Reaching Hearts For Christ Through Treating Medical Needs
Kevin and Leslie Kerrigan are missionaries working under the auspices of World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. Kevin is a general surgeon and Leslie is a registered nurse. Following Kevin’s surgical training, they served with HCJB Global at their jungle hospital in Shell, Ecuador and then at Kijabe Medical Center in Kenya with African Inland Mission. After eight years overseas, Kevin returned to the US Navy while their five sons finished high school and graduated from University. He retired from the Navy Medical Corps in 2007 and they have resumed their passion for missions, serving at mission hospitals around the world. In 2010, they served for 10 weeks at Kibogora Hospital in Rwanda and 8 weeks at Kudjip Hospital in Papua New Guinea.
The Kerrigans are home-based in Spokane, WA. Their sons all serve the Lord and are married to lovely Christian women. All of them are busy raising Kevin and Leslie’s 15 grandchildren.
Kevin and Leslie met and fell in love on the mission field. They have written an inspiring book relating their love story in Searching Heart, Testing Mind available at www.amazon.com.
If you would like to learn more about the ministry of World Medical Mission or are interested in supporting the work of the Kerrigans or any other physician, go to: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/WMM/index/
Kevin and Leslie write from the field when they are able, and have given CWO permission to share their stories with you. We know you will be blessed and inspired as you read about God’s work, provision and love. Their stories are below with the most recent entry first.
March 9,2013 – This weekend Leslie and I are covering the hospital’s surgical services. The obstetrician, orthopedist and general surgeon left earlier this week to conduct interviews of candidates applying to become next year’s PAACS surgical residents at Soddo Christian Hospital. On Friday morning the current crop of residents left to join them in Addis Ababa for a spiritual retreat.
We leave Soddo in less than a week in order to spend time with Sean who is arriving in Addis on a World Vision trip. Hard to believe our time here is almost up.
February 22, 2013 – Wart hogs don’t look dangerous. In fact, the main comic character in Disney’s Lion King is a wart hog. But apparently these little guys have something of a “short mans” complex and a nasty disposition.
February 11, 2013 – The elderly diabetic man with the gangrenous foot was adamant. “I’d rather go home and die than have my leg amputated. It’s our culture. My children would not accept me without a leg, let alone my community.” In the end, after assuring ourselves that he understood what was at stake, the old man’s wishes were granted. In America that would be the end of it – finished – done. But here at Soddo Hospital the good news of Christ’s atoning sacrifice was shared with the man in his own language. He grappled with the question of how God could allow such a thing to happen to a strong, capable man like himself. He will soon meet his Creator face to face. I don’t know whether or not he will hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. But I do know that the purpose of Soddo Hospital has been met. This man’s physical life on earth has been extended enough for him to hear of Him who offers eternal life.
This week I have been impressed by the number of patients at risk for loosing a limb, either from diabetes, cancer, injury or mismanagement by traditional healers known as wogesha. There are few options for limb prosthesis and no accommodations made for wheelchairs.
February 10, 2013 – Before and after photos sent of a young boy with a large growth on his neck, whom the Kerrigans were able to help. God is so good!
Today being Sunday, Jeff, Leslie and I ventured out into Soddo town for a church service. The church is located just a couple of blocks from the hospital and we arrived around 8:45 thinking we were in plenty of time. However, we found that the service had been going on for over an hour and the choir (which was the high point for us) was already seated. As we entered the sanctuary, we were surprised to find the place absolutely packed. There were over a thousand people there and no seats were in sight. A man seated in the rear motioned for us to continue to the front which I did, knowing that my plantar fasciitis would not allow me to stand for long. As I headed up the long aisle to the very front I looked back to see that Jeff and Leslie were not following! Several important-looking people in the front row moved so that we (Jeff and Leslie eventually relented) could have prime seating.
One of the men from the front row soon got up to preach and had the crowd going, though we couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying. Before long, an older gent named Yousef sat next to us and explained that the man was preaching in Amharic from the Beatitudes. After an hour or so the man sat down and they went right into a wedding ceremony. When that was done, another man got up to preach and then introduced Yousef who, as a pastor and missionary, led a service of dedication for a young man who I presume was going out as an evangelist. Toward the end of that ceremony we got up to gracefully exit the side door at about 10:30 with the church service still going strong!
Yesterday I led the men’s Bible study by using the material I used to teach Sunday School at church at home. We had a fascinating discussion with the surgical residents about Ethiopian and Ugandan culture which we discovered is much closer than our culture to Middle Eastern culture as described in the Old Testament.
Different Outlooks on Life and Death
January 24, 2013 – Sorry for the long delay between updates. We were without email service for most of the past week. On Sunday Paul Gray, the surgeon in charge of the training program, took his family to Addis for a week for a much needed break. He has been alone here at Soddo for about 6 months. It was a bit intimidating to be left in charge shortly after our arrival, but the surgery residents are great guys and quite competent to keep me out of trouble. Yesterday the visiting orthopedic surgeon left to return to Wisconsin, so I inherited the many patients on the ortho service also. It will only be a temporary situation though, as Duane Anderson is due back in several days. Duane is an orthopedic surgeon from Couer d’Alene who is the medical director of the Soddo hospital.
Early in the week a 5 day old newborn arrived who had not passed any meconium. Inspection of the baby’s bottom revealed why – his anus had not developed so that his colon was a blind pouch. We called to our sister hospital in Addis and they agreed to operate on they baby free of charge. However, the parents refused, citing the cost of transportation and lodging for themselves in Addis that was beyond their means. We performed a colostomy on the baby as a temporary solution while the family tries to gather the resources to take the baby to Addis for definitive care.
One of our Ethiopian residents told me that usually families are not willing to invest significant (and limited) resources in a newborn. I suppose they figure “well, that one didn’t work out too well, we’ll just try again”. But I’m learning that it’s not just newborns. People here, as in most of the world, have a totally different view of life and death than we do in the West. This week I’ve seen a half dozen or so patients whose disease is so far advanced by the time they come here that there is nothing we can offer them surgically. Most can’t afford to go for chemotherapy or radiation, even if it were available. Instead, they accept the fact that they will soon die with apparent equanimity. We in the West view Death as the greatest enemy, to be resisted by all means (except, of course, in the case of abortion). I’m finding that people here (and elsewhere that we have visited) have a more eternal view and realize that death is just a stage of this life that leads to eternal life for those who know God.
Today is a national holiday in celebration of the prophet Muhammed’s birthday. Ethiopia celebrates Christian and Muslim holidays, so there are no rounds, clinic or operations scheduled for today. Jeff is taking the opportunity to climb the nearby mountain with a young Swiss couple who are here.
Kevin & Leslie
On the Warmer Side!
January 22, 2013 – Delightful sunshiny 70º days have spoiled us since our arrival one week ago today. We are thankful for safe travels and the privilege of serving here at Soddo Christian hospital. We are also thankful for all of YOU who have held us up in prayer. Without the Lord’s power we are crippled to do anything of lasting value.
Last night we enjoyed our first Ethiopian meal. A variety of “wat” which are highly spiced dishes that can include beans, meat and vegetables. We enjoyed a carrot/potato/onion mixture (alicha), a delicious sauce (shiro), and a rich lentils thick soup. The “wat” is scooped up with injera a slightly sour spongy pancake like bread. Labor intensive to make injera is fortified with iron and helps to maintain nutrition in the people groups of Ethiopia where it is their staple.
Saturday morning includes hospital rounds and then Bible studies for anyone interested. I joined a group of doctors’ wives who have been taking a portion of scripture, telling it in their own words and then reading it from the Bible to see what they missed. I think this is a neat way to do a study. We met for 2 hours on a porch outside the house that we have been told we will move into when the electricity is fixed. One woman is a nurse in charge of a nearby orphanage she asked for us to pray for one of the orphans that was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I hope to visit the orphanage one day. The group was international with 3 Ethiopians, one Indian, one Rwandan and 2 Americans! Ethiopians women tend to be soft spoken and in this area they tell you they understand by taking a quick breath.
Thanks again for your prayers,
January 18, 2013 – Tofik is a 20-something Muslim man who has a terrible medical problem. Last week he touched a high tension wire with an umbrella and received a severe electrical burn. The current caused a large wound on the back of his right hand where it entered his body and an even larger loss of skin on his left foot where it exited. The first day I made rounds, Tofik refused to let us pray for him as is the surgical team’s custom at nearly every bedside. Yesterday after the afternoon conference, Ronald, the surgical resident from Rwanda with whom we had worked 3 years ago, went to talk to Tofik. Tofik confided to Ronald that he had been angry and suspicious of the motives of the surgical team, but as Ronald spoke to him through a nurse interpreter, he became convinced of the love and concern of the hospital staff for him. Today on rounds when asked, Tofik gladly accepted prayer on his behalf. We are constantly amazed at the spiritual depth and insight of our African brothers. We have a lot to learn from them.
Unfortunately, Tofik will probably require an amputation of his left leg. So far he has refused this treatment option, but each day he delays, he puts his life at risk through infection. Join us in praying for his spiritual healing.
January 15, 2013 -It was a sound like a bullfrog croaking very loudly that distracted my attention from helping Ronald sew in mesh to fix a hernia. Ronald is a doctor that I first met two years ago in Rwanda who is now enrolled in the surgery training program here at Soddo. I turned to look behind me and nothing out of the ordinary was there in the operating theatre, so I returned to my work. There it was again. I asked the nurse what that sound could be and she laughed and pointed out the window. There was a large, black horn-billed bird flapping around the window, trying to get in! He soon flew away and we completed the operation. From there I went to the second operating room to help another resident, Efason, remove a man’s enlarged prostate gland.Our “day off” before starting work at the hospital began at 7am when Leslie, Jeff Pope and I accompanied Paul Gray, the head of the surgery training program, on rounds together with the three surgery residents. In the Intensive Care Unit alone, five of the twenty-odd patients were children who had been struck by vehicles while playing on the paved highway. By the time we finished rounds, Jeff had been consulted on three patients who were difficult diagnostic cases and saved at least one of them an operation by his ultrasonographic skills.
When I finished in the OR, Leslie and I found Jeff in the outpatient clinic teaching Debebe, the Ethiopian ultrasound tech “tricks of the trade”. He was still there when we left. Leslie has walked into town with Becca Gray, Paul’s wife, to try to buy a SIM card to put in her phone so she can begin to contact people. Me? I’m just enjoying the rest of our day off.
We first heard about Evard from Dr Bill Rambo, a general surgeon from Medical University of South Carolina, who preceded Kevin in surgery coverage for Kibogora hospital. Following surgery, Bill realized Evard suffered from achalsia, a rare disease that prevents food from passing from the esophagus into the stomach. This results in malnutrition. Too weak to stand, Evard was carried to the clinic. Vomiting had followed every meal for about three weeks. His condition had become critical. Although he was 24 years old he looked much younger. He only weighed 60 pounds! He was admitted to the hospital for treatment. The next day he was taken to the OR. His limp body was easily carried from the stretcher to the operating table. He needed a feeding tube. Unable to place a tube through the nose into the stomach, the only other option was surgery to place a tube directly into the stomach. Surgery, and especially anesthesia, always has risks and, although this surgery was a minor one, in his weakened condition it was dangerous. As always the OR team prayed before they began. Twenty minutes later, with the tube in place, the patient was taken to their post-surgery ward for careful monitoring. Once again we were thankful for the Lord’s guidance and protection over a patient’s care.
When we saw Evard the morning after his first tube feeding the nurses reported that he was now able to speak. Today he watched the Jesus film, accompanied by a variety of people who heard the movie and came to watch. Would you pray that Evard will continue to improve? He will need to be much stronger before the surgery to correct his problem can be attempted. It will require opening his chest – a procedure not done routinely here at Kibogora, but one now possible with the suction system we told you about last week.
God in a Bottle
Ndazu caught me between operations. “I have a patient I would like you to see.”
I really did not feel like being confronted with yet another problem without having adequate means of solving it. Just two days earlier we began working at Kibogora Hospital on the Rwandan-Congolese border and already I had done half a dozen major operations, including two very sick little babies both of whom were struggling to recover from removal of major portions of their intestines. Difficult cases such as these were made more so by rudimentary equipment and shortages of supplies.
“I have a man who was beaten up ten days ago and now is having chest pain and fever, up to 40 degrees” (104 degrees Fahrenheit). We found the patient on the men’s ward, a cavernous austere room of concrete block packed with wall-to-wall metal frame beds. He was lying still on the thin black rubberized mattress, sweating and taking fast, shallow breaths. Nduhura is 27 years old and had been beaten up by unknown assailants following a night of drinking banana beer. After examining him and looking at his chest x-ray, it appeared he had a collapsed lung and blood in his chest cavity, courtesy of the pummeling he had taken.
I suggested as politely as I could, that perhaps he should have had a tube placed in his chest cavity when he first arrived to remove the blood before it had a chance to clot and become infected as it now appeared to be. “Do you have chest tubes and a suction machine to hook it up to here?” Ndazu smiled and shook his head. “This I have not seen in the two years I have been here”.
We gave the patient antibiotics but when his fever continued we took him to the operating room to place a tube in his chest in order to remove the infected blood. The operating room staff helpfully brought an old box full of various sized chest tubes. They then scurried off looking for a bottle system to collect the drainage from the tube. Before long, they returned from the storage room with an antique glass bottle not dissimilar in size and shape to a Starbuck’s Frappuchino. Such a system has not been used in the U. S. since before I became a surgeon thirty years ago.
“Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a real suction machine to hook this tube up to, rather than this sorry bottle system”, I thought. Just then the patient moved and I heard a dreadful crash and the breaking of glass. Now I didn’t even have the sorry bottle system. The OR staff searched the hospital and found a bottle that would work “But”, they warned me, “it is the very last bottle we have.”
My resourceful wife, Leslie, took the stopper for the broken bottle to see if Matt, the handy man from England, might possibly have seen something in the shop that would work. One of the nurses questioned, “Why would you ask Matt? He doesn’t have anything like that.” Undeterred, Leslie found Matt at home and asked him.
“Funny you should ask,” said Matt. “I was just rummagin’ about in the shop today, lookin’ for somethin’ else and I ran across this bottle, wonderin’ what it was for.” With that, he produced the precise bottle we needed and Leslie thought, “Wow, isn’t God amazing? He even cares about bottles.” She was about to leave when Matt said, “Hold on a sec. Next to the bottle was this proper little antique machine. I’ve no notion what it’s used for. Does it go with the bottle?” With that, he brought out a vintage 1940’s suction machine, covered in a thick layer of dust. “Just let me clean it up a bit and we’ll get it runnin’ good as new.”
That very night, we hooked up the machine to Nduhura’s chest tube. It began sucking the infected liquid out of his chest and into the bottle. His fever disappeared and each day he gets stronger. Now, whenever I look at the bottle, I can’t help but see God.