First day on the job

 

First day at the hospital and I don’t even know where to start. Well first off Kenyans have a very different sense of time and urgency, if they say they will be there in 5 minutes, they will be there in an hour and 5 minutes. If you ask them to come pick you up at 8, they’ll be there if you’re lucky at 8:30. Today was a lot about just waiting, we got to the hospital and sat in a room for two hours waiting for our papers to get processed and for admissions to clear us to work in the hospital. After that we assigned ourselves to departments and had to find our way through the confusing hallways of the hospital, dodging patients and their families, the place was just crawling with people! And when we passed the window for the free clinic the line went all the way down the hall. A thin layer of dirt seemed to cover everything, and there were very curious liquid spots dripping down each of the hallways. At one point later in the day I even slipped on a bloody gauze pad, definitely a different level of cleanliness than the US! I was in the group that went to internal medicine first, and we arrived just as they were performing rounds with the main doctor. As each patient’s history was told to the doctor, there were over 20 med students surrounding the bed observing, taking notes and contributing to the diagnosis and treatment. The ward had a cement floor and pretty much all the beds were full, the windows were wide open and flies were everywhere. One of the med students helped us understand what was happening at each bed. Here are some of my observations first off: there was absolutely no monitors hooked up to any of the patients, in fact no where in the hospital was there anyone hooked up to machines except for the three patients we saw in the ICU later in the day. If anything they had IVs hanging from a hook on the wall.  There charts were scraps of ripped paper, sometimes bound, sometimes stapled, their X-rays of scans were tucked behind their pillow, they had the clothes they came in on, and on top of that fly’s were everywhere! I’ve never seen someone seize before, and a man who came in with malaria started to have a seizure when we were two beds down… and no one moved. Today that happened quite a bit of times, when I went to the casualty ward (like our emergency room) there were patient’s moaning in pain, and no one was helping them! There were only two doctors in the ward helping the patient’s, and there was nothing we could do but watch and observe! It broke my heart to see so many people not getting the help they need, I wish I was qualified enough because I would jump at the first opportunity to try to ease their suffering!! Anyways back in the internal medicine ward some of the diseases we saw were Malaria, Hypertension, Stroke, and hepatitis. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, guess where we finished the last of the rounds? Yea… outside!!! I was blown away by this hospital, there are even cats roaming the halls, jumping across empty beds. Oh and here’s a good one: when I was observing a doctor stick a needle into a mans chest to get the excess air out of his chest cavity due to a collapsed lung, he got a phone call when the needle was halfway in, he proceeded to answer his phone with his gloves on and finished the procedure after he wedged the phone between his cheek and shoulder. In the free clinic they didn’t have enough money for pain medicine for anyone, so this man had a needle shoved into his chest with absolutely no meds! It was so sad, he was in so much pain it was terrible to watch! Next we went to a young boy that an incision that was unbelievably infected, it was about a foot long down the bottom of his stomach, his stomach was so swollen and firm it was scary! The doctor ran his finger along one of the stitches and his finger came off black with who know what, dirt? Blood? And some of the gauze from his old bandage had grown into his cut. 😦  Couldn’t even believe what I was seeing.

Image

The Internal Medicine Ward

Image

Yes… this is outside..

A lot of my day was standing and watching, but I got lucky when I wandered down to the minor theater where they dress wounds, add or remove sutures, and put in catheters. I actually wrapped a woman’s finger! She must have slammed her finger in a door because most of the nail was ripped off and the skin on the tip of her finger was nearly all peeled back. So I got to clean and dress the wound! Hey you got to start somewhere right? I didn’t have much luck today with doing cool procedures, but some of the boys in our group got to take out sutures and replace catheters! Also some of the girls that went to maternity got to scrub in on a C-section! Can’t wait to see what these next three weeks in the hospital will bring me!! Today was exhausting, we went to the hospital from 8-2, grabbed lunch a café (cant tell you how awesome my cheeseburger tasted! Mmmm American food 😛 four days in and I’m missing it!) Then we hung out for a bit at the complex, had noodles and meat for supper and went right back to the hospital from 6:30 to around 8:30! Nothing was going on when we went back unfortunately, we walked around to all the departments seeing if there was anything we could do, nothing. Everything was done for the day! So what to do? Well how about practice putting in an IV on each other!?? (very Greys Anatomy like if I may add.. yup I went there 🙂 ). The students that had been here for a month already had a couple people in the group tourniquet their wrists and try to get a vein on the top of their hands! It’s no good getting bored at a hospital…

Very excited for tomorrow! It’s so energizing to be learning how to help people!!

Advertisements

tricksters on the beach

I think all the lack of sleep is catching up to us. When we all eventually rolled over we couldn’t believe it was already 11 am and half the day was gone! I went on a nice run down to the beach with a couple of my roommates, and as soon as we saw the way the white sand looked against the crystal blue water, we almost stayed there and jumped in with our running shorts on. We got back to our complex, threw on our swimsuits and jumped in the houses pool, ahhhh sooo refreshing! Then we rounded up everyone in the house to take a trip to enjoy the sun. On the road to the beach cars zoomed passed, incredibly close to us as we walked on the shoulder, going speeds beyond what any sane person should go on a residential road. Another thing is that they drive on the other side of the road as well as they have the drivers seat on the right side of the car! If I ever had to drive in this country, I would mess that up all the time! Traffic laws are non-existent here; there are no stoplights, signs, speed limits or even cops out patrolling. It’s pretty much about who is the most aggressive driver, and they just honk at each other, it scares me to ride in cars around here! Giant vans called Matatus that are supposedly their taxis drive past honking with men hanging out their windows yelling and clutching handfuls of cash. One actually pulled over, cutting us off, and a man jumped out trying to herd us into the creepy van with loud music. As polite as we tried to be they wouldn’t let up, even a stern no didn’t seem to have an affect, so we just sped up our step and walked on. That’s the thing about the people trying to sell you things here, they are soo persistent, they try to scam you in every way they can, and its very important to learn how to barter. They know that tourists are naïve to the currency, so they try to get away with as much of your money as they can. To begin they give you a ridiculously high price, then it’s your job to stay stern with them and make an offer that is best for you. Or they trick you, which unfortunately was the problem we ran into today. There was a group of young boys on the beach that were racing each other and seeing who could do the most pushups. Allison jumped right in and raced them, Trisha tried and they even beckoned me to try and race their fastest boy… well I got smoked… Anyway then they started seeing who could jump the highest. They didn’t even bend their knees and their arms were straight down at their sides. The group of maybe 25 boys gathered around and one by one started jumping into the middle. Then we started hearing noises that went with the rhythm of their jumps, kind of like mild hums coming from the group, none of their mouths were moving and the sound seemed to come from deep in their throats.  All of a sudden a couple of them disappeared and came back in red robes with beaded jewelry and walking sticks. They loved getting in pictures and wanted to perform a dance for us. We later learned that they are part of the Massai tribe and they were showing us what one of their rituals looks like. The people that have been in the program longer then us told us that we will visit the tribe on our safari and learn more about them. They did the same thing for us, jumping and making beats, it was very interesting! But as soon as we packed ourselves up to leave the beach the leader of the boys followed us all the way down the beach and up the road asking for money, and none of us brought money to the beach! We seriously thought they were going to follow us all the way back to our complex, thank goodness they finally gave up!

Image

 

Image

 

The beach was so nice and relaxing, full of sand and sticky with salt water, we headed back hoping it was close to dinner time! For dinner Dollas made us chapatti, rice and a bean and potato dish. Kenyan food is full of flavor and very starchy!

 Image

We had our orientation for the hospital tonight. First impression: a man was being discharged who looked like he shouldn’t of. He was on a metal gurney with no mat on it, small blood drops trailed behind him and he had blood on the back of his shirt and a huge bandage on his head….. The tour of the hospital shows the quality of healthcare and the lack of money available for it. Every hallway had a different smell; we even saw a couple cats crawling across vacant hospital beds. We have options of choosing specialization such as maternity, orthopedics, surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine and minor theater (sutures and bandaging) not quite sure what I’m going to do yet!

Tomorrow is when it all starts!!

FINALLY got internet!!!

2:00am

WE HAVE ARRIVED!! Although weary and zombie-like, we have arrived safe and sound! Its past 3 am when I finally could sit down and take a second to write down the first leg of our adventure. Our first flight from Sioux Falls was delayed enough time to start making us all nervous. I was literally picturing us all doing a movie-like sprint from gate to gate because of the short layover time that was projected. They said our flight was a half hour late, but it was closer to an hour when we finally had our wheels up to Chicago. The Sioux Falls to Chicago trip was oh-so familiar to me, I’ve taken it so many times with basketball I nearly know the airports like the back of my hand. The plane we took was so tiny I couldn’t even stand up straight in it and I may be clumsy, but not enough to hit and trip over everything possible whenever I tried to move. How lucky was it that we arrived in Chicago and our next gate was two gates down from the one we arrived on?  So all our nerves were relieved when we could get off our plane and right on to the next one with no problem. On our first long flight I watched three movies, took a nap and still had time to read almost 100 pages in my book, that’s how long it was! Then we had a four-hour layover in Frankfurt, where I thankfully could stretch out across the benches and try to catch some real sleep. We were all so hungry, but all the cafes were in euros, so we had to resort to scrounging in our bags for granola bars and wait anxiously for the next chance to eat the lovely airplane food. We met up with the other group in Frankfurt and we listened to their stories from their time in Germany. (A majority of the group left about three days earlier to add on a little extra sight seeing.) Thennn on to round 2! The next 6 hour flight wasn’t as bad; I think I was so tired and exhausted, that it just flew by. Normally sleeping sitting straight up in a seat is pretty tough, but I was out like a light, I even missed when they came by with food… shoot (sarcasm). After a short stop in Sudan and Ethiopia, we finally found ourselves in Mombasa, with huge sighs on our breath and big smiles on our faces. Driving to the complex I couldn’t even contain my excitement to see what this city looks like in the light!! After the gate was opened for us to the Elective Africa complex, we unpacked our bags and were shown to which rooms we were going to stay in for the next three weeks. In each room there are bunk beds draped with mosquito netting, and there was a main house where there’s a common room and a kitchen. There are other buildings where there are more bedrooms clustered around the main building where our group was spread out into. Our roommates were still up and we chatted a bit with them about their experiences. They raved about all the different procedures they’ve done, they said the doctors actually throw you right into everything! They were talking about performing sutures, putting in IVs, bandaging wounds, reading x-rays, and scrubbing into major surgeries. I’m kinda nervous, will I be able to do this??

 

9am

Good morning!! I woke up to the sun shining through our windows, and my feet tangled in my mosquito netting. I walked out of our room and was greeted by some of the people that help us out while we are here. Vivian and Dollas are our housekeepers, Dollas does the cooking for us, I’m super excited to see what Kenyan food is like! For breakfast she made us maandazi, which was a sweetened deep fried dough. They were shaped like triangles and were just like donuts! SO GOOD, I’m in love with the food already! 🙂 Today we are going to have our basic orientation where Isaac, the main director at our complex will take us into town to convert our money and show us the shopping mall and eventually the beach! He said that this weekend is for us to relax and refuel after our long travels, so beach here we come!!! Monday is when we start in the hospital, and from what we’ve heard from the students already here they basically show you where everything is, then let you get your hands dirty!

 

 

9:00pm

Hey everyone I finally got Internet!! So so happy I can let everyone know I’m here and safe! And lets be honest I’ve been dying to go onto Facebook for a little bit!! This afternoon we had our orientation and first we went to exchange our money into schillings. (I think the conversion is around 83 schillings per dollar) Then we walked to the nearest supermarket and got our minutes for our phones and our wireless Internet, as well as a few basic things that we maybe forgot or needed. Lastly Isaac showed us where the beach was. When we turned that last corner and saw the white sand and the endless blue water….. wow. That’s really all I can say! Speechless! It was later in the afternoon so the sun wasn’t high enough above the trees for the beach to be sunny, so tomorrow we are all planning a trip to soak up some sun! What’s really interesting about Kenya is that the Sun rises at around 6 in the morning and sets at around 6 at night, so when its 7 at night it feels like much much later!! We sat on the beach until the sun was nearly set, taking in the sea breeze and enjoying the beautiful weather. On the beach there were vendors that started small talk and followed you all the way down the beach, laying on every line in the book to try and get you to buy what they were selling, it started as small talk, then they tried flirting, then they pulled the sympathy card… it was tough to try and escape! Also on the beach there were guys with camels offering rides up and down the beach! Ummm yesss! Tomorrow hopefully I’ll get the chance! When it was close to dark out we started our trek home, and with our stomachs growling Dollas had a meal ready for us. It was a highly seasoned rice dish with beef and potatoes, and she had like a tomato salad that you put on top, it was delicious! After washing the sand off our feet and spraying on some bug spray, I find myself here in this café with everyone in the house, its such a beautiful night here in Mombasa! Every day I’m here I feel more and more blessed to have this opportunity! 

Its finally here!

Can’t even believe that tomorrow is the day I leave! The summer went so fast! I remember first planning this trip way back in December, that seems like not even that long ago! It took me almost the entire day yesterday to finally get everything together, try to make it all fit in one suitcase (I definitely used the trick of sitting on top of it to make it zip..) and to check, re-check and check again if I had everything. Not only did I have my clothes and the basics like toothpaste and shampoo, I had scrubs, medical supplies I’m going to donate, and even a stethoscope. Tomorrow is going to be a crazy long day, I start my journey to Mombasa in Sioux Falls, and four flights and a total of 28 hours of travel later, hopefully I’ll survive the jet-lag! 

Africa bound! And beyond excited! 

the anticipation is killllling me

Two weeks!! Two weeks and I’ll be all the way across the world in Mombasa, Kenya doing something that I’ve only dreamed of. For almost a month I’ll be shadowing physicians, volunteering in clinics, helping out with health/disease awareness campaigns and of course exploring what adventures africa has in store for me! I cant even explain how excited I am, but also incredibly nervous! I’ve been away from home for long periods of time before in college, but lets be honest, africa is a little farther away than a four hour car ride!

Becoming a doctor has always been a dream of mine, I’ve always wanted to do something in the medical field. My dreams went from becoming a Veterinarian, to a sports trainer, to a medical illustrator and then finally taking on the challenge of pursuing Medical School. Biology is so incredibly interesting to me and the human body and its functions are such amazing things, it’s just something I cant get enough of! My favorite classes have been anatomy, forensics, biology and chemistry in high school and I’m excited about pursuing a biology pre-med major at South Dakota State University. One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is travel to different continents and practice medicine either through the Peace Corps or organizations like Doctors without Borders. How thankful I feel that I get the opportunity so soon in my life to do just that!!

For months I’ve been preparing for this trip; fundraising, applying for a visa, gathering things like insect repellant and mosquito netting, getting every vaccination in the book (ouch) and researching the Kenyan culture. We received our itinerary about a week ago and I cant even tell you how many times I’ve read it I’m so excited! A two day safari, exploring miles of white sand beaches, experiencing the local culture, visiting historical sites and working in the local orphanages (I’m bringing a basketball! 🙂 ) are just a few of the things we might get to do!!

Two weeks, two weeks, two weeks!!!!!