Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Thomas Asher

By Thomas Asher, MedShare Trustee

February 22 // We left our Nairobi hotel at 8 AM and quickly found ourselves mired in the morning rush hour. Soon the cluster of modern buildings and lush parkways were behind us as we headed north to Kijabe on the eastern slopes of the Great Rift Valley. We reached the rim within an hour, and what a view it was: green pastures stretching across the horizon ending at the foot of Mount Longonot. A short drive down the slope brought us to the gates of Cure International Children’s Hospital, a pediatric orthopedic surgical facility.  Medical Director Dr. Joseph Theuri  welcomed us indicating that they opened in 1998, have 30 beds, including four private rooms as well as four operating rooms where they repair club feet, cleft palates, fractures, angular limbs, and a range of deformities. The average stay is just under five days. The staff of 88 serves children as old as 18.

Cure International Children's Hospital

Our guided tour took us to the well-organized storage room where surgical supplies from MedShare neatly lined the shelves; from there, off to the machine shop where six technicians were busily fashioning braces from clay forms of little legs and feet. There was a playroom with toys and books, an elaborate outdoor playground, and every corridor was decorated with colorful illustrations to ease their young patient’s concerns,  But our tour turned sober as we approached the surgical area. Several youngsters being prepped for repairs anxiously lay on gurneys.  They were very frightened; a parent and nurse tried to comfort them. Their cries were frantic and grew louder as they were guided down the hall near our group. It was difficult for them, and it was difficult for us. We tried to focus on Dr. Theuri’s talk, but it was very hard. Back in the bright sunlight,  we composed ourselves and gathered for a group photo with Dr. Theuri and his key staff.  This is a wonderful hospital, healing children, and a facility MedShare is proud to serve.

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff, Board of Trustee and Council members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Liz Reed

By Liz Reed, Orinda, CA, MedShare Supporter

Hi All,

When I sat down to blog about the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, I couldn’t help thinking instead about our time spent with a beautiful Kenyan woman! The soft early morning air and the play of light and mist held her story aloft.

Joyce Kiereini is nothing short of a walking miracle, — a Masai woman with a mission! Co-founder of R.E.T.O., she steers this organization of Masai women leaders in working for the betterment of Masai women and girls in the areas of health, female genital mutilation and economic opportunities.

Joyce grew up in a tribal culture in which a female lives out her entire life first under the dominion of her father’s will and then under that of her husband. Here are some of the examples Joyce gave of Masai life: The Masai daughter is of little value, so at the age of 11, 12 or 13 is “given away.” The Masai woman is subject to the traditional practice of female genital mutilation. She is subject to her husband’s permission in order to obtain a doctor’s care in childbirth, even in life-threatening circumstances.  She is subject to her husband’s adulterous behavior, putting her at risk for HIV/Aids. The wife has no say in matters of money; money earned is her husband’s. She may not even vote in an election for a candidate which her husband does not sanction! Oftentimes she is left with the burdens of household chores, children, and animals alone while her husband either sits idle or leaves for long periods of time, even months.

So how is it that we even get to sit here to listen to Joyce’s story?

Joyce’s life took a big detour from the typical path. Her mother died when she was so young that Joyce has no memory of her. Her older sister cared for her until she was “given away.”  She took Joyce to live with her and her husband. Her sister made sure she went to school, although it is unusual for a girl to get a formal education. Until the age of 18, Joyce did not know who her father was. Joyce believes it is because of the loving care of her sister and the broken chain of paternal influence that she escaped her fate.

Her mission involves teaching women about how to handle money, practice safe sex and enact family planning, and how to care for their own health. Some teaching includes the partners of these women. The old beliefs and behaviors may be hard to reckon with, but Joyce persists. She gave us an example of how the organization wanted to give money to some of the women (can’t remember what for, maybe micro business), and insisted the money would not be given to their spouses, as is the custom. Many could not make this promise, so the money would not be given to them. I’m sure she had much more to share, but we needed to leave for Nairobi Women’s Hospital.

As I listened to Joyce tell her story I felt the great passion she has for the lifework she has chosen. She is at once gentle and strong, compassionate and courageous. She has made the leap out of “the stable” and is calling to those who can hear. Hers is a life dedicated to shepherding her Masai sisters as they journey into the most blessed tradition: a life lived through the inspiration of Freedom!

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff, Board of Trustee and Council members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Angie Fife Engelberger

By Angie Fife Engelberger, MedShare Southeast Regional Council

Sign posted in the Men's Ward of St. Mary's Mission Hospital, Nairobi

My name is Angie Fife Engelberger, and I am currently a member of the Southeast Regional Council. This trip, which was originally scheduled for November, did not fit into my calendar.   As soon as I found out the trip had been rescheduled I jumped at the opportunity to join the traveling group  As a late addition I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to join this trip; I’ve been able to participate in many different phases of the MedShare process, from sorting supplies to sponsoring a container, and this is the perfect opportunity to “complete the picture”.  I have been so excited to see the beneficiaries of many MedShare containers and witness first hand how the supplies are being used.

Medshare-provided supplies

First thing Monday morning our group left the hotel for St. Mary’s Mission Hospital in Nairobi. The hospital was founded by Dr. Father Bill Fryda and opened in June 2001. We arrived at the hospital and were met by Fr. Barati, who took us through a waiting area filled with at least a hundred people, to meet Dr. Walter Konya. St. Mary’s has received 19 containers from MedShare since 2001, and I am so impressed by the number of people this long term relationship has affected. In addition to inpatients in this 325 bed hospital, 250,000 outpatients are seen each year by a staff of 20 doctors. Just do the math – the numbers are staggering!  Dr. Konya took us on a tour of the postpartum ward where encountered a room of premature babies, including this little guy, who has been spending the first days of his life in an incubator provided by MedShare.

Preemie in Medshare-provided incubator

We continued our tour and saw patients using wheelchairs provided by MedShare, boxes of supplies provided by MedShare, and an operating theater with much of the equipment provided by MedShare. I am truly in awe by the long reach a simple box of supplies has, and even more impressed by the gratitude Dr. Konya and the entire staff of St  Mary’s expressed for the supplies sent by MedShare. Believe me, I will not look at latex gloves, masks and gowns the same way again. Many thanks to St. Mary’s for their hospitality.  I look forward to following this well run hospital in the future!

Dr. Konya discussing MedShare-provided supplies

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff, Board of Trustee and Council members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Terry Blum

By Terry Blum, MedShare Board of Trustees

Monday, February 20, 2012

I am Terry Blum and I have the privilege to serve on MedShare’s board.  This is my second trip with MedShare, and it is a wonderful journey in terms of learning and sense-making.   Quite frankly, I am not sure I can construct meaning from all that I am sensing from my eyes, ears, mouth, fingers and nose.  I am also sensing from my heart, making this whole experience so difficult to justly describe.  As someone who is quite cerebral in everyday life, this adventure touches below my head into my heart and reaches into the region of feeling and intuition.  The incredibly rich tapestry of the lenses of the people with whom I am touring, all of whom awesome in their own way, is coupled with the wisdom of those we visit.  I know I will not be the same when I return as I was when I left Atlanta in that huge airplane.

Spotted in Kenya

After wonderful bonding and familiarizing ourselves with the agenda, we got into the reason for MedShare today by first visiting St. Mary’s Nairobi and then Partners for Care.   I will report on Partners for Care which is part of the mHealth alliance which engages in mobile health initiatives among other things.

The group transitioned from St. Mary’s to Partners for Care with lunch at the incredible Safari Park Hotel, where Sam (communications director) and Samuel (director in Kenya) from Partners for Care joined us.  The grounds of the Safari Park are quite elegant and could have been a movie scene from colonial times or an upscale suburb anywhere.   The food and the group’s camaraderie are awesome, but the contrast with the needs of so many is evident as one passes by the slums of Kibera (2nd largest in the world after Soweto with estimates of 1-2 million residents), near St. Mary’s, or the living in Mararui (estimates of 26-30,000 people).

En route to the clinic, we rode on a really bumpy road that went on for quite a while.  Somewhere in the middle of the road, we crossed a functional bridge, which may or may not be completed connecting segments of the bumpy road.  We passed banana trees, construction sites, snakes, local markets and lots of scenery.  We came to a stop outside a building that was the initial Partners for Care destination for most of us.  The signage said,  What if?  Life Changing Center.   “What if?”  is a question of what it would be like  if there were no AIDS in Kenya.

"What If" signage in Kenya

While most of us went into the clinic building, Lindsey Barber and Charlie Evans went into Mararui, lined with drainage system that empties into the river where the drinking and washing water come from, with Peter from Partners for Care.  Peter took them to visit a friend’s home as well as take some measurements to show how the mHealth android works.  The device relays vital signs information and pictures to Dr. Vincent at the clinic. It is a triage device with Dr. Vincent gives instructions for caring for the patient or asks for more information.  Each entry is a new record, but the patient’s information gets integrated into a record stored on the server.

Partners for Care Clinic

Partners for Care was founded by Atlanta nurse, Connie Scheren, who came to the MedShare store for supplies for her medical team mission trip.  It has 8 programs in addition to the clinic.  As we walk past the goat on the corner into the What if?  building through the door with Clinic written on it, we found a world of hope and love.  In the space that was opened 2 years ago, there is a one room clinic, class room for their Second Chance program that prepares 20 students for the national graduation exam with 2 years of education.  There is also a computer room, with no internet access, that serves 20 adult students at a time.  Forty-five or so have received or are receiving training and 20 have found jobs.

PET cart that was sent to Kenya on a MedShare container

Going into the clinic run by Dr. Vincent we saw a PET, personal energy transport vehicle which was sent in a MedShare container.  Other programs include sports programs for the kids, with volunteer coaches, including a policeman who was tired of just arresting them, a home for orphans run by Pastor John who also help widows, distribution of 500 treated malaria nets to households with kids under 5,  the wonderful music group Temple of Worship that draws crowds for AIDS awareness and prevention.  There is also an 8k race that is run at the same time as a 5K in Atlanta (the Kenyans finish the longer race quicker!).

A Kenyan Doctor

The Marcibit program is really striking.  Partners for Care serves one of the most impoverished sections of Kenya.  350 people with jiggers, a kind of parasitic flea that enters the skin and reproduces so the people, especially kids, can’t walk.  The inflammation is incredible and 350 have been treated with  antibacterial soap and water after which the site is covered with Vaseline.  89 have been provided with shoes that can help prevent it.

The health programs are important as 473 Kenyan children under 5 die every day, 71 due to HIV/AIDS, 93 to malaria….90% of these deaths are due to preventable causes!  So Partners for Care is there to help reduce child deaths.

Our visit was truly inspirational….we were sung to with a Jambo (welcome) song which included Hakuna Matada, reminding me of the Lion King and the Circle of Life!  They also sang a song “Smile”…happy for you… will lift you up, hold your hands, loose your pain, so you smile again. They ended our visit by singing “That Little Light of Mine” in English and Swahili….We left on our bus singing “That little heart of mine, let it shine,” knowing the love in the hearts of the Partners for Care.  The passion and inspiration of the Kenyans who spend so much energy to do their work to serve their own people is a memory I will always cherish.  They are rich in spirit, and thanks to them there is a little more light shining for many.

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff and Board of Trustee members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!