Submitted by Marla Townshend
Karibu (Welcome) to our Blog. We are the Canadian team currently in Kenya. We consist of four nurses: Marion, Angie, Sarah and myself, Marla, as well as Maddie (Marion’s granddaughter), a grade 12 student who enjoys working with people with special needs and disabilities.
Angie and I are from PEI, Sarah from Nova Scotia and Marion and Maddie from Saskatchewan. We all met in Toronto and began our journey together. Where to start…week 1 is complete. What an experience thus far. This blog will be dedicated to our time in Chaaria. We currently are in Mikinduri and have just acquired Internet access but will blog tomorrow on our experiences while away from the hospital.
Paul met us at the airport in Nairobi when we arrived. It was a close call for Sarah as her flight was delayed in Halifax. Thankfully she joined us in Toronto although her bags were lost in transit. We had a comfortable sleep at the Anglican Church of Kenya Guest House and were very grateful to be horizontal after sitting in a plane for what seemed like an eternity. We were up bright and early (despite the time change) en route through the Rift Valley to Lake Naivasha to enjoy a boat ride to see the hippos!!!! We stopped for some fresh fruit at a roadside stand as we had a long day of travel to Chaaria. We drove through five counties: Nairobi, Kambu, Nakru, Embu and Meru. We stopped at the Nakumatt (like Walmart) to pick up some supplies we will need for the week and have our first meal of the day. We traveled 20 km of dirt road which was rough terrain equivalent to a dried up riverbed. Paul joked it was our African massage.
We met Brother/Dr. Beppe at Chaaria Mission Hospital where we unloaded our enormous amount of baggage and settled in for the night. We were thankful we did not have Sarah’s bags as we were already cramped in the Combi like sardines. We each brought two large bags with us of donated supplies for the hospital, school and orphange as well as a wheelchair, and our carry on luggage.
Breakfast is sparce at the hospital consisting of bananas and bread. Thankfully we brought snacks!! We toured the hospital grounds. Marion was assigned to the OR (as that is her nursing experience) and Maddie planned to work on the ward for the physically and mentally disabled. Brother Beppe asked Sarah, Angie and I to decide between the Maternity/Pediatrics, Men and Woman’s Wards. We decided that Angie would volunteer on the Men’s Ward, Sarah to the Women’s and me to Maternity and Peds.
It has been a busy week of dressing changes and delivering babies. The poverty is overwhelming and the lack of infection control within the hospital facility to our dismay. There is absolutely no way that the dedicated housecleaning staff could stay ahead of the dust and dirt. They are working so hard to accomplish so much with so very little. The clientele so large and the resources so limited. We are unsure when people have bathed last and if on bedrest, when the beds were changed. Wounds like we haven’t seen before. Some with the bones exposed. Many burns, fractures, pneumonia and malaria on the Pediatric Ward. The woman delivering babies without making a sound and no analgesia. It is unbelievable to watch.
I have come to collect Sarah and Angie when a woman is about to deliver and as a result, we have been able to experience this opportunity together. We have delivered approximately 13 babies in 4 days including a set of preterm twins, and 4 deliveries within 3-4 hours one afternoon. As of 1730h every day, only one staff member remains per ward (Maternity and Peds considered one ward). Talk about working short staffed. We have vowed to never complain about this again at home. The Men’s and Women’s Wards have approximately 50 patients each which is overcapacity. Patients were sharing beds. Can you imagine, feeling unwell and having to share a single bed with someone you do not know? Again, the infection control and personal hygiene a concern.
Almost every day, the dressing changes have come to a hault as we have ran out of gauze. Gauze must be cut and folded by hand, and sterilized with heat. Most patients are admitted for some surgical concern and require a daily to alternate day dressing change. You can imagine how much gauze is required to complete each dressing. It too is used for the deliveries as well. Such a prolonged process of cutting, folding and sterilizing to yield only a small amount of gauze for use. Here you do not worry about your “pretty” dressing. Commercial dressing supplies are not available for use. You have so many to do, you must just keep it simple.
The woman do not seem pleased when we announce that their newborn is a girl. Apparently, they want boys to grow and continue with the family farm. The population is largely women thus the reason for polygamy. To their disappointment we have delivered 12 girls and only 1 boy. We have shared the many roles of mother baby care. We have learned so much. We truly feel we are gaining more than we give. We have discussed on many occasions that we are thankful we can “pull the blind” on the sadness and despair we have witnessed and offer affection and our assistance where required.
Maddie has been busy with the clients with disabilities: feeding them, changing their beds, doing their laundry, and engaging them in activities such as making puzzles together. Maddie has made a special connection with John, one of the adults with mental disability. She was thrilled when he brought her to show that he had completed the puzzle they had been working on together and when he called her by name. She too has been volunteering her time with the two “orphans” on Pediatrics. Faith thrives from the attention that Maddie gives to her. Stella remains flat in her affect but Maddie plans to continue to provide her with the attention she deserves.
Marion has been sharing her time with Brother Beppe and Dr. Elizabeth (a Gynecologist from Italy) working long hours in the OR. She has participated in C-sections, prostatectomies, hysterectomies, myomectomies, and tendon repairs. She has found a new friendship in Michelle, an anaesthetist living in the UK.
Paul has taught us so much while traveling with him. He is our driver/tour guide who is fluent in English and is very knowledgeable of the Kenyan history and culture. He is teaching us Kenya words and encourages us to use them when we can. We look forward to what the remainder of our trip has to offer. It has been an experience that is difficult to share with you and explain in words. Please pray for us and the improved health of the clients at Chaaria Mission Hospital. Thank you for your love and support.