This past weekend we celebrated our second Thanksgiving here (we don't actually celebrate on Thursday since it's not a Kenyan holiday)...Turkey Trot 5K, big lunch with the other missionaries, afternoon of football, evening of pies and a movie. I've been reflecting on the past year and find myself so grateful, echoing the words of King David in Psalm 86, "I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever."
So instead of telling you about another panga attack, I want to share just a few of the highlights from the past year, in the hope that you can catch a glimpse of what God has been doing here at Tenwek.
There are several neurosurgeons who have visited Tenwek previously and helped lay a crucial foundation for neurosurgical care here, but prior to our arrival last September, Tenwek had never had a full time neurosurgeon. Word is getting out and this first year alone there were over 500 patients admitted to the neurosurgical service, with an additional 150 patients consulted on. Of the nearly 350 operations performed, the majority were of an urgent or emergent nature wherein significant delay would have likely resulted in neurologic compromise or death.
There is a neuro team forming and we now have two dedicated neurosurgical OR nurses. Prior to them I would have to run around each morning preparing everything for my cases and was mentally exhausted before even starting a case. Now they're learning the nuances of what we need and are often reminding me of things I'm forgetting. I've also acquired a right-hand man at the hospital, a clinical officer (similar to a physician assistant in the States) that helps me see patients in the clinic, triages consults, and scrubs with me in the operating room. And while not strictly neuro, there is a physical therapist and clinic nurse, who have been instrumental in helping us expand our services for children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. I cannot speak highly enough of these five individuals. Their hard work and commitment to our patients has been such a blessing to me.
Our neuro team during a visit this summer to Uganda where we learned how to better care for children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus
My clinical officer and I with one of our patients
I am in the process of renovating Tenwek’s oldest operating room to allow it to function as the neurosurgical OR. It had largely become neglected and mostly only used for minor cases, but just last week we removed a large brain tumor, clipped a ruptured aneurysm, and did a craniotomy for someone with face pain. Not bad for a room with only one intermittently working surgical light (we still have some things to replace). There have been numerous companies, more than I can name here, that have been generous and donated so much of the equipment that is allowing me to do these kinds of cases that previously I wasn't able to do.
I’ve also been able to network with a few other neurosurgeons in the country. Just this week there are two from Nairobi coming to visit Tenwek to discuss the possibility of having their residents rotate here and spend time with me next year. After their visit we will travel together to a neurosurgical society meeting on the coast where I have a scheduled lecture, followed by a trip to Mozambique where I will give another presentation and take an exam to officially join the ranks of accredited neurosurgeons in Kenya.
The OR prior to beginning renovation
A picture of the OR this past week. We've still got some things to fix but we're making progress.
It’s taking time but we feel we are making meaningful relationships in our community. Alisa is carrying on a women’s ministry that was so dear to her during our time in Rochester, a Bible study called Side by Side that is designed to encourage wives of the doctors here in their medical marriages. I have been in charge of organizing our weekly Bible study with the surgical residents this past year. Discipling those young men and women to use their training as surgeons to serve others and glorify God is one of the aspects of my work here that I most treasure.
Our community threw Emery Chepkemoi a Kipsigis baby shower, one of the most touching times we've had this past year.
We recently took a group of the residents to paint classrooms in one of the local children's homes
Our Wednesday night study with the residents
Lastly, there’s been so many of you who have supported us in various ways. We really see this as your coming alongside us and participating in the work here...be it through acquiring hospital supplies, sending care packages, random emails to say hi, praying for our family, financial support...even coming to visit! Your love and encouragement mean more than you know.
Dr. Brett Dietze, neurosurgeon from Texarkana, TX, and the official Friends of Tenwek Champion of Neurosurgery
Dr. Rod Rozario (far left), neurosurgeon from Bangor, ME, and Mr. Tim Odell (far right), neurosurgical physician assistant from Spartanburg, SC
Necon and Jeni Warrior, friends of ours since high school, and their 3 kids, Lydia, Levi, and Isaac
Team Mayo - Drs. Andy Foy (pediatric neurosurgeon actually from the Medical College of Wisconsin but trained at Mayo) and Michelle Clarke, spine neurosurgeon from Mayo, along with Mr. Aaron Mueller, spine rep extraordinaire and his wife Kelly
Dr. Avital Perry, good friend and former co-resident at Mayo
My parents Billy and Sandy Copeland, and grandparents Warlick and JoAnn Thomas
Alisa's parents Dean and Laura Wright
Alisa's sister Jenni Bills
As we begin this second year at Tenwek, we recognize even more the importance of supporters like you. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers...and keep those random emails coming.
As you consider your end-of-the-year giving and plan for next year, please consider the work here at Tenwek. For details on how to give monthly or with with a one-time gift, visit www.samaritanspurse/wmmgiving and follow the prompts.
Thanks again for partnering with us this first year in Kenya.