Tenwek lost one of it's buildings Friday night due to a terrible fire. It was a crazy night and not one many of us will soon forget.
Our kitchen that fed our patients and the restaurant that fed our staff and visitors are both gone. The Wound Ward is also gone along with Statistics, our Visiting Staff offices (where we coordinate so many doctors/nurses/trainees/and many others) and other offices. The laundry room and sterilizing room were affected but the machines themselves seem OK. These two rooms are a huge resource for us to enable us to keep patients in clean gowns and beds while preparing sterile equipment for whatever procedures they have come to us for.
The real story though is God's grace and the community who make up Tenwek.
Amazingly we didn't have a single person on a ventilator that night. Lately that's a very rare night. While many people needed oxygen, we were able to move them to other places temporarily where they could receive that life saving help away from the fire. Later, we moved them back. Amazing grace.
A tiny child was undergoing open heart surgery with a visiting pediatric cardiac surgery team. It was an incredibly challenging case that lasted 7 hours. How they kept going while the hospital was burning is incredible. And the equipment/power that worked along with them. The child is alive and doing well today. Amazing grace.
Upon seeing the fire (which lit up Tenwek's hillside for a long way), people ran TOWARD the fire to help. Patients were wisked out of wound ward to safety. Then anything flammable was taken out of the building to try and limit the fire. Incredibly that included gas cylinders that fueled various items. People were carrying propane tanks while embers fell all around them. Had those tanks exploded they certainly would have been killed. But had they left them the fire likely would have crossed the street to one of the residents' apartment buildings where families with babies stay, or crossed into our church, or gone the other way into the boiler room where a huge amount of fuel sits. Had that been involved, the devastation would have been horrible. Brave souls putting themselves in harms way to save others.
I wasn't included in that group. I was having a wonderful night with our two kids camping in our backyard while Julie was away for the weekend. It wasn't until our neighbors' kids found us and told me about the fire that I left the kids next door and ran to the hospital. At this point it was the controlled chaos of keeping our patients safe as the fire was extinguished. Tenuous oxygen supplies in temporary locations left us with the challenge of when to bring the patients back to the hospital and our more robust oxygen supply (highly flammable for those who don't know).
I was impressed by our community - hospital staff and the surrounding community, doctors/nurses/students/guards/administrators, Kenyans and expats, new and longstanding Tenwek people, senior staff and teens... it was incredible to see. Just running out of my house, I had a maze of abandoned cars, trucks, motorcycles to weave thru as I went up the hill to the hospital. So many had seen the blaze and came to help.
Today we gathered in our local church just 20 feet from the site of the fire. Several people cleared the remaining debris out of the entrance so we could all safely enter. One of the fire hoses was still crossing the path and into a window of the burned building - so it had to be moved for our church members to come in... It was a sobering reminder of all that had happened just the day before.
And yet we celebrated together. God had kept everyone safe. Everyone. Patients, staff, our neighbors who came to help. And we could tangibly see the community that God has built at Tenwek. It's an honor to be serving here.
Donate to the Emergency Fire Fund
Many questions are unanswered at this time but Dr. Stephen Burgert, Medical Superintendent, has expressed appreciation for your prayers and Praise to God for His provision.
If you would like to make a donation to the Emergency Fire Fund, click the link above.
100% of all donations will go directly for the critical needs at Tenwek Hospital.
Friends of Tenwek is a non-profit support for Tenwek through which many projects have been undertaken to serve the patients and community of Tenwek. All donations are tax deductible in the USA.
Mike (pediatric surgeon) and Julie (nurse/mother to two) living in Kenya, East Africa