A friend has brain surgery

A couple of weeks ago, Nelson, a very close friend of mine here, went to the hospital complaining of severe headaches. They ran several test, didn’t find anything, and gave him some pain killers. When the headaches persisted, he went back to the hospital. After a long series of questions, the doctor finally ordered a CT scan. They discovered a very small brain tumor and scheduled surgery. At first, he wanted to get as much of his dissertation done as possible before surgery(what if they touch the part of the brain all my research is stored in, and I lose it?), but an unrelated virus put him in the hospital and put an end to his plans for productivity. Although we were all told that this would be a relatively routine surgery, we were all on pins and needles. Last Wednesday, the tumor was removed, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief, when despite his drugged and anesthetized state, he still recognized his wife Carol and talked to her a bit.

Yesterday, I went to visit him in the hospital, and apart from the scar on his scalp, you’d never know he’d had brain surgery less than a week ago. All told, about 20 visitors came to see him during the lunch visiting hour. (His wife Carol tells me the number of visitors has significantly dropped during the last few days). After visiting hours were over, Nelson walked us all out to the lobby and kept talking to us for a least 30 more minutes. Nelson with Archaeologist Gabrial Barkai in Jerusalem

Things like brain tumors remind us how fragile our human bodies really are, and how precious our relationships are. We thank God for medical technology that can identify these kinds of problems and skilled surgeons who can resolve them. I shudder to think what would have happened if we didn’t have the technology and expertise here; we would have lost one of the most brilliant minds and leaders I know. Thank God, Kenya has eleven trained neurosurgeons.

Speaking of neurosurgeons . . . several years ago, Nelson’s mother had large brain tumor that left her completely paralyzed; everyone in the village was just waiting for her to die. One of her sons brought in a traditional medicine man; another son came back from out of down and drove the medicine man away. Nelson, managed to get her to a hospital in Eldoret where they could do a CT scan.  They discovered a pretty large brain tumor, but the surgery kept being postponed. Finally, Nelson was told that unless he moved his mother out of the public ward into the private ward, the surgeon was likely to delay her surgery indefinitely (he got a much higher cut for private patients.) So Nelson, then working in student ministry, had to took out a huge salary advance and moved her into the private ward. She was operated on the very next day. Nelson says that one of the most sobering moments in his life came when the neurosurgeon walked out of the operating room, and they realized that he was stone drunk.

Nevertheless, the surgery was successful and Nelson’s mother made a quick recovery; she was walking again within a few days. Her advice to you: “Make sure you have enough kids; you never know which one is going to find a way to save your life!” (Nelson is the fourth.)

On another only somewhat related note: in some rural areas of Kenya, there are traditional surgeons who come from a long line of brain surgeons—long before modern medicine developed neurosurgery. (See recent article in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper: Where traditional surgeons have kept life going).

When Julius Kimelkut consulted a traditional surgeon in Karel village 27 years ago, he was not sure he would survive the ordeal to mend his battered skull. He knew the surgeon did not use modern equipment. . .

“This knowledge is for communal benefit but is bestowed upon a few individuals. It is sacred and passed on from generation to generation,” said Mzee William arap Longei, an elder, at Kachenyut village.

. . . Charges for a traditional operation depend on the complexity. Mr Kipkeitoi says he charges between Sh3,000 and Sh20,000 ($40-$250).

And despite their unconventional procedures, Mr Kipkeitoi said, their skills are held in such high regard that some mainstream medical facilities engage them as consultants or refer patients to them, though such arrangements are informal.

[It’s a short, interesting article.]

4 thoughts on “A friend has brain surgery

  1. flossyflo says:

    that is great that all went well!! i have a 5 year old grandson with a brain tumor(astrocytoma) on his optic nerve. they say it is inoperable. he is finishing his 1yr of chemo and we don’t know where we go from here.. congrats!!

    • Ben says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your grandson. I just put my five year old daughter to bed, and it’s hard to imagine a child that young suffering with a brain tumor. May God work a miracle in his life.

  2. flossyflo says:

    he has a website:freewebs.com/littletommycraddock

  3. By the way how’s that little boy doing (Peniel?). I think you mentioned in a post that he had to undergo a heart surgery?

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