When Your Patient Reminds You of Your Own Son!

Fellowship International missionaries Dr. Jesh and Julie Thiessen currently serve in Mandritsara, Madagascar at the Good News Hospital. There, Jesh serves as a surgeon within the hospital, and is helping train surgical residents to work in Africa. This residency program is funded partially through the Out of the Waiting Room FAIR appeal, which was launched in Fall 2021.

In a recent blog post, Jesh shared a story about one of his patients. You can read the whole post here, but today, we’re sharing a section of the story.

“It was a usual clinic day when the next patient entered the room.

“A young couple carried their six-year-old boy, in the fetal position, and placed him on my examining table. He looked scared as most children do when they come to my office. Seeing a surgeon is a scary ordeal for a child and he had reason to be scared as this was his fourth visit to a so-called 'surgeon'.

“When I asked what was wrong, the parents immediately uncovered the abdomen of their malnourished son. Protruding from his lower abdomen was a fungating, friable tumour larger than the size of a softball. It had the stench of urine and necrotic tissue as urine leaked from around its base. He laid frozen in the fetal position perhaps from fear or perhaps due to pain. He had not walked in some months.

“As I looked at him, I was reminded that he was the same age as my own son.

“He underwent a several-hour surgery where we delicately removed the tumour, which engulfed his entire bladder, and reconstructed his abdominal wall to fill the large hole. He was then admitted to our new ICU for post-operative care.

“Three weeks after his operation, he came smiling AND WALKING into my clinic. He gave me our traditional fist pump. His incision is almost healed and his family is learning how to live with a urinary stoma without running water and electricity. This is no small feat.”

This story so clearly shows the immense need for the work that the Thiessens are doing in Madagascar. There are less than 100 surgeons serving Madagascar’s population of 26 million people. Although most communities have no surgeons, the need for them still exists, and desperate people look for anyone who might be able to help them.

The Out of the Waiting Room FAIR appeal raised $258,000 to help train surgeons in Madagascar to serve in Africa. The funds raised through this appeal mean that people just like this little boy and his family will be better enabled to access surgeons when they need them. But the reality is that it takes five years for ONE medical student to complete surgical residency. There are currently two students in the program, and the funds raised to date will only go so far.

You can make it possible for even more surgeons to go through the training program at Good News Hospital. To learn more or donate, click here.

FAIR is also partnering with the Thiessens to help provide a sustainable water supply to the hospital, which has been operating under water shortages for much of the year. To learn more or donate, click here.