Week 1 - Sister Freda's

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Within the first 24 hours of being here I've witnessed two amazing things; a C-section at 3:00 am in morning, followed by a natural birth at around 11:30pm that night. The C-section was actually planned, original for 6:00am but the mother arrived early and the doctor was available….the rest I leave to the notion of Kenyan time.  The whole procedure took about 2.5 hrs and I was able to watch from about 3 feet away.  I was very impressed by the operating theatre.  They are using not the latest and greatest donated equipment but making the best of it.  I was also equally impressed with their strict adherence to sterilization.  The doctor performing the procedure is apparently one of the best in the area and he is in high demand. I can see why, his work was impressive.

The mother giving natural (and I mean natural – no epidurals here!) birth arrived at the centre mid-day with labour pains, but it wasn’t until about 10:30pm that things really got going.  Since there was no electricity (a common occurrence here) I got to assist by holding the kerosene lantern so the nurses and doctors could see what they were doing.  It was a slightly complicated birth and there were some worrisome moments when the baby’s heart rate was decreasing over time. But at about 11:45pm, a beautiful baby boy was born, much to the mother’s relief!!  As the mom was walking out of the delivery ward to go to her bed she looked at me and said "Bring me my baby".  And bring her baby I did -what a great moment!  I went to see her and the baby the next morning but she had already been discharged and on her way home.

The rest of the week I’ve been busy with “my project” which is to re-paint the paediatric ward (room) and bathroom.  I choose to do this because there used to be 2 boys who live at the hospital full time that had the room. They were moved out a few weeks ago to accommodate a patient that had TB (and Stage 4 HIV).  Since that patient has been discharged, the room has not been cleaned and Sister Freda wanted to paint the floor before moving the boys back.  So while scrubbing the walls, I decided that the room was too dark and cold for a 5 year old (Moses – who is an orphan and HIV positive) and an 19 year old (Boas – who is severely mentally and physically disabled – who was being looked after by his mom until it became too much) and what was needed was a fresh coat of bright paint on the walls.  Another trip to town was required to buy the paint, where basically you have one choice of the colour you’d like; which made choosing a paint colour really easy.  The paint here is also very thick so you have to mix it with turpentine.  As for applying the paint, they do have rollers but no tray.  I asked then, how do they use the roller – they stick it in the can.  So I’m using a brush…a 6 inch version in place of a roller.  I’ve completed 2 coats of the yellow paint which covers the top 1/3 of the walls. The paint takes 24-36 hrs to completely dry between each coat.  I think I’ll be just down to the wire to complete the walls and the floors before I have to leave next Saturday.

When I’m not painting or rather waiting for the paint to dry I’ve been spending my time trying to get to know the orphans.  We have a bit of a language barrier but we seem to do alright as they basically just want to have some attention and a bit of love.  They really have had to grow up quick and you can really see that they are constantly in survivor mode.  If you give one child some undivided attention another one will hit that one so you can focus your attention on them. I’ve been trying to play some games with them with limited success but will keep trying.

Moses and I have also bonded a fair bit this week.  He will often keep me company while I’m painting (his room) and actually helps me out a fair bit. He was abandoned when he was about 18 months old and probably not loved much before that.  He is certainly making up for it now.  I’ve been told there is not a volunteer he doesn’t like and never passes up an opportunity to be hugged, carried…just plain touched.

As there was some missionary’s in town for the week, the volunteers were invited to Sister Freda’s home in town for dinner one night.  It was a bit of change from our normal meal of beans and rice or chapatti(think roti), some kind of meat(with equal parts gristle) stew and cabbage or kale.  The nicest part was being able to eat inside and at a table. Normally we eat breakfast and dinner outside with our plates on our laps and for lunch the only difference is we are inside Sister Freda’s cottage; surrounded by dogs and cats. I actually prefer eating outside.  I definitely haven’t gone hungry while I’m here and my plan to lose a few pounds might have to wait until later on in the trip.

On Thursday of this week I participated in a free clinic in Kipsango, which is a slum area just on the edge of Kitale.  We were doing it with a group of missionaries that were also in town to do some work with Sister Freda.  To prepare for the clinic we spent the night before counting pills and pre-packaging popular medications that the doctor and Sister would be prescribing upon consultation with each of the patients.  The medications ranged from your basic multi-vitamins to ibuprofen to malaria medication.  We also had to pack materials and medication needed for injectable drugs, wound dressing and jigger removal (more below).

When we arrived to setup for the clinic there was already quite a line of patients (mostly mom’s with their children) and I have to say they were the dirtiest and saddest Kenya’s I’ve meet to date.  Because I don’t have any nursing/medical experience I was basically acting as a runner for everyone and got what they needed when they needed it. In my spare time I hung out with the kids, taking their picture, handing out de-worming tablets and assisting the guys who were in charge of removing “jiggers” from the kid’s feet. Because the kids(and some adults) walk around barefoot in essentially filth all day, they are very susceptible to getting jiggers (chigoe flea), which is a chigoe flea that feeds off the blood vessels  and works it’s self under the surface of the skin typically around the nail bed, in between the toes and on the ball of the foot just under the toes and just keeps burrowing it’s way deeper into the foot. It is also common for the flea to lay eggs whilst in their “hosts” skin.  It is actually very painful. So much so that kids will start walking on their heels. Unfortunately the removal process is also fairly painful, so there was much screaming and crying.  Not to get into too much detail, the removal process is scraping the surface of the skin until the jigger and eggs are exposed and then squeezing the area around the opening to extract the flea and eggs.  I was in awe and disgust at the same time.

Indeed there are many, many, many poor people here. But there is also a middle class and some elitism.  What I don’t see is any sense of community or at the very least; helping your fellow neighbour out.  They seem to only look out for themselves.  Again I guess it is the survivor mode mentality you must have to survive here especially if you are among the poor.

What bothers me most is the filth that the really poor people chose to live in.  No matter how much money you have you can still have respect for your living area whatever it maybe. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.  The concept of capturing garbage in a local area seems non existent.  They throw garbage where they sleep, sit and eat (if they can).  I just can’t help think that if there was more self-respect for themselves and respect where they live that their lives would be just a little bit better.

The idea of marriage (or lack of in terms of how marriage is viewed in North America) is another thing I can’t wrap my head around.  Polygamy is  very common here.  Many men have at least two wives and up to four is not uncommon.  Outside of marriage men will also have “friends” on the side of which many will have his child, and some of these friends the man may or may not also marry. They say this is how men prove to other men his manhood.  The problem is, then the first wife is stuck in a loveless marriage but financial dependent on the man and needs to raise his children. And then of course there is the other whole topic of HIV, which is still very much an issue here.

It seems that much of the culture here hinders the betterment of the people. However there are also many other factors as well; the government, corruption to mention probably the two biggest.
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