Please login to continue
Having Trouble Logging In?
Reset your password
Don't have an account?
Sign Up Now!
Register for a Free Account
Choose Password
Confirm Password

Your account has been created!

The Life is in the Blood

The Life is in the Blood

JULY 5, 2021    |    2 MINUTE READ

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening. You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. Psalm 92: 1–2, 4 (NLT)

Two medical professionals perform an exchange transfusion on a baby.

A baby undergoes an exchange transfusion.

Last night Clark did an exchange transfusion.

This procedure is pretty incredible. A baby’s entire blood volume is removed syringe by syringe and then replaced twice over with someone else’s blood. It is done when a baby’s bilirubin levels have climbed to the point of causing brain damage. Bilirubin is a natural waste product constantly being created in our bodies as our red blood cells break down. It is processed by the liver, and then the kidneys and intestines see it out the door.

But this baby’s red blood cells were being destroyed all at once. He had a different blood type than his mother, and his immune system was not pleased with the presence of mom’s foreign blood antigens, which were likely introduced during delivery. Now his body was attacking and destroying his own blood cells. As they were destroyed, his bilirubin levels were skyrocketing.

At three days old, he needed just two cups of blood to complete this procedure.

But here’s the truly incredible thing: before this night, the pediatric team at Tenwek Hospital had not done an exchange transfusion in almost two years. When we arrived here in 2017, Clark was doing one every couple of months. What changed?

A baby lies in a see-through box while receiving phototherapy

Phototherapy reduces the likelihood that a child will need an exchange transfusion.


Phototherapy. you likely know or have had a child who was mildly jaundiced at birth and needed to be placed under “bili-lights” for a short time. For the past two years, bilirubin lights have also been saving babies who come to Tenwek with life-threatening bilirubin levels.

But these bili-lights are not the standard units you would find in a hospital nursery. Our lights at Tenwek are not made in a factory or FDA-approved. They are high-intensity, LED light, phototherapy units designed by Clark. For $30 a unit.

A baby lies in a see-through box while receiving phototherapy.

Clark designs phototherapy units for Tenwek Hospital.

By the grace of God, through generous partners in the U.S., and after weeks spent measuring irradiance levels and tweaking blueprints, we now have five of these phototherapy units in the NICU which can be put over any incubator, cot, or even used for babies on the ventilator.

Today we are rejoicing over this baby. He is well and is expected to make a full recovery. The lights were not enough to bring his bilirubin levels down, but they have been sufficient for every other baby over the last two years. And we pray they may be for many more in the years to come.

A husband and wife outside with their two children 

The Sleeth family rejoices over God’s provision for the children at Tenwek Hospital needing medical care.


PRAY: Lift up the missionaries in Kenya and the doctors they work alongside who regularly perform medical procedures like this blood transfusion. Ask the Lord to continue using these medical professionals as agents of His healing.

GO: What unique skills do you have? Can you design medical equipment, like Clark? Or are you more at home in a soccer field or in front of a classroom? God has a plan for your passion, and we’d love to help you find it! See how you can get involved in ministry.

Author Bio: Val and Clark Sleeth are in their second term serving at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. At the hospital, they enjoy every opportunity to pray with patients and their families, to challenge people in their faith, to train African physicians, and to share the Gospel.

More Stories

Support a Missionary
Global Impact Fund
Advancing the Great Commission through your partnership.