Saturday, March 21, 2020

Update in a Time of Uncertainty

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Like so many of you, our lives have changed and are changing. Several times in the past several months, we have had experiences that we have remarked we never could have imagined happening when we came to Kenya. Clearly, this is one of those situations for all of us.

We want you to know that we are praying for all of you. Each of you is in a very different place and situation, and each is being affected differently by the virus and its effects on our lives. In many ways, we struggle to know how to pray. That’s okay. We pray that God will be glorified. We pray that He will work for good in each of our lives, regardless of what that might look like, and we pray for peace that passes understanding to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We are grateful for the many that have reached out to encourage us or let us know you’re praying. We would love to know how each of you is in this time. We thought it was also worth letting you know about our situation.

Kenya is early in our course of COVID-19. The first case was diagnosed about a week ago, and we are now at 7 cases in the country. The Kenyan government has done a remarkable job of responding quickly and appropriately to the threat. Schools are closed. Gatherings greater than 10 people are not allowed, including worship services. We hope and pray that these early interventions will flatten the curve here, and we are grateful to live in a country that does public health so well!

School closures means that Madison is home. It was very difficult for her to say goodbye to her friends on such short notice without knowing what the future holds as they return to many countries all over sub-Saharan Africa and the world. However, it is really good to have her home, and she is making the best of a disappointing situation.

For Bob and me, this week has looked somewhat like a normal week – cases, patient care, resident education, research meetings, mentor group. In other ways, it has looked very different, likely a foreshadowing of things to come. In the world of missions, we often end up doing things that need to be done but without preparation or experience, just learning as we go. There has been more of that than normal this week as we work on hospital preparations and contingency plans, quickly becoming infectious disease experts, or at least learning all we can about this particular virus, and trying to apply what limited information we have about the disease to our context. 

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Our tailors are making masks to help augment our supply.

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All visitors and staff are now being screened for their risks prior to entry to the hospital or Tenwek clinics.

Bob, with his public health and epidemiology background, has been especially engaged in the planning. We are putting together special isolation wards, taking stock of our limited supplies, and thinking through what care for COVID-19 patients looks like in rural Kenya. Bob has been part of the communication team for the hospital. An important part of crisis management is controlling the messaging. Bob developed the acronym CARES with his team as part of our messaging, and our communication now centers on the message: Tenwek CARES
  • Clean Your Hands
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and use hand sanitizer.
    • Clean surfaces as the virus can live up to 2-3 days after contact.
  • Avoid Infection
    • Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or face.
  • Reduce contact
    • Limit your contact with others.
    • Don’t shake hands.
    • Limit social gatherings.
  • Eliminate sickness
    • Cover your cough.
    • Stay home if you are sick and if you do not require being in the hospital.
    • Do not spread the disease to others.
  • Seek medical attention
    • If you experience these symptoms - fever, cough, and difficulty breathing AND you have a history of travel within the past 14 days to a country with the virus, contact with someone who may have COVID-19 within the last 14 days, close contact with an individual with a history of respiratory illness and travel within the last 30 days, or worked in a health care facility in the 14 days prior to symptom onset.
    • If these symptoms are mild, you should stay home and avoid contact with others. If your symptoms worsen, seek the advice of your doctor.

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The Tenwek Hospital banner.

My own experience with curriculum development has been quite beneficial as I have been able to develop learning modules for our staff including one for healthcare workers and one for non-healthcare workers. These have been and continue to be widely distributed as a way for our community to be educated about the virus and our response to it. Check them out: (for non-healthcare workers) and (for healthcare workers). Feel free to share as education is an incredibly important tool to combat the spread of COVID-19.

None of us know what the future holds or how this virus will impact us. We try not to fear but to have sound minds in working to limit the spread and to serve our communities. We will put our efforts into loving our neighbors.

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