A day in the life of a Soddo Christian Hospital team member

 "A man has been stabbed in the neck. He is going to die."

These words, spoken calmly and as a matter of fact by the ICU head nurse, came as we were doing an early morning ward round prior to our planned weekend getaway to nearby Awassa. Glancing up at Dr. Ryan and Dr. Kyley, our visiting maxillofacial surgeons from the St.ates; our eyes met and without much ado, hurried to the emergency department. Reports of a large wound at the back of his neck with bone visible and a smaller wound in his anterior neck, among other injuries, made us realize that the best place to care for the patient was in the operating suite.

Meanwhile, the entourage surrounding the patient arrived in the OR with his relatives commandeering the stretcher, bringing him to the OR via the shortest route through the back door. Having gone in head first, the stretcher could not be turned around and had to be reversed into the corridor for a 180 degree spin and re-entry made, allowing a hurried transfer onto the operating table. Never mind the ABC’s of airway, breathing, etc in this race to get him to the destination.

"Oxygen, mask, laryngoscope" barks Kyley to the man standing next to him. A blank look in reply, the commands were to no avail as he was the patient's brother, not an OR worker. Amidst the chaotic, frantic activity, equipment arrived after what seemed an eternity. Blood miraculously materialized in record time, (thanks to the medical director's dash to the blood bank) and was quickly administered after a dunk in warm water. An emergency crico-thyroidotomy was necessitated to secure his airway as we were unable to effectively ventilate him with bag and mask. All along, the maxillofacial surgeons orchestrated the airway and resuscitation.

The neck injury was a through and through stab wound, entering from the posterior neck and exiting anteriorly, severing several healthy arteries supplying the posterior neck muscles. Brachial plexus, trachea, esophagus and the great vessels of the neck were spared anteriorly. Other major injuries included two deep lacerations into his left proximal thigh, a through and through laceration of one hand and another into the knuckles of his other hand.  

It all ended well, the patient woke up with smiles.

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Keeping Babies Warm

In Soddo, we are up above 6,000 feet elevation.  So, for much of the year, it is fairly chilly.  One of the challenges for us is to keep newborns warm after delivery.  In the West, every delivery room has an infant warmer where the baby is placed shortly after birth.  But in Ethiopia, we had struggled to find a quality product at a good price that would do this job.

That was when our pediatrician, Dr. Dave Ayer, had the great idea to make our own.  He partnered with our hospital welder Yohannes, who welded a steel frame together.  Then they mounted a space heater on the top of it.  Voila!  Our own homemade infant warmer.

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We Celebrated Our 10 Year Anniversary!!!!

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Soddo Christian Hospital has now been open for 10 years, and to celebrate we hosted a 10th Anniversary Celebration in June. Weeks of preparation went into this event, with many of our hospital employees helping around the clock to make this an amazing and beautiful celebration possible. But the most important focus of the event was to honor and thank God for His provision and grace in blessing our hospital for the last decade. Because of Him, the Gospel has been shared with every patient that has come through the doors - more than 30,000 each year!

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Approximately 1,000 people attended the celebration, held in a gigantic tent on the hospital compound. We displayed flags honoring each of the different nations that are involved in serving at the hospital. The colors of the nations waving together in beautiful unison outside the tent were a beautiful reminder of how man different people from around the world serve the hospital.

The program honored those who work at Soddo Christian Hospital currently, as well as the pioneers who came before to help establish the hospital. An incredible slideshow recognized all of these brave and obedient servants.

The hospital's kitchen staff and the missionary staff who helped them deserve a special thanks for the meal that followed the program. Serving 1,000 guests with delicious Ethiopian food is not an easy task. Many worked through the night to have just the right number of injera, tibs, and doro wot.

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What a beautiful celebration of teamwork, fellowship and cultures coming together to serve the people of Ethiopia and to share God's love. Above all, this was a celebration of God's protection, provision and guidance through the last 10 years.

But remember, the work is not done! We look forward to the next 10 years: expanding our patient care, medical training, and discipleship opportunities, and reaching Southern Ethiopia with the gospel.

“Now I will kick a football,” she laughed as she moved her new knee.

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This is  sweet Birhana from the Jinka area; which is located near the Kenya border. She has endured 14 years of pain. Birhana came to Soddo Christian Hospital 3 years ago and was told she needed a new knee, but at that time a total joint replacement was not an option here at SCH, and the replacement parts she needed were not available anywhere in Ethiopia.

This week Dr. Clint Barnett from Texas arrived at our hospital and 18 knees were completely replaced. 3 men and 15 women were given the opportunity to have a life without pain, (something so many of us take for granted).  These knees were done using total joint replacements. Birhana  was among those so happy to be called this week to come and receive a new knee!! She could barely contain her joy, as she smiled and laughed.  “Now I will kick a football,” she laughed as she moved her new knee. “I love you and Soddo Christian Hospital.”

Birhana shared at Soddo Christian Hospital chapel, her joy and thankfulness shining so bright. Dr. Clint Barnett shared, "These are just replacement parts, made  by man, and of metal, not made of bone. They give the opportunity at a better life, one without pain and with more physical capabilities. However God longs to have our hearts, to heal our hearts, and more important than having a new knee, is knowing that you have eternal life." God is doing beautiful things here at SCH, both through physical healing and through spiritual salvation. All the glory is His, He is mighty to heal, mighty to save!!

Fun fact: The average size of a replacement knee for women  in the US is #5  but our Ethiopian friends were smalls. Dr. Barnett did five #1's in one week!   In fact, we had to send for more small sizes from the US and our recent visitors brought them while Dr. Barnett was here. 

 

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God is using a CT scanner to reach five million Ethiopians with the Gospel

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In 2013, an anonymous donor gave nearly $1 million in equipment to Soddo Christian Hospital. While the donation contained dozens of important items, the gem of the collection was a brand new computed tomography (CT) scanner. By itself, this one piece of equipment is helping us spread the Gospel to the five million people in our region of Ethiopia.

Here’s how.

CT technology produces tomographic images (literally layered slices) of the inside of a patient’s body. Think of a standard x-ray machine, such as the kind you might have experienced if you broke your arm as a child. That type of machine can produce only one snap shot of a patient. But a CT scanner can produce a picture of each layer of the patient, giving us a vastly greater amount of information, which in turn helps us make much more accurate diagnoses, and guide more effective treatments for patients. It’s not hard to see why a CT scanner has become an important tool for any hospital to have.

And, currently, we have the only CT scanner for our region of five million people.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that patients from all across our region, many of whom lives hundreds of kilometers away, come here to Soddo Christian Hospital for their treatment because they require a CT scanner. And each one of these patients receives the Gospel message from our staff. In fact, orthopedic patients (those needing treatment on their bones) are the most frequently in need of CT imaging, and these patients tend to have long hospital stays (often lasting weeks) as they recover from surgery, which means we can share the Gospel with them over and over again, and disciple those who receive Christ!
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Recently, two of our physicians - orthopedic surgeon Duane Anderson and radiologist Karl Roth - performed an extremely advanced procedure using the CT scanner. Called a CT-guided biopsy, this procedure is only performed in a handful of hospitals in the US. In February, a patient named Dagmwi came to us with a suspicious bone tumor in his pelvis. Guided by images that Dr. Roth produced on the CT scanner, Dr. Anderson was able to accurately insert a needle into the tumor and extract a sample for analysis. The root issue turned out to be an infection, and Dagmwi was placed on antibiotics. Without the CT-guided biopsy, Dagmwi would have had to undergo a complicated surgery in order to diagnose the problem.

This story is just one example of the power of the CT scanner that God has blessed us with. He’s using this tool to draw patients like Dagmwi to our hospital for treatment. We’re able to provide high-quality care, and we’re also able to share the love of Jesus Christ. It’s a winning combination that is seeing Ethiopians brought to Christ every week. We praise God for this gift, and we look forward to using it for His glory for years to come.

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A Team Effort

The hospital has been buzzing lately about a young woman whose life was saved.  And with good reason!  She may be one of only a few patients to be mechanically ventilated and survive in this part of Ethiopia.

Tseganesh was pregnant and getting near term, when she started feeling bad.  She went to another health care facility, and after three days in the hospital, was discharged.  Unfortunately, a few days after that, she started having seizures.  Those in the medical community will recognize exactly what Tseganesh had.  It is called eclampsia and it is life-threatening to both mom and baby.

When she came to Soddo Christian Hospital, she had been seizing for ten straight hours.  She was rushed to the OR for immediate Cesarean delivery.  It was two beautiful babies.   Twins!  The babies seemed okay, but Tseganesh was getting much worse.  Though the seizures were controlled with medications, brain damage was suspected.  At one point in the surgery, she even arrested briefly.  Fluid had begun to fill her lungs, and it appeared that she aspirated as well during the seizures.  She was critically ill to the point of near-death.

After the surgery, it was clear that Tseganesh was not going to breathe on her own.  We made the decision to mechanically ventilate her, but with great trepidation.  You see, our ventilator is brand new, and our staff are not very experienced with it.   Ventilating a patient like this would be common in the West, but here, it could be a death sentence.  Our physician and nursing staff were committed to saving this young woman's life.  So, day and night, a staff member was at her bedside.  Turning her, keeping her breathing tube clear, monitoring the ventilator.   And praying.   We all took turns, and begged God to save this young woman's life.  And after five days on the ventilator, her lungs had cleared to the point where she could breathe on her own.

At long last, she was finally able to hold and feed her two precious babies!

We praise God for so many things in this young woman's story:

  • that He united our staff to work hard and provide excellent medical care
  • that our prayers were answered, and her life was saved
  • that she appears to have no brain damage from prolonged seizing and cardiac arrest
  • that the two twin babies are healthy and thriving
  • that willing donors from abroad gave money so that the hospital could procure a quality ventilator
Two of our staff while Tseganesh is ventilated prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.
Two of our staff and Tseganesh while prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.  Prone ventilation is used on the sickest of patients.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.

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Simret's St.ory

Simret (left) with Debebe - two of our CT technicians this past year
Simret (left) with Debebe - two of our CT technicians this past year

This week we said goodbye to an employee that has been a special addition to our staff.   Even though Simret wasn't with us very long, the hospital had a big impact on him, and we'd like to share the story with you.

Simret is one of our CT technicians.  He came to Soddo Christian Hospital about a year ago, doing something that not many people do.  He moved from the big city – Addis Ababa – out to the country – Soddo.  Simret was recruited to help run our CT scanner – the newest instrument in our armamentarium to care for the people of southern Ethiopia.

Simret grew up in a culturally religious tradition, but he admits that he didn’t read the Bible, and he certainly didn’t know God personally.  As he grew into adulthood, he moved from Debra Zeit to Addis and had the beginnings of a successful career.  Not that different from most young professionals anywhere in the world.  Little did he know what would be in store for him when he suddenly made the decision to accept an employment offer at Soddo Christian Hospital.  Wait, what?  Move to Soddo?  Well, it seemed like an interesting opportunity, so he went for it.

Things were going well in his new job.  And then, just a few months after joining our staff, Simret got the news no one wants to hear.  His older brother, living in Seattle, Washington, had just been diagnosed with cancer.   Brain cancer.  Dealing with these things is hard enough when the family is together.  But in this case, Simret’s unmarried brother and their sister were in Seattle, and the rest of the family here in Ethiopia.

Simret became hopeless.  He even began having nightmares.  One day, he had shown up for work, but was just sitting in a chair slumped over in despair.  One of our brightest and best employees, and also a strong Christian went over and engaged him in conversation.  Teka, one of our pharmacists, shines with the love of God, and he wanted desperately to encourage Simret.  He invited him to a discipleship group.  These discipleship groups are like small group Bible studies that our staff engage in every Thursday morning.  Simret went, and his life was forever changed.

He began studying the Bible in small group.  In fact, he got a Bible for the first time in his life.  Another of our employees, Dr. Mehret, gave him a daily devotional guide.  He started reading that too.  And for the first time in a long time, Simret said, he had HOPE.

Now, when asked about it, Simret says that his life is different because of Soddo Christian Hospital.  He says that he wants everyone to know that our hospital “is not like other hospitals”.  “In the big city, the hospital only wants to make money.  But here, we care about patients, we care about the poor, and most of all, we want everyone to know Jesus,” Simret said.  Our patients… and our staff!

Simret left this week for a different job - a new and exciting challenge that we are sure he will excel in.  We are thankful for the year you spent with us, brother!

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Road Safety in Ethiopia

Today, we hear from Dr. Tim Teusink, one of our co-workers here in Ethiopia who is based in Addis Ababa.  He wrote about an unfortunate accident he recently had, and in that post cited some interesting and alarming statistics.  Here at SCH, we wanted to share it with you to give you the full picture of just how dangerous the roads can be here.  Tim writes:

We are so grateful for the relative peace and stability that exists here, surrounded as we are by countries with unrest.  Unfortunately, that stability does not quite apply to driving, as visitors frequently attest.  I advise white-knuckled passengers to close their eyes and pray rather than scream and add to my driving stress.  According to the WHO’s 2009 road safety global status report, “the road crash fatality rate in Ethiopia was at least 114 deaths per 10,000 vehicles per year, compared to only 10 deaths in the UK…. The number of people killed in crashes in Ethiopia is 30 times higher than in the US”.  [Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, Vol 28, Number 1, 2014, pgs 1-2.]  Pedestrians account for 87% of the fatalities and often walk/run/jump into oncoming traffic when least expected or visible. I take driving very seriously, yet almost daily have close calls, and am always grateful for a safe arrival.

During the last 15 years of daily driving here, I frequently have been bumped/banged/scraped/hit by taxis, minivans or private cars but they generally just bounce off my big, beat-up, 20+ year-old Toyota LandCruiser, which increasingly resembles a demolition derby participant.  I’ve not had a serious accident…until last week, when I was slammed into at high speed on my driver’s door by a reckless minivan taxi driver who either didn’t see me or was trying to overtake me on the left, as I was turning left (with turn signal on, in a left turn lane).  Fortunately, I was wearing a seatbelt (I have a recurring fear since ER doctor days decades ago that my obituary would read “Dr. Tim died after being ejected from his car and wasn't wearing a seat belt”, after all the lectures I’ve given patients about the importance of wearing seat belts).  Thankfully, neither the passenger in my car nor myself was seriously injured but we both were rather shaken.  I and my insurance company are responsible for repairs to both vehicles as well as the medical bills, plus the pain and suffering of a slightly injured passenger in the van that hit me.  Henceforth, I won’t be driving anymore in Addis Ababa (too much risk and liability) but am surely grateful to be alive!

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Tim's car after the crash

We're glad you're alright, Tim!  Praise the Lord.  And to our readers, would you pray with us for safer roads in Ethiopia and public health policies that work toward that end.  And pray for wisdom for us as physicians as we take care of the hundreds of traffic accident victims that we see every month.


Our Youngest Fundraisers Ever!

Our donors are truly amazing.  Occasionally, we have a donor (or group of donors) who are so extraordinary that we have to share the story with you.  This is one of those times...

Near the end of 2014, we were blessed to be visited by Drs. Dustin and Angela Larson.  Angela is a family practitioner and Dustin is an orthopedic surgeon.  The two of them worked tirelessly alongside our national and missionary staff here in Soddo.  But that's not all.  On the other side of the ocean, Dustin's brother Loren and his four kids back in the USA were following the details of their trip.

Loren Larson is an orthopedic surgeon also, so naturally the kids are interested in medical things.  They saw pictures and heard stories of the patients and their injuries at Soddo Christian Hospital.  They were moved by the plight of the Soddo patients.  Their oldest, Lauren (age 11) came up with the idea to start a fundraiser.  She said, let's sell brownies (which the kids themselves made) and hot cocoa to the neighbors from a stand in front of our house!

The siblings banded together and opened their store, and raised $31 USD!  All on their own, with no adults.

Naturally, when we heard about this at Soddo Christian Hospital, we had to share it with you.  The beauty is that even $31 can save a life in Soddo.  That's enough to pay for someone's hospitalization, or to have their lab tests and x-rays done.  No contribution is too small!  And these kids saved someone's life by just taking initiative.  We were so encouraged to see that God can stir even the very young to join us in the work here.

Won't you be a part, too?  St.art a fundraiser today, and save lives here in Ethiopia...

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The Larson kids raising money for Soddo

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SCH History - Part Five

In 1996, the Derg regime had fallen.  Dr. Harold Adolph, a former SIM missionary surgeon at the previous mission hospital in Soddo, was asked to come back and operate for a short while to spell the surgeon there.  The former mission hospital was now run exclusively by the government.  Dr. Adolph and Dr. Andrew Chew travelled to Soddo, and while there, Dr. Adolph sensed the Lord calling him to start a new mission hospital.  One that would again bring the Gospel alongside physical healing in Wolaitta.

One of Dr. Adolph’s former students, Dr. Kelemu Desta, was now an established general and plastic surgeon in his own right.  Adolph and Kelemu teamed up and began charting the course for a new hospital.  As Dr. Adolph prayed and went forth, donors came from everywhere including the USA and Switzerland.  The local government had twelve acres of land allocated for the hospital.  All that remained was for 18 squatter families to be carefully relocated so construction could begin.  That process alone took a year and a half.  The process of getting approval for all the plans took another two years.  A water well was drilled to a depth of 127 meters.  Things were in motion.

Finally, building began in June of 2002.  Cement shortages were common, and the building seemed to go painfully slow.  Through it all, Dr. Adolph claimed the promises of God in 1 Chronicles 28:20:

Be strong and courageous and get to work.  Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you.  He will not forsake you.  He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.

Many people who had been helped at the previous mission hospital, now in middle age, came forward to help.   Even the president of the zone, realizing that Dr. Adolph had delivered him at his birth, did what he could to help the process.  The building contractor, Yakob Gebeyehu, and the Assistant Administrator, Gebeyehu Utalo, had also both been patients of Dr. Adolph’s.

On January 26, 2005, the Soddo Christian Hospital opened its doors to begin treating patients.

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