Missionary Doctors, Adventist Hospital United in Passion for Healing
Newborn arrives close to grandmother’s home, thanks to medical cooperation (Posted Feb. 16, 2012)
BY JIMMY PHILLIPS, electronic media coordinator, San Joaquin Community Hospital, writing from Bakersfield, California
On January 28, at 7:14 p.m., with her husband and her mother at her side, Dr. Belen Lohr gave birth to her fourth child, an 8.1-pound girl named Michelle Alyssa. The delivery, performed by Dr. John Owens at San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH) in Bakersfield, California, couldn’t have been smoother. After traveling more than 2,000 miles from home, that’s just the way Belen and her husband, Jason, wanted it.
During their medical training at Loma Linda University, Jason and Belen were the only two students in their class to sign up as missionary doctors after graduation. Though they weren’t even dating at the time, the couple shares a mission each realized on their own.
“I spent a year as a student missionary in Africa,” Jason said. “During that time my eyes were opened to the tremendous need for high-quality medical care around the world. After that I knew being a missionary doctor is what I wanted to do.”
For Belen, there was never a thought of doing anything else.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a missionary doctor.”
Since finishing their residencies at Florida Hospital and getting married, Drs. Jason and Belen Lohr have served as missionary doctors at two Adventist Health International hospitals. The couple spent five years at Ile-Ife Adventist Hospital in Nigeria. However, after having their third child, they were uneasy about bringing a newborn to an area in which malaria was prevalent. In the summer of 2010 the family transferred to Valle de Angeles Adventist Hospital in Honduras.
Despite serving overseas, the couple’s three children (Michaela, 9; Joshua, 7; and Jonathon, 2) were all born at Florida Hospital. When the couple became pregnant with their fourth, a trip back to Florida seemed like the obvious option. Shortly thereafter Belen’s mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. With her condition, a spur-of-the-moment, cross-country flight from her home in Sacramento to Florida for her daughter’s delivery was out of the question.
Each year during the Lohrs’ tenure in Nigeria, Jarrod McNaughton, vice president of marketing and development at SJCH, organized a medical mission trip to assist his old college roommate. Last year McNaughton and more than 30 caregivers spent Thanksgiving assisting the Lohrs in Honduras.
“One of the great things about Adventist Health is that it’s a worldwide mission,” McNaughton said. “It’s always a privilege to step away from life here in the States and connect with our missionary friends throughout the world.”
When the Lohrs needed a hospital closer to Belen’s mother, they immediately called their friend to make arrangements.
“During my pregnancy we learned the baby was at risk for heart problems, so we really wanted to give birth at a hospital with a neonatal intensive-care unit that could handle any complications. From our conversations with Jarrod, we knew San Joaquin Community Hospital was a place with highly skilled staff and the latest technology,” Belen said. “Since it was only four hours from Sacramento, it would be easy for my mom to make the trip.”
On Saturday evening, January 28, Belen delivered Michelle Alyssa with her mother by her side. The baby was born in perfect health, while Grandma’s heart was getting stronger by the day. Although the two-day trip that covered more than 2,000 miles surely had plenty of bumps along the way, the result was a smooth landing.
“From the plane ride to the staff to the delivery, our trip couldn’t have gone better,” Belen said. “It was such a blessing to be able to have our baby at our Adventist Health sister hospital that shares our passion for providing quality health care to the communities we each serve.”