In mid-April, Tenwek Hospital saw an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases – from only five cases in January and eight in February, to 52 new cases in March, including 12 staff members or students. The COVID-19 Holding Area and Care Unit (CHACU) has been at full capacity consistently through April, with resumed use of the Lower Holding Area.
Respiratory therapist Annette Lievaart notes the installation of a new oxygen concentrator – funded by FOT – has been a lifesaver. While the COVID medical team is providing optimal care for complex patients, most patients who are placed on ventilators do not recover. “The moral toll of losing these patients is hard on the staff especially, as our COVID patients appear more stable before being placed on a ventilator – able to converse and ask questions,” explains Annette. “This gives us the opportunity to share Christ and pray with them, which we are thankful for. But deaths are still hard.”
Tenwek has not postponed regular services during the pandemic and long-term staff have served for over a year without the assistance of visiting staff. Less than 100 visitors served at Tenwek in 2020 – about one third of the number from the previous year. As a result, physician assistant Val Sleeth reports that both missionary and national staff are feeling stretched and weary. “There is still great fear and stigma surrounding COVID in our community … and a cultural fear around the vaccine. We are in the ‘third wave’ now, which is really the first serious wave for our community.”
Shem Tangus, Tenwek’s CEO, recently told hospital staff, “Our Spiritual Ministry theme this season is Courage, which is especially imperative at this time. Living in itself takes courage because we find ourselves facing trials and tribulations of every kind regularly. But courage is not the absence of fear, rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. I pray that our service will be greater than fear.”
With travel restrictions being eased and testing more available, visits by short-term staff are beginning to resume at prepandemic levels. Sanitation and social distancing measures remain in place throughout the hospital and nearly 700 Tenwek staff have been vaccinated, as well as most missionary families. Travel to and from Nairobi for arrival and departure has not been impeded.
Service at Tenwek has never been more meaningful or needed. Learn more about a medical mission visit here.