The Adventure of Living in the Kingdom of God

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Adventure...

This is not how I planned it! Orthopedics wasn't on the horizon and Detroit, MI was a city of which I had only heard stories (most of them bad!). My first experience with orthopedics was a 'fluke' because of a schedule change! And yet here I am! I graduated from medical school in Kansas City in 2009 and began my residency in orthopedic surgery My wife, Jennifer, and our three sons - Garrett, Luke, & Bryan - do life here in the Detroit metropolitan area and have quickly become accustomed to living among so many Michiganders. 

Currently I am a year from being done with residency with big dreams! To look at the world with even so much as a cursory glance reveals an overwhelming abundance of poverty,pain, and injustice. We need look no further than our own backyard - the Motor City. Very few cities have seen the extremes of both wealth and poverty than has Detroit. Poverty, crime, and hopelessness abound in this place we call home. And yet even in the face of the desperation of Detroit, its dire circumstances pale in comparison to the plight of those in developing countries. The "Bottom 2 Billion" people on the globe live on less than $2/day and are disproportionately affected by disease and death. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera all prefer the poor. And yet the biggest killer of the poor is not even on that list - trauma. Injuries, many of them orthopedic, kill more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined! 90% of these injuries occur in developing countries where less than 10% of the world's orthopedic surgeons work. Trauma has rightly been called the "Neglected Epidemic" with a predilection for the poorest people on the planet.

For whatever reason, Africa holds a special place in my heart. Toward the end of my seminary training, I joined a group of students to pray for the people of North Africa and the possibility of one day working among such a people. Some in that group got there much sooner and call this region of the world home. Others will probably never go.  Africa has plenty of orthopedic injuries thanks to imported Chinese motorcycles, few traffic laws, poor roads, and the need for animals, foot pedestrians, buses, taxis, and herdsmen to use the same path from point A to point B. And what happens to people who sustain such injuries? Not much. People there have very few options. Most end up seeing a traditional "bone-setter" who has little to no medical training and thus the rates of nonunions (unhealed fractures), malunions (fractures that heal crooked), and osteomyelitis (infections) are very high. One general surgeon put it this way about one north African country.

"I can tell you what Orthopedic care is available here. It is plaster of Paris. Anything more advanced is basically not going to happen... Many patients with orthopedic injuries do not come to the hospital, preferring traditional bone-setters, who are probably about as effective as most hospitals. Then they come with malunions, nonunions, chronic osteo[myelitis], etc. Anyway, there is a huge need and very little available."

 My dream is that this will one day no longer be the case. My dream is that Jesus' prayer for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven will come true. My dream is justice for a people that I look forward to serving and learning from. It is no less than the adventure and calling of a lifetime - my lifetime, however long or short that may be. What that will look like is to be determined but until then we venture forth with passion, faith, and a dream. Let the adventure begin! Blessings...

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