Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kenya wrap up: Sustainable healthcare

Many wonder when they ask what Medical Mercy does, is whether we are simple a "band-aid", "feel good" medical team going in and doing a song and dance and leaving. Hard words, but asked all the same. After 7 years of medical trips totaling close to 50, treating and caring for over 75,000 patients, I can honestly say that we are firmly ingrained in "sustainable" health care. When we leave, we leave something behind. Continued health care for those who need it. We establish referral liaisons with local physicians and hospitals, we build physical medical clinics that are then staffed by local physicians and nurses, we work along side local nurses and physicians when possible, we train local lay people to be healthcare workers who stay behind and care for the children, and we follow up on the collaborative healthcare programs we put in place with the projects. This trip to Kenya is an example of that.

18 US team members (Amanda, Caleb, Sue, Anne, Kelly, Richard, Mary, Michelle, Bridgette, Ben, Darlene, Michael, Charis, Alyssa, Erika, Patricia, Samuel) joined 16 Kenyan HCWs who we trained over 3 years ago to care for 850 of our MoM children. Lectures every morning before we left for the medical clinics, honing physical examination skills along side the US team members and seeing patients for 5 days, gave the Kenyan HCWs a stronger foundation of knowledge and skills to care for the Mom children. Sustainable healthcare. We did nutritional assessments, treated on the spot those we identified as moderately or severely malnourished with a program of supplemental nutrition and put in place referrals for those children who needed additional care and put in place a concrete follow up program. Sustainable healthcare. Just a few of the many pictures taken will tell the stories. No need to say anything else. I'm proud of what we do and stand behind our mission to give the children the healthcare they need whether we are there or not. My thanks to the US and Kenyan tema members. Yes, we did "feel good" about this trip, but we did so humbly knowing that we left something behind.

In all things give thanks,


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kenya: when it feels right

Another day in the bush at a small Masai community called Olootepes, population unknown due to the nomadic nature of the Masai. 150 MoM children though. And another 150 children not in the MoM program. 300 children, all trying to grow. I learned that drought season here is dismal. Children may get 1 cup of water a day if that. The river beds are dry. When it rains the river is dirty and is not drinkable. We are so far into the bush that trucking water in from the nearest town costs 250 dollars not including the cost for the 500 gallons of water. One wonders how they survive. MoM feeds the children and they drink from the sources put in place. It helps. Somewhat. More can be done though.

Atop of a mesa, surrounded by the plains of the Rift Valley, we worked side by side the HCWs examining the children and some of the adults. It all is worth it. Far away from what we know as home, it still felt right. Now all we need to do is to make sure that the water flows and that the children can drink. We're working on prayer.

In all things give thanks,

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Kenya: rough as rough is

50 kilometers from Kajiado is a small village called Kiburro. It took us 2 hours to go the distance. 30 miles. It gives you a sense of how deep into the bush we were. This was Masai territory, traditional in dress and culture. Beaded jewelry on the women, rhythmic dancing, leaping men with long sticks, and machetes. We were greeted with that and blessed with it when we left.

I looked out from where we were holding clinic and could see for miles, the valleys of the Masai territory. Umbrella trees giving shade to acres of bush and then open plains. We saw gazelle roaming freely and small herds of goats roaming under the watchful eyes of young Masai boys. I grew up in Somalia and being here in Kenya brings back so many memories of my years there. I feel at home. I'm back fulfilling a dream of being a doctor and practicing in east Africa. I was 6 years old when I made that my goal. God is amazing.

We saw all of the MoM children and then some. The HCWs shined as they examined the children, their skills becoming fine tuned under the guidance of the US team. We are a total team of 36, Kenyans and US. We have one purpose. To care for the children where no one else wants to go. And that is Kiburro. The MoM children we so much healthier than the children in the village who are not MoM children. A testimony to a HCW program, sponsorship which ensures food, clothing, education and love. Perhaps one day we will have all of the children of Kiburro under our wing.

The US team is powered by a spirit of love and grace. We move to another village tomorrow, distant as well. We are not weary. We are privileged and blessed.

In all things give thanks,

Monday, May 07, 2012

Kenya: When it rains it pours

It's the rainy season here. Therefore it rains. Rivers flood and washes overflow. You'd think we'd know better....wouldn't you. Not us. We forged ahead. I am typing this on my BB and can send only one picture but it will give you an idea of what we went through. We walked across and took all our med over in a small truck, making it across okay. Coming back we didn't. The truck got stuck in the middle of the wash. No 4 wheel drive but a lot of pulling and pushing the truck worked. We spent just 4 hours in the village before we had to leave since the clouds were gathering and we were afraid to get stuck there overnight. The children sang and danced for us and we then worked with the healthcare workers examining them. We go back there today. Hopefully it will be better. Sorry about no pictures. I'll make it up when I get back. My fingers are cramping from typing on this BB keyboard anyway. I'll hope to be able to send you something later. We are well and thankful for being able to do His work.
In all things give thanks,

Friday, May 04, 2012

Ethiopia: Healthcare worker assessment

Joyce is a Medical Mercy HCW in a small village about 70 kilometers south of Malindi which is on the eastern coast of Kenya. The village is in the bush and is isolated, remote, and as far from anything one would consider civilization as one can imagine. We have about 150 MoM children there and they all are being cared for by Joyce. She set up her "clinic" with medications and a little table. You see her record books in front of her and copies of the certificates I gave her for completion of the different levels of HCW training she went through. He fanny pack is her "doctor's bag" with her stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and all the tools she needs to do a comprehensive physical examination. Her scrubs identify her as a HCW. She is one of 16 healthcare workers that we've trained in Kenya. They'll be joining the US team in 2 days as we do 5 days of clinics. I'll be giving them additional lectures, moving them into more advanced assessment techniques, and they will be seeing patients with us gaining advanced physical diagnosis skills. Remember the theme I shared from Ethiopia: fruits of our labour, plant the seed, teach them to fish..sustainability. Healthcare for the MoM children.

In ll things give thanks,
(Note: we will be in a region that has no internet service and the data service on my phone will be marginal, so I don't know if I will be able to get blogs up and posted. I promise to do the best that I can. Be with us in prayer as we bring His word to those who seek it.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Ethiopia: Fruits of our labour


Fruits of our labour. Plant a seed. Teach them to fish. All are familiar phrases that address doing something for someone in order to make them self sufficient and show their success, to give them an opportunity to succeed, and to put in place a plan that will grow. It is what we strive to do for those who are less fortunate than most, and who are willing, dedicated, motivated and driven to make the best of what they have been given. The Healthcare Worker (HCW) program I developed 7 years ago, is that seed, that teaching to "fish", that opportunity, to give those lay persons who are responsible for the welfare of our MoM children, the knowledge and the tools to ensure that our children are healthy. The intent of the HCW program is to ensure sustainability of healthcare needs of the children after our medical teams leave. The HCW becomes the one source for healthcare needs in their projects. There are now trained HCWs in Cambodia, Swaziland, Ethiopia and Kenya. The question is, has the HCW program been successful. That's why I'm here in Ethiopia. To see if it has made a difference. I spent several hours the first day reviewing their knowledge base, given them some advanced lectures and quizzing them. No need for worries there. They were sharp, inquisitive and motivated. I then went to the projects and did a medical standards assessment on the healthcare of the children. Here is a summary:

We have 11 projects in Ethiopia with about 3000 children that we care for. There are 9 HCWs here, having completed their training just over a year ago when we came here to do clinics. They worked with us for 5 days and were seeing patients on their own most of the time, making the right diagnosis and starting the right treatment. In one year since they have been on their own, here's what I've found:

1. referrals to outside clinics are down by 55%

2. healthcare costs for the projects are also down by 50%

3. the HCW is seeing on average 10 children a month

4. 32 children were identified with potentially life threatening illness, treated and never hospitalized

5. children with chronic illness such as TB, malnutrition and anemia have been identified and are followed on a regular schedule of physical exams and treatment by the HCW

6. medical records for all children are now in the child's respective folder

Outcome measures that are positive, fruitful and successful. There is more that I've found in addition to what I've listed above, but I hope you see the effect of this HCW program. The MoM are well cared for.

I leave for Kenya tomorrow to do the same there, except this time, I'll have my medical team with me. 18 US team members. We will have 5 days of clinics and the HCWs will work with us. Fruits of our labour. Planting a seed. Teaching them to fish. THe children are better for it.

In all things give thanks,