Four-year-old Natalia Ochieng didn’t know it, but the day she walked into the medical clinic at Missions of Hope’s Bondeni Center in Nairobi, Kenya, was the turning point in her young life.
Natalia was burned and severely disfigured at age 3 when she fell into a pot of boiling water. The man leading the clinic that day was Dr. Alvin Hartness, a retired pediatrician from Fayetteville, N.C., and a member of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, which is a partner with CMF in Bondeni.
“Our hearts immediately went out to her and her mom,” recalled Dr. Hartness. “Children like this are shunned. She may not have much of a life if she has to live with these disfigurations she has.”
Dr. Hartness, a veteran of many medical mission trips around the world, felt a real burden for Natalia’s situation. When he returned to the U.S., he began praying and searching for people and funds to help her. Through a series of medical connections, Dr. Hartness found a plastic surgeon, Dr. Peter Nthunba of Kijabi Mission Hospital about 30 miles north of Nairobi, who could do the surgeries right there.
“Dr. Nthumba and I emailed back and forth, and he said if I could raise the funds, he believed he could do all of Natalia’s procedures there at Kijabi Mission Hospital,” he said. “This act of compassion saved thousands of dollars in medical and transportation costs.”
Dr. Hartness and his wife Shirley went right to work, contacting friends, relatives and church members, and by the end of November has raised more than $4,000 and wired it to the hospital.
“Natalia had her first procedure Dec. 17 and tolerated it well,” he said. “She is now in the stage of stretching the skin with saline infusions. George Kimani, the nurse who has been shepherding Natalia and her mom from Mathare to the hospital, says she is a very good patient.”
Natalia has also now been accepted into the MoHI school in Bondeni, and is sponsored by a Sunday school class at Snyder Memorial church.
Things are going well, but Dr. Hartness emphasizes that the family needs continued prayer and financial support for additional surgeries, transportation, meals, and other logistics. If you are interested in helping support Natalia and her family with your prayers and funds for her ongoing plastic surgeries, please contact Dr. Al Hartness at email@example.com for more information.