Reflections on the Medical Camp

By Keith Gregoire

 

It is amazing how quickly two weeks can fly by!  After 16 hours in the air and a 5 hour layover coupled with a 7 hour time change, we have now returned home safely to Canada. One good night’s sleep later, I finally have some time to document about the amazing experience we just went through.

We arrived at MCF Ndalani on Monday, August 20 and were greeted by the children singing us welcome songs in English and Swahili. After such a long journey, we were overjoyed at such a magnificent welcome.

Welcome

On the first Tuesday and Wednesday, we had an orientation to MCF operations at Ndalani and Yatta respectively. My family and I had last been to MCF in 2010 and so much has changed since.  New buildings have sprouted up and new sustainability projects are being established including a poultry farm. The whole team was impressed with everything that MCF is doing despite the ongoing challenges in the African climate. I was personally amazed at the vision, faith & ingenuity of Dr Charles Mully.  For instance, a few years ago there was a severe drought through their entire region that lasted for two years.  The Thika river that supports them ran completely dry during that time. Not only did MCF managed to survive through it, but they used the opportunity afforded by the dry river to complete a bridge joining the property on the two sides of the river and to dredge sand from the empty river bed!  As a result, they now have sand for their building operations for years to come.

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Orientation

We used the time after orientation on Tuesday and Wednesday to set up the clinic and prepare for work on Thursday.  It was a good thing, too, because we were greeted Thursday morning by hundreds of patients!  I think the total for the first day was well over 350.  We started after breakfast and worked till 9 o’clock at night before we finished seeing everyone. Over the five days of clinic, we saw 1280 patients.

Line

The clinic was set up with a waiting area to the side of the medical building, where patients were lined up and given a single numbered sheet of paper that indicated their place in line and functioned as their medical record. It included the demographics, vital signs, triage note, doctor’s notes and an area at the bottom for prescriptions.  The patients were then funneled through triage, where 3-4 nurses obtained the initial health information and took the vital signs. Each nurse, each PCP and the pharmacist had their own translator.  Most of the people did not speak English. Some didn’t even speak Swahili, but only their local, tribal language.  Our translators were senior high school students from the MCF program. Most of them had some interest in the medical field and were doing this as a way to get some practical experience to see if medicine was for them.  My translator was a young man who wants to be a nurse. He, like most of the translators, picked up on things very quickly.  For instance, if a child had diarrhea, I always asked how frequent, how many days and if there was blood and/or mucus present.  By the end of the five days of clinics, when I asked, “Does the child have diarrhea?”, there was often a one or two minute conversation that went on before my translator said, “She has had diarrhea four times a day for two days with mucus but no blood.” I am sure he will excel as a nurse.

Triage

Triage 2

After going through triage, the patient then went to see one of the four practitioners. We had access to several tests including a hemoglobin, urinalysis, malaria rapid test, stool for parasites and serologic testing for typhoid, brucellosis and H.pylori.  The lab worked very efficiently and we always had the results back quickly.

PCP

We would then prescribe the appropriate medications and the patient would take their paper to pharmacy. In the pharmacy 2-3 nurses and my son-in-law, Connor, helped Balu as they gave out probably close to one thousand prescriptions per day.  Each patient had individual counselling regarding the medications and were given them in brown envelopes labelled with their name and instructions for use in a way that could be understood even by those who could not read.

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Pharmacy

The team saw and treated a variety of diseases and conditions. There were all the usual issues – URIs, hypertension, diabetes, chronic headaches, arthritis/arthralgia.  The difference is that here, even getting access to over the counter medications that we take for granted can be a challenge both economically and physically.  In addition to these usual conditions, we saw conditions totally foreign to Canada.  Parasites were rampant.  I treated several children with Ascaris lumbricoides or Entamoeba histolytica infestations and in a few cases children who had both!  Typhoid fever was not uncommon among the villagers. Thankfully, the children and staff at MCF have a water treatment plant so that is not an issue at MCF.  Interestingly, there was no malaria this time.  There was a great deal of problem with dry eyes.  I think this is due to a combination of the dusty environment and the smoke from cooking stoves in the houses.  Next time, we will have to bring enough artificial tears so that everyone can take home a bottle!

In addition to the four practitioners we brought from Canada, there were 2-3 African practitioners that worked alongside us, seeing patients and giving us some insight into the tropical diseases. One person in particular that was a joy to work with is a young man named Benedict who was a beneficiary of the MCF program. He has been on my heart for years.  Our family met him when he was a young boy and he told us he was going to be a doctor. Now, years later, he has made that dream come true! He is working as a physician in Kenya and came to help us on two of the five days.

I am so grateful to each member of the team that we brought from Canada.  They provided excellent care in a low service area despite cultural and language barriers, fighting off jet lag and living in barracks-type conditions. To say I am proud of them is a massive understatement.  Every one of them is a hero in my eyes.  And I am so grateful for the pharmacies, physician’s offices and the people at Health Partners International of Canada who all donated medications to assist with the project. Finally, we could not have done this without the generous financial donations that family, friends and colleagues gave to support us. Thank you all so much!

 

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The Last Few Days

The final tally for the medical team’s 5 days of clinics is around 1,300 patients. The team has been able to help so many people, but are again struck by the amount of injuries that turn into long-term struggles or conditions due to a lack of timely care. The team has been brainstorming some other ways we may be able to help, or what future medical teams can do to not only treat acute problems, but potentially offer some preventative measures as well.

The non-medical side has been busy as well. We have handed out bras to hundreds of girls, and fitted each of them to make sure it was the right size. There were many girls who were wearing items that were far too small and causing a lot of pain, so we were glad to be able to provide them with a new bra.

The knitting club at Ndalani also seems to have taken off. We gave knitting classes and set up the children’s program director with everything she will need to maintain a knitting program for the kids who want to learn. We’ve already seen a few kids running around with half-finished knitting projects, so it looks like they’re enjoying it.

Other members of the team have helped with repairing clothing, fixing showers that were causing electrical shocks, taking professional photographs of the kids, helping in the agricultural department, and so much more.

We have all come away from this trip feeling blessed, full of gratitude, and very very tired. And we are all so glad we came.

Asante sana!

The First Few Days

(Unfortunately the internet is not strong enough to upload photos at this time, but as soon as I can I will go back and insert photos here as an update.)

We’re on our sixth day at MCF! 

And we have been incredibly busy. Here’s a look at what we have been doing:

Day 1 and 2

Orientation at Ndalani

After traveling from Nairobi to Mully Children’s Family, Ndalani site, we settled into orientation. We were given a tour of the Ndalani campus, dormitories, and farm. The team was blown away by the sheer amount that has been able to be done, and how much MCF has grown from where it started: one man’s vision of what could be.

In their quest to become self-sustaining, MCF has been exporting crops from their farms. Not only does this help offset some of the costs of taking care of over 3,500 children currently, it also allows them to employ over 100 women from the community and other community members.

Charles Mully has put a large emphasis on tree planting at Ndalani, which has created a microclimate of sorts. Often Ndalani feels up to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas because of the trees that have been introduced.

Ndalani is the home of over 650 children who live on the premises. Most of these children have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Now, however, they have access to clean drinking water, nutritious food, and a high-quality education with the possibility to go on to college or university if they qualify. It truly is life changing for these kids.

Day 3

Orientation at Yatta

Yatta is the MCF site with a vocational program for young (child) mothers. These women are offered training in skills such as sewing/dressmaking, hairdressing, makeup, and facials/massages, giving them marketable skills to allow them to provide for themselves and their children. As well, the girls attend life-skills class, entrepreneurship classes, spiritual development classes, and counselling.

Kaleli, Charles’ oldest son, gave us a tour of the farming facilities at Yatta and outlined what they are planning to do in the future. The entire team was incredibly impressed with him–he is incredibly knowledgable and very passionate about the cause of MCF.

One of the projects Kaleli is hoping will happen soon is a chicken farm where they can mass-produce broiler chickens. They already have a connection in Kenya who is willing to buy a large amount of meat from MCF if they are able to produce it, and the profit margins are much better than with the vegetable crops. Kaleli’s main focus is sustainability, and so these chickens seem to be the next step towards self-sufficiency.

Day 4

Medical Team – first clinic day!

The team estimates they saw more than 360 patients on the first day alone, pulling just under a 12 hour day of hard work.

They were able to help a great number of people (they drained an abscess on one patient’s head that was causing him a great deal of discomfort). The difficult cases were the ones which had an easy solution, but required surgery that the family was not able to afford. Some people came in with conditions that could have been treated if they had been seen first five years ago, but the lack of affordable, available medical resources means now they live with conditions they could have prevented.

The gratitude of the people in the community, however, particularly resonated with the medical staff. Even when there was nothing that could be done, they were so thankful that the medical team at least tried.

Non-Medical Team 

Elizabeth, Thea, Alice, Sheila and Rebecca began distributing the hand-knit sweaters to the children. They were able to each choose one sweater they wanted and a hat as well. We thought at first that the kids would want hats that matched the sweaters they picked, and had a lot of women working hard to make sure each sweater had something that matched. But nope–they would choose a sweater, pick up the matching hat it was paired with and throw it into the giant pile of hats while they found one of a totally different color. At least we know what they like now!

We also began fitting some of the teenage girls with bras. Bras are expensive to buy for so many girls, and we brought over hundreds of bras in the sizes that Esther Mulli requested. Some girls were rather mortified at the prospect of getting a bra, but many were really excited and specifically asked for the prettier ones with lace or bows.

In the evening, we started the knitting group program. It was absolute chaos, but what we tried to do was have them each knit a 15 stitch x 10 rows gauge so we could put them into groups to knit a child’s sweater. By the end of the night we had multiple groups and we’ll see how the sweaters come out!

Jean began to show the kids how to blow bubbles, and handed out bubble wands and bubble juice. It was a huge hit, and there wasn’t a moment where any less than 7 kids were clamouring around her, trying to get more bubble juice!

Richard and John were working on fixing things around MCF. The first thing they fixed was the toaster, which made many people on our team very happy since it meant we could have toast with our breakfasts again!

As well, Richard was working on an electrical box with the electrician who works at MCF. While Richard was working on the electrical box, John was working with the tractor, plowing a field and helping out with the agricultural team.

That’s all for now, but I’ll post again later! 

Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement 

The Team

 

We have arrived!

Hello friends,

We have safely arrived at MCF with all of the medication through customs without having to pay any extra duties at all. We are so grateful!

We are currently settling in but we will have a post up with a description of what’s happening and lots of pictures in the next day or two, assuming the Internet continues to cooperate.

Asante sana!

The Kenyan Medical Team Blog

Jambo!

This is the blog for the team going to Mully Children’s Family in August of 2018 to set up a free clinic for the surrounding community.

Thank you for your support in our efforts to bring much-needed medical care to people who otherwise would not have the means to receive it.

We will be posting updates regularly!

Asante sana!