Thrilling Tuesdays

Operating room photoVery rarely do I get to have routine in my time here in Kenya; in Africa everything must be written in pencil for they are extremely liable for change. In many ways I’m so thankful for that. My days are shared among many sites over Kijabe and in the Valley that need aid or are offering opportunities to learn and be a part of the Lord’s work in this country.  My Tuesdays have been the only days that have been routine, but only in the sense that I’ll know where I’ll be and whom I will be with; the events that unfold throughout the day are unknown and anticipated with excitement.

Every Tuesday I walk up to Kijabe Hospital at 8:30 am and have the amazing privilege to shadow Dr. Bob Mendonsa. He holds a private clinic on Tuesday’s at Kijabe Hospital and usually has a surgery or two scheduled in the afternoons at Cure Hospital. Dr. Mendonsa is an orthopedic surgeon from Texas who’s sold out to the Lord and has faithfully laid his life and his family’s life at the foot of the cross. He and his wife, Julie Mendonsa, are the founders of Naomi’s Village (orphanage) down in the valley, where I’ve been spending a lot of time too; I’ll write a whole other blog entry about this place soon. Back to clinic, this is a service that Dr. Mendonsa volunteers his time for, as well as the surgeries he performs later in the day. The clinic begins at 8:30am with RVA students, whose cases are usually a result of sports related injuries, and the remainder of the time (till 11am) is filled with orthopedic cases from the general public.  Case by case, diagnosis by diagnosis, I take notes of Dr. Mendonsa’s evaluation and treatment. An absolute blessing has been Dr. Mendonsa’s great gift of teaching; he takes the time to explain and answer any questions I might have, even the ones that I ask that are probably elementary.

After attending 5 clinics I have been able to notice patterns to diagnoses and can silently try to anticipate treatment or tests Dr. Mendonsa will conclude at. I’ve not only learned about the technical skill aspect of medicine, but I’ve learned the art of it as well. Seeing the mental and spiritual consistency needed from patient to patient and from personality to personality; I applaud his manner of control with the occasional neurotic and incessantly questioning patients.  The cases have included: arthritis, tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, acl tears, meniscus tears, knee subluxations, trigger finger, radius fractures, metacarpal fractures, bursitis, spinal stenosis, and more. I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the cases from clinic, to surgery, and back for a follow up appointment. Dr. Mendonsa specializes in sports medicine and arthroscopy so many of the surgeries I’ve shadowed him on have been for rotator cuff repair, ACL reconstruction and Meniscus repair. Even in surgery Dr. Mendonsa’s cheerful and humorous personality shows, as he jokingly bobbles a surgical instrument or makes a funny comment as he enters surgery to lighten the mood of the patient.

One of the patients had a boxer fracture, meaning a fracture of the 4th and 5th metacarpals and in corrective surgery Dr. Mendonsa planned to insert two plates onto the metacarpals to assure union of the bone as well as avoiding a potential deformity of the hand. Prior to the surgery beginning Dr. Mendonsa looked at me and said, “Why don’t you scrub in with me.” My heart raced and tried not to get too excited because I thought there was a chance he was just joking, but he wasn’t. I stepped outside into the hallway and got my first lesson in how to scrub in. Elbows out, lots of soap, lots of scrubbing, rinse well and don’t touch anything! (all in Laymen terms of course) He kicks the door to the OR open and I follow his every move as if I were literally his shadow. Step by step through the process and I finally was fully and officially looking like a surgeon. If I wasn’t excited enough, Dr. Mendonsa let me sit across from him in surgery and help retract the skin as he worked within the hand. The hand lay between us and as he placed each plate and screw in he was teaching me everything along the way. He was on his last screw and I was still just as enthralled by the whole experience when he blindsides me once again with, “come around and screw in the last screw.”  I replied with, “seriously?!” After a clear affirming nod I walked around next to him and he guided me through the placement and insertion of the screw. I firmly inserted a screw into the 5th metacarpal of someone’s hand!!! With each turn of the screwdriver you could feel the tension of the bone and the screw falling through each of the cortices of the bone. This whole experience was by far the most thrilling and best moments of my life; all of it substantiating the ever building affirmation that God is calling me to this work.

My time with Dr. Mendonsa has given me much knowledge about medicine, but more importantly a knowledge about the God I serve. His abandonment to the Lord’s will and commands is a living testament to what a follower of Christ should strive to do. I know that Dr. Mendonsa and his family fall and struggle just as we all do, but their determination to endure it all and use it for the glory of Christ is what makes them shine. Getting to spend time with a Dr. Mendonsa and his family has been a time of spiritual growth and healing. God has let me lay anchor for a while in the harbor of Kijabe, letting me rest from my journey this past year in the roaring ocean of college. My time of rest, if I allow it to be, is one of continual learning and polishing through the sharing of wisdom from people like the Mendonsas. Praise God.

Misha Price (Core Team, 2011)

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