Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just Like Working Back Home

When I traveled to Kenya this May, I found it easiest to say I was going on a Volunteer Trip. “Volunteer”. What exactly does that mean? It sounds so ambitious, like I am going to spend forty hours a week working, only not getting paid. Does anyone who goes on a “volunteer” trip work those kinds of hours? Oh, sure, a lot of them do, but I think in general we get more down time than we do back at home. Which is ok.

Or I could say I went on a mission trip. To me that is even more pressure, not only am I volunteering my time, I am on a mission. I have a goal to accomplish, whether it is bringing Christianity to the unsaved or bringing typhoid vaccine to the masses.

I was talking to my boss this week about something similar. His daughters are on a trip to South Africa for three weeks, and their group leader is calling it an “Acquaintance trip”. I think that was the word anyway. The main goal of the trip is to turn those acquaintances into friendships. You travel to a distant country to work with the people of that country, you have a physical project to accomplish, but you have the more important goal of getting to know these people and their culture. You don’t know much about them at first, but over the course of your stay, you come to understand what they are all about.

Know what I mean? Or am I rambling? Maybe I will just get to my point.

The two weeks I spent in Kenya in May, I did a few things here and there, but I think mostly I was there to meet people, learn their stories and understand the lives they lead. All so I could turn around and share that with you.

All except those two days I worked at the clinic in Saikeri. I’ve had busier days back home, but never days that busy in a foreign country. Just being in a foreign country, at a clinic with no water of any kind and no electricity, where there is a huge language barrier, made the work hard enough.

I’m used to being on my feet all day, and a lot of days I don’t get time for lunch. But I do take some water breaks and I do wash my hands with soap and water between every patient. Neither of those things happened at the clinic in Saikeri. Not that I’m complaining. Those were two of my favorite days in Africa.

What kind of patients did we see? An elderly lady with possible Tuberculosis, a young man with a two-day old machete wound, an older woman with a possible broken hip, a three-year-old with an abscess the size of an egg yolk on his head, and lots and lots of viral upper respiratory infections (i.e. colds).

The clinic was quite fortunate to have a physician assistant from Great Britain volunteering there, in addition to Rhoda, the Kenyan nurse who ran the clinic. Unfortunately, this nurse didn’t speak very much Maa, the language of the Maasai. Luckily most of them knew a little Swahili, but not all of them. Which meant, the PA and I would wait for this convoluted translation to take place with nearly every patient.

The most help that I gave to the clinic was the long line of babies that I gave routine immunizations to. The mommas would give their card to Rhoda. She would write their information in this huge ledger, while telling me which shots the baby needed.

I was quite pleased that these babies were getting the same immunizations we give back home. That is such a blessing to these wee ones. Give them the basics at least, keep them from getting the childhood diseases like measles or polio or even pneumonia. Diseases which could be fought off under optimal conditions, but which could easily kill an infant out here.

I think I did ok those two days. 
The refrigerator at the clinic. With no electricity, it is run on a gas coolant.
Drawing up immunizations.
Giving immunizations. 
The Physician Assistant I worked with at the clinic and two of our patients. The two white tabs on the desk are malaria tests. We tested all of our patients for malaria those two days, and all the tests came out negative.
Rhoda the Kenyan nurse who was in charge of the clinic. 

1 comment:

Elizabeth Olmstead McBride said...

I went on a medical mission trip with the ENT department of the Cleveland Clinic. We went to El Salvador. We worked really hard, very long days, 12 hours or more/day. We assessed 400 kids and did surgery on 40 of them. Our OR had no running water and intermittent electricity. Gurneys had no side rails! No such thing as IV poles. Pathology specimen jars were old Gerber baby food jars. I was the recovery room nurse. It was fun but definitely exhausting.