For the first time in almost nine months I had a companion! For twenty minutes at least. Dr. Bethwel Raore was born and raised in Kenya but did his neurosurgical training in the US and now practices in the Atlanta area. He had returned to Kenya a couple of weeks ago to visit family and unknown to me had decided to drive four hours to Tenwek just to say hi briefly and drop off a much-needed electric surgical drill (I was down to my last functioning one).
Like for many of you, it's been a bit of a lonely year. Because of COVID, there have been no neurosurgeons come to Tenwek since early March. I've missed the camaraderie of those visits. The work here has some high highs and low lows. Often I wish there was a fellow neurosurgeon here who understood those victories and defeats - who could celebrate the good outcomes, and listen and give advice after the bad ones. Still, most evenings I walk home with a deep sense of fulfilment from the day's work, and Alisa and I remain with a strong conviction that this is where God has led our family.
Bethwel's surprise visit was such an encouragement
It's been as busy as ever at the hospital. Early during the pandemic one of the main hospitals in Nairobi - where one of the larger neurosurgical practices in the country is - became a designated COVID hospital, and so many of their patients came to Tenwek instead. More recently, because of continued frustration over lack of appropriate protective equipment and overall poor morale from being overworked, many doctors and nurses in surrounding hospitals have gone on strike, again leaving Tenwek to shoulder an extra heavy patient load. And it's not just the people of Kenya we are serving. Last week we removed a brain tumor in a lady who had travelled all the way from Gabon, a country on the complete opposite side of Africa.
Mouembe before leaving to return to Gabon
I wrote in my holiday email last year that 2020 marked a new chapter for neurosurgery at Tenwek. Dr. Emmanuel Wafula has spent this year as a neurosurgery resident-in-waiting and in January 2021 will become the first official neurosurgical resident at Tenwek. Tenwek will be not only the first neurosurgical training site in all of Africa for the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS, through which all surgical training at Tenwek happens), but also the only neurosurgical training program in Kenya currently outside of the capital of Nairobi.
What I didn't know last year was that Dr. Fraser Henderson Jr.'s visit to Tenwek in February would lead he and his wife Betsy to commit to joining Alisa and I here full-time in January 2022. That God would lead another neurosurgeon to Tenwek has been our hope for several years now. It's hard to overstate our excitement at this news!
Emmanuel is going to be a great neurosurgeon. He loves the Lord deeply. The opportunity to work one-on-one daily with him is one of my greatest joys here. Here he is operating on another patient with a brain tumor.
Fraser (left) operating with Emmanuel and I this past February
Fraser and Betsy, along with their daughter Phoebe, will be joining us in January 2022
Tenwek has been approved for a total of three residents and in January Emmanuel will be joined by Dr. Ivy Barasa as our second. The surgical training programs at Tenwek rely 100% on the financial support of partners like you. The cost of putting a resident through their 6 years of training is $25,000 per year. In addition, there is a critical shortage of resident housing at Tenwek and fundraising continues for the building of more housing units. Each of the three units needed for our neurosurgery residents will cost approximately $40,000.
If you're interested in joining the work at Tenwek by supporting Emmanuel and Ivy, along with future neurosurgical trainees, Alisa and I would be very grateful. To do so you can give a tax-deductible donation to Friends of Tenwek by clicking here and designating your gift for the "Neurosurgery Residency Scholarship Fund".
The Copeland crew at our Thanksgiving celebration last weekend.
We are grateful for the support of so many of you that allow us to continue serving here at Tenwek. Blessings to you and yours during this Advent season.
Lest you think I'm the only one doing cool stuff around here...This is a picture of Alisa with the ladies of Side By Side-Tenwek when they received their copies of the Bible study book Seamless.
Side By Side is an outreach ministry of the Christian Medical and Dental Association designed to encourage women in their faith and medical marriages. Alisa started Tenwek's chapter back in 2017 with one resident's wife and it has grown to now include most of the wives. What a blessing it is to be united with Alisa in our purpose here - to train and disciple residents and their spouses to serve those in need and tell of God's goodness shown in Jesus Christ.