Sunday, April 29, 2012


The lady on the left is my mother-in-law, Elizabeth.  Also known as "Mama William".  Every day she comes to spend time with Ryan and teach him a little Kalenjin, her mother-tongue language .  This morning she brought a new friend with her.  She excitedly introduced me to Rose (holding Ryan in the photo).  She shared with me that this last week Rose entered ELI's alcohol recovery program.  Rose was glowing.  She explained that she is a trained teacher but has been unable to work because alcoholism has totally disabled her.  She is thankful for the second chance she is getting in the program here.

What you may not know, is that a little over four years ago Mama William was sitting in her shoes. For William's entire life up to that point his mother had constantly battled with alcohol.  In fact it was so bad that she was incapable of properly caring for him when he was a child.  He wound up being raised in an amazing adoptive family.  But over the decades he continued to reach out to his mother. 

Shortly after we were married in 2007 she agreed to enter the ELI Anti-Alcohol program.  At that time she completely surrendered her life to God and turned her back on alcohol.  She has been sober since then.  What is an inspiration to me is that she now reaches out to others facing the same struggles she has endured.  When she looked at Rose she knew she could be an inspiration to her.  So she is walking the journey with her and providing encouragement and hope.

Recently some people were talking about how bad things used to be for Mama William.  She asked them to stop.  She reminded them that the past is in the past and that she has a new and redeemed life now.  I'm so blessed by the way she is dedicated to inspiring others!

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Opportunity

Last week I talked about a women's clinic that I volunteer at.  It's exciting for me to know that I can make a difference in the lives of women.  What is sad for me, is that it isn't happening here in my village yet.  I'm getting in a vehicle and driving 20 to 40 minutes away to provide this vitally needed service in clinics that have equipment but are lacking personnel.  But the women in my own neighborhood aren't getting that same level of care yet. 

It is my hope and prayer to begin to launch these services here in the Chebaiywa and Kipkaren areas this summer.  We are just lacking a few more vital pieces of equipment before I can actually begin.  In the course of the last four months I've been amazed at the donations that have come in to help enable me to launch the program.  I now have about 80% of what I need to start doing cervical cancer screening.  But I don't want to actually start screening until I also have the equipment to also provide treatment for pre-cancerous lesions.

Here is an opportunity for you to get involved. Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to go towards this worthy life-saving cause ?
  • $15 Pays for a complete cancer screening procedure for a woman
  • $25 Covers the cost of treatment to completely wipe-out a pre-cancerous lesion with cryotherapy (freezing the bad tissue of a small lesion)
  • $50 Purchases a bottle of medicine used to stop bleeding post-biopsy or treatment and has enough medicine that it can be used on dozens of women
  • $75 Purchases a pair of biopsy forceps used for biopsying suspicious lesions
  • $150 Purchases a surgical packet for performing minor surgeries to remove larger pre-cancerous lesions in-office during an out-patient procedure 
  • $250 Pays for a special rubber-coated speculum needed when performing electro-surgical, out-patient procedures
  • $450 Pays for a gynecology exam table
  • $500 Gets us a tank of the gas used for performing cryotherapy (used in freezing off bad tissue)
  • $700 Purchases an autoclave for sterilizing equipment between patients
  • $3,000 Pays for the cryotherapy equipment
As you can see even a small donation can help make a big difference.  To learn more about the organization partnering with me to fundraise click here.  To actually donate to this worthy cause head over to this page and select "Kenya -Women's Clinic" from the dropdown menu while making the donation.

Asante Sana!  (Thank you very much!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blessed are the Flexible....

for they shall not be broken.  I first heard that phrase back in 1998 while preparing to lead my first team to Africa.  And how true it is! Today was an exercise in flexibility.  I was scheduled to see patients who screened positive in their preliminary cervical cancer screenings at one of the clinics about 20 minutes drive from our home. The clinic was supposed to run from 9AM until noon or one-ish.

Considering this is Africa and I had to catch a ride, I felt that I was doing pretty good arriving by 9:10AM.  As I walked up to the GYN room I passed six ladies sitting on the bench outside waiting for clinic to open.  I found the door locked.  The first nurse I found told me to go to another building and look for A.  Luckily A was the first nurse I ran into in the other building.  She told me that the electricity was out so we were going to have to move our clinic to the building that was hooked up to the generator. 

Okay, I can be flexible!  So I helped her start hauling loads of equipment from one building to the other.  I noticed that the number of women had grown to 8.  As we began to set up the new room I noted that one of the leg-rests on the exam table was missing.  We searched the room and found only a piece of the apparatus.  So I went back to the main room and stole a leg-rest from that table.  Those of you who know me in real life will be proud that I actually figured out how to attach the leg-rest to the table!  By then we were all sweating.  I had shed my lab coat and went to wash my hands in the sink.  Well it turns out that not only was the sink positioned so that it would poke me in the back as I examine patients, but it also doesn't have running water.  As I took a closer look at the setup I realized that all of my supplies would be to my left side (I'm right handed).  Not exactly an ideal ergonomic setup. That's okay, I can be flexible.  Plus I brought my own hand sanitizer with me.

Now we are ready to start!  But of course not.  The nurse informs me that the colposcope (giant microscope that I use for doing exams and guiding biopsies) has not arrived yet.  I asked her if she had any idea when it was due to arrive.  She told me that she just talked to the research assistant and that he told her he thought the vehicle would arrive to pick him and the equipment up shortly.  This is where my composure began to crack.  You see he was coming from an hour's drive away!

Thankfully I know about life in Africa (FLEXIBILITY) and I had brought a text-book I'm slowly working my way through.  I made some good progress on it today!  Finally by 11AM we were ready to begin.  Nurse A told me that I had 9 patients booked. 

About 7 patients in I asked "how many more".  The answer was 9.  I'm still trying to figure how that math adds up.  About 11 patient later we were finally done.  At one point someone called for a soda delivery.  So I had a lunch of orange fanta between patients while I filled out their charts. 

And of course the last four patients had to be the most complicated ones.  Thankfully with God's help I was able to handle all of today's cases with the exception of one.  I just could not get a satisfactory exam and had to refer her to see a physician in Eldoret.  I wound up treating several infections and a case of malaria in addition to what I was actually there for.

By the time I got home I was utterly exhausted.  When William asked me how my day went I told him that I was exhausted.  He asked why?  Well because I saw a gazillion patients (duh!).  "That's wonderful!" was his reply.  "You really got to help a lot of ladies today."  Thanks honey for reminding me that all of that flexibility ultimately does make a difference in this world!