Bethlehem Home Hospital
Thanks to generous Straw to Bread donors!
Our partnership in healthcare started in 2008 when the first Straw to Bread team made a church into a clinic on the Plateau for two weeks with no electricity and no water. The clinic became an annual way to serve, and we still see an average of one hundred patients a day with volunteer physicians when we go, using battery-operated lab equipment that we bring from the U.S. During the 2015 trip, we began to see patients in the unfinished, but magnificent, Bethlehem Home Hospital.
Don Ogolla grew up in a mud house in the middle of what was to become known as the Bethlehem Home community. He was the fourth son of a couple who struggled to provide enough food for their family, and he dreamed of going to medical school. Thanks to his hard work in high school and to the generosity of an American woman who said, “I have too much,” Don attended medical school at the University of Nairobi. During those years, his spirit was honed as finely as his mind, and he set out for home after finishing the best training Kenya has to offer. Instead of following the “brain drain” to wealthier places, Dr. Ogolla returned to serve gratefully in the beautiful new hospital that had been built while he was away. For the story, see here.
Now Dr. Ogolla sees out-patients and in-patients in a light-filled, two-story building on the edge of the Nyakach Plateau overlooking Lake Victoria and the distant mountains. The ribbon was cut on October 21, 2015. This extraordinary place was funded by many of you–by parents of students who have gone on the trip, by physicians who have served there, and by college students on a tight budget who chose to forego their own pleasures to give to something much bigger than themselves. The hospital was furnished thanks to Baylor Hospital in Dallas, who shipped a forty-foot container’s worth of beds, an incubator, ECG machines, office furniture, exam tables, and medical supplies to the Plateau.
Rotary Club representatives of Midwest City, Oklahoma traveled to the Plateau in November 2017 to deliver brand-new equipment to BH Hospital: an ultrasound machine, and a blood analyzer. (These are the same folks who funded the drilling of our well and installing the pump–what amazing friends!)
The Straw to Bread team still sees hundreds of patients each year, but now we join Dr. Ogolla at the new hospital. The difference is that, instead of prescribing two weeks’ worth of blood pressure medicine to a patient and hope to see her in a year, now we can invite her to follow up with Dr. Ogolla right away.
Here’s how it works in real life:
When 16-year-old Nicholas had a seizure and fell into the open cooking fire at home, he was brought to our hospital. Because this complicated patient is well known in the community, Dr. Ogolla was able to give him help very quickly. Nicholas’ pain was worse than the usual intensity of burns due to his sickle cell disease. He endured this crisis for weeks as he was treated, first for the burns, and then for secondary infection of the burn sites. Because of years of chronic malnutrition, his body struggled to heal. By the time the Straw to Bread team arrived for our annual trip, Nicholas’ burns were on their way to forming scars, and he was back in school.
However, a few days later, Nicholas had another sickle cell crisis and was readmitted to the hospital, which was now so full that there was no bed for him. Straw to Bread team members took turns holding his hand and helping him sip water as he lay on a pallet on the floor. By the next day, Nicholas was able to eat a plateful of greens, beans, and watermelon. He went home from the hospital after two days.
The next major need for the hospital is a mortuary, a requirement of the government to keep the hospital open. Also, development of a surgical suite to perform C-sections and other surgeries will be a huge step forward. The purchase of a digital x-ray machine and an ambulance (i.e. a motorcycle with a sidecar stretcher) is our next goal. Funding the daily operations and staff salaries will become sustainable when the government begins reimbursing the hospital for the care of patients who have insurance. We hope that this step will happen right away. The political unrest and strikes in Kenya over the last year have made have made it a challenge to work with the government.
Thank you for your generous support of this project!