On December 10th an announcement was made that all the government employed doctors and nurses in Kenya were going on strike. What followed at Tenwek Hospital was a huge influx of patients and their families from several government health care facilities in the Bomet region. Our maternity ward was particularly inundated with women in labor, creating congestion and overflow patient conditions. New and expectant moms in maternity ward wear both green and red gowns so the masses of mothers waiting for delivery and just after delivery make for a Christmas color bonanza! Today, on Christmas Eve, there were 97 mothers in 59 beds. The nursery is also understandably overflowing with newborn babies for Christmas. As an institution we prayed hard that God would bring an end to the strike and indications of such came this past weekend. December has always been a very busy month at Tenwek for several reasons but this December has been especially congested with challenges admitting patients and keeping up with the backlog of patients for operations. Last week over 30 patients awaited their turn in our OR for orthopedic surgery to fix a fracture or treat an infection. Our eye department slows down the week of Christmas so our general medical patients invaded the 20 bed eye unit as overflow space. Because of the large numbers of patients awaiting orthopedic surgery, Mike was asked to pitch in and help the orthopedic team catch up. It was a welcome invitation to return to helping in fracture care. Mike ended up doing around 12 major bone surgeries in a week's time to help shorten the queue.
Mike's patient, Millicent, standing just one day postop after two months in bed with a femur fracture
Three year old Faith and her mom, one day after treatment for her left elbow fracture, ready for discharge on Christmas eve.
Tenwek Hospital this month reminds me of a crowded city in Judea over two thousand years ago when a couple expecting their first child couldn't find a bed anywhere so settled for "overflow accommodations" as well. No room on the wards at Tenwek usually calls for creative use of any and all space available. Transfer to another hospital is usually not an option. The birth of our Lord Jesus in a stable was even more creative, though options for the birthplace of the King of Kings were numerous. For some reason, God found it of greatest importance that His Son be born in the most humble of circumstances, in a smelly and probably uncomfortable manger. As I inspected the maternity wards this afternoon and took the picture below of one of those crowded rooms, I had the chance to shake hands with several new moms and congratulate them on the birth of their beautiful, tiny newborns. The smiling and joy-filled face of a young new mom with a baby named Cheptoo caused me to think of a young woman named Mary, beaming after the most significant birth of all time. What a precious bundle she held that first night of Christmas. Holiness and humanity wrapped into one small package, the greatest gift of all time, for you and me, from a loving and gracious Father. We joyfully share the good tidings that peace and forgiveness are available to all our patients and their families. We pray that many of our patients this Christmas will return home from Tenwek, glorifying and praising God for all the things they have experienced, heard, and seen, just as those shepherds did when they saw the Christ child up close and personal in that crowded Bethlehem at the first Christmas.
A crowded maternity ward this Christmas at Tenwek