March 27 and COVID-19

It is weird is to be trapped. We cannot leave Kenya until some unspecified time in the future. We cannot leave our house after 7 PM. (I am not really sure how this helps stop virus spread so I wonder if it is for social stabilization). To be in another country without the ability to get home is an odd feeling. I have explained to my kids (and myself) that this is what I am here to do. I am her to be standing in the hospital when the crisis hits. I want to be where the need is great, and I feel fortunate to be here. I cannot really think of other good reasons to not be back in the USA. But our purpose is different, and frankly I feel so fortunate to be here. I am sad for many things that are going on around this pandemic (canceled trips for us, canceled school years for lots of kids, quarantines, and the deaths associated with it), but I am very glad to be able to be a part of the work at Kijabe Hospital. So we, like you, are trying to figure out how to make the most of travel restrictions, curfews, and quarantines. Otherwise, so far, so good in regards to coronavirus in Kijabe!

March 26 and COVID-19

Today is a relatively normal day in the hospital. What does make it a little different are the small things that show preparation for what may be to come. My temperature was scanned as I entered the hospital and I was asked if I have COVID-19 risk factors. I had a Outbreak Committee meeting for 2 hours in the middle of the day. As head of the internal medicine department, I have been a part of developing protocols for the care of hospitalized patients as well as determining how we will staff such cases. I have asked around about what is going on in Nairobi, and I hear rumors that the hospitals are getting busier with respiratory infections. We are probably 1-2 weeks behind them.

There are things that make me optimistic. I know the statistics. I personally at am low risk as is my family. I know we will get it at some point, but it will be a flu-like illness for us if we are symptomatic at all. I live in a tropical climate with lots of sun which equals lots of vitamin D. We do not have many elderly people in Kenya, so those most affected in other parts of the world do not exist here in such high numbers. Italy has 1 in 4 people over age 65. 25 percent! Only 3.9% of our population is over age 65. The average life expectancy is around 63. We will not see the same mortality rate here. I believe at this point when all the statistics are done retrospectively that the infection and mortality rate will not be that high. The problem is that it is hitting everyone in the world at the same time!

Things that make me pessimistic. We have very limited PPE, limited doctors, limited ICU beds, very limited ventilators. Basically we have limited health care resources. The decisions about who will live and die that other doctors talk about having to make with COVID-19, we make everyday because of our decreased resources. However, we do not lack for very smart and compassionate doctors, at least at Kijabe Hospital. I get a sense that all my interns are ready to be a part of caring for their country! Our young have other conditions that may complicate their recovery. Specifically HIV, TB, and malnutrition could be disastrous for the young people who in other countries are doing so well.

I hope everyone everywhere is doing well. God is good, and I am remembering these good promises.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

How are you?

How are you, friends, during this topsy turvy time? It is hard to imagine the places we love emptied of worshippers, groceries, patrons, and pedestrians. We pray that you have peace, confidence, and toilet paper.

A few of you have asked how we are. I am sorry that we have been such sporadic communicators on the blog. I confess that I forget to be grateful for all the people around the world who care about us and pray for us. I’m afraid I focus on the people and projects here in Kenya and I neglect to look around and give thanks for those who allow us to be here.

So, into the third paragraph, how are we? We are fine. Kenya is behind the curve, as it were, in the development of the coronavirus. We have a few cases, brought in by travelers, but it is not spread through community transmission yet. We don’t have a documented case in our hospital, but Will and the Kijabe Hospital staff are gearing up for the influx of patients. They are surprised at the relative calm thus far. Will has been watching lots of medical videos about treating COVID-19 and how to best use the available ventilators in the hospital.

Rift Valley Academy decided to end school two and a half weeks before our scheduled term break. There was a Herculean effort to get almost 300 dorm kids scheduled on planes, trains, and buses out of Kenya and to the countries where their families live with only 4 days’ notice. Amazing stories trickled in over the weekend of students’ flights being received only minutes before the border was closed, of students who were going to be quarantined in the airport, but some kindly official released them to their friends’ father, a medical missionary, and of arduous 40-hour bus rides that ended in successful border crossings.

The early closure meant that all junior and senior educational trips (called “Interims”) were cancelled, including mine to Spain. David was scheduled to go to Zanzibar, Tanzania. That was a tough blow to all the upperclassmen. The sudden closure meant the seniors had to say their goodbyes in a day or two, not knowing whether they would return from their country nor when. My heart goes out to these seniors whose lives are so full of change and transition anyway and then this unique kink in plans was added. One crazy story from a student whose parents have served in mostly closed countries is that she said that until now, RVA was the only place she had lived from which she had not been evacuated.

Right now, we teachers are knee-deep in tech training so that we can commence online classes with a hope to see our students face-to-face when God allows.

We had been looking forward to returning to the Christian Medical and Dental Association’s medical mission conference in Greece in April. It was a great place to connect with our fellow Christian Health Service Corps missionaries serving in East Africa, plus there was great food and it was fun to be in Europe. Of course, that is cancelled, much to the chagrin of the family.

For now, though, we are thankful for the beautiful weather, the community of fellow missionaries, the (so-far) stocked grocery stores in Nairobi, the people who have helped all of us make big decisions, the hand of God sustaining us.

Many of you are doing BSF, as am I (my class was already a video chat!), so I will leave you with a quote from this weeks’ lesson: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58

Photos of recent shenanigans:

Jazz Band

This is the first of what I hope are many years of Jazz band in our future. Peter first picked up a trumpet that was given to him when we lived in Peru. He taught himself a little, got a bit more instruction in his marching band at Colegio Diospi Suyana, then it kicked into gear on arrival to Rift Valley Academy. He is really good, and this year as a freshman he gets to be in the high school jazz band. We just had the Christmas concert, and it was a joy to listen to him and the other kids go for it. I am so thankful for the missionary teachers who have given him instruction over the years. Here is to 3 1/2 more years of trumpet in our house. (He is picking up guitar too!)

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Jazz band

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Dung Beetle

I am not sure what I think of these little bugs. Actually they are not so little. You cannot tell how big it is in the video, but that ball of dung is somewhere between the size of a golfball and and tennis ball. And that poor beetle pushes it with what seems like the futility of Sisyphus.

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Dung beetle

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Happy Thoughts

Things I’m thankful for this morning:

Trash bags– I found some biodegradable rubbish bin liners (as they call them here) and I’m happy to put them to use!

King Arthur Flour website recipes– try the cinnamon scones

David comes back to Kenya tomorrow!

Lovely memories of the birds, the acacia trees, the sunset on the lake, from a family weekend on Lake Naivasha

The many types of birds who live here that lift our spirits with their carefree flying and jubilant songs

The kindly painter who told me that I made good chai (I nearly doubled the sugar yesterday!)

The friendly joking and laughing of the construction guys working at our house

Bright fires on chilly nights

Will is content with his job and has been commended lately for his teaching

The Lord’s reminder of all the wonderful people (specifically from ACU) who encouraged us to do missions

Sibling pairs who are friends with our girls

New kids coming to school next year and all the possibilities therein

Peter’s enthusiasm for the guitar

Coco soundtrack, especially the Spanish version

Two families who visited this summer– we appreciate you!

Cry, the Beloved Country

The repetition of the phrase “I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Carol truly grandmothering our kids

Each time one of the kids says “Thank you”

Talking to Katherine on the phone

Annie’s braces

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Black and White Casqued Hornbill

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The Shirk girls are over

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Will at work delivering babies

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Annie’s braces

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David on his way to the States nearly a month ago

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Katherine the Great

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The Reids visit us and Hell’s Gate

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New construction at Flamingo House

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Sunset on Lake Naivasha

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Glamping with the girls

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Acacia trees on Lake Naivasha

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The Shewmakers visit and we ascend Mt. Longonot