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As we approach our 5th anniversary in Kijabe, Arianna and I spent the day looking through memories.  We found some absolute gems that I think you’ll love too.   

Arianna wrote the three stories below some years ago.  Please don’t read and think that our pediatric team is anything short of brilliant clinically.  Their infant mortality rate is better than anywhere in the country by double digits, they have published excellent research, they have created life-saving protocols, algorithms and training programs.  By any academic standard, they are world-class.  

But Arianna reminds us there is something in medicine more significant than knowledge and clinical skill.  She calls us to remember Grace and Love and the Spirit in compassionate healthcare.  

Dr. Ima Barasa caring for a NICU baby


Sept. 2015:

A baby last week had a spontaneous collapsed lung (rare and unexpected in a normal newborn). 

We thought it was a different problem and almost intubated, but a series of events and equipment misplacements made us wait until the x-ray result was back – revealing the problem and the way to save her life.

Ima said, “Ari, these are the moments I know the Holy Spirit walks these halls.”

Whether you call it intuition or gut instinct, it is those whisperings of the Spirit that take medicine from a science to an art.

Dr. Arianna Shirk in the shared ICU, before the move to BKCC

October 2015:

In medical school, residency and fellowship, we are taught over and over again the importance of our diligence, knowledge, training, attention to detail, and constant attention. We are ingrained with the need to be near-perfect because people have trusted us with their life and health. I grew up a responsible kid and this training only reinforced my natural tendency to want to be seen as perfect, infallible, a bit of a super-woman. 

We are not taught as much the need for intuition, for compassion, for faith, for granting grace to ourselves when we realize the obvious – that what we are trying to do – to stand in the gap between life and death – is an impossible task.

The human body, the responsibility of caring for something so beautifully and wonderfully made, had bested me.

Of course it had.

I was not that important. I was not that powerful. 

But He was both.

“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles, 20:12

Dr. Mardi Steere and Dr. Arianna Shirk before BKCC opening

Jan. 2016:

Next weekend, the new children’s wing opens, and I am giddy.

It is full of light, full of promise, a place to teach, to inspire, to walk forward and take care of children better than I ever could have imagined. . . and it’s opening is years in the making.

It goes back to a long term doctor here who loved children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida . . .

To a donor who saw the work and, with his own child struggling with the same medical problems, decided to fund a large part of the project, bringing countless others with them.  . .to a medical director turned interior designer to make sure it was beautiful for the kids and nurses and doctors who worked there. . .to innumerable partnerships that made the smallest and biggest details happen. . .

Mardi took a day off of medical directing and I took a day off of pediatrics.  We put 360 fish and octopi and diving turtles and twisting seaweed on the walls. We marveled that 2 1/2 years from the original open date that this was really happening.

Near the end of the day, the lead architect* came in and was going down one of the final checklists. He stopped, watching us place the word Hope over our new HDU/ICU door and shook his head with a slightly bewildered smile.

“This place really is a labor of love, isn’t it?” he said.

Mardi and I looked at each other and nodded.

This building is much more than concrete and tile and paint and piping and oxygen in the walls. It has been built with overwhelming generosity, great faith, and deep love.  

Dr. Bill Barnett installing a x-ray machine

Seventy five years ago, Dr. Bill Barnett laid the tiles in the O.R. himself.  

As Mardi and I placed the decals, I had visions of him in his overalls, side by side with us.

What I love about medicine in Kijabe is that it pours over beyond orders and studies – it seeps into the walls and the details, into the relationships and the paint and the color schemes.

And, woven throughout the medical dilemmas and details, you will find our hearts.

*George Kagiri was the architect of the Bethany Kids Children’s Center and Elimu building, now is guiding projects for Operating Theatre Expansion and Bethany Kids Rehabilitation Center.  

Following this post, Justy Stoesz sent a picture of Dr. Bill’s x-ray in use!
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