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Its official. Time has sped up here. As of today I will be leaving 3 weeks. I cannot believe all of the time that has passed when it feels like I just got here this last week!! This post will mostly be dedicated to what I have been doing at work since I’ve started. I know I have said already that the staff are very welcoming and friendly, but let me repeat that. They are such a fun group of people I could not ask for better!! There are roughly 12 nurses and a handful of clinicians that I work closely with. The mornings are still spent with dressing pressure wounds and other injuries that a resident may have or out patient may come in with. The out patients I am still more assisting versus doing it myself, but the routine cleaning and dressing of wounds the residents I’ve have been allowed to do myself. I’m learning many different greetings in some of the more popular languages of the area like Swahili and Kikuyu. They all enjoy teaching me phrases in both and listening for me to use them at the appropriate time. Laughter is a very common sound within Huruma. The easy relationships between the residents and staff make the days enjoyable and even the nuns are all willing to spend some time laughing and joking with us. Every couple of weeks they ask if I’m considering becoming a nun and I always respond with “I’m just not sweet enough.” Some of the nurses and I have developed an understanding of once I have seen a procedure done I can then try doing it myself. So I have feeding patients with nasogastric intubation, replacing catheters (both male and female), replacing nasogastric tubes (takes practice), assisting with IV cannulas (a lot harder than it looks), mixing medications both for injections and IV drugs, replacing IV drugs, and giving injections (only the arm ones). Hoping stiches will be the next thing I try. I came very close last night to doing a guy who is a butcher by profession, but I didn’t think he was serious when Ngumo the nurse said Peter the patient wanted me to sew up his finger. Unfortunately that hesitation cost me the opportunity that time, but it turned into a good thing because the numbing agent they use didn’t take effect very fast and Ngumo had to really wiggle and push to get the hook needle through the pad of his finger. Peter was in pretty good spirits during the process though. After him we had a couple people for injections and wound cleanings. The nurses’ shifts run day schedule to day 1 to day 2 working 6 days a week. Day shift is 8 to 5, day 1 is 7 to 2, and day 2 is 11 to 7. Night shift which includes 2 nurses is run 7 to 7 with them being responsible for the 75 to 80 patients in the wards and any out patients that come in that night. Day 2 shift is run with one or two nurses depending on staffing and this is when I’ve found myself staying late so that I can witness some of the more interesting outpatient cases and allowed more freedom to try things. They are currently trying to get me to be a couple night shifts to get the full experience so I may be doing that in a couple weeks with my supervisor’s approval as of a little bit ago.
The common things within the wards are patients with tuberculosis, HIV, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, various cancers, diabetes and partial paralysis. Oh and there are our psychiatric patients. I’ve had a couple very interesting episodes with these particular patients. One lady, I think the second week I was there tried to greet my with an open mouthed kiss. Thankfully a couple sisters had been walking with her when I stopped. That was more a laughing experience then a scary one. She also had a day she refused to bathe and Chris and I had to force her in the shower. This last week was full of episodes from another patient who thought we were trying to kill her by overdosing her with drugs. Her response was yelling and swearing in swahilli until she saw me laughing and then told me to go abroad because my dust coat says Projects Abroad on it. There are also a couple of my favorite residents to sit and visit with James, Pater, Lucy, and Monika all speak English and we get along talking about where they are from, their families, the differences between the states and kenya, and teaching me phrases to tell the nurses.
All in all so far this trip has confirmed for me that I’m on the right track with my life goal to pursue medicine and travel. God is good!
Okay I know it’s been a while since my last entry. I don’t even really know where I should start. Today was spent at an outreach near Ol Pegetta conservancy where we had our safari a couple weekends ago. The funny thing was that after driving around for an hour we were able to find the correct dispensary that we were to work with. The dispensaries offer free health care services to the more under privileged communities in the area. The fun part was though we were all rather squished, but comfortable in our own seats within the van we loaded more materials and two more people in and then off to one of the local churches. We started off fairly slow at 11 with a couple women coming in with their children. We took their weight and maurph (arm band that measures whether they are malnourished), then they sat and waited to see the nurse who was there to also prescribe drugs and medicines because there are so few doctors in the area. That is one of the things I’ve enjoyed seeing is the vast freedom that the nurses have with patients care here. They don’t constantly have to be waiting or asking for permission from a doctor. We stayed at the church until 3 after seeing a little over 100 patients and they were still accepting more and more as we were heading out.
Our first community outreach here in town. We met at the Likii Dispensary and walked around to various day cares and schools. The first day care it didn’t take long for some of the little ones to warm up to us and soon the volunteers were more playing with the kids versus helping the staff take measurements and dole out medications. The next place was a school where you would think we were celebrities the way the kids stopped what they were doing to wave or just stare at us. The next thing the teachers had them all separate into their classroom groups and line up for deworming tablets which we tried and I have to say though they were chalky they really weren’t that bad tasting. Next the kids 5 years and younger came for nutrition measurements and vitamin A. The vitamin A distribution is a pain just because it’s a liquid gel within individual rubber containers that don’t want to open ever!! After all this was done came my favorite part where the adults were merely chatting so I started randomly dancing around and grabbing kids hands to dance so this somehow turned into me leading them in “if you’re happy and you know it”, “hokey pokey” and “head, shoulders, knees and toes” (this one they knew in Swahili). The teachers were great though because once saw me struggle for a new simple song they started introducing a couple for the kids to sing to us so soon we had almost the whole school circled around us and singing. Definitely an experience I will always remember. The couple day cares we went to next were surprising in their ratio of children to teachers or staff. It wasn’t uncommon to see 30 kids under the age of 3 or 4 with a single teacher. At one of these I picked up a crying little girl when I walked in and held her the whole time. Course I found out the reason she was crying really fast when she promptly soaked through my shirt cause she was wet. Oh well, it’s not the first or last time I’ll ever be peed on. The hardest part was leaving each of these places because you know the poor teachers don’t have the time to hold the kids so when we come and hold them I know it can make it harder because they know what they are missing. It’s so hard to go into these places though and only focus on the medicinal part and not the care part that is also so needed. I think that is something I will never get used to. The teachers and care takers of these places have been very nice people it’s just the reality of the life here.
Since that first outreach we’ve done multiple others: one with the Sweetwater’s dispensary that was set up at a local church where we did a lot of the same work, but there was a registered nurse who was seeing both the children and adults that came in and prescribing any of the other drugs we had sorted and brought along. Others have been visits to schools and walking the slums of Nanyuki. The kids we meet on these walks are always a mixture of completely terrified and crying or very excited about seeing white people and asking “how are you” over and over again. These outreaches are always an eye opening experience for all of us offering the opportunity to see so much of the town and surrounding areas that we would otherwise only walk or ride past throughout our time here.
Every week we also have a volunteer social of various activities: a Swahili lesson, traditional dance lesson, my favorite a soccer/arts and crafts day with local street kid home, and this week we are to have a self-defense class. These have been a great way to get to know the other volunteers because I usual don’t make it into town during the week otherwise. The soccer day with the kids was so much fun. We met up with a high school two week special group and played an intermixed 15 minute game with all of the kids then we played the Projects aboard volunteers/staff against their professional soccer team. We held our own with the help of the Staff and one of the younger players who played managing to only lose 5-6. Since this day I’ve ran into a couple of the teens throughout town and watched some of their scrimmages. I’m hoping to catch a real game soon.