Monday, March 14, 2016

Something More

This God--his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.-- Psalm 18:30

Merely ten days ago I wrote a blog about the grieving of a friend where I said, "the Lord had other plans." Little did I understand the extent of that statement and that we were actually in the middle, and not the end, of a story that continues to unfold today. 

As many of you know already, Todd Dekryger was the Medical Director for this hospital as well as a talented surgical physican assistant who ran our surgery department here at the Hospital of Hope. He was the visionary, the motivator, and main recruitor for the team. But in the middle of Febuary, he became ill with symptoms consistent with malaria and rested at home over several days. He continued to struggle despite the treatment and was admitted to the hospital 1 week after he became ill. His testing for malaria was still significantly positive which spoke to us about the severity of the illness. His labs were also suspicious for Typhoid fever, which we began to treat as well. As many know the story, Todd continued to worsen and the decision was made to try and medivac him out-of-country to seek further supportive care and recovery. And although Todd was extremely ill when he boarded that small plane headed for Germany, I had no doubt in my mind that I would see him soon on Togo soil.

But this was not to be. Less than 24 hours after landing in Germany, Todd went to be with the Lord. 

The story was over.  Complications from severe malaria would not be overcome, but none of us were doubting that the Lord would somehow use Todd's death to still bring a message of Hope to the Togolese people--the message of how Christ had overcome death to save the world, to save the Togolese people. 

But one week after boarding Todd onto that plane, Andrés, a volunteer nurse with Samaritan's Purse who had cared for Todd, developed a fever. As common diseases are common, Andrés treated his illness with malaria medications and tried to rest. Three days later, he came into the clinic because his fever never went away. By God's miraculous plan, Andres came into the hospital to get some IV fluids. The doctor who had cared for Todd happened to be passing off patient care to another doctor for the day, but happened to look up at the computer screen and saw Andres' lab results. Nothing short of dread came over her as the lab results that stared back at her were mirror images as those Todd had presented with. 

What if Todd had something more?

That something more came to be diagnosed as Lassa fever--a viral hemorrhagic fever normally not found in Togo but instead endemic to Sierra Leone and Nigeria--countries that don't even touch Togo!  By this time the suspicsion for Lassa fever was confirmed, Andres had already been isolated and infection prevention measures were taken. Samaritan's Purse was able to evacuate Andres to the United States where he remains hospitalized in order to recover. As it turns out, Nigeria was and is experiencing a large outbreak of Lassa fever that was able to reach our town, likely through a patient who wanted to seek care at the Hospital of Hope. 

Many of you may be thinking, "This is still a horrible, tragic story." And in many ways it is.  No one can deny the pain and void we feel every day because Todd is not here with us, leading the charge towards compassionate healthcare in the name of Christ.

But there may be something more.  

If the inital patient, of whom we'll never be able to identify, had come into Togo and even our Hospital, and died here, we would've never known his true diagnosis. As sophisticated testing, such as Lassa testing, doesn't exisit here, the death would have tried to be assumed as liver failure, yellow fever, or just a severe bacterial infection. We would have continued to see patients and never associated that death with any other illness that may have developed in our healthcare workers here, or the community. Because we try to do as few labs as possible here, in order to keep things affordable for the Togolese, we wouldn't have seen daily labs each morning as we could with Todd. We would have never linked any labs results with each other. 

What if the doctor that took care of Todd wasn't seated at that computer at that moment to see Andres' test results? Andres may have continued to get sicker and not had enough time to start treatment or get evacuated to the US. 

Todd's illness and subsequent death made it possible for us, for Togo and for the world to be notified of a potential outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever in a country that was not felt to be at risk. Although many of us are on surveillance and verifying that we are not at risk, the story as it is unfolding, saved lives....many lives. Lives that this hospital was built to reach with the message of Christ. 

The story seems like it should end there. But 3 days after Andrés left for the United States, and when we had already put an alert system in place due to the diganosis of Todd, a woman showed up to the hospital with a fever. Because she told us that she had come from Nigeria 3 days before, we put her in isolation immediately under surveillance for Lassa fever. Two days later, 2 of her children ,who we had been following daily, became symptomatic with fevers and were placed in isolation. 

As I stood in that mother's room trying to explain to her the significance of Lassa fever and the tears were silently falling from here face, I said to her, "Did you know that the fact that you are here at he Hospital of Hope in Mango is a miracle?! I am so happy you are here with us." 

I explained to her that it was only God's hand of mercy that after Todd's illness and death, Andrés visits to clinic and evacuation, along with her travel from Nigeria to our small town of Mango, we were able to identify her as a likely case of Lassa. If we never tested Todd's blood in Germany, if Andrés had not gotten ill, we would've never known or investigated  further. Had this woman gone to any other clinc or hospital in Togo, they would have never placed her in isolation and she could have continued to spread the virus, unknowingly, to others. Because of each step, in God's perfect timing, this woman and her two children are at the only hospital in Togo that currently has the potential life saving medicine to work against Lassa fever. What are the chances that this family left Nigeria to come to Togo and ended up this time

Zero. That is, zero without a God whose hand of mercy stretches to the skies! I am confident that no other death could have sparked the response and timeline of discovering that Lassa fever was here in Togo. I am confident, that in no uncertain terms, Todd's death did make it possible for many others to keep theirs; others who have not yet heard the message of the Gospel; others who were either prevented from getting Lassa because of measures taken, or others who will now get a chance to be identified, cared for and treated. 

No one who knew Todd has any doubt that he is face to face with The Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" Matthew 20:28 

And what further testimony can one give to show the love of Christ? "By this we may know that we are in him; whoever says he abides in Him must walk in the same way in which he walked." 1 John 2:5-6

But the final word cannot be about Todd or Andres. 
Nor can it be about Togo or the Hospital of Hope. 
"For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

The story is the Story of Hope. And it continues on. It is the reason we are all here and we can't wait to see how Christ will use our weak, broken, mourning selves to carry on His message of joy, strength, and peace as we press forward. 

Please continue to pray for Togo and that Lassa fever will not spread any further. 
Please continue to pray for hope and healing our HOH team and the Dekryger family. 
Please pray for the Morales family as they continue their journey of healing in the US.  


  1. Oh Kelly! In tears as I read this! Thanks for sharing! How beautiful to see His purposes and ways are so much higher than ours. Praying for u guys!

  2. Praying for you all there!
    Kathy McClain

  3. Lord, thank You for what You are doing through Your servants inTogo. Lord, You call many to step out of their comfort zone and take a step of faith. This family, even through the grieving, still steps out in faith. Lord, comfort them as they grieve, guide every doctor and nurses hand to help heal those in Togo and surrounding areas. Lord, I can't wait to hear more and see how You are working. Thank you, Father, Daddy, Shelter, Provider, Prince of Peace......Amen!

  4. Thank you for sharing, Kelly. Your post reveals how God reveals new mercies every morning and how we serve a marvelous God who continues to bring hope, miracles, and healing to the broken-hearted. You are blessed for having worked with Todd. I am blessed to be his older sister. May your work and dedication continue to the praise and glory of God our Father, our Good, Good Father.
    Cammy (DeKryger) Lenning

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  6. Thank you for sharing this, Kelly. How wonderful to see such good and God's hand in the tragedy of Todd's death. I am comforted in knowing our God does all things well; his plans are best, and we can trust our lives to Him without reserve. How I pray these dear people from Nigeria and other places will come to know the very God that Todd loved and served....all because of Todd's diagnosis, death and now the ability to get the needed medicines. Thank you for sharing such positive news that causes us rejoice in the midst of sadness. ~Heidi

  7. Thank you so much for alerting us to this situation! I will share this tomorrow with a group from our church who have prayed for the hospital when the Mayburys were there. We will certainly praise the Lord for all He has done, as well as for continuing comfort for all of Todd's family and friends.

  8. Have appreciated your thoughts and perspectives Kelly and want you to know that we have been (and will continue to be) praying for you and the team at HOH. From WHO, UNICEF, and CDC press releases it does appear that Benin also has a major outbreak which may be more of a concern to you than Nigeria since it does border and patients come regularly from Benin. Someone from CDC just got dispatched to Benin to help.
    We are anxious to see and love on Jennifer and the boys soon. Thanks again for your love and care for Todd! -Ken Petersen

  9. Praying for all at the HOH. Thank you for your testimony.

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  11. Kelly, thanks for sitting down to put your thoughts into text for others to read... and rejoice in God's sovereign control, even when we don't understand His ways!! Tim Vermilyea, Quebec

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this. My thoughts and prayers have been with Todd's family and friends and the Hospital of Hope. Years ago, I had both of Todd's parent's as teachers. Miss Brasser in 3rd Grade and Mr. DeKryger in 6th. And as a third grader I loved Miss Brasser so, so I told her when she got married she could come live in our old house! Of course my parents did not know I had gone into the rental business, but that's where the newlyweds lived! And when they moved to Cobb Ave....I got to baby sit for Cammy and Curt and few times. My heart has been touched by your family and even though I did not know Todd too well, I know he was an amazing ambassador for Christ. Please send my love and prayers to Marilyn. Deb (Brinks) LaRoy-Kalamazoo, MI

  13. Dr. Kelly, thank you for your positive perspective on Todd's going home. I was difficult for me to keep my emotions while reading this post. Three days ago,I said to myself that it is because brother Todd has finished his part of God's mission on earth that why God has allowed his separation from us. We know that he is rejoicing with the Lord now.
    God will use his death to save many others spiritual lives as well as physical lives. We understand more Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints."
    We continue to pray for his wife and children for God's comfort and healing for their heart; for the team at HOH, and Togo population.

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