A couple of weeks ago I was down in the outpatient department when I was pulled into a room by Rachel, one of our family practice doctors. She was seeing a 14 year old young lady and wanted a second opinion.
Grace* had come to us from a neighbouring country, with a chronic illness lasting for months – mouth ulcers, unable to eat, unable to gain weight. She had seen traditional healers, clinics, nurses – whoever she could see with scarce funds and difficult transportation. In her own country, as well as in Kenya. And she had not found anyone who could help her.
Kijabe is making a name for itself as the “place of last resort” for sick children. When we arrived in 2011, most of the children were surgical patients and newborns – there had been many gaps in pediatric staffing and Kijabe just didn’t have a well-known name for taking care of children with medical issues. But over the last 5 years we have started to consistently take care of sick kids – and infants and children have started to show up with more and more puzzling and unstable conditions. Word has gotten out – no matter what the problem, it’s worth a shot to take your child to the Christian mission hospital in Kijabe.
Now almost 5 years later, every day our hospital cares for 20-30 sick children on the wards plus 20-30 sick and premature babies plus 3-5 kids in intensive care, as well as countless infants and children in our outpatient and emergency departments. Our staff care for these kids with patience, consideration, brilliance and love.
The place of last resort. It sounds pretty hopeless – but it actually conveys such hope. Because even when parents have spent all of their money at herbalists, pharmacists, and undertrained rural facilities, they know that Kijabe will never turn them away, but will work day and night to save their child. Because even at the last resort, kids survive and go home from our emergency department, from our ICU, from our wards, from premature birth.
So when sweet Grace came to our clinic last week, she had hope. Dr Rachel diagnosed pemphigus (a rare disorder of the mucous membranes) and started her on the right medication. When she returned to clinic this week after treatment, she is gaining weight for the first time in months. She can eat. She can smile.
She asked Rachel through her translator – “Why do you care so much about me?”
Because we were loved first, and we love our neighbour as ourselves. What a joy.
* not her real name