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!
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.
Another night of obstetrics call is in the books. It began with mother who was admitted with a femur fracture from a traffic accident. She was 31 weeks pregnant, and the baby’s heart tones were not completely normal. I watched her overnight as she was readied for surgery the following day. I imagined that her placenta would separate from the wall of her uterus due to the trauma, and I would have to rapidly take her back for a cesarean section; I wondered if I would need to call the orthopedic team to fix her fractured femur at the same time. Next was a severely ill pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) patient. Her pregnancy already was complicated by severe growth restriction in the baby and loss of fluid around the baby both of which indicate that the placenta is failing. The estimated weight of the baby was about 2 pounds which indicated she was about a month behind where she should be. As I watched the heart tones of the baby they were minimally reactive indicating a unborn baby at the end of its rope. I took her for cesarean section and pulled out such a small little girl. She is doing well as of now on a ventilator, and I hope she makes it. The call ended with a delivery of twins right at midnight. The first came out normal looking for the exit. The second backed its way out in a breech position. The interesting thing is despite being twins, because of the timing of their birth, they have different birthdays. Cool!?
I spent the last Saturday morning participating in the exams of our Family Medicine residents. They were given 20 minutes with different patients to demonstrate their ability to interview, examine, and diagnose a patient. Overall they did well. I drove to Nairobi in the afternoon to see Avengers with a bunch of high school boys. Almost two hours in each direction makes for a long day, and the movie had better be worth it.
I had the privilege of meeting with the McCurry family in Kapsowar. They are Christian Health Service Corps missionaries, and they have been her for years. It was a blessing to see them in their hospital, working hard to help meet the need of many. One of the best parts of my job is meeting with other missionaries. I have just started to make it happen here in Kenya. Hopefully I can get out to some of the nearby countries to visit our people in other places. It is always inspiring to see the good work that people are doing. You can check out the McCurry’s blog at https://mccurrysinmissions.wordpress.com/ Click on the pictures below to see them bigger.
I went to visit our other Christian Health Service Corps missionaries in Chogoria, Kenya this past weekend. The PCEA Chogoria Hospital is an old mission hospital where recently missionaries have begun working again. We have two missionary families working in this hospital. The Brockington family has been in Chogoria since 2017, and they are tasked with caring for the sick who come to the hospital as well as supporting the Family Medicine Residency. You can read their blog and story at The Doctors Brockington.
I also went to visit the Ryan Miller and Haley Combs, a newly married couple who has arrived to Chogoria. They are also with the Christian Health Service Corps. It was good to see their excitement in their new posting even as they deal with some challenges.
It is good to be able to visit our workers and get to know them and hopefully support them in the good work they are doing for the sake of the gospel in Kenya. I felt privileged to be there to show them that we care and that others care. They are not forgotten even though they are a long way from home. Thank you to all of you who support us and allow us to show love not only to our patients at Kijabe Mission Hospital and the students at Rift Valley Academy, but also to the missionaries serving with CHSC.
This is an edited copy of an email I sent to a friend asking for details about our financial support. I thought it might be helpful to anyone who wonders about what we do and how we are paid.
I want you to know that I am thankful for you and your support. But I also understand that we all have our criteria for what we decide to give to in regards to charity, so I will not take any offense if you decide you need to move your money elsewhere. I am honored that you were willing to support us just out of caring for us, not dependent on what we were doing. That is very kind, and thank you.
We have several roles in Africa. The first thing we are doing is medical work. I am working at Kijabe Mission Hospital full time. My role there is two-fold. I have a major teaching responsibility which is probably the most important thing I do. All of us that are volunteers at the hospital are very involved in training Kenyan and other African doctors toward in good medical care as well as professionalism so that they can take those skills to other parts of the country and continent. In this task we are joined by the employed Kenyan physicians who work at the hospital. We have residencies in Family Medicine, Surgery, and Orthopedic Surgery currently. We also teach Medical Officers which are the most common type of physician you will find in Kenya. They come to our hospital for one year after finishing medical school to receive more training before going out to be physicians in many rural areas. All of that is within a Christian context that includes Christian mentoring and discipleship. My second responsibility is simply providing good medical care within the teaching context. We are a mission hospital, so we have poor people coming from all over eastern Africa to receive good and cheap care in our hospital. We provide many services that they would not be able to receive elsewhere. When it comes to patient care, I split my time between obstetrics, emergency medicine, and the clinic. Serving the poor has always been a big motivator for me.
The next area of focus is at Rift Valley Academy. RVA is a boarding school for missionary kids. We have youth from many African countries in the student body, and most of those kids are coming from areas in which education on the mission field is impossible. Allison teaches full-time at the school, this year in 9th grade English, and next year she will be an Spanish AP (maybe), Spanish 4, and Spanish3 teacher. So that mission is a supportive role for the work of evangelism that is going on in the hardest places of Africa. Those families trust their kids with us so that they can keep working in the areas that they feel God has called them to serve. I think it would be impossible for me to do the same, but I am glad we can support them in this way. Allison is really enjoying working there. And we consider these students as part of our ministry as well.
The third role we have is as East Africa Team Leaders for the Christian Health Service Corps. We have missionaries in several countries in East Africa, some of those countries are open, others are closed. My role with Allison is to do our best to be a support to them. Most recently we had a organizational meeting in Greece associated with a big medical education conference which we attended. That is a role we are still growing into, and it will probably become a bigger part of what I do in the future. It is challenging as we have already had to work through several issues that have been difficult. As I said, we are learning a lot as we go along.
Your financial support basically goes to pay our salary in those jobs. If I go to any conferences that are work related, I can draw upon our donations. If I have to make a purchase that is work related I can draw on those donations as well. Otherwise I receive a monthly stipend, and I budget my living expenses to include housing, groceries, gas, movies, bills, vacation, etc. out of that salary. I support myself some by doing online consultations, but that does not come close to paying for everything. I would have to do it as a full-time job to pay my salary. But it helps me feel OK about sometimes doing a little bit extra for the family when we go on trips. For example, when we came back from the conference in Greece, we stayed three days in Dubai. I used our vacation fund for that part of the trip which includes some of my consulting income. In that way I try and keep our accounts for personal and ministry use clean and separate.
Again, the organization we are under is called the Christian Health Service Corps. It is specifically focused on medical missions. They receive a 10 percent overhead for their services toward us. They are sending doctors and other types of medical workers all over the world. They also have medical training conferences in the United States, and they are involved in mission support to include building projects in different mission hospital.
So I hope that is not too much information. Thanks for asking. I may copy and post this email with some editing to our blog in case other people have some similar questions. Let me know if there is more I can tell you to be more clear.
“A calling is sturdy. I don’t have to protect it. I don’t need to be afraid of not getting every step right. Obviously, we need to be faithful to what’s revealed in Scripture, but we need to trust the Holy Spirit. If a calling is from God, it’s not up to us to make it happen.” – Tish Harrison. Why Tish Harrison Gave Up on Being a ‘Good Church Kid’. Christianity Today.
There are things that are hard to explain. I find it hard to explain why we are going to Africa when there is a large part of me that does not want to go. I look at my friends and my family and I think to myself “They have got it right. Stay home in your own culture and make a difference where you are from.” I look at jobs in the US in great places to live, and I think “It would be so cool to live there!” I see that my kids are happy in the United States, and I wonder “Why am I making my kids move again?” But when I think about staying I cannot feel settled. Something here will seem so perfect, but it will not seem right. I was talking to my friend Matt about it, barely expressing something I cannot understand in myself. I wondered aloud to him that I see people’s lives and I think they are great and meaningful and worthy of respect. And I wonder why I cannot have that life which I think is possibly a better use of my own personality and gifts. Why can I not stay, when I want to stay? Matt answered simply “It’s because you are called. You have a calling.” I knew he was right; but I want my calling to be an intense desire to do something. At times it is. Sometimes I feel the fire in my belly to go. But much of the time it is an unsettled feeling that I cannot do anything else except keep moving in the direction God has pointed us. And I think it is alright. I do not see in the history of the Bible that every person called by God was skipping in eagerness to the work set before them. In fact, many (most?) times it is the opposite. But they did not stop because they knew the truth of what God had called them to do. And I know it too. God has called me to serve the poor and the hurting through medicine. He has called me to share the gospel through compassion. And I go despite myself, eyes wide open, praying for God to give me strength to do the work he has given me to do. Please pray for us to be faithful and to live up to the calling we have received.