WEEK 8 VIDEO UPDATE
We recently had the chance to go on safari as a family. This was an incredible experience; the wildlife and scenery were amazing! Lots of cool pictures too. In the last several weeks were celebrated both of the boy’s birthdays and our 9 year anniversary. Work at the hospital continues to go well with lots of complicated cases and several surgeries for patients with GYN cancers.
Meet Mercy. At the age of 23, a large cervical tumor and incessant bleeding had forced this young women out of a job, forbade her from any relationship and left her in a state of constant fear. Her life, once filled with great hope and promise is now characterized by shame, torment, humiliation and despair. Tumors like this don’t come about overnight, but rather they are the result of sexually transmitted viruses acquired 10-12 year prior. That’s a math problem that nobody wants to solve and I’m sure you can imagine what this must have meant for Mercy’s upbringing and and adolescent years in her remote Kenyan village.
Mercy came to Tenwek because her low blood counts and severe bleeding had made it difficult for her to walk. The diagnosis of cervical cancer could be made from the door by odor alone but nonetheless we took a tissue biopsy and waited the 10 long days for the results to come in. Every day on rounds Mercy was the same. She starred at the floor, never made eye contact, spoke in a whisper or not at all, and sat lifelessly in her bed on the ward The biopsy returned as expected – AGGRESSIVE CERVICAL CANCER. We informed Mercy of the results, and that because of the size of the tumor, her best treatment option was radiation therapy at a facility 4 hours away.
Days turned to weeks and Mercy never left the hospital. Her family was unable to pay the $1000 outstanding balance on her hospital bill in order to be released. Mercy lacked any form of government insurance to assist with the payment of her past or upcoming treatments or even any documentation to support her Kenyan citizenship. It was quickly becoming clear that Mercy would not be receiving her radiation treatments and would assuredly die from her disease.
So we prayed with Mercy, asked God for guidance and decided to change the plan. Surgery for Mercy would certainly be difficult and dangerous given the size of the tumor but it gave us the best chance to extend Mercy’s life. With $400 that you donated we were able to pay for Mercy’s surgery and hospital recovery. Her operation went remarkably well and the tumor was resected!
In the days that followed her surgery I was able to talk to Mercy more on the ward. She was different and something had changed. She smiled each time that I saw her and her strength was returning day by day. Three days after surgery Mercy informed my resident and I that she had recently become a Christian through the ministry of the hospital chaplains and she asked us to find her a Swahili Bible. Incredible! She went on to say that she had given up on life before coming to Tenwek and had now found new life in Christ.
Today Mercy has a bible that sits beside her bed. She looks into your eye when she talks; she looks straight ahead when she walks and doesn’t look down. She often visits other women on the ward and can usually be found laughing and smiling in the halls (see picture above). Mercy still needs more treatment but it’s unlikely that she will get it. There is a good chance that years from now she will still die from her disease. Three-quarters of her hospital bill has been paid by charitable donations from you and the social work department at Tenwek. Her family is doing fundraising in their hometown to raise the $350 that remains. Once Mercy is discharged we will work to get her a national insurance card to assist with the remaining treatments but the cost will likely still be prohibitive; all of this a harsh reminder of the brokenness of our social and health care systems both here and at home.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead.” -Ephesians 2:4-5
Our current TENWEK team
Praise be to God that he sent his son into the broken, lame and lifeless world that we live in; and He changed it forever. Death is not the end for Mercy or for those that call on the name of the Lord…it is merely the beginning. And until that time comes I hope you can find great joy in knowing that God has restored hope, dignity and an abundant life worth living to at least one 23 year-old Kenyan girl. Thanks for being part of everything we are doing.
WEEK 5 VIDEO UPDATE
9/2/17 – OFF AND RUNNING
We have been in Kenya 10 days and have lived at Tenwek for over a week! Hard to believe. Just as much as the initial transition went smoother than expected we are now experiencing the some of the unexpected challenges of day to day life at a mission hospital.
The OB/GYN service at Tenwek is one of the busiest and most unpredictable in the hospital. Hospital admissions to Tenwek have increased dramatically in recent months due to a national nurses strike which has the maternity unit functioning at double normal capacity. Nurses at government hospitals across the country have gone on strike petitioning for higher wages which has led to a surge of patients coming to Tenwek as one of few places they can still receive care.
The majority of first line medical care for these women is handled my midwives and medical officers with long term or visiting senior physicians available at all times to staff rounds, perform surgical procedures and attend difficult deliveries. There are currently 60 patients on the ward, many of them sharing beds or sitting in chairs, and never a shortage of things to be done. Medical education in Kenya consists of 5 years of medical school followed by 3 years of medical officer training before you can even apply for a 3-5 year residency program! A good portion of my time in the hospital for the next several months will be spent teaching and training the Kenyan medical officers on pregnancy and gynecologic care. Some will go on to formal residency training but many will work for remote county health clinics where they will be expected to handle deliveries and perform c-section on their own. Tenwek is hopeful in the near future to expand their medical education to a formal residency program to further meet the needs of the high risk patient population in the country..
This week we had around 40 patients to see each day and two patients in the ICU; one with seizures secondary to swelling on the brain from severe pre-eclampsia and another with massive hemorrhage (hemoglobin of 3) and septic shock due infection from a elective abortion that was performed at an outside facility days before she arrived to the hospital. I did a radical hysterectomy for a patient with cervical cancer, a mini-laparotomy for a patient with ectopic pregnancy, was called to radiology to perform a hysterosalpingogram on a patient with infertility and did several c-section in the middle of the night. I have lots to learn here. I often feel inadequate, over my head and out of my league. It is still strange to look around the operating room for help only to find a Kenyan medical student starring at me from across the table. I am thankful for my training and humbled to be here. I can confidently say that I have felt the Lord directing my hands and my head as I am in the OR, on the wards or around the hospital.
We are learning about the difficulty of balancing normal life with the great medical need that exists. During my call day Thursday I saw the boys for 10 minutes before bed then worked until around 330 AM that night. It felt like residency again. We are trying to figure out what is normal here and how to remain a family while honoring the Lord in the work that he has asked us to do. Please pray for wisdom for our family as we continue to transition over the next several weeks. I am off this weekend. Today we went for a hike to to the nearby waterfall and Motigo Tea Factory (below).
Here are a few pictures from around the hospital. For the medical folks out there this place is amazingly advanced. They use ICD-10, have a completely electronic medical record, use Ligasure cautery in the OR and have a CT scanner.
Delivery bay….not the most organized. Kiwi vacuum available for use
Grand Rounds lecture hall
OR supply room with extra Ligature devices…. a nice surprise
Handwritten instructions for assembly of laparoscopic camera
Sharpie drawing on the wall of delivery room… postpartum hemorrhage is the same everywhere
On a lighter note, I can report that life as a medical missionary is not glorious. We noticed when we got here that our toilet seat was very painful to sit on. We have requested a replacement but have no idea when and if this will ever happen. Nothing happens quickly in Kenya. So far the medical tape has been sufficient and comfort has been improved.
Our 2 bedroom apartment has been great (see pictures). We have a great view of the sunrise every morning from our porch. Thanks for your support and prayers. We feel them daily and are so thankful!
8/29/17 – GETTING SETTLED
Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out…For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
There were many times in the planning stages of our trip here that we wondered about the timing of it all. Why did we get pushed back to late August? Why 5 months? Why Kenya? Honestly we said yes to going overseas with open hands and hearts not knowing when, where or how long we would be going initially. We soon found out that Tenwek hospital in Kenya was where they had housing for families and it was available until January so we said yes to it all even though so much was still unclear.
In the midst of this uncertainty there were a few things we did know…1. God had made it clear and made the way of us to go to Kenya 2. He has burdened our hearts to stand in the gap for 2 major things- those lacking medical care and orphans. I had no idea that just 3 days after our arrival we would see those 2 things collide giving us more confirmation that in all things His timing is perfect.
Let me explain…one of the main reasons we came to Tenwek was to help relieve the full time missionary OBGYN that lives here with her family (Dr. Joy Draper). We knew before we came that they were pursuing adopting a little boy in Uganda who is medically fragile. Because of his medical needs they were able to expedite the adoption and brought him back to Tenwek yesterday! This (not so coincidentally) is the same day Drew started work at the hospital. This will enable Dr Draper to take the month off to help her family with the adjustment as well as travel back to Uganda to obtain a visa for Frank their new son. She shared with Drew yesterday that God knew the timing of us coming would be perfect and she is grateful to have him here to cover as she cares for her son. What a sweet gift for God to allow us to play a small part in just one of the ways He is working. He continues to reveal himself as a Father to the fatherless. He has rescued Frank and provided a home where he will not only be so loved by a mother and father but above all hear about the love His heavenly Father has for Him.
Psalm 68: 4-5 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him- his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
This is our God and I am so thankful.
8/26/17 – ARRIVED
We finally made it to Tenwek hospital and are settling into our new home! It feels so great to be here and we are all so so happy to not be on a plane, bus, or any form of transportation! The trip over all went very well. Thank the Lord we had no delays or trouble getting through customs. The boys also surpassed our expectations with how well they did. We survived on legos, movies, coloring and snacks. We also pulled out various surprises along the way to keep things interesting for them. They slept fairly well on our flight to Amsterdam- Drew and I, not so much since they were sleeping on us! We arrived in Nairobi on Friday about 10:30pm and after waiting on our luggage and going through customs we finally got to our guest house after midnight. We were exhausted to say the least. The next day, I went with another wife from Tenwek (who met us in Nairobi) and shopped for the month; we are 4 hours from the city and there’s many items you can’t get in the little town closest to the hospital so when you are in Nairobi you stock up! That was pretty overwhelming but thankfully someone was there to help guide me. We also went to the butcher for meat and another grocery for produce. This took us all day (i’m having to get used to everything taking much longer here). That night was pretty rough sleepwise with the boys getting up at all hours of the night (it is an 8 hour time difference).
The next morning we made the 4 hour drive to the hospital with a van packed to the gills. We are so happy to now be in the place we’ll call home for the next 5 months and start creating our new normal. We are in a 2 bedroom apartment just down the hill from the hospital. Our apartment opens up to a giant courtyard where there are always kids outside running around, playing with sticks, climbing trees and playing soccer. Needless to say our boys jumped right in and are loving their life here so far. We are a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information we’re receiving in learning what everyday life is like here but overall we feel like the transition has gone smoothly and everyone has been more than kind and welcoming.
We truly have seen the Lord’s hand and his care for us in every step of this journey. There are so many details that have happened where he’s shown us how He is with us- even in the little things. For example, our last flight to Nairobi was a “double decker plane” with an upstairs. This was significant because Lane somehow got it in his head that we would be riding one on our way over. We tried to warn him it may not happen but he would not stop talking about it. It was sweet to walk up to our gate in Amsterdam and in fact see that a double decker plane sitting outside the window (small I know but so significant to that little 4 year old)! We also were pulling out of my parents driveway to leave the the airport when a UPS trucked pulled up delivering the cords Drew needed for the fetal monitors he was bringing over. Finally arriving here we are blown away at the shear amount of little boys right around our kids ages tha live here—instant playmates! Not to mention it is beautiful, green and 70 degrees all day–we are rarely inside. We are mostly just stopping in awe of seeing what we’ve been praying for for the last 6 months actually materialize before our eyes. It is truly sweet.
Tomorrow we’ll unpack more and Drew will start work Monday! We’ve been hearing from everyone how excited they are to have another OBGYN as the service is VERY busy so I’m sure he’ll hit the ground running.Thankful for all your prayers, we love and miss you all!
8/18/17 – FINAL PREPARATIONS
The countdown is on! Our family leaves in 4 days for Kenya and we are so excited to go. We have done all we can to prepare for what lies ahead and are so thankful for the help of friends, family and Samaritan’s Purse in this process. Recently the boys spent time with their grandparents while mom and dad did some last minute shopping and took on the challenge of packing to move your family across the world. The video below tells the story.
(Click image to start video)
The more we read, prepare and think about the trip ahead, the more we realize the importance of going with an open heart and open mind. We certainly have ideas about how our family might be able to help and serve during out time at Tenwek but in actuality we have no clue what the next 5 months will look like. So here we go! We step out into the great unknown, grateful to serve a God who is faithful to provide us with the next step in the journey.
“The heart of a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
7/9/17 – ON THE MOVE
We made it safely to Texas this week! Our house has been moved into storage and our cars should be arriving today. Sunday we leave to spend some much anticipated time at the beach with family. The day to day pace for us has finally slowed down and this has been a welcomed change for everyone.
Just before leaving North Carolina we were able to pick up 4 fetal monitors to take with us to Africa. These machines were originally designated for a trip to West Africa last spring but the Lord had other plans. When we heard recently that Tenwek was in need of monitors like this we couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s grand plans. He truly does work all things for good (Romans 8:28)! Thank you to the Heineman Foundation and the International Medical Outreach arm at Carolinas Medical Center for making this possible!
5/15/17 – FINISH LINE
We are exactly 1 month away from Drew’s last day in the hospital as a resident! It’s so hard to believe this season of our family’s life is about to finish and a new one is about to begin. The OB/GYN department held their annual awards banquet this past weekend where Drew was recognized as the one of the outstanding surgeons in his graduating class.
We feel so fortunate that we have been able to learn and train from so many talented and godly people during out time in Charlotte. We look forward to taking what we’ve learned and using it for good and for the glory of God. “To whom much is given…much is required.” Luke 12:48
4/30/17 – TICKETS BOOKED
We purchased plane tickets this week for our move to Kenya and couldn’t be more excited! Things are starting to get real. We will leave the United States August 22nd and Return January 10th.
This week we will put our house in Charlotte on the market and start making preparations to pack up and head home to Texas at the end of June.
A few months ago the boys went and got all their vaccinations for the trip. They did great! They have navigated the upcoming transition without hesitation…their parents on the other hand are slightly overwhelmed by everything at times but doing well and getting more excited by the day.
2/2/2017 – CHANGE OF PLANS
We just found out that we will have to move our departure date for Kenya from August 8th to the 22nd. Early August is election season in Kenya which has come with civil unrest in recent years. We are praying and hoping for a peaceful election season and safe arrival in Nairobi this fall.
12/12/16 – GETTING STARTED
A year from now we will be finishing up five months in Kenya! Wow hard to believe. We recently received the boys’ passports in the mail. Totally crazy. I was almost thirty last year when I got a passport for the first time and now we’re getting ready to take our 2 toddlers half way across the world. This is exciting and terrifying at the same time.
We met a family in Cameroon last spring who had recently move to Africa from Mayo clinic with their two young girls and they were pregnant with their third! We were amazed at their courage. They reminded us that regardless of location, Africa or America, sickness, hardship and tragedy can still befall our families. This is certainly a good reminder for us as we look to buy plane tickets for our family, put our house on the market and mobilize medical supplies and equipment here in Charlotte over the next several months.