
E was a wonderful Christian woman who I actually met last year when I visited Kapsowar. She and her husband ran a convenience shop just outside of the entrance to the station and I enjoyed many conversations with her when I would go for little things needed at home. She always welcomed me with a smile and often a hug. I soon realized that she and her husband were both wonderful Christian people and it was a joy getting to know them.
Soon after I arrived this time, she came to see me. She had been having some bleeding and pain and had been seen by another doctor without an answer. After evaluating her, we decided she needed a hysterectomy. Although things had looked fairly normal (except for fibroids) pre-op, it was clear when we did her surgery that she had cancer. Her surgery went well and afterwards I sat down with her husband and daughter and explained what I had found at surgery. At the time, I hoped it would be an easily treatable cancer. A few weeks later, we received the pathology report back and it said metastatic cervical cancer. Worse than I thought, but still able to be treated.
We arranged for her to go to Nairobi for radiation treatments. Nairobi is the only place (and only one hospital in Nairobi) where you can get radiation therapy in the entire country of Kenya - a country of approximately 40 million people. People are often put on a waiting list and wait up to a year to begin treatment. Thankfully she was able to start fairly quickly and things seemed to be going well, with a few minor setbacks that are common to radiation/chemotherapy. However, a couple of weeks ago, she became very sick and had to be admitted to the hospital. While she showed a little improvement, on Feb. 9th, she became worse and peacefully went on to be with the Lord.
I was devastated when I heard, although thankful at the same time that she was no longer suffering. My heart ached for her husband, who had loved her for nearly 40 years. She was only 55, so young. She left behind 8 children and 5 grandchildren. My only consolation was that she is now with her Lord and Savior and reunited with so many loved ones.
Her funeral was yesterday. Her family is large and very connected in this community, so the turnout was huge. People came from all over Kenya. The ceremony took place in a field by their house and there were probably 500 people seated everywhere. A funeral is much different here - it lasts several hours (I was forewarned to go late so I wouldn't have to sit for so many hours). Probably 20-30 people got up to give speeches remembering E and her contribution to their lives. Songs were sung. Members of Parliament were even there. There was a viewing - much like at home. Then a sermon was given about how death is not final for those of us that know the Lord. Her casket was then driven up to their home and she was buried in a small plot of land by the home.
As I looked around, I couldn't help but be struck by the differences. It was more of a spectacle here. On the flipside, though, the way they do it here gives so many more people an opportunity to express to her family what she meant to them. What a testament to her life! All you had to do was look around and you could see that she was an amazing woman who touched all that she came into contact with. As I spoke with her husband, you could see the pain in his eyes and my heart broke. At the same time as his pain was evident, though, he said that he knew God was sovereign and that He would get them through this. I praise the Lord that even in the midst of such pain, He brings hope. Please remember E's family in your prayers as they struggle to recover from this loss.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mental Health Day

As I said in my last post, one of the great things about being at this
conference has been the time to network and fellowship with other
medical missionaries from all over the continent of Africa. Last
Friday, we (me, the 2 other OB/GYN's in the post-residency program,
and Stephany, a post-resident pediatrician) decided we needed what we
termed a mental health day in Nairobi. All of us have been facing
fatigue and emotional exhaustion at times and felt that we needed a
day to refresh.

So, we piled into Sara's car and headed off to Nairobi - to a
wonderful place (my new favorite place in Nairobi!) called Village
Market. It is a beautiful outdoor mall much like one I've been to in
San Diego. I felt like the little country bumpkin as we walked
through, which I think made everyone else laugh. We first headed to a
coffee shop much like a Starbuck's to get our caffeine fix for the day
- it was very good. We then went to a nail place for mani's and
pedi's - much needed relaxation! It was wonderful. Afterwards we
went to the food court area and ate perhaps the best Indian food I
have ever had. What a treat that was! We spent the rest of the
afternoon just walking around and doing some shopping at the Nakumatt
there (a large grocery store).

While at Nakumatt, I saw a familiar face. It was one of my medical
school classmates whom I had not seen since graduation. After getting
over our shock of seeing each other in a grocery store in Nairobi,
Kenya, I found out that he is working at Kijabe Hospital - the same
place I've been staying with friends for the last week. Just when I
think the world couldn't possibly get any smaller, it does :)

It was a great day of relaxation and female bonding and made me so
thankful to have so many other post-residents here in Kenya with me.
Being with all of these wonderful people for the last week has made me
realize that wherever the Lord places me long-term, I need to be
somewhere with a team of people. The support and encouragement gained
from that, as well as the expanded wisdom base, is invaluable.
Village Market also has a movie theater, bowling alley, miniature golf
course, and water park. I think I will be going back again sometime.

Sharon and I getting our manicures Sara (in the front) and Stephany getting their pedicures The end results

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brackenhurst CMDA Conference

So, I've decided that I am in heaven in Kenya. I am currently at Brackenhurst conference center in Limuru, Kenya ( for a continuing medical education conference put on by CMDA (the Christian Medical and Dental Association). The purpose of this conference is to provide continued education that is up-to-date and pertinent to physicians on the continent of Africa (and beyond) so that we can be good physicians and provide the best possible care for our patients. It is so interesting and topics like "Treating Malaria in Pregnancy" and "Snakebites in Africa" can be found here. What CME conference in the States would provide these?
Another perk to being here is the coffee shop. It's located in a building that is all windows on one side that overlooks the beautiful grounds. And, they have very American food! Yesterday I had nachos for lunch and today I had chicken burritos with chips and salsa! I hate to take so much joy in food, but when you go without certain foods for 6 months, it suddenly becomes very tasty :) They also have ice cream, which is very hard to come by where I'm at. So, I'm planning on partaking of that tomorrow.
Yet another blessing of being here is I've been able to see many friends - mostly other post-residents. It's been joked about that so many of us are in Kenya right now (2 at Kapsowar Hospital, 5 at Tenwek Hospital and 5 at Kijabe Hospital), but I have to say that it is wonderful knowing that I have all of these people here with me. We have become pretty close and it's wonderful having a surgeon, an opthalmologist, a pediatrician, 2 family practice docs, one ID doc, one med/peds doc, one orthopedist, and 3 other OB/GYN's that I can call with questions. It's like our own little multi-specialty group :) During the conference, I am staying with one of the other post-residents and having dinner with the Shirley's, another post-resident family. So, it has been a wonderful time of rest, education, networking, and spending time with friends - both old and new.
There is such a wealth of wisdom and experience here. I'm getting to learn about all kinds of things from both people from the US and greats in the world of medical missions. We (me and the other 2 OB/GYNs here with SP) cornered the OB/GYN that lectured the other day to drill him with more specific questions. He was so gracious and sat and talked with us over coffee for about 2 hours. He also gave me some vacuums (to pull babies out) which is awesome since the ones I have at Kapsowar are metal and we achieve a vacuum with a bike tire pump.
I went to a session yesterday morning about spirituality and medicine. It was very insightful and convicting, as we talked about not forgetting the most important part of being here - sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those we serve. It's so easy to get caught up in the busyness of seeing patients and figuring out what is going on with them without all of the normal resources and forget the most important thing - evaluating and addressing their spiritual state. And this doesn't just apply overseas - it should be just as important to people in the Western world as well. One of the speakers spoke about the verse in the Bible that says (paraphrased) "In all that you do, whether eating or drinking, do it to the glory of God." His point was that if all that we do has the potential to glorify God, then all that we do has the potential to not glorify God as well. So, is it possible to do "sinful ministry" - i.e. ministry that is really not glorifying to God. I'm doing meaningless ministry if I save a woman's life physically but don't ultimately save it by making sure she knows Christ as her savior. It was very convicting to me and something I pray I will remember each and every day - especially during the busy ones.
I have almost another week left of the conference and look forward to all that I will learn during that time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged. I apologize to the faithful readers out there :) The rest of January finished just as busy as it has started. We did about 120 deliveries in January which is a lot for us.
January also brought the Jones family to Kapsowar. I have been eagerly awaiting their arrival. Kyle is a family practice doc through Samaritan's Purse's post-residency program like me. He brought with him his wife, Vanessa, who has already been a blessing to me, and their 3 sons - Hudson (4), Jude (2), and Isaac (8 months). They are a joy and love coming to my house to say hi. Hudson is so cute and a definite social butterfly (can you say that for a boy?). Their first day there, he went right up to the Kenyan kids on station and introduced himself fearlessly. He is having fun getting to know them and is learning Kiswahili at a very quick rate. We even found a very cool "secret hiding place" out in front of my house with trees to climb and places to hide.
I have really enjoyed having little ones around again and having more people to fellowship with, especially the Jones, is a true blessing. I wanted to take pictures to post, but unfortunately my camera battery died and I'm waiting on some more to come with friends.
So, we've had fun with getting to know new people and having movie nights and game nights - my 2 new faves are Dutch Blitz and Settlers of Qatan. I am so thankful for this community of support I have around me, especially during the hard times.