Two years ago Dylan and Jessica Nugent were sent from Gulf Coast as supported medical missionaries in Kenya, Africa. About the same time I was also seen-off to begin my studies as a medical student with the hopes of one day also serving overseas. Recently they were kind enough to open their home so that I could work along side Dr. Nugent and experience first-hand the life of a medical missionary.
Dylan Nugent is one of just two orthopedic surgeons at Tenwek Hospital and together these who physicians are responsible for a service area of up-to 1.5 million people! It was not uncommon for people to travel for days to be seen by them, as they are the only surgeons qualified to repair a broken bone. Aside from other minor surgeries, Dr. Nugent does, on average, three major surgeries a day. Adults are typically injured in motorcycle accidents, which is the main form of transportation in Kenya, and children seem to spend a great deal of time climbing trees for firewood and picking fruit. Inevitably they fall and come to the hospital requiring surgeries that without, they would be left permanently disabled. Soon however these little ones are peaking over little casts with smiles and high-fives, greeting you in their local language. Weeks later they return to the clinic with full functionality restored…it is a very rewarding work.
Although I would love to take the next hour and tell you all about the experience, in the interest of time I will highlight only a couple of days at Tenwek Hospital. As per usual Dr. Nugent had three cases scheduled on this Thursday morning. The first case was a 6-year-old who broke his elbow when he fell from a chicken coup. The Second, an 8-year-old girl with a broken femur from a motorcycle accident and the final case was a 68-year old man who broke his hip. (By the way, Dr. Nugent would be pleased if I mentioned he completed the elbow surgery in just under 45 minutes.) The work is challenging however, I have seen patients discharged from the hospital because we had not the medical supplies to do the surgery, Dr. Nugent is having to learn Swahili and the local tribal language of Kispigis. There is also a disconnect with bringing Western medicine to a non-western culture.
The next day I was scheduled to work in the pediatrics department so that afternoon I spent studying through the patient files for all the children at the hospital. Reading through the doctor notes, several times I was brought to tears at the tragedy unfolding. The first patient was a boy with something called, “Giuan Barre Syndrome”. It is a serious condition but full recovery comes usually after 3 weeks. Unfortunately this boy now had an infected heart, struggling kidneys, and a horrible skin infection. On that day, he had been in the ICU for 174 days. He is 16-years-old. He was also the first child we visited on rounds. After a medical discussion, all the pediatric doctors gathered around the skinny boy and shoulder-to-shoulder with his mother dressed in traditional muslin attire we prayed. It was later explained to me that the boy requested that we pray for his mother as he had come to believe in Jesus.
Soon after, rounds were interrupted when a mother brought-in her 5-day-old twins. It became clear that Dr. Olsen, myself, and an interpreter would soon need to tell the mother that one of her boys was without a heart-beat. This was the third child lost at the hospital since that night. That same morning, I made my way to the bedside of a young girl who, as a complication of meningitis, was left partially paralyzed. I took her hand and began to pray for her. After a few minutes she began to play with my fingers. For some time we mimicked each other, I would move her little fingers up and down and she would repeat it with mine. There, kneeling at her bedside was the most beautiful human connection I have ever experienced. All this took place before lunch! It is hard to come to an emotional understanding for experiences like these. And so much more could be said.
Thank God for people like Dr. Dylan and Jessica Nugent who are carrying-on the good work with these precious children! When asked how they could be further equipped in their ministry, the Nugents expressed their longing for all of you and asked that you would reach out to them. They miss you guys.
As for me: on the last night of my visit, there was a 6-year-old girl, “Mary”, who I helped admit to the hospital with what I believed was malarial encephalitis. She was very sick. The next morning I went to back to the hospital but was unable to get an update before I left the country. I do not know what happened with her, but she has come to represent all the children who will be come to Tenwek Hospital in my absence and I am all the more motivated to return better equipped to treat young Mary.
Keep up with the Nugent’s and their ongoing work in Kenya here: www.dylannugentkenya.wordpress.com