One Sunday afternoon twelve years ago, Professor Jim Harrison and I were pushing our two-year-old sons, Olly and Phillip, on swings in the Blantyre sports club. We were talking about the difficulties of finding operating space for children with common physical impairments like clubfoot, bow legs, and osteomyelitis. We batted ideas around, one of which was building another theatre at the government hospital. Another – and this was a long shot – was to build a dedicated kids orthopaedic hospital. The more we talked, the more detail we added, until by the time we lifted the dizzy boys out of the swings we had a mental plan of a hospital where children with disabilities and their families would be a priority, where good quality research and training could be carried out, and where God’s love could be shown.
We certainly talked optimistically, but I doubt that either of us thought that two years from that date we would be actually in the hospital doing operations. It was hard work sending off proposals to everyone we could think of but wonderful when these began to bear fruit, and both the Beit Trust and CURE International were interested. The former provided most of the capital for the building as a project marking the centenary of the death of the late Sir Alfred Beit. CURE International promised to undertake the remainder of the capital need and also to support the hospital for the next hundred years.
The early days were a learning curve for both of us, and we met architects, quantity surveyors, government ministers, and even presidents and their families. We had a great and hardworking team that led up to the opening, and mention must be made of Arthur Aseka, Steven Miller, Richard Brueton, and Carol Gatward, all of whom played their part in getting the building and its contents ready.
I have been away from the hospital for three years, and it was amazing this week to see what had changed and what was the same. The big changes were the new operating theatre and the wonderful new wing with its teaching room and clubfoot programme office. It is exciting to see the expansion of the work. What had not changed was the joy and friendliness of the staff and the commitment to giving the best possible treatment at the same time as showing, in a sensitive way, that there is a God who loves us, forgives us, and speaks to us through His Word.