Missionary Surgeon at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, East Africa

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May – July 2012

As I left Tenwek rather suddenly in April, my colleagues took over caring for little K.A.  He is the little boy who has such a short portion of small and large bowel remaining after multiple operations.  He continues to need more nutritional support than he can take in in a day.  Please pray for him and his family.

It has been great connecting with friends and supporters and churches and being reminded of the incredible team of people that join in this work at Tenwek Hospital.  I have been often moved to tears at the dedication and commitment of “our team” here in the USA.  Thank you for making it possible for me to serve in Kenya.   Pray for me as I return to Tenwek in mid August and pray for my Mom as she continues to improve after her stroke.

 

April 2012 – Unexpected Turns

In April, I had to leave Tenwek unexpectedly to come home and help my Mom and our family after my Mom’s recent stroke.  We are so thankful that she has made great progress and has no lasting neuro deficits.  This event did prompt her to desire to simplify her life – so she has moved to an independent living apartment and her house is for sale.  The process of closing out this chapter in all of lives has been a time to cherish the memories of a loving family and to grieve the loss of things familiar.  We have all appreciated the many prayers on our behalf.  I have appreciated the opportunity to walk through this journey with my Mom.  Praise God for answered prayer!

 

 

March 2012 – Achu from Sudan

 

 

Many of you remember that I have had a special place in my heart for Sudan for quite a few years now.  Recently, we were planning a trip to South Sudan as a fact finding visit to take our residents for a rotation that will provide them with experience in a less fortunate setting – a “missions rotation” if you will.  The trip was cancelled at the last moment, but God sent us a little South Sudanese girl named Achu and her sister Mary to care for instead.  Achu had a terrible injury to her right leg that had not healed in more than a year.  She was found by a team with Make Way Partners and they wanted to help her.  As I heard her story, I asked Dr. Dan Galat, Tenwek Orthopedic surgeon if he thought his team could help Achu.  Dan and I both were concerned from the initial description that Achu would possibly lose her leg.  God had other plans!

 

Achu arrived and was sad and scared and often teary eyed.  She cried as the painful medication was given via her IV line.  She laid in her bed, curled up in a fetal position, unable to communicate with any of us.  A wonderful person in Nairobi agreed to be our “anytime” translator.  We got a cell phone for Achu and programmed this friend’s number in it.  Over the next several weeks, many of us called this person we have never met and he always joyfully translated back and forth from English to Dinka so that the staff could communicate to Achu (what a wonderful way to serve the Lord – no limelight and no earthly reward – but many blessings to all involved!).   Dr. Dan Galat and the orthopedic team removed the dead bone, treated the large leg wound and Achu was not only able to keep her leg, the leg was straight and she is able to walk normally.

 

You can read more about Achu’s story on these websites:

http://kimberlylsmithblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/4g-f5-and-mighty-storm-of-god.html

http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/23/god-who-sees-me-achus-hope

 

My lasting memory of Achu will be our last conversation with her.  I had found out that my Mom had suffered a stroke and I needed to leave Tenwek rather suddenly.  As I went to say farewell to Achu and her sister, I called our translator and asked him to explain my details to Achu.  She had one question for me – “When will I see you again?”  My answer was this – “If I don’t see you again on this earth, I will see you in heaven!”  Achu knows Jesus because of all of the people who have cared enough to not only take care of her physical needs, but who have talked to her about the healing that comes from knowing Jesus as her savior!

 

Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery

Please also pray for the babies and families of children with cleft lip and cleft palate. I appreciate so much Dr. Louis Carter and others who have come to help me and our residents learn this area of plastic surgery.  These patients have a special place in my heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consultant rounds in the ICU with the entire surgery team – a time for teaching and patient care.

 

 

Visiting Staff Doctors continue to bless us and teach our residents (and us!).  We are so thankful for how God sends people our way – most often through the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse World Medical Mission.  We could not take care of the many patients at Tenwek if it were not for the blessing of these talented men and women who come as volunteers.  Our residents also benefit greatly.  Each morning at 8am we gather in the Doctors’ Classroom for a time of teaching.

 

 

February 2012 – Christian Medical and Dental Conference in Kenya

 

Every two years, the Christian Medical and Dental Association holds a conference for missionary doctors to provide the much needed continuing medical education (CME) required to maintain a current license and board certification.  The training is provided by a volunteer faculty who travel from all over the world to give lectures and seminars to help us to maintain our skills.

 

PAACS allows the fourth and fifth year residents to attend this conference.  During the weekend, the residents present research presentations they have prepared (for a competition!).  Dr. Agneta Odera won this year’s award for her research on valvular heart disease following rheumatic fever.  Dr. Russ White led the music and worship time for the morning worship services.  It was a wonderful time of learning, rest, renewal and fellowship.

 

After the CMDE conference, several faculty members traveled to Tenwek to teach our residents vital skills in Advanced Cardiac Life Support.  As I was observing, I marveled that it was the most laughter-filled ACLS class I had ever seen thanks to our residents and their good natured teasing!

 

White Coat Ceremony – Becoming a tradition!

 

Each year as we welcome new residents, we hold a banquet and a White Coat Ceremony to celebrate this significant milestone in each resident’s life.  This year we were glad that the PAACS accreditation team could join in this special event.  The purpose of the White Coat Ceremony is to remind residents and faculty alike, of the solemn responsibilities that come with being a physician and surgeon and wearing the trusted “white coat”.  We take those thoughts further and talk about the spiritual significance of our calling and what Christlike compassionate healthcare should look like – the qualities we aspire to demonstrate in our lives and work.  Each new resident receives his or her white coat, textbooks, PAACS emblem, and a PAACS lapel pin.  The other residents receive a certificate of completion of another year or training, a textbook, and a copy of the PAACS prayer which we all pray together at the end.  This year, we had all of the consultants as well as the two chief residents welcome the four new residents as a symbol that it will take many people to pour into the training ahead.  This night is probably one of my very favorite celebrations of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

January 2012 – PAACS Accreditation Visit to Tenwek

 

 

 

January was also a time to welcome a team from Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons to Tenwek Hospital for an accreditation visit.  Much hard work went into preparing for this close inspection and overall audit of our facilities, teaching program, surgical cases, outcomes, and documentation.  We appreciated the insight and recommendations given by this team of surgeons and the PAACS Executive Director.  They are pictured here as they met with us and toured our facilities.  We are so thankful for this vital partnership with PAACS (and for a good result of this site visit!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2012 – New Beginnings!

 

 

Tenwek General Surgery Residency Program had an exciting and event-filled January!  First of all, we welcomed four new residents into our training program as first year surgical residents.  Each one of them brings his or her unique blend of talents and personality and we praise God for them!  This brings our total to ten surgery residents ranging from year one to five.  I must admit feeling not only a sense of gratitude and excitement, but also an overwhelming sense of responsibility as I looked at them around the Christmas tree!

We are so excited to have “Chief Residents”!  Dr. Agneta and Dr. Arega are in their final year of training and will graduate at the end of this year!

 

Dr. Agneta

Dr. Arega

We prayed as we started this program in January 2008 that it would only succeed if it would be glorifying to God.  We praise God for how He has built this program and for the amazing young men and women He has sent our way!  We pray that God will use them for His eternal purposes.

 

 

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2011 – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Celebrating the gift of Jesus.  I enjoy Christmas and the beauty of the lights as a reminder of His light in my own life.  I also am thankful for extended family here as I miss out on seeing my own family at this special time of year.  Christmas is always special and full of activities at Tenwek.

We visited orphans who are loved and cared for by Kenyans in the Africa Gospel Church who feel called to run an orphanage at Kenduiywa.  They sang for us and we helped them make angel ornaments for their Christmas tree.  We went caroling around the hospital to the wards singing Christmas carols and greeting the patients and their families.  My Bible Study women’s group had a special Christmas evening with goodies, good food, and time out for a Christmas movie!

I am looking forward to our new residents starting in January 2012.  Two of them did their internship at Tenwek and have been working at Tenwek as Medical Officers.  They joined us at Dr. Russ White’s home along with the current residents recently for a Friday night of pizza and movies.  Pray for Michael, Liz, Ivan and John as they start their training.

 

A busy year comes to an end.  On one level, it is easy to focus on my many regrets and to feel chagrined that I have not done all that I needed and wanted to do.  On another level, and I believe the place that I should try to focus, I am just so thankful to be a part of what God is doing here and for what He is doing in me.  I have overcome some personal challenges and obstacles this year and feel as if I am on the way back to being fully myself.  I appreciate your prayers for my journey – though imperfect – is one of seeking God and wanting to glorify Him!!

So thankful for my many gifts of your love and support,

Carol

p.s.  Looking ahead to 2012, I am praying about whether to return to the USA for a time of home ministry assignment (furlough).  I am considering a 3 to 6 month period somewhere in the May through November timeframe.  Please let me know if there is any church event or missions conference where you would want me to speak.

In this time of financial difficulty worldwide, giving is down and my ministry account is getting low.  If you would like to give to my ministry, please click here to give a one time or ongoing tax deductible gift.   http://www.wgm.org/spears  You can also mail a check to World Gospel Mission, P O Box 948, Marion, IN 46592

December 2011

 

A quick trip to Zambia to the annual meeting of the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa  (COSECSA) – the group that accredits our training program.  Two of our residents took and passed their Member of College of surgeons exam (Dr. Jack Okumu and Dr. Elijah Mwaura).  Dr. Russ White and I helped to give the oral exams (for non Kenyan examinees).  Another of our residents, Dr. Arega Leta, presented a paper and the CEO of PAACS, Dr. Bruce Steffes presented on the PAACS program.  We were proud to see how God is working to make the name of PAACS known and giving it a reputation of excellence.  Please pray that God will provide what is needed for a large deficit in the PAACS budget for this year and ongoing.

 

October and November

Thanksgiving – a time of thanking God for the many gifts He has given.  As I look around me, I realize that people right here in my own “village” (as we say in Kenya) have to make choices daily about food and clean water and school fees and clothing because there is not enough money for all of it.  Pray that I will know how to not only serve the poor through my work as a surgeon at the hospital, but that I will be able to be generous and of help to those around me in need.

November was also time for cardiac team at Tenwek.  It was amazing to watch the teamwork, hard work, and miracle results that this team achieved.  Our two chief residents and Dr. Russ White operated with the heart team while Dr. Paul Osteen (far right below) and I took care of General Surgery.  A highlight for me was seeing Agneta and Arega closing the chest together at the end of one of the heart cases!!
Pray for SK and her baby CK pictured below.  On her way to Tenwek to bring her baby who was to be reviewed by the cardiac team, she was on a matatu (taxi van) that was stopped by robbers who stole everything she had.  She somehow managed to find someone to bring her to Tenwek – only to be told that her child’s cardiac disease had progressed too far and that surgery was not an option.  I was blessed to get to know her and to be able to be there for her during this difficult time.  Despite all of the adversity, she had a strong faith which I pray will see her through.  It reminded me that it is not only surgery that I am here for – it is to show the love of Jesus – no matter the surgical or medical outcome.