New Center in Kenya Will Provide Lifesaving Surgeries and Share Christ's Love

May 17, 2018 • Kenya

Samaritan’s Purse is supporting a precedent-setting cardiothoracic center at Tenwek Hospital, a mission facility dedicated to presenting the Gospel to every patient.

Vincent Sambai labored long hours every day plowing behind his oxen. His muscles always ached, but he felt satisfied with a good day’s work. So, he knew something was amiss when he started tiring easily and his breathing became labored.

Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham talks with staff members at Tenwek Hospital, including Dr. Russ White (right), chief of surgery. For nearly 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has supported numerous expansion projects at the mission hospital and will do so again with the new cardiothoracic center.

Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham talks with staff members at Tenwek Hospital, including Dr. Russ White (right), chief of surgery. For nearly 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has supported numerous expansion projects at the mission hospital and will do so again with the new cardiothoracic center.

“I could no longer run or walk uphill, and I even grew fatigued with light work at home,” Vincent said.

The 30-year-old Kenyan talked with a doctor. When told the problem might be his heart, Vincent consulted with specialists at Tenwek Hospital—located about 150 miles from Nairobi in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. They confirmed that his heart was the issue.

Open-heart surgery was scheduled for early March to remove a diseased mitral valve and replace it with a mechanical valve.

“If we don’t operate, it will be a matter of months before he dies,” explained Dr. Agneta Odera before the surgery. She is one of the first two cardiothoracic fellows at Tenwek, which is a longstanding partner hospital of World Medical Mission, a project of Samaritan’s Purse.

Dr. Odera assisted Dr. Russ White, the hospital’s veteran chief of surgery. As always, the surgical team prayed before the operation, asking God to guide their hands.

Tenwek Hospital Cardiac Building Project
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Just seven hours after the surgery ended, Vincent was off the ventilator, breathing easily. Later that morning, he sat up in a chair, drinking water and eating some breakfast. “I thank God for good success and His will to be done,” he said, giving a thumb’s up.

Vincent is fortunate to have had this surgery, as there are hundreds of people behind him, young and old, awaiting similar procedures. “There are more than you can count,” Dr. White lamented. New resources are needed throughout sub-Saharan Africa to treat so many patients suffering with heart disease.

Samaritan’s Purse Supports Transformative New Center

The good news is that help is on the horizon. Tenwek will soon break ground on a new cardiothoracic center that will enable the mission hospital to operate on thousands of “Vincents,” giving them hope for a brighter future. Samaritan’s Purse is committed to raising $4 million toward the $45-million project.

Dr. Arega Leta and other staff members at Tenwek Hospital are excited about the new cardiothoracic center.

Dr. Arega Leta and other staff members at Tenwek Hospital look forward to the construction of the new cardiothoracic center.

The 80,000-square-foot facility will serve patients across East Africa and beyond. Right now, Tenwek has 300 beds and five operating rooms—jammed with patients. The new cardiothoracic center will add 100 beds, a cardiac catheterization lab, and six new operating rooms. These will increase Tenwek’s capacity to perform critical heart surgeries and other pressing procedures, including operations for those with cancer of the esophagus—one of the leading cancers throughout Kenya.

The impact of this new cardiothoracic ward will be unprecedented in terms of its magnitude, and that’s an understatement,” said Dr. Lance Plyler, director of World Medical Mission. “This is going to be transformative in terms of healthcare in East Africa and the entire continent. And it will have strong spiritual impact.”

Dr. Plyler is referring to the hospital’s commitment, since its founding in 1937, to give each patient the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“We will be, with God’s help, changing the hearts of Africans, both literally and spiritually,” Dr. White noted. “We’re going to fix broken physical hearts, and we’re going to continue the pattern we’ve had for the last 80 years of sharing the Gospel with every patient.”

“We will be, with God’s help, changing the hearts of Africans, both literally and spiritually.”—Dr. Russ White

Not only will the new center be treating higher numbers of patients, it will also be a place where surgeons can train to perform these types of surgeries in their own context. The College of Surgeons of East-Central and Southern Africa has certified Tenwek Hospital to start the first cardiothoracic surgical fellowship in the region. Dr. Odera, who’s from Kenya and performed the open-heart surgery on Vincent, will be joined by Dr. Arega Leta, originally from Ethiopia. They were the first graduates of the five-year general surgery program at Tenwek, completing it in 2013. Now they are the first cardiothoracic fellows.

“Tenwek is strategically placed to help save lives throughout Africa and to share about eternal life through Jesus Christ and advance His Kingdom,” Dr. Leta said. “When we follow up with patients who would have died long, long ago without these surgeries and see them today, they’re productive. They’re doing their jobs and taking care of their families. Some were children when we saw them, today they’re university students. Through this new center, the impact will only be multiplied across the continent.”

Dr. Arega Leta performs emergency heart surgery to save a patient’s life. He will be one of the first two cardiothoracic fellows at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya.

Dr. Arega Leta performs emergency heart surgery to save a patient’s life. He will be one of the first two cardiothoracic fellows at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya.

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Tenwek Hospital in Kenya serves patients in Jesus' Name. Christian mission hospital staff attend to a patient
Tenwek Hospital Cardiac Building Project The new cardiothoracic center at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya will be an 80,000-square-foot, 100-bed facility serving patients across East Africa and beyond. With six new operating theaters to be built, this project will increase the mission hospital's capacity to perform critical heart surgeries and other pressing procedures, including operations for those with cancer of the esophagus. Your gift of any amount will help with construction as this long-time medical partner of Samaritan's Purse continues to serve the hurting in Jesus' Name.

Tenwek Hospital Cardiac Building Project 014035
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