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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Courage




Walking through Casualty last Friday night, making one more round to see if anything was brewing before heading home for our weekly family “pizza night,” I saw two young Masai men, both significantly bruised and bloody, bandages on their heads, sitting stoically awaiting their turn for x-rays. “What happened to those guys,” I asked a nearby intern, thinking perhaps they engaged each other in a good mid-December drunken brawl. The intern replied, “They were tired of the lion that was killing off their livestock, so together, they speared it.” I could only imagine the scene as it unfolded, an obvious grapple, as evidenced by the wounds sustained by both men, and since they were both still alive, I surmised the lion had met her match. I walked up to one of the men, and looked him in the face, admittedly obviously impressed by the courage he demonstrated. He looked at me, and since I don’t speak a word Masai, I spoke the universal language that all men understand…I gave him the “thumbs-up sign." He responded back with a barely perceptible crack of a smile from the corner of his mouth as if to say, “I killed me a lion today.”

I thought of David, who proclaimed to Saul, when told he was unable to face Goliath because of his youth and size, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God." Sometimes God asks us to do things that seem impossible to us, well beyond our own strength and ability, like for David, killing lions, facing Goliaths, or being a King. But these times are divine opportunities to demonstrate courage, which is more a decision of the will than an emotion of the heart, and undergirded by faith that a stronger Power is at work in our lives, accomplishing great things in and through us. Then, when these great things happen, knowing who we truly are in our own strength, all we can say is, “God, you did that…the Glory goes to You.” Were the Masai warriors afraid when they attacked the lion? Perhaps…but fear obviously did not dictate their actions. Necessity did. Sometimes you just “got to do it,” in faith, and trust that God will give what is needed to get the job done. That’s what the heroes of the faith did, normal men and women like you and me, driven often by necessity and a passion for God’s Glory, refusing to bow to fear and cowardice, willing to trust God’s promise to be near. That’s how great things happen.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hope

Young boy with bilateral femur fractures and open left tibia fracture after being hit by a car. Plates and screws for the femurs and a cast for the tibia allowed him to get out of bed early. He quickly became adept with handling his wheelchair.

Young lady at first followup appointment after having long screws placed across her sacrum to hold fractured pelvis in place. I especially like her husband's sweet hat...

The orthopedic surgical team...pushing the large cart of freshly sterilized implants and instruments to theatre at the start of a long day.

Man with acetabular fracture (hip socket) laying in bed in traction for 6 weeks...plently of time for reading and spiritual growth...

We are blessed to have our current set of visitors...from the left, Drs. Gaw and Morris. Dr. Araka (next to me) is the current intern on our service. Yes, I am needing a haircut...



December is classically the season for orthopedic trauma at Tenwek hospital, the busiest month in terms of admissions and surgical cases, most of which are related to road traffic accidents and/or alcohol (which is more easily obtained with the “bonuses” commonly given this month). As if on cue, on December 1st, two young men were admitted (one 18 and the other 20), with incredibly severe pelvic fractures. Both were very inexperienced drivers of “boda-bodas” (motorcycle taxis), and both looked more like 14 rather than their stated age. On December 2nd, three more young men were admitted with severe lower extremity injuries (yes, boda-boda plus alcohol), one man with bilateral open (meaning bone poking through skin) tibia fractures, and femur fractures. Yesterday (December 3rd), a 37 year old man was admitted after falling from a tree. He was paralyzed from the chest down, with two badly crushed thoracic vertebrae. Today, December 4th, is still young…

To be honest, one of the temptations working at a busy mission hospital is to succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Many of the patients we see have injuries and conditions that are well beyond the help of western medicine. Last week, we admitted a 17-year-old young man with a mass on his hip the size of a small football. Biopsy revealed sarcoma, and a simple chest x-ray showed that the cancer had already spread to his lungs and shoulder. How do you explain to a patient this young that he likely only has a few more years to live? Personally, we also feel the physical and emotional burden of continually trying to stay ahead of the relentless workload in our attempts to alleviate suffering in patients. Adding “injury to insult”, tomorrow, December 5th, a nation-wide strike of all national (Kenyan) physicians is scheduled to begin (including, unfortunately, our own interns at Tenwek). If the strike materializes, patients will soon flood into Tenwek, which would literally be one of the remaining few open hospitals in the country. Perfect timing during this busy season…

Yet, we continue to hope, because we know our God specializes in bringing good out of seemingly hopeless situations. This is the essence of the Advent Season leading up to Christmas…at the darkest time in history, the Christ-child, God in the flesh, entered humanity with the sole purpose of redeeming mankind from its bondage to sin through His eventual death on the cross. Imagine the God who is both perfectly just, and perfectly loving, in that he took our sin on His own shoulders! No wonder the angel proclaimed to the shepherds on the night Christ was born, “I bring you good news of great joy!” And God continues to bring hope in the midst of suffering here at Tenwek. He provides the orthopedic implants we need at just the right time, so that we can help many of the patients God sovereignly brings us…the young man with sarcoma accepted his news with peace while clinging to his bible…a 75 year old alcoholic who broke his hip after a drunken fall accepted Christ as his Savior (after he recovered from his delirium tremens)…patients are healed in Jesus' name…

The truth is, we all have hope. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Where do we place it?” Job security? Money? Position? Family? Education? Entertainment? Food? Do we view these things as our source of hope, or as “gifts” from God who purchased all good things we enjoy by His death on the cross? During this Advent Season, may we all put our hope in the true Source, and worship the Creator rather than the created. Christ is the ultimate gift from God to us…Hope in the darkness…Good news of Great Joy.

Psalm 130:7-8 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.