Neurosurgery at SCH?!?

What do you think happens when you combine the following:

  1. A country with the highest number of pedestrians struck by vehicles relative to cars on the road
  2. A brand new CT scanner among a population of 5 million people who previously had none

If you answered, “a lot of new diagnoses of head trauma”, you’d be right.  Our CT scanner is practically smoking with all the head CTs for trauma that are being done.  Most of the time, we find non-operative bleeds.  But the last two weeks has been extraordinary.  In September alone, we have taken seven patients to the OR with epidural and subdural hematomas that required emergency surgery.

head bleedsAbove are just four of the actual scans done here in the past two weeks.  And there are more!  We’ve had great outcomes so far, and our surgery residents and staff are doing more emergent neurosurgery than they ever could have imagined.

We praise God that He provided through our donors.  Through your generosity, we got a CT scanner.  And it is being used for His glory as lives are being saved.  May the name of Christ go forth in southern Ethiopia as we use this gift.  That is our prayer.

All Things to All People

What does it mean to be a Christian hospital?  Do you treat everyone?  Do you force people to adhere to your religion in order to be treated?

These are questions that we get a lot about Soddo Christian Hospital.  They are good questions. At Soddo Christian Hospital, we want to share the Good News in love.  We seek to imitate Christ, and so be the fragrance of life to those who are perishing without the Gospel.

One of the things we seek to do at our hospital is "provide excellent medical services".  As a Christian institution, we want to follow the Biblical mandate that "whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God".  (I Cor. 10:31)  So, from the time our patients come in the front door of the hospital, regardless of their creed, color, or sex, we desire that our staff would give them the excellent medical care that they deserve.   Of course, we share with our patients about the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ for their sins.  Is their care is predicated on accepting this truth?  No!  But we do want them to know why we do what we do.

healed guy
Healed patient standing with the support of his wife.

One such incredible demonstration of superb care happened recently in our hospital.  This young man had been in a horrible traffic accident.  He came to Soddo Christian Hospital clinging to life.

A severe head injury with an open skull fracture.

A crushed pelvis.

Multiple fractured ribs.

For weeks he lay in our intensive care unit, getting supportive care and surgeries when they were indicated.  Our nurses tended to his every need.  Turning his frail body so he wouldn't get bed sores.  Managing his catheters.  Keeping him hydrated and nourished.

But complications kept coming.  His open skull fracture got infected.  His organs tried to shut down many times.  But through it all, steady and consistent critical care was given to him by our team of capable nurses and doctors.  And from above, the Great Physician was mending his wounds internally.

Slowly, he began to recover.  The nurses began to roll him outside for sunshine.  I can remember on Easter Sunday, seeing him on the front porch of the Intensive Care Unit, in a wheelchair, with a few of our ICU nurses.  They wanted him to see the grace of God in the beams of sunshine on Resurrection Sunday.

Today, months later, he is discharged and walking again with the support of a cane.  Of the six months in the hospital, all but the last week were in Intensive Care.  He stood before our chapel service today, his wife by his side, with tears in their eyes to say thanks.  Indeed, most of us wept as we witnessed a man snatched from the jaws of death.  While he did not become an Evangelical believer during his time with us, his care is a testimony to excellent medical service provided by our staff in the name of Christ.  And for that we rejoice.  We pray that we would become servants to all, as Paul said, "that we might win those who are under the law." (1 Cor 9:20)  As Christians, we know that physical healing is amazing, but the most essential healing of all is reconciling a man's soul to God.  And so we pray that this patient and others like him would come to that place.

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21 New Hips!

Recently, we had the privilege to be visited by a joint specialist from the US.  Dr. Clint Barnett is an orthopedic surgeon at the Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas.  He specializes in replacing worn out knees and hips in patients who have suffered from severe arthritis and debilitating pain.

Last week, he brought those skills to Ethiopia and Soddo Christian Hospital.  In just one week, he and Dr. Anderson and our OR crew knocked out 21 hip replacements!  Yes, that's right.  Twenty-one!

21 patients who had been suffering for years with severe pain.

21 patients who could barely walk.

21 patients whose lives will never be the same.

We are so proud of our OR team as well.  These anesthetists, scrub nurses, porters, autoclave staff, and recovery room staff worked extra hours and on weekends to get the work done!  Near the end of the campaign, we had a couple of the patients come up to the front of our weekly chapel service to share how they were already feeling better.

At Soddo Christian Hospital, our desire is to provide excellent medical services and make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are thankful that God sends servants like Dr. Barnett our way, and pray that God will all the glory for the work that is done here in Soddo!

Just Another Week at SCH

Here are a few patient stories from the past week:

1.  A young woman was in a terrible car accident, and fractured both of her legs.  Oh, and she happened to be 8 months pregnant!  Fortunately, there was no sign of trauma to the baby who seemed to be fine.  We admitted the young lady to the hospital, and she had surgery on both of her legs.  Then, we kept her in the hospital in order to deliver her baby.  This past week, she gave birth to healthy baby boy!

2.  A young man was struck down by a car while walking on the road a few hundred kilometers south of here.  He was found unconscious with absolutely no way to identify him.  It was not known who his family or friends were.  Passers-by brought him to our hospital where he was admitted to the ICU with a diagnosis of severe head injury.  For over a week, he lay unconscious.  A CT scan of his brain showed no bleeding requiring surgery.  St.ill no family showed up, so photos were circulated around the village near where he was found.  This past week, his father came and the patient woke up.  He is improving every day.

3.  Several patients have been hospitalized with severe electrical shock injuries.  One was riding standing up in a back of a truck, when the truck went under a low hanging high voltage power line.  Another was working on a high voltage power line when he was electrocuted and thrown ten feet to the ground.  Both are improving.  Although they have severe burns, they will survive.

4.  Many patients are having prosthetic hip joints put in this week thanks to some new hardware from St.ryker.  We are hoping to do about 15 hip replacements over the next week.  Many of these patients have been suffering for many years with chronic hip problems, and this surgery will change their life!

We praise God for all the He is doing at Soddo Christian Hospital.  Thank you for your support and prayers.

One Day Too Late

"If only she had come in one day sooner."  I can't tell you how many times I think that here.  Elfinesh was a 32 year old woman in the prime of her life, with a loving husband and two small children.  She came in to the emergency room with a history of four days of vomiting.  The illness, abrupt in onset, had taken a horrific toll on her body in such a short time.  It was probably sepsis - when an infection spreads rapidly through the body via the blood.

We worked as hard as we could.  Three of our staff doctors and two of our nurses attended to her simultaneously.  Placing IV lines, giving fluids, antibiotics, running tests.  Elfinesh clung to life, but she was so far gone that she was in a coma and unresponsive to anything.  A few hours into her course, she stopped breathing.  We tried to support her breathing, and when her heart stopped, we tried CPR.  Unfortunately, our attempts came to nothing, and after about four hours, she passed from this life into the next.

I wish I could tell you this was a rare occurrence.  But the reality is that in a country where access to medical care is sorely lacking, many patients wait too long.  Maybe they live several days' walk from the nearest health center.  Maybe they have no money to scrape together even the $2 that it would take to see a doctor.  Perhaps they are delayed by traditional and cultural healing practices that actually exacerbate the problem.  The barriers to care are numerous, and as a result, many suffer.  All of our providers can tell stories of patients who came in just a day too late.

You see, there are no Minute Clinics in Ethiopia.  In our region of 3 million people, there are only two hospitals.  There are no accredited laboratories.  In a country of 90 million people, there are only 18 CT scanners.  There are NO cardiac surgeons.  Consider even the lack of the most basic of health care needs - trained general practitioners.  In Ethiopia, there is only one doctor for every 50,000 population.  (In the US, there are 100 times as many providers per capita).

We are working to address these issues.  Not only are we providing care, but we are training in order to build capacity.  But we need your help!  With funding, we can provide more training and more service.  We can expand access so that there are fewer stories that end like Elfinesh's.  Help us help Ethiopia.

The Blind See

"It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." John 9:3

This is how Jesus responded to his disciples when they asked him why the blind man couldn't see.  God intended to show his mercy and power in the miraculous healing of this poor beggar.

Now, meet Dana.  Dana is Ethiopian, and 60 years old.  Not blind from birth, but for many years.  At a young age he suffered trauma to one of his eyes that left him blind on that side.  Then, beginning in middle age, he started to develop a cataract in his good eye.  As the years passed, the cloudy vision progressed further and further.  The cataract became solidly opaque, and Dana was left completely blind.

Dana doesn't live in Soddo, but in one of the even more remote villages many kilometers from town.  In the villages, many suffer from all sorts of diseases and disabilities, and access to health care is minimal to non-existent.  The idea that there would even be the possibility of healing would be completely foreign to most of the villagers.  Through our partnership with Mossy Foot, SCH sends health workers into some of these villages.  And one day our ophthalmologist, Dr. Nahom, saw Dana as part of one of those outreaches.

Dana, who had lived in darkness for over a decade, heard that a surgery might bring his sight back.

At the Eye Clinic here at Soddo Christian Hospital (a partnership with MMI), Dr. Nahom performed surgery on his eye, removing the clouded lens that prevented him from seeing.  He replaced it with a new lens, and for the first time in many years, Dana could see again.  The beautiful green slopes of Mount Damota.  The fiery blooms of the hibiscus trees.  The faces of his beloved family.  He could see it all again, as he had many years ago.  Not just in his mind's eye anymore.  But actually see them!

 "That the works of God might be displayed in him..."

At Soddo Christian Hospital, we are correcting all kinds of ocular problems - cataracts, strabismus, pterygium, trabeculectomy, nasolacrimal duct stenting, and tarsotomy for trachoma - just to name a few.  And we are doing it, so that the works of God might be displayed.  When we operate on anyone at this hospital, they hear the Gospel.  That Jesus died to set them free from sin.  We aren't just about physical healing, but spiritual healing as well.

May God be glorified as many re-gain their sight at Soddo Christian Hospital.

Putting Our New Gifts to Work!

Recently, we started running our brand new CT scanner. And it's already making a huge impact in the way we care for patients.  We were also able to purchase an ambulance recently, and that too is making a difference.  Let us tell you about one such patient whose life was just saved because of these gifts to our hospital.

Yohannes was a victim of a car accident.  A terrible car accident that had fractured several of his ribs, and resulted in a punctured lung.  Even with supplemental oxygen and a chest tube, we were not able to keep up the oxygen level in his blood.  From the x-ray we suspected that he might have lung contusions - a severe bruise to the lung itself - that makes it impossible to breathe.  But it wasn't completely clear.  Maybe something else was going on?  Our surgeons considered taking him to the operating room to open up his chest - a procedure called thoracotomy.  But because of our CT, we were able to scan his chest, and the result saved him a brutal surgery.  The CT in fact showed severe lung contusions - something that would not be helped with surgery.

So, now what to do with Yohannes?  We don't yet have a mechanical ventilator (although we will soon thanks to more donations).  So, the only hope for him was to get him to Addis Ababa and a hospital with mechanical ventilation.  It was nearing dusk, and the helicopter from nearby Awassa was not able to airlift him there.  And so, our brand new ambulance made its maiden voyage to Addis with a patient.



We intubated the young man, and his oxygen levels improved immediately with the bagged air forced into his lungs.  One of our anesthetists rode in the back, squeezing the bag for six hours all the way to Addis!  He got to the hospital there in the middle of the night, and got placed on a ventilator.    I spoke with the ICU doctor at the accepting hospital today, and though he is critical, he has a fighting chance for survival now.  If he can be mechanically ventilated while his lungs recover, he just might make it!

This kind of care is only possibly because of our generous donors.  Our hearts are filled with gratitude for those of you who made it possible for us to get a CT scanner (which saved this young man a surgery) and an ambulance (which got him to an ICU that could care for him).

Be a part of the team.  Join our 100 for 100 campaign today!  Pledge $100 monthly gift for the next year, and be a part of the 100 donors who are saving lives in Ethiopia.

On Her Own Two Feet

Imagine being 27 years old and having never walked upright.  That was the plight of Mihret.  She had been born with a congenital knee dislocation in both legs that made it impossible for her to stand on her own two legs.  I saw her in the ER one day recently.  She came from Addis Ababa - the capital city five hours away.  And she had heard that our hospital was working miracles for people who had never walked.   Her entire life, Mihret had crawled on her hands and knees.  She wore flip-flops on her hands to protect them from the hot city pavement.

This is how Mihret got around her entire life.
This is how Mihret got around her entire life.

She was poor, and didn't even have enough money to get x-rays taken of both knees.  We worked out a deal so she could at least get the x-rays and talk to our orthopedic surgeon about treatment options.  Since birth, her dislocated knees had only flexed in the wrong direction, making it impossible to stand.  But Dr. Anderson saw her in the clinic and felt like if her knees could be fused, she could stand, and even walk with assistance.

She didn't have a penny to pay for such a surgery, but our Benevolent Fund covered her.

A week after admission, she underwent the first surgery on the left leg.  A complex procedure that lasted hours and involved putting a rod through her femur, bridging the distorted knee, and going into the tibia.  Mihret lost a lot of blood, an issue complicated by the fact that her blood type was O negative - the most rare type.  But she got transfused, and recovered for three weeks before having the right side done.  According to Dr. Anderson, "With the experience on the left side, we were able to do the right side without as much bleeding."

Just a few days after that, for the first time in her life, Mihret stood upright on her own two legs.

We have a weekly chapel service at the hospital on Wednesday morning that is attended by most of our hospital staff.  We gave Mihret the opportunity to attend chapel, but not just attend.  To walk down the center aisle.  Never before has our staff reacted to a patient's recovery like they did with her.  There was exuberant cheering and applause, and some of our staff cried as Mihret gave thanks to them and to God.   A day of rejoicing at Soddo Christian Hospital that will not soon be forgotten.

All of this was possible because of our Benevolent Fund.  And you can be a part!  We are actively recruiting donors to give on a recurring basis.  Right now, we are looking for 100 donors to pledge $100 per month for the next year, so that more like Mihret can get life-transforming treatment.  We are giving ourselves 100 days to find these donors.  Join the team today!

To Walk Again

This is what a broken neck looks like:

About seven months ago, a 17-year old young man came to us after an injury.  What you see above is his actual x-ray.   He had been in a tree, and fallen quite a distance.  He had a fractured femur, but worse than that he had a broken neck that had caused paralysis.  He could not move his arms or legs, and only had some preserved sensation in his extremities.  We surgically repaired his leg and his neck, and he was in the hospital for one month recovering.  Sadly though, even at the time of his discharge, he was barely moving his fingers and toes.  We were unsure if he would ever walk again.

Recently, the young man returned for his follow-up.  Praise the Lord that he is now almost fully recovered.  He has almost full strength in his arms and hands, and can run on his own two legs.  A paralytic healed!  Here he is pictured below with Dr. Anderson.

The best part of the story is this.  This young man was quite poor.  He was unable to pay for his care.  But because of generous donors to the Benevolent Fund, his surgeries and post-operative care were paid in full.  Because people like you care enough to give, we were able to medically care for him.  By God's grace, he is healed and planning to return to school later this year.

Help us treat more patients like this!  Our Benevolent Fund relies on donors like you.  And 100% of every dollar goes to fund patient care.  We are looking for 100 donors to pledge $100 per month for the next year.  These funds will help us to cover the costs of our poorest patients.  You can set up a recurring gift through our secure site here.  God bless you!

A Modern Miracle

Tibial osteomyelitis
Tibial osteomyelitis

And Jesus replied to them, "Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard... The lame walk."  Luke 7:22

Osteomyelitis is a devastating condition that affects many in Ethiopia.  An infection sets in and literally destroys the bone.  Not long ago, we had a little girl come to us who suffered from osteomyelitis of the tibia.  Her x-ray is pictured to the right.

The tibia supports 85% of the weight in the leg.  In the x-ray, it is the large bone on the right.  (The other smaller bone in the leg is called the fibula, and cannot bear the child's weight alone.)  You can see that even after the infection is cleared by antibiotics, there is a large section of bone that is literally just gone.  This child could not run, walk, play, or any of that.  She was "lame" in the truest sense of the word.

St.ep 1: Putting the device on
St.ep 1: Putting the device on

What can be done?  There is an amazing technology called bone transport that allows us to heal this condition.   In the photo on the left, you can see that we apply a device (made by Orthofix) to the leg.  There is an external component that is adjustable, and the internal components are the screws that you see.  A cut is made in the bone between the uppermost set and the middle set of screws (you can just see the cut in the picture).  Then little by little, the external part of the device is adjusted, distracting the two pieces of bone.

Think of the top bone piece in the picture as the dock and the middle piece as the boat.  As the device is adjusted, the "boat" leaves the "dock" and begins to migrate down.  The adjustment is slow - 4 times per day, 1/4 mm per adjustment - to minimize pain.  As the little boat of bone moves southward at a rate of 1mm per day, it leaves a trail of bone dust in its wake.  From this bone dust, the body generates new healthy bone.

bone transport 2
Bone boat heading south

The next picture shows the distracted bone pieces after many days of incremental adjustments.  The bone dust is barely visible as a trail between the two.  It is here where the new bone is growing.  As the "boat" nears the "dock" on the other side, the adjustment becomes harder and harder to make.  This is the sign that the little piece of bone has arrived at the other "dock".  Then, a small piece of bone is taken from the hip and placed at this dock to stimulate the "boat" to fuse there.

The little girl spent some time in a cast while the new bone grew in and became strong enough to bear weight.  Now, she is healed and running around and playing on that leg.  Below, she is pictured with our orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Duane Anderson.    Dr. Anderson spends a long time with these patients and their families, as they are in the hospital for many weeks and months for this procedure.  He shares not just his orthopedic expertise, but also how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We are thrilled to see these patients walk again, but more than anything, we rejoice to see them put their faith and trust in Christ.

The patient with Dr. Anderson
The patient with Dr. Anderson