Dr Paul Sherman, KR mission team veteran, was honored with the Notre Dame Club of Louisville’s 2017 Person of the Year for his lifetime devotion to caring for others in his community and in Kenya. Below is part of the speech he presented about his work with KR.
“About 8 years ago, my wife Susan and I met Steve James the founder of KenyaRelief. When he learned that I was an orthopedic surgeon and Susan was a nurse he invited us on a medical/surgical mission to Kenya. Kenya had not been on my radar screen. He told us about KenyaRelief and what he was trying to do. He promised to take good care of us and said that after the medical part of the trip we would go on safari. He also promised that if I wanted, I could pet a lion. Before I could say anything, Susan said, “When are we going?” Not “What do you think”, not “Let’s talk about this”, but “When are we going?”
8 or 9 months later we were in Migori, Kenya. We had spent 25 hours in airports or on planes, 12 hours driving only 230 miles on what Kenya calls roads, 2 days making up the 8 time zone jet lag, 2 nights trying to sleep without becoming tangled in the mosquito nets, being awaken by roosters that think 3:30 is when the sun comes up, and finally 12 hours in our first clinic day seeing what seemed like a hundred patients. This time Susan said, “I want to come back next year.” I had not even seen a lion yet and she wanted to go back. So she deserves a large share of this.
I guess I should tell you a little bit about medical missions. Kenya is no different than most third world countries so I will use them as an example. Kenya has 42 million more people than Kentucky, but it has 7,000 fewer doctors. Also, Kenya has over 1,700,000 orphans. As I said these facts are similar in all third world countries. Medical care is just not available to most of the people. It is just not there. So we are very important to them. Last year, a woman came from 14 hours away to see the American doctors. They love Americans. It was her second trip to the clinic because she had been too late for the previous team and had to be sent home.
While we see some unusual problems in the clinic, what we see mostly are medical problems that have just not been treated for 5, 10, 15 years. Sometimes this means it is too late to help. Sometimes it just makes the surgery more difficult. My first year, I had a patient with a benign lipoma (fatty tumor) on his thigh. He had had it for 14 years. When I removed it, it weighed 13 pounds. That is still a record! Lack of equipment sometimes means the problems can’t be treated at all. This leads to a lot of frustration. For example, another year I had a patient with a broken femur that needed a rod put in it, but the clinic doesn’t have any femoral rods and I couldn’t help him. He left with his femur still broken. Nevertheless, there is much we can do.
Let me tell you a little about KenyaRelief and what it has done. I think that will help you understand the conditions the people live in. First, Steve has gone to Kenya more than 40 times in the last 15 years and it is hard to keep up with him. But, as far as I know, his orphanage now is home to almost 100 orphans. There is a fairly well supplied outpatient medical and surgical clinic with 4 OR tables and a full time nurse practitioner. There are about 20 visiting surgical teams a year with over 300 missionaries who treat about 5000 patients and perform about 1000 surgeries a year. There is a dormitory for us with bunk beds and indoor plumbing – usually we have hot water. There is now a school for grades K through 6 which happens to have the best scores in the district and the only computer lab. He has also drilled five wells, completed two water purification projects, and distributed 750,000 meal packets, 5,000 bibles, 200 bicycles, and 145 Personal Energy Transport carts. KenyaRelief has programs which support widows, prisoners, and orphans at other orphanages. It assists the district hospital, schools, and churches with equipment, supplies, and educational programs. He has even helped build 3 churches, a police station, and a soccer field. There are yearly mission teams for construction, education, and vacation bible study, as well as the surgical teams. Every year there is more. All has been done with volunteers, private donations, and Steve always adds, “God’s will” or “God’s help”. This year’s project is to equip a new cafeteria that will feed 570 children breakfast and lunch every day. Think what life would be like for these people, these children, without KenyaRelief. Hearing all this made us want to help. So, since Steve James got me involved with KenyaRelief, he deserves some of this award, too.
By the way, there are plans for a full hospital!
One of my favorite stories from the mission field explains how wonderful the Kenyan people are. Two years ago a woman patient was waking up in the recovery room after her hysterectomy. She called her surgeon over. Her surgeon was a woman doctor from Detroit. The woman took her surgeon’s hand, thanked her and said “I have nothing to give you, but I will pray for you the rest of my life.” That was the only time in my life I wished I had been a gynecologist.”
Thank you Paul and Susan for your commitment to KR and congratulations!