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!
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:
We are looking forward to the Christmas season! Thanksgiving will be a quick after work and school dinner with some of our friends here in Kijabe, then after a half day of school on Friday, Christmas break will begin. (For those who do not know our school runs on a trimester system with three month long breaks each year.) Some much deserved rest for Allison and the kids will be enjoyed afterward. Allison continues to work hard as Head of the Department for International Languages. It is a role with many responsibilities, some enjoyable, others not as much. She and her students inaugurated a Spanish Club which started the year with a Spanish Karaoke party that went off with moderate success. I wanted to get up and sing, but I didn’t want to be that Dad at the party, so I held back. I am now working as Head of Department for Internal Medicine at AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital. I continue to take call in the Obstetrics department, as well as in the ICU and the Internal Medicine wards. I enjoy the work a lot, and I hope that I can grow into the role of HOD. Administration has not always been my strong suit, but I feel privileged to serve, and I know it was a position that needed to be filled. The kids are doing well, and Allison and I are facing the the reality that David will be gone in just around 18 months! He is busy at school with Model United Nations, running a pizza delivery business, creating his vlog, and working at the Teddy’s, the student snack shop. Peter is doing well in his freshman year participating in choir, jazz band, and band as a trumpet player. He also quite fascinated with the guitar. Annie is in junior high band playing trombone. She loves drama and is excited to be a part of the field hockey team. Sarah is thriving as a sixth grader, the top of Titchie (elementary school). She plays piano and is venturing into saxophone. All of them are busy. As a family we try and get into Nairobi for good food when we can, and about once a month we try and head the other direction to Lake Naivasha to escape the hospital and relax in the best part of what Kenya has to offer (besides the awesome people of course), its natural beauty and wildlife. Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us. We trust God for the energy to live cross culturally and to do the good work he has given us to do.
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!)
Another night in the hospital last week has passed, and I again think about how weird and different practicing medicine is in Kenya, even in our great Kijabe Mission Hospital. The nigh of obstetric call started with handover. This is where the doctors who are leaving, but have covered the day, “hand over” the care of the patients in the hospital to the doctors covering the night. As I listened I felt my stomach drop a little as I realized the night would begin poorly. There was a young mother in the hospital whose baby had fetal hydrops which is a problem in which an en-utero infant for a multitude of reasons has swelling all over the body. These babies do not do well. She needed emergency delivery at 27 weeks of pregnancy, and we knew the baby would likely not be able to survive after delivery. Even more problematic was that she had a scar from a previous cesarean section which meant that we were going to do a preterm surgery. These usually go well, but they have their own increased risks. We took her back to the OR, and as I delivered the baby’s head through the uterine incision it looked so perfect, and I thought nervously that maybe we had the diagnosis wrong. But as the rest of the baby delivered the terrible swelling over the rest of the body was very obvious. He lived just 10 minutes before dying.
I came out of surgery to hear that a twin pregnancy that had arrived just a bit earlier had been evaluated and only one heart beat could be found. I placed the ultrasound on her abdomen and confirmed that one of the twins had passed. The mother cried as I told her, and her husband looked angry wondering what had changed in the last 10 days when her last appointment had shown two healthy babies. What could we say? She went quickly for an emergency surgery, and on delivery the first twin showed signs of having died several days prior. Its hard for a pregnant woman with twins to sort out the movements of her babies. She could not have known that all she was feeling were the movements of one of them.
Obstetrics can be a great joy when it goes well. But when it is bad, it is so sad. God help us all to show compassion!