Our hospital has attracted top neurosurgical services, which is a good thing, because the incidence of these two problems is something like 100 times higher in East Africa than in places like America where most neurosurgeons like to live. Yesterday in chapel our very own Dr. Okechi spoke about the causes and treatment of spina bifida (an opening of the spine exposing the nerves in the back, which happens early in fetal development and requires surgical closure shortly after birth before infection sets in, and even with good care leaves a child with some paralysis of the legs, difficulty with bladder and bowel function) and hydrocephalus (collections of fluid in and around the brain, found in about 80% of the kids with spina bifida, as well as occurring due to scar tissue after meningitis, and requiring a tube to shunt the fluid off into the abdomen).
But the real highlight of the morning was the panel of former patients. Three had been operated on by Dr. Dick Bransford the pioneering surgeon with a heart for special-needs kids here at Kijabe back in the early 90's (making them about Luke's age or a few years older). One now writes computer programs and works in IT, the second is in nursing school here at Kijabe, and the third has a bachelor's degree and a good job. A fourth woman spoke who did not get surgery until later in childhood, but is now a Paralympic basketball star from Kenya.
They are pioneers themselves, showing their families and the world that they could overcome such severe challenges to reach places in life that few of their "able" bodied contemporaries manage. Courage, vision, and a sense of grace and gratefulness permeated their speeches.
I confess I sometimes feel discouraged by the nearly daily appearance of another baby with a big spongy head, an infected brain, atrophied legs. It was good for me to see the 20-years-later picture of hope. And to remember that Jesus cares so much about the kind of kids that the rest of the world would hide away (or abort) that he's uprooted people like Dr. Leland and Susan Albright to come all this way to care for them, and trained people like Dr. Humphrey Okechi and Dr. Njiru and Dr. Nunthasiri and nurses like Janet and chaplains like Mercy and dozens of others to pour their lives into making a way for these children to live and grow and thrive.