Category Archives: Women’s Health

Joy in The Morning

IMG_1825 IMG_1818 IMG_1829I first met Sam and Naomi in January of this year. She was a bit quiet and shy.  She softly told me that she was pregnant. And that she was a type 1 diabetic. She and her husband have wanted a baby for many years. In fact, she lost her first one in childbirth back in 2011. There haven’t been any baby’s since then. She was excited. She was afraid. Could I help? Would I help? So much hope. So much fear. And thus our journey together began. I’ve been seeing her in clinic at least weekly since then. There have been some weeks when we had two, or even three visits. We’ve gone through hyper and hypoglycemia episodes. There was a big, scary, kidney infection. A few blood pressure worries along the way too. But yesterday Naomi safely brought baby Michelle into the world. I feel so honored and humbled that this precious little one would be given my name. This morning I had the honor of holding her in my arms; of praying over baby Michelle and her proud mama. This family had a long, dark, night before receiving this gift. What a blessing to be able to walk this path with them and rejoice together over this new life.

*Naomi has given permission for me to share her story and pictures with you.

Jesca’s Story of Hope

IMG_0397I don’t have a picture of her, there just was not time to take one. Jesca is 42-years old, but her eyes look older than that. She came to me 33-weeks pregnant with her 6th child. It was her 7th pregnancy, she had lost a baby along the way. She shared that ten days ago her water and broken. Let me repeat that, TEN DAYS ago her water had broken. She had been passing blood clots since then but had not gone into labor.

My heart sank.. I thought to myself “this won’t be my first fetal demise, but I sure wish it could be my last”. My gut said that they baby had probably already died a few days ago and for whatever reason her body was refusing to let it go. I told her that we would do a quick ultrasound scan, exam, and then write a referral to get her appropriate treatment at the hospital.

After putting the ultrasound probe on her abdomen we saw something unexpected, the baby’s heart was beating! Slowly, but beating! We confirmed that there was virtually no amniotic fluid inside the uterus. It was a miracle that this baby still had a heartbeat; and that Jesca didn’t have a raging infection given the history. But with the frequent episodes of the heart rate decelerating, she needed to delivery quickly.

As I reviewed her forms I realized that she had not had enough money to get adequate prenatal care. The government clinic had ordered lab tests, but she didn’t have the money to get them done. She had waited these 10 days to seek help because she had nothing she could make a payment with. Her husband was with her. There was a desperation in his eyes. Neither of them had a phone. It’s one of the most basic things here, everyone has a phone since no contracts are needed and there are many cheap, burner-style models readily available. But neither of them could afford one.

We placed our hands on Jesca’s belly and prayed for her and the baby. Then we activated an emergency referral, and provided resources for transportation to the hospital an hour away. And then we waited. This was one of those times where I wasn’t sure if we would ever know the outcome. Especially given that there was no phone number to call and follow up. But the next day Jesca’s husband was in my office. With tears in his eyes he kept repeating “I thank God for you. I thank God for you. They are both alive.” Jesca delivered a baby girl through an emergency C-section.

Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for remembering us. Thank you for making the choice to financially support the ministry of Hope Matters. Your prayers and donations are making a difference to people like Jesca and her baby girl.

The Pain and the Privilege of My Calling

I’m coming off of about five hours of restless sleep this morning. A baby kept me up last night. But it wasn’t my baby. No. It was a baby who had died in his mommy’s womb before I met either of them.

Last night someone came running to my back door saying that there was an emergency at the clinic and the nurse on call was asking me to come. I know that this particular nurse is super-capable and if she was calling for my help it was probably bad.

She actually had three patients come in, in a very short time. She was the only nurse on duty as it was after-hours. Two of the cases she had under control, but one needed me to use my ultrasound skills. It was a young, expectant couple who are not from our community. Just the two of them, no support team of in-laws, friends etc. that you usually see during the birth of a baby in our small community. The nurse explained to me that the mom was in active labor, had been having pains for two days, and had not felt the baby move since early morning. She couldn’t find a heartbeat with a Doppler so she had already set up the ultrasound for me to use.

I am most certainly not a perinatologist, neither am I even an OB/GYN doctor. I’m simply a nurse practitioner who has sought out some extra training for times like this. And it did not take a specialist to see that this full-term baby was not moving in the womb. I located the heart and did not see any movement. The baby appeared to have already died in the womb.

This couple was completely new to our clinic and had received all of their prenatal care elsewhere. I stepped outside with the clinic nurse, visiting nurse from America, and father of the baby. In times like these you have to be so culturally sensitive even as you make medical judgments. I shared with the parents that I had some very serious concerns about the baby; that we would do everything we could but that I could not guarantee a positive outcome.

I recently read about a case in another place in Africa where a woman was referred to a large medical center to deliver because the smaller center had referred her for a fetal demise (same sort of case). In that situation the baby was blue at birth and did not move so they put it to the side and focused on mom. A few minutes later they went to move the baby’s body and found it alive and moving. So I had resolved in my heart to hold on to hope and do my very best for this family.

It was not a particularly difficult delivery; her first time, so of course not easy, but not particularly difficult from a medical standpoint. The nurse and I decided that she would manage mom and I would handle the baby. As the baby came through the birth canal I began to do all the things that I normally would during a delivery. But it looked bad. I’ve done resuscitation on many babies, but this one was definitely beyond resuscitation. I walked the baby away from the mom to another exam table. I listened. No heartbeat. I attempted resuscitation for a few minutes all the while knowing that the baby was already gone. I put my hands on the exam table and leaned over this precious baby boy and asked God “What now?” I needed to know that the mom was physically stable before going to see her with bad news.

The placenta came rather quickly and I knew it was time. I knew that she already had to know something was wrong as there were no cries from my side of the room. I looked up to my colleague and told her that I was going to talk to the father and would be right back. (In the rural setting here in this culture, fathers are not present for deliveries.) I shared the news with him. That I had tried, but that the little boy was already with Jesus when he came out of his mommy. We went back into the delivery room together and he wanted to hold the baby but was afraid to at the same time. I helped him. We talked for a minute and then I went to see the mom. She still needed post-partum care but I knew this conversation could not wait any longer. I shared with her that her baby was not breathing when he was born. That his heart was not beating. That I tried but I could not get the baby to breathe or have a heartbeat. That her child was a boy and that he had died.

Oh the anguish… She whispered “My Baby..” in Swahili and then began to thrash and scream. She shouted all of the normal questions that really have no answers. “Why my baby? Why me? I was not prepared for this! I want to die too..” I wrapped my arms around her and cried with her. In a moment like that, there really is nothing more that one can do. My heart broke with this family.

In my life I have had many pains. One of those pains included losing an unborn child myself. I did not carry this child to term as this mommy did. I have no idea if mine was a boy or a girl. But I do know the horror of having a doctor look you in the eye and tell you that what you believed and all you had hoped for would not be.

The passage in Second Corinthians, chapter 2 verses 3 to 4 comes to mind at a time like this. “All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (NLT) I’ve always had mixed feelings about this passage. I ask myself why it is that any of us should need comfort in the first place? Why this horrible, inexplicable, pain and suffering that some are asked to endure? But in a moment like that moment last night, I find great comfort in the fact that I can truly look these parents in the eye and tell them “I know your pain. I know that it feels like you will just die from it. I have been there too. I’m so sorry.”

The job of washing a little body whose soul has left is such a terrible, painful thing. But I did it. I helped the mother hold her son as she told him goodbye while at the same time hardly believing it could be possible. Her head to his forehead and the tears falling unchecked. I prayed with the family. I asked that God would be the God of all comfort and peace. That they would know His presence and have the assurance that their baby is in the presence of God himself. I looked both parents in the eye and said very clearly THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT! I encouraged them to comfort and hold each other as they walk through this unspeakable pain.

As I left them, extremely early this morning, they were discussing where they would bury their son. In this area you bury your loved ones in your backyard. They had recently moved to the area and are renting a small house about twenty minutes away. They don’t have their own property where they can lay their son to rest.

My short night was restless as I tossed and turned in my bed. But when I came fully awake I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that I could be there to weep with this family. That I have the honor and the privilege of stepping into peoples lives during their most horrific and vulnerable times. That God can use me as His instrument of peace during times of storms and crises.

*This is a re-post from founder and executive director Michelle Kiprop’s personal blog and was originally shared in 2013.

Kingsburg Nurses Team

IMG_4254We are loving having our team from Kingsburg Community Church here serving alongside us. The nurses are teaching courses about helping newborns to breathe for healthcare providers and reproductive health workers. Our non-nurse on the team has been incredibly helpful with various projects around the clinic from painting to installing flooring! For pictures and daily updates on their activities please check out our facebook page by clicking here.

Update on Ann

IMG_8674Last month I shared with you about Ann. She’s a 24-year-old mother of four, who is dying…. She is in heart failure because of damaged valves in her heart. The damage was caused by an untreated case of strep-throat when she was a child. We were recently able to arrange for Ann to see a cardiology team from the USA at Tenwek Mission Hospital. There was good news and bad news. The bad news was that Ann had deteriorated pretty significantly from where she was when she had her last work-up. Because of this, she is not eligible for the simplified balloon procedure they had hoped to perform. The doctor actually told her that she could die at any time without surgery. That’s right. Any time….

But I told you that there was good news too. The good news is that Ann’s life can be saved by open-heart surgery to replace the defective valves. The surgical team would like to schedule Ann for surgery in April. The total cost is going to be in the neighborhood of just under $4,000. That’s right, $4,000 to help four children grow up with their mother.

We would appreciate your prayers for Ann. She was understandably very discouraged to be told that she could die at any time. The amount of money she will need for surgery also seemed very overwhelming to her. Last week I sat down with her and reviewed the situation. I let her know that at Hope Matters we are committed to making sure she gets this surgery. Please pray with us for the following:

  • For Ann to find her HOPE and strength in Christ.
  • Pray for her spirits to be lifted and for our team to be an encouragement to her.
  • Pray for her children as they grapple with having a mother who is critically ill and requires a major surgery that will take her away from home for a few weeks.
  • Pray for the finances to be provided for her to receive this life-saving treatment

Thanks for standing with us in prayer for Ann. If you would like to send her a word of encouragement to Ann please e-mail your message to me at michelle@hopemattersintl.org and I will make sure Ann gets your message. And please remember that when you support Hope Matters financially you are assisting patients like Ann to get life-saving care.

Hope for Ann

IMG_8683I’d like to introduce you to a very special lady named Ann. She is 24-years-old, and a mother of four. Her smile lights up a room, but it hides a dark and painful truth. Ann is in heart failure. As a child she had a bad case of strep throat that went untreated. The bacteria traveled through her bloodstream and severely damaged several of her heart’s valves causing her heart to work extra hard. All of that work has caused her heart to begin to fail.

Ann shared with me that she first noticed the problem in 2001 and that she has seen many doctors since that time. The last doctor she saw started her on medications to help manage her heart failure. He told her that if she had tons of money that she might be able to get further treatment. She went home deeply discouraged.

IMG_8680Then someone told her brother about Karin, a little girl who we helped a few years ago. You can read about Karin’s story here. So Ann’s brother Joel walked many miles to our home to ask if it was true that we knew how to help people with heart problems.

Since that first meeting I’ve been able to actually meet and speak with Ann. I’ve obtained her medical records and received a consult from an American cardiologist who will be visiting Kenya with a heart team next month. He believes that Ann can be surgically treated to repair or possibly replace the damaged valves in her heart. There is HOPE for Ann. We have made arrangements for Ann, her husband, and her brother, to make the six-hour journey to the mission hospital where the American doctor will be next month. She will be seen on Feb 9th and evaluated to determine which procedure she may be eligible for.

IMG_8674Please pray with us for Ann and her family. Pray that the doctors will have wisdom as they evaluate her and determine the best course of treatment. Pray for healing. Pray for her children who will stay with their grandmother as their mommy travels to the hospital. But most of all, pray that Ann will not just see, but feel the love of Christ through our involvement in her situation.

We look forward to keeping you updated about Ann and her heart. Thanks for praying with us. And remember that you when support Hope Matters financially, you are helping patients like Ann to get care that they otherwise would not receive.

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.

To The Ends of the Earth

IMG_0920I recently had the opportunity to travel along with my son Ryan, and volunteer nurse practitioner Elizabeth Robison, to what felt like the ends of the earth. We had been invited to partner for a week with Africa Inland Mission to conduct trainings in remote tribal areas of Northern Kenya (towards the Ethiopian Border).

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Dirt Landing Strip (photo: E. Robison)

 

We flew in via chartered plane and landed on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the desert. As we flew over the landscape I remember thinking that it felt like I was landing on another planet.

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Birds-eye view of a traditional Rendille Village (Photo: E. Robison)

 

 

We were able to hold basic health and first aid courses in two different villages. One for the Samburu people and another for the Rendille. These are people groups who have to travel many hours to get to the nearest hospital. And that is only possible if they can access a vehicle. The closest place to catch a bus or public transportation is 175 km away!

During our second training there were participants who walked three hours each way just to attend the class. That’s six hours of walking under the desert sun! During our lecture about heat-exhaustion and heat stroke I was thinking about our participants who were risking this very condition each day just to get to class.

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Here are just a few of the statements made about the course:

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Learning to Splint a Broken Arm

“I never knew that some of the things we were doing were causing more harm than good. Thank you so much for teaching us the better way. We will do as you have taught us” – Course Participant

“Thank you for sharing this information with us. We are so far from a hospital, and it is hard sometimes to know how to help someone who is having an emergency.” - Course Participant

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Finding the Position to Perform CPR

“I cannot express enough my gratitude for the courses you held here. I am still hearing such praises about it all from the people here in Korr. Everytime I run into one of your students they are thanking you and praying for your return. I talked to Mary and she was telling me that many other people in Korr really wanted to attend the course, but understood that there was a list of selected people*. Mary’s response was so encouraging; she told these people, “We will teach you. We have learned how to teach others; just come to our house and we will teach you.” Everyone that has passed through her home has received information on choking, burns, bleeding..etc. It makes me so happy to see everyone so excited about what they have learned.” - Hosting Missionary

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Samburu Man Collecting Supplies for Practical Exercises (photo: E. Robison)

 

*Courses were limited to 25 students per class due to limited funding. The participants were selected strategically to represent different areas. There were teachers from a number of different schools who were selected because of their position working with children.

 

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Bringing the Goats to Water (Photo: E. Robison)

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Outside Mary’s Home (Photo: E. Robison)

On our last day we were able to visit a special lady named Mary in her traditional Rendille home in a nearby village. She shared with me about the needs of pregnant women and midwives. Because there is no nearby hospital, women give birth in their homes on cow-hides. She shared with me that the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA’s) would love the opportunity to attend a formal training course to broaden their skills. During our basic health classes there were a number of questions about childbirth that came up, and just not enough time to go in-depth with answers. With my passion for women’s healthcare I was truly moved. Would you pray with me that God would open the doors for me to take a course to these ladies sometime next year?

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Inside Mary’s Home (Photo: E. Robison)