Category Archives: Tropical Illness

Stories of Hope: Kiplagat

IMG_2265When I first met Kiplagat, his clinical picture was grim at best. I honestly did not expect him to survive. He had cerebral malaria, was unconscious, and his neurological exam was very concerning. I shared with the family quite honestly that the situation did not look good. And that without immediate brain surgery, he would not be likely to survive. I remember standing in the room and raising my hands to heaven as I prayed for him. I cried out to God to work a miracle in this situation that seemed beyond hope.

I went back to my office to write an emergency referral and organize for him to be taken to the hospital over an hour away. As I was typing the report, one of our staff members came in and told me that Kiplagat was awake and talking. I had to ask him to repeat himself. Yes, this woman of faith, who had just asked God to work a miracle, did not believe that the patient could be capable of talking. But he was. It didn’t make sense. So often our God works in ways that don’t make sense. Kiplagat still needed to get to the hospital, but it no longer seemed that death would be certain.

The next day the family came back to report that Kiplagat had survived surgery. A few weeks later the head of the family came to our staff meeting. He explained that the family had met together and decided that they needed to thank and honor us for our care of Kiplagat. So this past Sunday, a delegation from the Village of Hope staff traveled to his home.

Kiplagat Speaking

Kiplagat thanking the Village of Hope Staff for their care

As we bumped over miles and miles of rough, dirt, roads, I kept thinking what a miracle it was that Kiplagat even made it to our medical centre alive. The family served us lunch, then took time to share from their hearts. Person after person stood up to give thanks for what we had done. It was emphasized that it was shocking that we had been more worried about helping our patient, than making sure we would be paid for taking care of him. Several mentioned that I was the first mzungu (white person) to ever visit their neighborhood. And then Kiplagat stood up to speak. He shared with us that he has a newborn baby; that now he will get to see this little one grow. He has been given a second chance at life.

I was asked to be the final speaker of the day. I spoke from my heart and explained why it is that I am here serving in rural Kenya. That God has called me to serve those in need, to bring His hope and healing. I also reminded them of the prayer over Kiplagat’s unconscious body. It was not me, or my skills, that saved him. It was because of God’s healing touch that he has a second chance at life. And I am beyond thankful that I could be an instrument of healing in Kiplagat’s life. It is an honor and a privilege to live out this calling.

When you stand with Hope Matters by supporting the ministry financially, you are helping empower us to reach patients like Kiplagat with a healing touch. If you would like to make a one-time gift or set up monthly donations to help support the ministry, please click here.

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Christmas Shoes

VictorI first met Victor at his school when we were doing an assessment to determine how many children required jigger treatment. Victor stood out for two reasons. First he had the saddest eyes and countenance about him for such a young child. And secondly, his jigger infection was so bad that even his hands were affected.

IMG_2381bAfter two weeks of our soaking intervention, we saw a few children improve enough to be discharged from the program. But there were many others who needed to go on to receive surgical intervention. Victor was among the second group. Treating that little boy just about broke my heart as his tears silently streamed down his face. Once finished, I bandaged him up in gauze. And it was then that I realized that he would be walking home down the dirt road on his bandages because he had no shoes. For a moment I asked myself “Why am I doing this?” Why go through so much trouble to help this one child who will go home with a good chance that his surgical wounds will be infected, and an even greater chance that he will be reinfected with jiggers? It was honestly a very discouraging day for me.

IMG_2385bAs a team at Hope Matters we have talked about how we will continue to treat the same children with the same problems repeatedly if we can’t get them in shoes. Will shoes fix everything about their life and guarantee they will never get another infection? No, but getting those little feet into shoes will be a huge step in the right direction. It will also be a physical representation of our love and care for these kids. We want them to know that we love them and more importantly that Jesus loves them too!

We have completed a survey and found that there are approximately 130 children under the age of 10, in the Kampi Mawe slum, who currently need a pair of shoes. We are holding a special Christmas Eve program for these kids. At the conclusion of the program we hope to provide them with a snack and a pair of Christmas shoes. We would love your partnership to help make this happen. We are estimating that it will be approximately $10 for each pair of shoes. If you would like to help us, you can do so by making a donation on our website by clicking here. Just make a note in the comment area that says “Christmas Shoes”.  Thank you!

The Bigger Picture

IMG_2466It was a humbling moment for sure. My patient held up a bag of locally grown oranges and asked if my family would eat them. She wanted to give me a gift to say thank you for all of the time, energy and resources that I’ve invested in treating the chronic wounds on her leg. With tears in her eyes she told me that my care, concern, and regular visits to her home in recent months have overwhelmed her. It was a rather difficult exchange for for me because in the months of caring for her, I’ve seen very little improvement. In fact today her leg looked worse than it had in a while. It’s frustrating as a medical provider when you are trying everything you know to do, and the patient just doesn’t seem to be improving. But in that moment, as she gave me this loving gift with tear-filled eyes, I realized that my visits have been about so much more than trying to heal broken skin. They have been about building a relationship. Showing love. Being Jesus with skin-on to this beautiful soul who sells fish for a living, and thus always smells like fish. This gift of oranges forced me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I was reminded that the times we sit together to hold hands and pray are far more valuable in the grand scheme of things, than the bandages that I put on her wounds.

World Malaria Day

Malaria

Today, Friday April 25th, is World Malaria Day. So I want to take just a few moments to share some thoughts and stories about this wretched disease.

I’ll never forget the first malaria death I handled here in Kenya. I don’t remember the date, but I vividly remember the patient. She was just 7-years-old… Her mom carried her into the clinic. She was unconscious, dehydrated, anemic and had extremely high fevers. We did everything we could. Shortly after she started IV medical therapy we lost her pulse because her heart had stopped beating. I knew she was gone but I did CPR anyway. She was only seven! It felt wrong. Really, really, wrong, for such a sweet young life to be cut so short by a disease that came from a mosquito bite. Her mom was in shock. I was in shock. It was a tough day.

I’ll also never forget what it felt like to get malaria for the first time. It landed me in the hospital as a patient and took weeks for me to fully recover. At one point I actually dreamed that I was going to a white light and my life was over. I was really disappointed when I woke up from that dream to discover I was still alive. Thankfully I did live through the experience and came out the other side with some pretty strong feelings about malaria!

Someone recently asked me how malaria affects someone. I explained that malaria is a parasite in the blood. So everywhere that the blood goes, malaria goes. These are just a few of the symptoms commonly observed:

  • High Fevers (like 105 degrees Fahrenheit high!)
  • Body-Shaking Chills
  • Serious Anemia
  • Migraine-like Headaches
  • Bone Crushing Ache in the Bones and Joints
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Coughing and Difficulty Breathing
  • Seizures in Young Children (Brought on by the high fevers)

The bad news is that according to the World Health Organization we are still seeing more than 200 million cases annually and that approximately 627,000 people actually die from this disease each year. Most of those deaths are children in Africa under the age of five. The good news is that these numbers actually represent a 54% drop in mortality since the year 2000. So we are making progress!

The best thing that we as health providers can do about malaria is working to prevent it from happening in the first place. We do this by distributing mosquito nets and teaching people about the importance of having every member of the household sleep under a net. We educate about eliminating stagnant water which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We encourage people to stay indoors and take proper precautions in the evenings when the malaria-carrying mosquitoes tend to make their appearance. We encourage families to seek appropriate care immediately at the first signs of sickness. Treating an early case is much easier and has a greater success rate that treating someone with advanced illness.

Slowly by slowly we wage war on malaria and the mosquitoes transmitting this disease! If you would like to learn more about malaria you can visit the World Health Organization site by clicking here.