Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Tory, Emma, Tye, Claire, Levi, Josie, Jane and Ethan

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Little Black Book

The Little Black Book, a log of all orthopedic surgical cases at Tenwek.

A two year old boy with rhabdomyosarcoma of the hand: one of the sad cases in the book.

An example of "MacGyver orthopedics." A periprosthetic femur fracture fixed with a long plate, screws hand-cut to length and cerclage wires.

The book also contains more conventional cases such as this ulnar shortening for ulnar impaction syndrome.

For those who are familiar with John Piper, one of his books succinctly entitled “Don’t Waste Your Life” is a personal favorite. When we left for Kenya eight months ago, Heather’s parents gave us several items they purchased from John Piper’s Desiring God Conference, including the “Don’t Waste Your Life Field Journal,” a little black book intended for…journaling. I use mine to catalogue all the surgical cases I do here at Tenwek, and the daily reminder to “not waste my life” helps keep the daily challenges in perspective. So far I have filled one book and am now on my second. I lost count at 300 about halfway through the first book.

Most other medical specialties allow for board certification of physicians while doing full-time missions: OB-Gyn, General Surgery, Family Practice, etc. However, this is not the case with orthopedic surgery. The American Board of Orthopedic Surgery bylaws currently state that it is a requirement for prospective fellows to work in the United States for two years before allowing them to sit for the oral boards. Thus, although I passed the written boards last summer, as it currently stands, I cannot be fully board certified working as a busy orthopedic medical missionary in Africa.

However, I also believe God is able to do a miracle, and that is the reason I am keeping my “little black book” of Tenwek cases, in the hopes that some day, the policy may change, and I may be able to sit for my oral boards with cases that I have done while following the call of God here in Kenya. The book is not perfect, including a “few” cases treated in ways non-conventional, what I like to call “MacGyver orthopedics” (the show from the late 80s/early 90 in which MacGyver could create anything out of the most elementary supplies). We do what we can with what we have. On the other hand, we are very blessed at Tenwek to have, what I have been told, the best orthopedic inventory in Kenya, thanks to our friends in the US who are so faithful, behind the scenes, working to secure supplies for Tenwek.

How our culture defines a successful life (i.e. wealth, power, status, education ) may actually be a wasted life. On the other hand, what is viewed as a “wasted life” may actually be the most fulfilling, meaningful, and eternal. Paradoxically, in God’s economy, the path to a life not wasted is by the very act of losing it. The challenge is for me, you, all of us. Thankfully, I have a daily reminder of this every time I write a case in my little black book. Let us encourage each other to not waste our lives.

Matt. 16:25-28 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.


Roxanne said...

Amen! Amen! Amen! You are all continuly in my prayers. The higher we exalt Christ, the more we become a target of the devil. Don't forget that the evil one has already lost the war and try as he might to win the battle for our hearts, the Lord will not give up what is His!

The Ottdog said...

You always wanted to be surgeon. I remember walking around Lexview and you poking a stick in something hit on the road telling us what all the organs were. Christ has taken you a long way from home to do great things. I'm not surprised. If I were there I'd give you and Uncle Bob. Glad to hear it. Matt

Michelle (Bensinger) Etter said...

Hello Danny Galat! I am so happy for you, you've always had a kind generous heart. Do you still have that pencil lead in your hand?? The last time I saw you was at OSU outside The Union. How far we've come! I wish I could do some volunteering with you and your family, if we ever make it to Kenya, I'll be sure to contact you.
Best Wishes, Michelle (Bensinger) Etter

Aaron said...

Hey Dan--

It was great meeting you and your family at Tenwek and seeing you all again at the SP house the day we left for the states. God bless you all! We may see you again soon in Kenya.