Mead Minutes: When Chicago comes to Kijabe

Good morning from Kenya! As the US moves into the summer, here in Kenya the weather is slowly shifting into the colder “winter” season. The days have still been temperate, reaching into the 70’s, but the nights cool down. July will be Kenya’s coldest month generally. A light coat for nights and early mornings, comfortable shirt sleeve temperatures during the day, green grass and trees and great coffee—my kind of weather and location.

We are completing a great week here in Kijabe, all the result of a strange “coincidence.” Most of you know I do not believe in coincidences per se. I feel there is a plan in play in the universe that we cannot fathom but are players within. This story all starts when Jana and I were in the United Arab Emirates. I was looking for a course in continuing education we could combine with a few days off. Jana had an idea to visit friends serving in Thailand. I found a good-looking meeting of the Royal College of Orthopedic Surgeons of Thailand that was promoted as a major educational opportunity. This looked like a win-win opportunity; we had never been to Thailand, which also would be an adventure.

Well, the Thailand-based missionaries were going to be in the US when we were to come. Hmmmm. We decided to go anyway. First we enjoyed exploring Thailand for a few days and then went to Pattaya on the coast for the meeting. As it turned out, I was the only American present who was not speaking at the meeting. I felt a little out of place but enjoyed the meeting.

One interesting lecture was presented by an orthopedic surgeon from Chicago, Illinois. I decided I would like to meet him. As I went forward he was coming back. He wondered my connection with the meeting. As I said, I did stick out in the audience. We talked briefly and I explained I was a CURE missionary orthopedic surgeon. His name was Brian Cole. Brian shared that he wanted to teach overseas as a volunteer and even tried to go to Haiti and India without success. Brian is a sports medicine doctor; the need at the places was for trauma oriented orthopedists. I shared that I knew a place he could teach national doctors and be a real benefit — Kijabe. We exchanged email addresses.

Over the next few months I connected Brian with the guys in Kijabe. I looked and found Brian Cole is more than just a sports doc. He is the doctor for the Chicago Bulls and White Sox. He is a professor at Rush and has accomplished much, much more. What a “coincidence” we should meet in Thailand!

Brian arrived with his PA, right hand man Kyle Pilz, and Brian’s son, Ethan. The week was filled with lectures, clinics, surgeries, and demonstrations. Patients arrived at our Monday screening clinic needing ligament reconstructions, tendon repairs, knee meniscus tears, and shoulder reconstructions of various sorts. The patients’ problems represented a wide array of teaching for our staff. Again another amazing coincidence.

Dr. Francis Mbugua, CURE Orthopedics, has an interest and developing skills in arthroscopic surgery here in Kijabe. Mbugua trained through the COSECSA program in Kijabe and is now a CURE Kijabe orthopedist. During the week, Mbugua, Brian, and Kyle worked, helping many patients with arthroscopic repairs. Since the cases utilized a TV monitor, other partners and residents were able to participate as well when not scrubbed in to assist. All of the team learned much about the examination and care of the knee and shoulder. We practiced tying knots with arthroscopic knot pushers. We shared meals and chai. We celebrated with a dinner. What a week for all involved!

Sports medicine, of course, is not directly caring for the physically disabled child. I realize this fact. Does that mean CURE should not be doing this work? Did Dr. Cole waste his time and efforts? No! Arthroscopy is an important part of orthopedic training; we want our residents fully trained when they graduate. Also, we are restoring adults to a functional state, which is part of healing the sick we proclaim. The difference is that when CURE cares for adults, we usually can charge a fee. These fees are used to care for the financially poor child in need of our care. If CURE was to create a flourishing sports program in Kenya or other CURE countries, we could assist more children. In-country sustainability is a goal that is indeed reachable. Teaching and equipping national CURE partners and residents is an integral component of the whole CURE mission. Thank you to all who make trips like these possible.

This week will be a special time for me as I travel and see old haunts. Where am I going? I am going to brave the roads of mobile clinic service with the CURE team. Monday we drive off to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. I am sure we will enjoy fresh tilapia along the shore. After this clinic we are off to Kitale, where we often see terribly neglected clubfoot deformities in children from the areas surrounding Kitale.

We will then travel to Eldoret town, the home of Moi University. Moi orthopedic residents rotate through our Kijabe orthopedic services. After what is usually a busy clinic, we will head off for Kijabe and home. Although the trip and work will be tiring, I look forward to seeing the people and sights of these parts of Kenya. Returning from clinic, I will then join Jana, Abby, and Kari, finishing our trip to visit our friends out in the Mara. The Masai Mara is a relaxing and amazing place. When life would get too hectic, a trip out to see the big game animals and my Maasai friends would always bring life into balance. I love to see the diversity of Kenya and look forward to safe travels through Kenya as I travel the roads once again in His grip.


Photo of the Tim Mead

About the Author:

Dr. Mead served as the Medical Director of CURE Kenya from 1999 until 2011. After that, he headed up orthopedics at the CURE Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, UAE, followed by a time as the Medical Director at the Tebow CURE Hospital in the Philippines. Dr. Mead then served as CURE’s Senior Orthopedic Consultant, traveling to various CURE hospitals, supporting and mentoring physicians across the network. He retired from CURE in 2018. Dr. Mead is a U.S. board certified orthopedic surgeon from Muskegon, Michigan, with specialized training in pediatrics. Prior to joining CURE, he ran an orthopedic practice in western Michigan providing a broad range of surgical reconstructive services, including joint replacement and arthroscopic surgery.

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