The Life is in the Blood

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, likely introduced during delivery. Now his body was attacking and destroying his own blood cells. As they were destroyed, his bilirubin levels were skyrocketing.

Jemima and Mercy doing the exchange transfusion

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 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?


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, these same lights have been saving babies who come to Tenwek with life-threatening bilirubin levels.

Tenwek NICU incubator and phototherapy unit

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “these same lights.”

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.

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

Clark’s workshops

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.

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night…

For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;

at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”

Psalm 92: 1-4

More news.: We are coming to Kentucky! We will be there mid-May through July and hope to receive the COVID vaccine shortly after our arrival. We would love to schedule a visit with you now! Please email us ( so we can arrange a time for chai or a walk.

And even more news: We are expecting! Baby Sleeth is due October 4th!!

To give:

*written by Val Sleeth

12 thoughts on “The Life is in the Blood

  1. wonderful. Our son had an exchange transfusion at Tenwek when we served here in the early 90s. Same situation, no lights at the time. Miracle he survived back then and with limited supply of blood, two missionaries gave theirs to save our son Solomon


  2. I’m happy in due course you still doing a remarkable and worthy job! Your skills are amazing and admirable, your dedications and personal sacrifice couple with experience has changed the life of many, I’m happy I was once your student during my internship in Tenwek. Despite busy days, calls and so on, you still gotten time to attend interns Wednesday Bible study with your loving wife. Say hi to her.


  3. Wow!!!! LOVE YOUR LETTERS! So informative! To God be the glory! Great things being done IN HIS NAME! We are now in FL, so we will miss you guys! AND CONGRATULATIONS ON ANOTHER PREGNANCY!!!! Lord’s favor be upon you! Love you all!


    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Congratulations! I always love your letters. My own work with young people and friends in Kenya continues to inspire me and bring me joy.


  5. As a result of your ministry, men will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 2 Corinthians 9:13-14
    Thank you Sleeths!!


  6. Yours and Clark’s work is fascinating! Praise God for his sending you to Tenwek! And congratulations on the new pregnancy. You are blessed!
    In Christ, Teresa Bachman


  7. Hello Clark and Val,

    Thanks for the update! So great to hear how successful the phototherapy invention is working. Thanks Clark for sharing your giftedness in this area. God is faithful!!

    Blessings to you both! Frank & Sharon Martin

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________


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