May the Grace and Peace of our God who is with us be with you this Christmas!
It’s hard to believe that its been nearly 3 years since our family has come to Thailand to support the work at Kwai River Christian Hospital and it has been a wonderful experience for us. We are now 2 years in the village of Huay Malai and this will be our first Christmas that we spend in Thailand.
We are deeply grateful for the many friends who have supported and prayed with us in beginning this journey, and also for the new friends that we have made over these years away.
The work at the hospital is an amazing personal growing experience from a doctoring standpoint. I came here first with a comfort zone mainly working as a General Surgeon… and have been stretched to cover obstetrics, orthopedics, urology, basic anesthesia, pediatrics, psychiatry, medicine, tropical and infectious disease. I can bear testimony to how God has orchestrated exactly the right people to provide the necessary training and assistance along the way.
In July 2015, I first came to help the hospital while Dr Scott Murray, the previous hospital director and surgeon, was away on a long furlough. During that first visit, Dr Felicia Lim came by to help me with the anesthesia. After her visit and training, I began to perform spinal procedures for emergencies on my own. I still remember some of those early cases for emergency abdominal and obstetric surgery: the anesthesia was far more anxiety-provoking than the operative portions of the case! Looking back through my case logs – I’ve now logged more than 140 spinal anesthetics, and the surgical patients that we’ve been able to help include curative operations for breast, stomach, colon, ovarian, uterine and penile cancer as well as other palliative operations including head & neck and liver cancers.
I’ve also deeply appreciated Dr Jennifer who was serving here in KRCH with us for over a year and helped tremendously with my education in treating the more complicated medical and pediatric patients before heading back to the US. 2 weeks ago, we had a 28-week premature new-born baby from the refugee camp arrive in our hospital, febrile and in respiratory distress after birth at home. We were able to get IV antibiotics in through an umbilical vein line, support his breathing with a low-cost bubble CPAP system, keep him warm in an ancient incubator repaired just in time with a digital proportional incubator system (for hatching eggs) sent over mail-order from the US, and support him with breast and expressed milk feeds and kangaroo care. Today he is almost up to 2kg, off the oxygen therapy and snuggling comfortably with his mother.
Although we are grateful for the many new friends we have enjoyed getting to know, this year has been a year of sad goodbyes. Our family was reminiscing how so many dear friends in our village have had to move on. Some have moved off our compound to other places in the village, some to other places in Thailand, others are now overseas, and another special friend and co-worker in the village has gone ahead of us to his eternal destination. These changes ripple through our community and reverberate jarringly; such is the reality of life in the small fish bowl of the mission hospital.
The hospital is changing quickly as well. Jan Yawan, our village neighbour and former head nurse at KRCH remarked to me that when she dropped by to see a patient, she could hardly find a nurse that she knew. We have moved to using a hybrid electronic record for our outpatient visits, and we are using a digital storage system for our x-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans. Our laboratory is now able to purchase and store centrally-pooled blood from Ratburi in addition to our staff’s walking blood bank, so we are able to better support severe anemia and transfusions for multiple patients.
The foundation is nearly complete for the new hospital site in Sangkhlaburi, and while I’ve mixed feelings about how the funding for the construction and higher running costs will affect our neediest patients, it is a reminder that we have to continually look to our unchanging God for his guidance step-by-step as we serve in an ever-changing world.
This year we have been heartened by the support and generosity that teams from Singapore, Taiwan and Germany have provided in using their skills and charity to take care of our needy patients. We have had Plastic Surgery, Paediatric Urology, Urology and Dental teams come to visit, along with a number of medical specialists and trainees who have visited and generously given of their time.
I’ve been appointed as a faculty and have my (temporary) medical license through teaching the Siam Medical University students on their rural health elective posting to Kwai River Christian Hospital. The opportunity to work with these medical students has been a wonderful chance to share with them the both technical aspects and heart of how we serve in medicine, and it has been a good bridge to my learning better medical Thai.
Our family is also enjoying possibly its last year all together as a family unit here in Thailand. Zayin, our eldest daughter and now 13 years old, is looking to take the SAT and transition back into the Singapore school system. She’s been moving on to complicated math and physics that is beyond what we can dredge up from the past – thankfully we’ve had excellent tutors and patient friends who have been helping her along the way.
Our twin daughters Tzadi and Dalet are now 11 years old and settling in well to the home-school format. They are great helps in the kitchen and around the house, and while they are quickly becoming young women, thankfully they still have a bit of the little girl wonder and enthusiasm that I will soon miss. Our car trips are always a lot of fun with the sounds of musicals and songs sung in their version of “three-part” harmony.
We have also had the joy of having a team from our home church in Singapore, Changi Baptist to come and help with an amazing Vacation Bible School program at the Saha Christian School as a reprise of the excellent English camp that we had last year.
Looking out for those in the community who need assistance outside of the medical arena, we came to know of a little boy who lives with his mom in the Sangklaburi Safehouse group home for the mentally and physically disabled. Liz and the twins went to visit and played with him to assess his development and gave some assistance to his mom on what could be done to aid in his growth. We made some craft rattles to provide his mom tools to stimulate his development. We welcome donations of age appropriate educational toys and items for him. We were also able to provide some supplemental vitamins and cereals too.
Zayin also has been visiting the group home a few times each week to assist our friend Jan Songsaeng, the interim Safehouse manager, who is helping in providing activities for the residents there.
Another opportunity to be part of the community brought us into the home of a patient who is suffering from addiction problems. Over lunch and Christmas songs, we spent an afternoon with them and hoped that it brought encouragement to their hearts. We hope to do more of these visits as we become more aware of the needs in the community. Pray along with us for these opportunity to serve.
May your Christmas be richly blessed with the love of our ever present Lord Jesus!
I’ve also been co-authoring a website for the volunteers of Kwai River Christian Hospital along with Dr Phil McDaniel – a former director here and still a very active supporter. Here’s a link to our Sweet December Christmas outreach event and other posts about things happening at the hospital and it’s history.