Greetings from Kenya – once again! The last two weeks in Ethiopia have been great. I arrived back in Addis Ababa a little after midnight on Monday morning almost two weeks ago and then drove down later that day. You will remember from the last newsletter that I had come for a few days of rest before getting busy again. I admitted that I don’t rest well. God decided to take matters into His own hands and made sure I got some rest. I became ill enough that I wasn’t able to do a great deal for the first week, only able to work a few hours each day. I struggled with that forced inactivity – what good am I if I can’t do all the work I think God needs done? He certainly can’t do it without me, can He? Despite that, I have really enjoyed my time at Soddo Christian Hospital.
The first Tuesday, I met with Paul Gray, the PAACS program director at Soddo and with Jon Pollock, the assistant program director to hammer out the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding that we would propose to Myungsung Christian Hospital in Addis. Paul and Jon had done a yeoman’s job on the planning necessary to address the movement of residents between the two sites. What we are trying to do is to have one residency that uses two hospitals over 300 kilometers apart. Moving wives and children complicates it immensely. The fact that our relationship with Myungsung is a new one adds its own wrinkle. We met Friday, February 3 with them and the meeting went very well. We are excited.
On Wednesday and again the following Monday, I met with Paul and Jon as we interviewed 5 of the six candidates for the next class of PAACS residents who will begin in August. It was enjoyable to see these enthusiastic young men and rejoice that God has provided more than enough candidates. Paul has done a phenomenal job over the past year in meeting the requirements of the Ethiopian government and God has used his efforts to get PAACS graduates recognized as fully-qualified general surgeons.
On that first Thursday, I had a bit of special fun (in a surgeon’s sort of way). In my US practice, I had developed a modest bit of expertise in repairing hernias through the laparoscope and even wrote a chapter for a major textbook on the subject. They had a 30 year old male who had twice failed hernia repair elsewhere and wanted me to try it on him. We were fortunately enough to find two (and only two) endoscopic staplers necessary for the procedure in the supply container. The procedure went well. It has been fourteen years since I last did one but it was like getting on a bicycle – I could still do it despite the unfamiliar variety of instruments.
Over the weekend, I became sicker and participating on the resident Bible study on Saturday and the English service on campus on Sunday was about all I could accomplish. I finally started antibiotics on Monday and they seemed to help by late the second week. The return to Addis two days ago certainly didn’t help, though.
On Monday through Wednesday the second week, I worked a full day, making rounds, working in the OR and seeing outpatients. On Wednesday, we celebrated the ground-breaking of the first PAACS resident housing unit on the hospital grounds. This has been something we have dreamed of and planned for since 2006 and by October, the seven-unit apartment building should be ready for the PAACS residents to move in. It is designed in such a way that a third floor could be added to this wing and a second wing could mirror it. This is higher quality housing than they presently have and its proximity to the hospital will improve both their learning and the response to surgical emergencies.
Wednesday, there was a major disaster in Soddo town. The regional electricity distribution plant burned to the ground and with it, much of the entire region for hours in any direction ground to a halt. Stephanie Hail, an OB-GYN here with World Medical Missions Post-Residency program wrote this in her blog: “When the fire began the townspeople ran to the substation and started throwing dirt on the flames. After two hours, the fire went out and with it we have a town without electricity….
The response of the people to me is simply beautiful. First, they all ran to help. Then, when the fire was out there was all sorts of cheering. You could hear the cheers from my home about 2 miles away. Then they sang for about 45 minutes praising God. How beautiful!
So what does this mean? No power. No light. Without electricity you can’t turn on the lights, charge your cell phone, cook in the oven/stove (unless gas or open fire), charge your computer, use the fridge or freezer, use blow dryers, use water heaters, use washing machines, kettles, microwaves, coffee grinders, watch TV, listen to the radio, no street lights… Now that is the simple stuff.
The biggest issue is that getting water to the town requires electricity. The pumps for the wells require electricity. So if you don’t have electricity what are your options? Generators. Sounds like a simple plan, but it is an extremely expensive plan. It takes about 200-300 liters of gas PER DAY to run the government hospital or the Christian hospital for 24 hour period. So that comes out to about $235-$350 a day just for electricity. The good news is that the Christian hospital has a well, so there is water.
The government hospital doesn’t have a well, so this is the biggest issue. There is just no water. They get their water from the city and the city can’t deliver it. So how do you run a hospital without water? I have written about this before and we go without water at times, but never for more than 5 days. I have no idea how the hospital will function or if it will be able to. We will only do emergency cases and then we will only do them if we have gowns and instruments that are clean. I have no clue how this will work or what options are available. I know they are working on how to remedy this, but I don’t know what the solution will be. Until there is power, the Christian hospital could potentially be the only functioning hospital in the region.
I don’t know how long it will take to rebuild the plant. I have heard estimates from weeks to months. There has even been question about if the materials to rebuild the plant are available in the country or if they will have to be shipped in….
How can a community survive without water? My first thought was that we see donkeys bringing in water all the time in jugs, but I learned that most of that water comes from the city water. Then, I thought the donkeys will just have to go to the rivers. Problem: it is that it is the dry season and the river beds are dry. I have no idea what will happen.
So for me, what does this mean? I live at the Christian hospital, so we are going to have water and we will have electricity from the generator. The generator will be rationed to cut the cost, so we will probably have electricity for about 4 hours a day. I cannot tell you how excited I am to have electricity for that time! I almost feel guilty about having water. I don’t know how much of the town relies on the city for water, but my guess is almost everyone.
That isn’t the end of the problem. The town often goes without gas. Right now there is gas, but how long will the gas last? Will the prices of the gas sky rocket? I am sure you are beginning to see the enormity of the problem.
All day I have been hearing “Mebrat Yellum”. Mebrat means electricity, light or power. Yellum means there is none…. Pray with me that during this dark time His light will shine.
Here is how you can help. I want to focus on putting funds towards the Christian hospital because of the water access. With rationing, it will be about $10 per hour to run the hospital. Consider sponsoring the hospital for an hour or a day.
Checks should be written out to St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation and sent to:
St Luke’s Health Care Foundation, In care of Ken Amstatz; 1700 Park Street ; Suite 106 ; Naperville, IL 60563
You can also go to the St Luke’s Foundation website and donate online: http://www.soddo.org/giving.asp
This may have significant effects on the hospital and certainly on the people. Please pray for them.
Thursday and Friday, we were in Addis Ababa and then at 3:00 AM this morning, I flew to Nairobi and caught a taxi out to the Brackenhurst International Conference Centre. I am excited about what will transpire here in the next 12 days.
Praise and Prayer Requests:
- Please pray for the upcoming Christian Medical & Dental Association’s Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference to be held in Brackenhurst February 6 – 16th. We will be putting on a surgical education course in Nairobi on the 17th and 18th as well, then returning to Tenwek and Kijabe to do some beta-testing on a new resident appraisal tool. Pray for us who are involved with putting it on but pray mostly for the missionaries that they will become rested, rejuvenated and spiritually restored. Pray for the spiritual life speaker, that he will be Spirit anointed.
- My father has been diagnosed with severe idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and will require oxygen the rest of his life. This is discouraging at multiple levels. Please pray for him and my mother.
- Please pray for Micky and my children – Sean, Michelle, Ryan and Bethany.
- Please pray for the Pollock family at Soddo as they seek God’s will for the future.
Yours and His, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean