Monday, December 22, 2008

Joyce - please help!

Made it safely home! Ironically, the journey from Nairobi to Indianapolis, while long, went pretty smoothly. It was only in Davenport, Iowa where I ran into a hitch! On the drive from Indy to Ames (to spend Christmas with my parents), there was some inclement weather and icy roads. After passing multiple accidents and seeing about 5 ambulances pass me on the interstate, I decided to stop in Davenport and get a hotel rather than ending up upside down on the side of the road somewhere. I picked a hotel near the mall and got some much needed Christmas shopping done while killing time and got home without too much drama the next day. It is good to be back!

One part of my trip to Kenya that I haven't written about yet is my experience with a patient on our medical team at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. The little girl above is an approximately 16 month old girl with a cleft lip and cleft palate (obviously) who was in the hospital for failure to thrive (failure to grow and gain weight appropriately). Despite hospitalization for 3 months, she continues to not grow. This could have been due to any number of reasons including her cleft lip and palate. The hospital staff was not equipped to perform the intensive feeding that she would require to get enough calories. While we were there, however, we noticed she seemed to sweat a lot with her feedings (that's not normal) and suspected a heart defect. We obtained an echocardiogram and yes, she has a ventricular septal defect which means she has a hole between the two lower chambers of her heart. She will not be able to grow adequately and eventually, her heart will fail because of the size of this defect. Her only solution is a surgical intervention to correct this. This will be difficult because the funding to perform this surgery does not exist under the current medical system in Kenya.

So now you know, her medical background. Joyce is a beautiful, happy little girl who was, unfortunately, abandoned at the hospital because her mother didn't feel she had the ability or resources to care for her. Joyce plays peek-a-boo, is desperately trying to crawl but doesn't have the strength since she is the size of a one month old, mimicks sounds (her favorite "word" is "gooley, gooley, gooley, gooley," loves the mobiles that hang over her crib and in general is pretty much one of the sweetest children I have ever encountered. One of the medical students and his wife (Don & Crystal) who were there during my time in Kenya pretty much fell in love with this adorable little girl (okay, I did too). They are spear-heading a fundraising effort to provide this life-saving surgery for Joyce. They have set up a Paypal account at the following address for people to contribute.

If you have a few extra dollars to donate during this Christmas season, that would be wonderful. I assure you that all funds will be going directly to medical expenses or travel expenses related to Joyce receiving this surgery. We are still working on whether she would get this surgery in Nairobi or perhaps travel to the United States. As events progress, I will continue to provide updates on this blog. And if you have any other questions, please let me know!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A great weekend and looking ahead ...

This weekend, we went to Masai Mara which is a national game reserve and the best place to safari in Kenya. The Mara is a approxmiately 500 square miles of open land where animals such as lions, leopards, elephants, many variety of antelope, hyenas, warthogs, hippos etc all reside. We saw literally hundreds of elephants and unlike our previous safari saw far more than two lions. One of the highlights was watching a group of five lionesses stalk and attempt to kill a poor warthog. It was fascinating how they worked together though spread out across a field and used strategy to try to prevent the warthog escape. Amazingly, the warthog managed to get away though we all thought he was a goner. I've always heard that warthogs are incredibly stupid though obviously the lions (and we) had underestimated this one.

As this week winds down, we're getting ready to leave Eldoret and spend a few days at the beach in an area south of Mombasa called Tiwi Beach (on the Indian Ocean). I'm excited to begin the journey home as well. Don't get me wrong, every day with temperatures in the 70s is great but I have to admit I love the seasons and am looking forward to it actually feeling like the holiday season. I'm also anxious to get back to Ames for Christmas for the first time in 3 years. This has been quite an experience. Its made me very grateful that I've had this opportunity to be here and I know its something I'll reflect upon for a very long time. Perhaps I may even return here if I feel there is something more than I can offer. Who knows?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brave .... or Stupid ...?

My friend Jen and I were walking around in downtown Eldoret today doing some shopping. Downtown Eldoret is one of these incredibly busy places where the sidewalks (that's a term applied loosely) are packed shoulder to shoulder. People walk up and down the streets as well and there are no such things as traffic lights or cross walks. Well, actually, that's not entirely true, there are traffic lights, they're just more decorative and non-functional. At some point in the near past, they installed traffic lights at several busy corners in town. Apparently, people decided that "red" meant "speed up" or just ignored them all together so after about a day, they were shut off and have been decorating the landscape ever since. Anyways, so Jen and I are standing in the middle of the street, having crossed half of it, waiting for a break in traffic. We're standing with half a dozen other people and I'm positioned just a little behind her. Suddenly, I glance over and notice the guy right next to her is oh so casually unzipping her purse. Unfortunately for him, the only thing in the pocket he would have obtained was her chapstick. However, I didn't know that either, so I proceed to lean over and shove the guy away from her. Hmmm, maybe not the smartest thing in the world but it was effective. The funny thing is, after I shoved him, he shifted over about 6 inches, but still had to wait to cross the street with the rest of us. He just sort of looked away and pretended it hadn't happened. I think he would have started whistling if it had been a t.v. show. Only in Kenya, I guess!