Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, and baby Josie

Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, and baby Josie

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Cord of Many Strands

Eric, with Kiprono (my partner) and I, his surgeons.   

Pre-op CT scan showing Eric's bent-over spine, the injury being right at the level where the spinal cord ends.  

X-ray, post-surgery, showing the straightened spine. 

Eric, a young 20-year-old patient recently admitted to Tenwek, was working as a mason at a local construction site, laying block.  He bent over to temper his mortar and when he stood upright, he became dizzy and disoriented and fell three stories onto a hard object.  The fall caused a flexion-distraction injury to the L1 vertebrae of his spine.  Fortunately, he was not paralyzed by the injury, but his spine was bent over with a significant kyphotic deformity.

Thanks to a generous donation from the NuVasive Spine Foundation (NSF), we had the tools to help, and a few days later, he underwent a posterior instrumented fusion of his T12-L2 vertebra using screws and rods, straightening his crooked spine.  Normally, these screws cost approximately $200 a piece, and had we not the donation, Eric would not have been able to afford such a life-changing surgery.  The days following surgery, Eric was out of bed, and walking almost normally with a big smile, realizing what God had done for him through the ministry at Tenwek.

Eric wrote a letter to NuVasive after the surgery: “I thought I was going to be bedridden, but to my surprise, NuVasive rescued me.  The donation has come as a blessing to me.  This is quite an innovative medical device that has come at the right time. Without it, we would not have afforded the price.” 

We are blessed at Tenwek to have multiple partners (NuVasive, Biomet, Hope International, Project Cure, and many others), who have joined us in our mission to care for the most needy patients here in our small part of Africa.  Without our partners, and you who pray for and support our family, we would not be able to offer such specialized orthopaedic services here in Kenya, and hence, such an effective means of sharing the practical love of Christ to our patients.  Together, we are a cord of many strands.  All I can say is that we can’t do this alone!  Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support! 

Ecclesiastes 4:12: "And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Galat Family Update January 2015

2014 was one of the craziest years we have experienced since first arriving in Kenya six years ago.  The underlying theme of every event however, has been God’s continual sovereign love and faithfulness in our lives, through your prayers and support!  Following are some of the major highlights:

Rift Valley Academy
We now have three kids (Jeremiah, Emma, and Claire) at boarding school at the Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe.  Our family actually moved on campus for three months for one term (by God’s providence a house was available) to help our girls acclimate to their new environment.  The concentrated times spent together in our little, temporary home were so rich.   I continued working at Tenwek and made the three-hour commute on the weekends to visit (when not on call).   A little more than half of the Galat’s (more on this later) are now back at Tenwek while Jeremiah, Emma and Claire continue at school.  While we miss them tremendously, we also know that this is where God has ordained them to be and we treasure every moment we have together (last weekend we were all together back at Tenwek for the first time since August 2014).

Jeremiah, Emma and Claire on the first day of school.

Jeremiah has full-blown senioritis and has applied to 6 colleges in the states.  Among his top choices are Vanderbilt, Bowdoin and my alma maters, Ohio State University and Miami of Ohio.  I recently had the pleasure of disclosing volumes of financial data on the FAFSA and College Board applications!  Our prayer for him is that God would lead him to the school where he will grow as a young man of faith.   His newest passion is “crossfit,” an intense exercise regimen combining Olympic weight lifting with heavy aerobic activity. 

Jeremiah sporting his "epic apron."  Yes, he is a fantastic cook and heads the senior store grill at RVA.

Music in the Air
Emma is freshman in the dorms at RVA and continues to practice voice every day.  We miss her singing around the house!  She is growing in her faith, spurred on by the challenge of “independent” living at RVA.  Her goal is to attend Juilliard (dream big, right?) and will continue voice lessons in the states during our next scheduled furlough the second half of 2015.

Mother and daughter or twins?

God’s Provision for Claire
Claire started eight grade at RVA during our stint on campus last term, and loved it so much she decided she wanted to stay (friends, band…trumpet!, no homeschooling, etc.)  However, there was no space for her in the 8th grade girls’ dorm.  However, a wonderful family who lives at Kijabe invited her to stay with them for the remainder of the school year, and she is so well cared for and happy.   Claire’s interest remains math and science and she hope to be a pediatrician or orthopaedic surgeon some day!

 Claire learning how to apply contact lenses!

The Man of the House
During my frequent travels (currently at a conference for PAACS residents near Kijabe), Levi functions as the man of the house, and is a great help to Heather.  Although he misses his siblings, he keeps busy with his Tenwek friends, Josie and Legos.  Did I mention Legos? 

Levi and his handmade pinewood derby car.

Another on the Way!
Yes, God has surprised us again with another child on the way!  Heather is ending her first trimester and looking forward to the cessation of the endless nausea (I keep telling her it must be twins).  Heather is due in August and will deliver again in the states.  Because she will be so far along, she will need to travel back to the states in June (with Levi and Josie), and thus miss Jeremiah’s graduation from RVA.  I will remain in Kenya with Jeremiah, Emma and Claire and after graduation in July, we’ll all join them.  Our plan is to get Jeremiah in college, have a baby, and then remain in the states until the end of 2015. Whew!!

 "I'm going to be a big sister!"

Developing Scholars
Between bouts of nausea, Heather is also doing a fantastic job teaching the 4th and 5th graders at Tenwek literature and writing.  Currently, they are reading Robin Hood and doing writing lessons based on medieval history.  All the women at Tenwek work very hard teaching the 32 children who are based on our compound.

Major House Repairs
Our house at Tenwek was built in the 1940s and was literally falling apart, and desperately in need of major repairs (roof, ceiling, wood siding, etc).  God’s timing was perfect because the majority of the repairs were done while Heather and the kids lived at RVA last fall.  However, just last week, my office chair almost went through our wood floor and several other boards acutely became very loose.  An inspection under the floor in the crawl space revealed the culprit: termites!  I guess the repairs aren’t quite over…however this one will wait until furlough.

Major remodel/repairs in process.

Floor joists: Termites love wood from the 1940s. 

Galat Guest/Ministry House
The whole of 2014 was also consumed with building a guest/ministry house in our side yard and completion is drawing nigh (thanks be to God).   It includes two apartments for volunteer medical visitors and guests.  In addition, the large “upper room” will be used for meetings, meals (replete with wood fired pizza oven), and other ministry events.  We are looking forward to the first scheduled event, which will be the “white coat ceremony” for our new residents.

Some of the construction crew.  Hard working guys.  We were thankful to provide income for local workers and their families. 

PAACS/ORTHO Residency Training Program
The ortho program is now in the second year and we added Dr. Ian Orwa to our other two, Dr. Fasto and Dr. Sowayi.  The training and discipling of national residents, interns and medical students continues to be our primary ministry objective at Tenwek.  It is a privilege to impact the lives of future leaders in medicine and ministry in Kenya! 

 Graduation day for PAACS residents at Tenwek.  Dan and Kiprono with the ortho residents. 

So much more has happened, but these are the major highlights.  God has been teaching Heather and I to remain dependent on him in our weakness and brokenness, and to dwell on his promises in scripture.  Thanks again for your prayers and support!

 On the road from Kijabe to Tenwek.  Need we ever doubt God's faithfulness?!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just Along for the Ride

This patient suffered an open distal tib/fib fracture which was treated with an external fixator at another hospital (what we call a "Kisii special"). 

This fracture was particularly difficult to treat because of the amount of bone loss and angulation. 

Also challenging was the amount of displacement and angulation of the fracture which had been in this malposition for many months. 

The fracture was expertly treated by visiting physician Dr. Frank Bryant, who used one of the donated Biomet plates.  He filled the bone defect with graft taken from the iliac crest. 

Overall, the fixation was solid and alignment anatomic.  Now, the result is in God's hands. 

Since 2012, Biomet, a major orthopaedic implant company, has been supplying Tenwek with critical implants designed specifically for the treatment of complicated fractures that occur in and around major joints (hip, knee, wrist and ankle).  The manner in which this partnership was established was a total miracle in itself (perhaps to be told at another time).  Recently, another orthopaedic company called Zimmer purchased Biomet and the merger is currently ongoing.  Naturally, we at Tenwek have been wondering how this merger will affect our ongoing partnership and the supply of these important implants. 

Being stateside for a few weeks this month, I was honored with an invitation to speak at Biomet’s annual Christmas party.  They mentioned that if I could come, they would also arrange a short meeting with the CEO of Zimmer to introduce him to the work at Tenwek.  So just a few days after landing in America, I traveled to Warsaw, IN, where three of the top five ortho implant companies reside.  The presentation at the Biomet Christmas party was well received as I communicated the blessing they have been for us at Tenwek, and thanked them on behalf of the many patients who been helped with their implants.  

Following the presentation, I traveled across town with the two Biomet executives who have spearheaded our partnership, and we had our meeting with the CEO of Zimmer. As I communicated with him about Tenwek, he seemed to track with significant interest.  He also mentioned that once the plans for our Orthopaedic Center of Excellence become more solidified, that we should meet again.   

God continually reminds me of two things: (1) He is entirely sovereign and (2) He loves the poor.  The orthopaedic work at Tenwek is wholly His, and we just have the privilege of joining Him on this wild ride.   

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support for our family.   Without it, we would not be able to continue at Tenwek. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why We Continue at Tenwek

Last week, on November 20th, we celebrated the 6th anniversary of our first arrival at Tenwek Hospital.  We have faced significant challenges over these last six years and many (including ourselves at times) have asked why we continue to serve at this rural mission hospital in southwest Kenya.  The following article I wrote (which was recently published in WGM's "The Call" magazine) along with this related video, explain why.  Thanks to all who continually partner with us to make disciples of Christ in this small part of the world.

The Cycle of Discipleship

As a young believer in my sophomore year of college, hungry to grow in my new-found faith, and praying for God’s help in this endeavor, a man named Roger, whose passion was to disciple future leaders in the Kingdom, asked if I would be interested in becoming a part of his weekly discipleship group.  At that time, I did not comprehend how God would significantly use Roger’s time, commitment and modeling of true faith to help me grow in a deeper understanding of His Grace.  Because of this experience in true discipleship, my life was forever changed, and as a result, I committed to making discipleship the principle aspect of ministry in the future.

As a missionary orthopaedic surgeon at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I have the privilege of caring for medically underserved patients, providing compassionate healthcare in Jesus’ name, praying with patients and encouraging them to walk with Jesus.  However, the greater privilege is the unique opportunity we have to disciple young national surgeons who come to Tenwek for training.   As part of the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), whose goal is to raise up African missionary surgeons to reach the most needy patients in Africa, we train general and orthopaedic residents not only in excellent healthcare, but also in a deeper walk with Christ, to help them grow in their own faith, passing on the truths that were built into us, thus continuing the cycle of discipleship in an international context.

Jesus commanded his disciples, the same ones he poured His own life into over a three-year period, to continue the cycle, and go into all nations and make more disciples.   This is God’s design for all of us who would desire to make a true, and long-lasting difference in the Kingdom.  Discipleship is not easy and sometimes even messy.  But by God’s grace, the blood, sweat and tears associated with deep, personal relationship can make an eternal impact in the life of someone who just might do the same for others in the future…the cycle of discipleship.