Sunday, November 16, 2008


Bad news is never welcomed, but today’s tragic news was particularly discouraging. I was on my way to the hospital, when I was called by one of the residents to tell me that there was a patient who had been in a RTA (road traffic accident); a high speed head-on collision. I went to Casualty to see the woman who was the passenger in the car. She was actually stable, and other than some abrasions, and sternal tenderness, she looked quite well. The resident and I discussed the case, and settled on a plan. He then casually mentioned to me, that he had to go to the operating theater to assist the orthopedic team with the operation on the car’s driver. The driver had suffered a cervical-spine injury with paralysis. As he begin to head off, he mentioned that the patient was a member of the operating theater staff. My stomach tightened. He told me it was David Chege. The bottom fell out of my stomach, as I exclaimed, “No!” in disbelief.

I have only been at Kijabe hospital for about 6 weeks, but I have grown quite fond of Chege. He is one of the more experienced surgical techs in the theater. Since he usually covers my room, I have worked with him more than most other staff since I have been here. We have quickly become friends, and I am always happy to see him when I walk into my room. I know that I will have expert help that day. He is calm, intelligent, patient, and ever helpful…even when I am sweating and struggling during a procedure. In addition to being excellent at his job, he is a good person. During any break between cases, he is usually quietly reading one of the Bibles scattered about in the theater. He is always above reproach in his language, attitude, and actions.  This has been a good influence on me, teaching me to try to leave my American sarcasm and whining behind in the states. To top it off, he has a good sense of humor, and has been able to get me to laugh during the most frustrating of moments with a grin so big, you can see the corners of his smile even when he is wearing a surgical mask.
On Friday, I had just seen Chege looking quite well as he drove out of the hospital parking lot  with his little compact car crowded with passengers (at least 6). I had waved to him, and he flashed that big smile, as he dutifully headed out to drop off his car load of passengers. In his facial expression, I could see that he felt privileged to be able to help so many co-workers get home.

So after just 6 weeks of knowing this man, I have come to depend on him technically and personally.  So, to get this news was devastating.  I hoped the resident had gotten the details confused.  How could this be?  I walked with the resident to the theater, and went into the room to see Chege lying on the trolley. He had not been sedated yet, but was as calm as could be, actually trying to be helpful in his helpless state...true to form for this remarkable man. I put on a brave face, and walked up to him, and tried to say something encouraging, but I think my voice gave me away. I got out of the way to let the orthopedists do their job, and left to try to make some rounds, when my eyes filled with tears. Amazingly, despite all the adversity and difficulties I have had since departing Boston, this was the first time I have shed tears since arriving here in Kenya. I have seen a lot of suffering here in Kenya, but this was too personal. It seemed so unfair, so random. How can God allow someone who is such a good person to suffer such a terrible injury, and so many petty, mean, and selfish people to go on with their wretched lives without any such interruption in their miserable routines. In that moment, it was hard for me to see God as good…

I have now had the day to absorb the news. Chege is currently in our little ICU. He is currently quadriplegic, and I have spent the rest of the day trying to resist the temptation to fall into despair. There is nothing more damaging to our faith and well-being than circumstances that make us think that life is meaningless.  This news has shaken me. Don’t get me wrong. I know that God is in control. I know that nothing happens beyond His omniscient and omnipotent presence. I know He has a plan. I know that we do not suffer in vain. But at the moment, I don’t feel like God is in control. I feel like our efforts to do good are wasted. All of Chege’s goodness has not protected him from this awful accident, and a part of me is angry and hurt that God could allow this. But I cannot let the disillusioned part of me, overwhelm the part of me that knows that “all things work together for good to them that love God”(Rom 8:28).  

What is ironic about my state of mind today, is that just 24 hours ago, my faith felt stronger than ever. Seeing a community of people so devoted to service has encouraged me. Despite the challenges of trying to be a physician in a resource limited setting, I have felt like our work here is special and blessed. Even when patients are not healed physically, they are often comforted by doctors and nurses who care…who stand beside them in their darkest hour. To be honest, I have been in a process of spiritual growth that I have never known. On Friday night, I was walking home thinking about the many patients I have with problems that seem to great for me to fix, and for some reason I looked up into the Southern African sky.  And at that exact moment, I saw a shooting star racing across the cosmos for just a couple of seconds.   Now I know shooting stars are just meteors reaching the Earth’s upper atmosphere , but to just happen to glance up and see this sight was like having God wink at me, and tell me everything is going to be alright. It was as if God had sent me my own personal celestial test message.

And then today happened. So I am writing now soliciting your prayers for Chege. I believe in the power of prayer, and that the prayers of the righteous availeth much (Jam 5:16). Pray that Chege would be healed. Perhaps God will use this as an opportunity to show his power, and our faith will grow by witnessing a miracle. But more importantly than praying for healing, pray that Chege’s faith remain intact. Pray that his response to this devastating injury would be to remain thankful that God still has him in the palm of His hand. And pray for our little Kijabe community. Pray that this tragedy would not discourage us, but remind us how precious every day really is. Pray that we continue on our mission to care for the sick. Pray that we remain faithful. Pray that God will find a way to wink at us all, and remind us that everything will be alright.

Faithfully yours,

“I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.


At Tue Nov 18, 11:01:00 PM, Anonymous Evang. Ro* said...

The Lord hears and the answers are always "Yes and Amen"....Chege is healed, walking and doing what the Lord planned for his divine destiny.....

Evang. Ro*

At Thu Nov 20, 06:30:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

I guess we last talked a few hours before you got this news. I am sorry to hear you have witnessed a comrade suffer in this way. I am even more sad for your loss and grief.


At Fri Nov 21, 07:05:00 PM, Anonymous Kaci said...

I will keep Chege in my thoughts and prayers for whatever God has in store for him. I know it will be great just by way of how you describe him!


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