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We were in the middle of Kibera Slum when Pastor Fred got the call.
After crossing a small bridge down the hill from Tumaini Church, Fred picked up his ringing phone and answered it. He walked ahead a bit, listening intently to the voice on the phone.
When he ended the call, I caught up to him. “My wife was having a small surgery today and there have been some complications,” he told me. “I am going to join her at the hospital.”
His voice remained calm, so I wasn’t worried. I assumed by his tone that it wasn’t anything serious.
That’s why the text message I received from Fred an hour later came as such a shock. I had written Fred to check if everything was all right. His response stunned me:
Goretty has regained consciousness, but the doctor says she needs an urgent CT scan. Pray.
Getting the Word Out
The text hit me like a slap in the face.
After an incredible summer living with them back in 2009, Fred and Goretty have become some of my dearest friends. In many ways, they feel like family. So you can imagine my horror at learning that Goretty was in such a serious condition.
As soon as I could find a computer, I sent out a quick email to the World Next Door Prayer team and left a short update on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Within minutes, I was already receiving responses.
“We will pray!!!”
Confident that the word was out, I walked over to Kenyatta Hospital to find Fred and Goretty.
Kenyatta is Kenya’s national hospital. Not as upscale as Nairobi Hospital or as technologically advanced as Aga Khan, Kenyatta is where the majority of people here go who cannot afford expensive medical care.
The building is an imposing square structure that looks more like a fortress or bunker than a hospital. As I walked through the gate, I could see why such a huge building was necessary. There were people everywhere.
Inside, I walked through the crowds and wandered around a bit lost, finally finding Fred after 10 minutes and several phone calls. He took me into the “casualty” area of the hospital (essentially the ER), where Goretty lay on a gurney in the middle of the hall.
As we waited for the CT scan, Fred filled me in on the details of just what was going on.
Goretty was in the hospital for a biopsy. There is a small growth on her kidney that had caused some complications in the birth of her one-year old son, Fortune. After a year, she was finally getting the growth checked to see if it was malignant or benign.
Apparently, during the biopsy the doctor became concerned about a “problem” in her brain and ordered an immediate CT scan. And that was all that Fred knew. The doctor, too busy to bother explaining what was going on, had simply moved on.
And that’s when I joined them. Fred a bit freaked out about this mysterious “brain disease,” Goretty still groggy from the surgery and me, trying to figure out just what needed to be done…
A Look Around
As we waited, I took a look at our surroundings. The greenish, flickering fluorescent lights gave the hallway an eerie feel. William, Goretty’s brother, held a bag of IV fluid over her. Apparently, only a handful of gurneys at Kenyatta can hold IV bags.
Honestly, I was a bit shocked to see Goretty laying in the middle of it all, seemingly forgotten by the hospital staff. We waited and waited, but doctors simply walked by.
I looked around, wondering if I could do something to speed things up. My American sense of entitlement and immediacy had me almost shaking with frustration. That’s when I started noticing everyone else.
Filling the dark hallway was a long line of gurneys holding one desperately sick patient after another, each one surrounded by a small band of concerned friends and relatives. Some of the patients were lying on their sides and moaning. Others were trying to sleep. As I looked, one woman threw up into a bag.
Every one of them was in line for an “urgent” procedure. When all was said and done, the only thing they – and we – could do, was wait.
After more than four hours (four HOURS!), Goretty had her CT scan, which returned normal results. There was nothing wrong with her brain. She was admitted to the hospital for the night to recover from the surgery, and returned to her home in Kibera shortly thereafter.
Then came the long wait for the biopsy results. Fred had to take the tissue sample himself to a hospital on the other side of town, wait for five business days, then return to pick up the results. Finally, he had to take the analysis back to Kenyatta to have it interpreted by a doctor.
Nearly two weeks after the surgery, we finally received the news that we had been waiting for. The growth was benign. Goretty is going to be ok.
A Breathtaking View
For obvious reasons, the whole experience was an emotional one for me. At the hospital, seeing people I love in such physical and emotional distress, it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.
Watching as soft-spoken Fred politely asked doctors how much longer it would be, I was infuriated by their indifference.
Seeing the conditions faced by patients in Kenyatta, I was wrecked by the injustice of it all.
But amidst the injustice and the waiting and the pain, there was one moment that truly overwhelmed me. The moment came while I was standing at the side of Goretty’s gurney. I remembered the request for prayer I had left on Facebook and Twitter a few hours before.
I realized that, at that exact moment, there were believers all over the world praying for Goretty. Indianapolis, Port-au-Prince, Baltimore, Zhytomyr… Brothers and sisters in Christ, lifting up one of their own.
In that moment I left the tight confines of that hospital hallway and looked around me at a breathtaking and unprecedented view: the global Church awakening in ways that we could have never imagined just a few decades ago.
It was a powerful, moving experience and one that I won’t soon forget.
Surrounded by poverty and sickness and despair, I had a smile on my face – a smile not caused by callousness or indifference.…
It was a smile caused by hope.
- Are you connected to any international faith communities like Tumaini Church? If not, consider praying regularly for some of the friends we’ve written about for World Next Door.
- Read the book Mountains Beyond Mountains to get a glimpse into the difficult world of healthcare in impoverished nations.
- Pray for Fred, Goretty and their two boys Fadhili and Fortune. Pray that their family would continue to experience blessings as they faithfully serve God in such a difficult place.
About the Author: Barry is the founder and director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.