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Friday, May 24, 2013

Matchmaker, matchmaker

Matchmaking, it seems to me, would be a noble profession.  Seeing need and opportunity and finding win-win mutually beneficial arrangements with the potential for long lives of blessing.

This week I felt a little thrill of matchmaking.  No, not for a marriage, though I do believe this is a love story.  Love that brings people out of their homes at dawn and into a chaotic ward full of children whose brains are being compressed by too much fluid, whose spinal cords are damaged and exposed, who often can't walk, need help to go to the bathroom, appear disproportionate and a bit unsettling.  Kijabe hospital has become a mecca for the neurologically disabled.  We had a surgeon here, Dr. Bransford, whose heart for special-needs children launched all kinds of surgical programs.  And we have one now, Dr. Albright, who with his nurse-practitioner wife has brought a lifetime of academic experience to bear in the epicenter of spina bifida and hydrocephalus.  If you build it, they will come, and the most challenging kids from all over Kenya find their way to Kijabe day by day.  Dr. Albright does more surgery here in a month than he did in the States in a year.  On my call this week I admitted three newborns with spina bifida, and heard three more were also seen.  That's one day, 6 new cases of a very complicated condition.

When I first came to Kijabe, I quickly realized how much I leaned on the excellent care of our two Clinical Officers (like PA's), Bob and Lillian.  And I noticed how busy the neurosurgical service was, and thought a CO would be a great benefit to them.  But nothing comes quickly at Kijabe, and this idea had to go through proper channels of approval.  When the 2012 CO intern class finished in November, we got the hospital to hire one for Paediatrics. Thanks to insight and advice from Dr. Erika, we chose Veronica because she had demonstrated a real heart for the babies.  It wasn't easy to pull this off.  Veronica could have made nearly double her salary elsewhere, and Kenyans experience significant family pressure to obtain a more secure and higher-paying job.  But she felt God drawing her to KH, so she signed on.  She received neonatal training in December, and then began a 4-month training and work period with us in the Nursery while our regular CO was on maternity leave, with the plan that at the end of that time we would release Veronica to work with the Neurosurgery team.

This week the Neurosurgery team confirmed that they want her to stay on long-term, and she confirmed she wants to do that.  Hooray.  I know this will bless the children.  I can be standing in nursery and watch staff go right by me to bring their issues to the CO, who is considered more approachable.  I have time after time seen Veronica find out more back story, minister to Moms spiritually, go the extra mile to ensure that needs are met.  A team needs skilled surgeons but also compassionate hands-on language-fluent primary care members.

That evening I was so happy, that Veronica might make the lives of the way-too-busy and dedicated Albrights a little better with her work, that they might teach her some specialized and excellent medicine, that mothers and babies would be cared for well, that nurses would have a better way to communicate with the surgical team.

A small joy of matchmaking that will, I hope, bear much fruit.

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