“Never give up, for this is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
– Harriet Beecher Stowe
April 4, 2002
Janet sat at our feet because she’d never stood. We waited outside the physiotherapy clinic of Moi Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya for over two hours in hopes of seeing a visiting orthopedic surgeon. We were handed a piece of white paper with #15 scribbled on it. We waited. And waited. The hot sun poured on us, and we’d wait here as long as it took.
At thirteen years old, Janet had never been to a doctor and was visibly nervous and excited at the hopes of something. Anything. The nurse, Percia, finally called our number, and we entered the small room. Matt lifted Janet onto the hard table where the doctor intently examined her before turning in our direction to share the solemn prognosis with us.
“Janet developed cerebral palsy as a baby, and now she’s nearly fourteen years old. If she’d received medical attention as a young girl, she could have had surgery. However, there’s no advantage of surgery as the retraction rate is nearly 25%, and she’d have to have at least six surgeries.”
We listened, and he continued:
“She has severe abductor contraction, flexor contracture, feet deformity and tibial rotation. We’d have to shorten the femur, break the tibia, release the hips and surgically repair her legs to position them correctly. Even with this, there’s almost a 0% success rate.”
I cringed in pain listening to this scenario and felt punched in the gut. Did she know this intelligent, experienced doctor was rightfully giving us no hope?
I glanced at Janet as Matt lifted her onto his back, and we thanked the doctor before leaving.
My eyes blazed with fire. What the doctor didn’t know was the determination of Janet. He didn’t know the battles she’d already faced, and the power of hope and faith in overcoming daunting obstacles. And he didn’t know because we were on Team Janet, we’d go to the furthest moon to fight for this girl.
This was not an end; it was only the beginning. Because sometimes when all hope is dashed and the way forward becomes murky and impossible, it’s often an opportunity for a new path to forge and unlikely possibilities to open.
Before we left the hospital, Percia told us about a man who designs wheelchairs for the village terrain and suggested having Janet evaluated at the special school in town. We immediately took her to the school where she was highly assessed (Remember: she’d NEVER been to school before!), and we were recommended to Joyland Special School in Kisumu.
We took Janet back to the office in town to contact Joyland, and while we were there a man sauntered in dressed professionally with a big smile.
“I still don’t know what his purpose in coming today was, but God’s purposes were clear,” I wrote. “While I took Janet to the bathroom, he approached Matt and said he needed to help. He shared how he had a wheelchair sitting at his home since he was in a ministry for the street children* and asked if we’d want it for Janet. Matt went with the man to his house and brought back a wheelchair that fit Janet PERFECTLY!”
She started giggling and began rolling herself around the office. Her ticket to a new life was beginning.
At the same time on the other side of the world, Matt’s parents had visited us that Christmas and met Janet. Overcome by her pure joy and heartbreaking circumstances, they were moved to action. Matt’s mom returned to the States, held a fundraiser and by faith raised enough money for Janet’s potential surgeries and school fees.
An army started rising to fight for Janet, and we were on the frontlines. We were ready to beat down every closed door and cling to hope that one day Janet would stand.