Kenya Update #6 – The Medical Camp

Monday – July 5 – Medical Camp Day 1

Kenya time is the slowest time ever. So slow, in fact, that the Americans are now all super slow. We were supposed to start seeing patients at 8am. We didn’t even arrive at the hospital until 9:30am. We also had to find people to unlock doors and figure out what rooms we were going to see patients in, and which room to stock the makeshift pharmacy etc. There were 150+ people waiting for us when we arrived at 9:30am, and by the time we actually opened it was around 400 people.

Rennatus and Dr Najume getting the camp set up.

The waiting masses were geared up to fight to be seen by a physician. We were finishing moving the boxes of meds from a little covered seating area that was going to be used as the waiting area, when Ferdinand, Mike, Meshark and I literally got mobbed. People were shoving to get seats and we had a super panicked moment – we literally had to throw 100lb boxes and bags of meds over a railing and jump, ninja-style, to get to safety. My adrenaline was pumping like crazy. That was a seriously scary moment.

People crammed in the waiting area for the clinic. This was the crowd that rushed us; the crowd we had to rescue the bags and boxes of medicines from.

Precious, life saving medications.

Megan, Eileen, Serena, Murugi and I spent about 2 hours stocking the pharmacy – opening all of the bags and boxes to figure out where things were and put it on the shelves in our pharmacy. “Lunch” came in around 12:30 and consisted of 2 pieces of stale sliced bread, one piece of nasty ham and nothing else between them, a tiny banana, a kids juice-box and a 200mL water bottle. This after our breakfast consisted of a piece of bread (not toast) with some peanut butter (and I don’t eat peanut butter) and a sausage link. For comparison’s sake – every other place we were staying we got toast with jam, a fried egg, a few pieces of fruit, fruit juice, and sausage at places we paid KSh600 ($7.50) to KSh1400  ($17.50) for accommodation with hot hot water and breakfast.  That “lunch” pissed me off, seeing as we were paying US$25 a day for accommodation – at supposed friend’s houses – and shitty breakfast and lunch.

Stocking the pharmacy.

It becomes even more infuriating when you know that Robert, the main guy in charge of our accommodations and food, is a 5-star Japanese chef who lived in Japan for 8 years cooking at some of the country’s top restaurants. Yeah, this a-hole ripped us of big time.

Beautiful kingfisher that lived in the back yard of Robert's house. Seeing this guy every morning made me smile. (Kingfishers are my favorite birds)

Anyway. After lunch, some of us got to venture to local schools to take deworming meds to the kids at Port Victoria Mixed Primary School. This was seriously fun. We got to speak to the 8th grade class and take photos with them, and then we took the meds out to the common field area. The teachers sent kids out class by class to line up and take a deworming pill. Non of the kids wanted to line up in Ferdinand or Rennatus’s lines, they all wanted to take their pills from the Mazungas! We got to treat around 750 kids that day at just the one school. Such a fun time. This school must have been a higher class school, since most of the kids over class 3 or so spoke english fairly well.

Eileen and I deworming school children.

So we were deworming from around 2pm until around 5pm, and then we headed back to the clinic to see if we could be helpful. Mostly for the next hour, I sat around the nutrition counseling office (as there were few consults) and chatted with Dani and Eileen. Fellow travel addicts are so much fun to hang out with.


So we all headed back to Robert’s around 6 or 7pm, to be served some nasty dinner: fish and ugali (a tasteless crappier version of polenta) of which I had precisely none of. My dinner that night was a Luna bar from my backpack and 2 beers.  Whatever weight I’m losing from not eating nasty traditional African food I’m gaining back in beer calories…

Fortunately some of the other girls had packed mosquito nets in their gear and loaned them to me (since the places they were staying had nets). We had some fun trying to get cone-style bednets to fit a low-level bunk bed! Thankfully I got some reasonable sleep this night – I was tired and it would only get worse.

Not the way mosquito nets are supposed to work.

Tuesday – July 6 – Medical Camp Day 2

Longest. Day. Ever. You see that Facebook post my sister had about me? “14 hour work day. Dewormed 1k kids. I fear my feet will never be clean again.”? Yeah. That was this day.

Nasty feet.

This day, Rennatus, Eileen, Dani, Ferdinand, Murugi and I headed out to one of the more remote villages to deworm kids. And when I say remote, I mean remote. We were gone for almost 7 hours, walking 97% of that time. The other 3% we were deworming 1,200 kids at 2 of the poorer schools in the area and waiting for or riding the little boat across a river.

School children excited to see the mazungas who came to pass out deworming meds. These kids were obsessed with posing for cameras.

We also stopped in on Rennatus’s aunt’s place, beacause his aunt was taking care of a little girl whose parents had died. This little girl had brain calcifications from some parasitic infection she had as a child, and now she had incresingly severe seizures and twitches and was losing the ability to speak or walk. All of you reading this right now say a big thank you to the universe or whichever god you pray to, because you’re fortunate enough to have reasonably easy access to basic health care and antibiotics. There is no reason whatsoever that this little girl to be in the situation she’s in. A simple pill, less than $1 would have cured her when she first got the parasite. If she had access to basic health care and access to these simple medications that wealthier populations take completely for granted, she would be a normal healthy little girl. The sad thing is that there are children here in the US suffering from the same kinds of things (although different, because we have better sanitation here in the US). It breaks my heart.

Dani walking with girls from one of the schools we visited.

We got back to the hospital around 4pm, and I headed into the pharmacy to see if I could help out with bagging prescriptions – Most of our meds were in bulk loose-packs and needed to be counted and put into little baggies for patients). Eileen, the pharmacist and I were there until after 8pm filling prescriptions. Yes. 8pm. The manager of the grounds was literally holding flashlights over the table (as there were no lights or power in the building) so we could finish filling the last prescriptions for the day.

Filing prescriptions in the pharmacy.

This day was exhausting. My feet were killing me and I was completely worn out. Thank goodness the dinner for the night was some kind of goat stew with potatoes. I devoured dinner, had my 2 Tusker beers, took my icy cold shower, and went to bed.  I was so exhausted I couldn’t even stay up for the end of the Uruguay-Netherlands game. And you know how much I love Diego Forlan!

By the way – we saw over 400 patients this day at the clinic.

Wednesday – July 7 – Medical Camp Day 3

This was the last day of camp. It was relatively easier and mostly uneventful day for me, since I spent the entire day in the pharmacy with Megan, Eileen and the pharmacist bagging up meds. They stopped seeing patients around 3:30pm and we finished up with all of the meds by 7pm this day. Dinner was lame again, but whatever. We were done and leaving the next morning!

People waiting to be seen by a physician outside of the clinic.

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2 Responses to Kenya Update #6 – The Medical Camp

  1. bearrunner says:

    What an awesome thing for you to volunteer your time doing, and seeing Africa… Wow… The beer calories, is that African or imported American beer??


  2. laura says:

    Tusker beer is the official beer of Kenya. It’s not the most delicious beer, but it sure hits the spot after a long day at the equator! I have a theory that beer tastes better the closer you are to the equator… I plan on testing that theory in as many countries as possible.

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