So, I confess…
I have complained a lot since returning to Kijabe, after our home assignment in the US this past summer. My role here at the hospital, working in Resource Mobilization (Communications and Fundraising), is one that I struggle with. I mostly work from home, writing grants, updating the website and FB page, managing donations, sending out funding appeals for urgent equipment needs and capital projects, and communicating with our donors and friends of Kijabe. I find the isolation that this role brings, difficult. I have always worked as part of a team, which is what I enjoy most. I have gone back and forth, wondering if this is really my purpose here in Kijabe, and whether there is some other role that would best suit my skills.
I often envy Mike (this is a true confession!), who performs a surgery and immediately sees the tangible results of his efforts and skills. He might be having a bad day or week, but then he will come home with a story about a patient that can now use his/her hand, a child who will be able to walk again, a father who will, once again, be able to provide for his family. And I despair. What impact am I really having in this place?
I warned you at the beginning. I have been grumbling a lot!
…and then, this past week happened…
I developed an infection under my toenail and could barely walk. The infection was starting to creep up my foot and into the lower part of my leg. Mike said that the toenail would have to be removed. I said, absolutely no way! Luckily, my husband knows me very well and the extent to which I am completely unable to handle anything with the mere sight of blood. He told me to sit out the back of our house in the sun, soaking my toe in a basin of warm water, while he got some pain medications and antibiotics at the hospital. I knew I was in trouble when he arrived back with surgical gloves, injections, lidocaine, and implements! He promised that he would numb me up and simply clip off the corner of my nail, to release the infection. Jane was his surgical assistant and official photographer of the entire operation. She zoomed in on every movement that Mike made, while I hid my face in a cushion! Before I knew it, Mike was holding up my entire toenail at the end of a tweezers and I just about passed out! Suffice to say, despite his barefaced lies to me, my toe was healed and I quickly recovered just in time to become a full-time nurse in my own home.
Mike noticed a hernia on his lower abdomen a few weeks ago and it started to get progressively more painful over time. He was scheduled for surgery last Friday. As I sat in the waiting room, crowded together with other family members also waiting on narrow wooden benches, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for this amazing hospital in rural Kenya…for the doctors and surgeons who could be making 4 times their salary in Nairobi or elsewhere, but who have chosen to be part of this powerful ministry to serve the most vulnerable…for the brand new surgical equipment that had been recently purchased as a result of incredibly generous donations from across the globe…for the competent and caring nurses, surgical techs and anesthetists, who treat with compassion and joy. Mike’s surgeon was Dr. Rich Davis. Rich, his wife Stacy, and their three kids moved here to Kijabe right after Rich qualified as a General Surgeon in the US. They have been serving at Kijabe Hospital for the past 8 years. Mike’s anesthesiologist, Dr. Mark Newton, has worked here for the past 17 years and began the first ever nurse anesthetist training program in East Africa. He came to Kijabe with his wife, Sue, and their three children, and they later adopted two Kenyan children. To date, this nurse anesthetist-training program has graduated over 80 anesthesia nurses. Last year’s class graduated 14 South Sudanese nurse anesthetists and they returned to South Sudan a couple of months ago, bringing with them much-needed skills, which will literally save countless lives of mothers and babies, trauma victims and many others. (For more information on this, read here: http://kijabehospital.org/education-training-programs/nurse-anesthetist-training-programs)
I sat there in awe of the entire team helping Mike, from the admission nurse, to the surgical team and the recovery nurses. Mike came out of his surgery proclaiming that he had experienced the smoothest IV and anesthesia in his entire life! So many of his colleagues gathered around his bedside before he went to sleep, and prayed for him, just as they do for every other patient here at Kijabe Hospital.
So, if that wasn’t enough to provide me with some fresh perspective, we had another casualty in our family. I went up to the school to collect Jane on Friday. As I was chatting to another parent, I heard a blood-curdling scream from Jane and knew that she had either split her head open or broken a bone. I held my breath waiting to see blood as she screamed, “My arm bent the wrong way! My arm bent the wrong way!” All I could think of at that moment was the fact that Mike was lying in bed at home, recovering from his surgery – of all the days for one of our kids to get injured! I drove her back to the house and Mike took one look at it and knew that she had broken her elbow.
The main entrance of the hospital sits close to the end of our driveway. We piled into the car and drove slowly and carefully over the rocks and the bumps. Both my patients were in agony. As the ‘Ambliance’ driver (Jane’s pronunciation!), I dropped them off at the front gate. We headed straight for the x-ray department, which eventually confirmed Mike’s diagnosis. Jane would need surgery to pin the broken bone.
Of both my patients, Jane is the strongest (she gets this from her mother, of course!). From that first evening, she never asked for any pain medication and remained pleasant and agreeable, as always. Mike, on the other hand, moaned incessantly and took every pain pill he could get his hands on! I drew the line at him wanting a bell to ring for assistance by the side of his bed! Male patients, and ones that are in the medical profession = the worst kind of patient! ;-)
So, this morning, Mike got to perform surgery on Jane. She did so very well and is currently reclining on the couch; arm elevated, movies on the go, snacks at the ready, and she couldn’t be happier! She will need to wear a cast for about 6 weeks. Michael, you might be inclined to wonder about, has not escaped a casualty either – his mouth is full of canker sores and he is also on pain medications…he’s never one to be left out!
As for me, I’m hobbling around on my recovering toe, and looking after everyone else! The next time I sit down at my computer to complete a mundane grant application, or tally up the number of donations that have come in, I won’t quite be so quick to grumble. I am thankful to God for showing me a fresh perspective and for revealing to me firsthand, the connection between my work here and the incredible healthcare that is delivered at this rural hospital on a daily basis. “And though my heart is torn, I’ll praise YOU in this storm…”
The silver lining in all of this is that myself and the kids are heading home to Ireland, this Thursday, for 3 weeks! Mike will follow us over after a week. We are celebrating Christmas early, together as a family. Paul and Amanda will be home from San Francisco, and Stephen, Anna and Aria live two minutes down the road from my parents! So, this Florence Nightingale is looking forward to being pampered by HER Mammy and Daddy! :-)
And there goes the little bedside bell, once again…
Enjoy the photos!