Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A day in the life...

My day starts around 6:30am just as the sun is coming up. Christy and I go for a morning running. We just started this a few days ago. For Kenyans it is a jaw dropping phenomenon. Everyone stops what they are doing and stares. People come out of their house just to watch us run by. Children walking to school think it is amusing to run along side of us. They run for a good while considering they are carrying heavy backpacks. The scenery is beautiful but every once in awhile we are slowed down by a heard of cows crossing the street, and all the loose goats roaming around.
After a quick shower I head to breakfast. It’s a light meal consisting of tea (not like American tea though, they use boiling milk instead of water), bread and biscuits (thin cookies).
My morning commute is a two minute walk. It’s nice not having to worry about the heavy traffic on I-471 in the morning! My co workers, Ernest and Sam, roll in between 8:30 and 10:00. They are definitely on “Kenyan time.” Throughout the day inpatients, out patients, and HIV clinic patients come by for their x-ray and ultrasounds. Nobody has appointments, its first come first serve. Usually five people all show up at one time, then after they are done we don’t do anything for the next hour. Lunch is from 12:30 to 2:00. Pretty much the whole hospital shuts down except for a few nurses. I go back home and have some lunch then come back around 2:00. I’m enjoying the 90 minute lunch break! The work days concludes at 5pm. X-ray staff is “on call” for the rest of the evening, but since I have been here we’ve never been called in.
After work I head to the orphanage, Dala Kiye. It’s just down the road from the hospital. Over sixty kids from about four years and older live there. They all are HIV positive, and have lost patients due to the AIDS epidemic. With that being said these are the happiest group of kids I have ever seen. They are always running around, playing and laughing. After being at the hospital all day seeing so much suffering, it is good to see the kids who are so hope filled. All the kids are on antiretrovirals and go to school. These kids are the highlight of my day, we usually end up playing soccer of reading books.
Around 7:00 I head home. I arrive just in time to see the sun set. It is stunning every single night. Its just this huge orange ball dropping into Lake Victoria.
I wash the days dirt off my feet and head to dinner around 8:00. Dinner is an international affair. The dinner table consists of two Italian priest, one Kenyan priest, one Kenyan brother, one Hungarian surgeon, two long-term Italian volunteers, Christy, and me. Everyone speaks English for the most part but language barriers definitely exist. After dinner we read the newspaper, play cards, of just hang out and chat.
I’m exhausted by the end of the day and crash early. I tuck myself into my mosquito net and call it a day!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


here is a link to pictures. for some reason i am unable to upload them but when i figure it out look here for pictures.


Work at St. Camillus Hospital

Monday was my first day at work. I wasn’t expecting a lot, when does the first day on the job ever go well? However, it went surprisingly smooth. I had no idea what kind of equipment they would have, or I didn’t know if I was going to know how to use it. It would have been a long year if this was the case.

We started off the morning with a tour of the hospital. It has about 100 beds, and 30 of them are pediatric. Three doctors work here, two are Kenyan and one is a Hungarian. They do everything from pediatrics, to HIV, to delivering babies, to hysterectomies. People come from miles away for treatment.

I, of course, am working in the radiology department. My two other techs are Sampson, and Ernest. Its strange going from almost all female coworkers at home, to male coworkers here. They are both very nice and treatment me well. They have an automatic film processor which takes about 2 minutes to develop. I have also learned how to load the film in a dark room. This is all donated equipment which was probably used in America or Europe previously. I am still getting use to setting an appropriate technique to make a good image, but in time I will get the hang of it. (GSH folks, no they do not use fractions.) The work pace is a lot slower but that is to be expected. The biggest challenge has been learning to communicate with patients. I am starting to learn bits and pieces of the Luo language. All of which are related to work. I know phrases like- stand here, remove your shirt, lay down, what is bothering you, hold you're breathe. Patients just laugh when they see a while girl speaking their language.

I have encountered a wide range of patients. I man fractured his fibula because he was hit by a car. Another man thought he had a broken rib because a cow ran into him. A man had full blown TB, in both lungs. TB is the common reason we do chest x-rays. (it will be a miracle if I don't get it at some point in the year.) The condition of patients is really devastating. Today a patient was 31 years old and only weighed 73 pounds. The lack of food is very apparent. Every now and then a patient will come in who weighs about 175 pounds and they are considered obese. Haha, I have tried explaining obesity in America but they really cant fathom it.

Overall work is going well. I have done a few patients on my own which is very rewarding. With time, I will get the hang of it.

Well, i have to go. This afternoon we are going to climb a nearby mountain that overlooks the lake!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Im Here!

I have arrived in Kenya! After 25 hours of travel Christy, the other volunteer I am here with, and I arrived in Nairobi. We spent Friday in Nairobi with Fr Emilio. He is an Italian priest who runs the hospital. Friday evening we went to a lavish Italian restaurant. We had a candlelight dinner of lasagna and barracuda. Afterwards we all had some lemon cello to drink! This was definitely not what I was expecting to be eating in Africa!

Saturday we made the 8 hour journey to Karungu, my town for the next year. It was a beautiful and extremely bumpy ride to say the least. We drove through the rift valley which was breath taking. No sightings of wildlife, other than the cows that are everywhere. When people are dying of starvation in a country the condition of the roads is low on a governments to do list. I was bouncing out of my seat like a rag doll some of the time. Also, I’m still getting use to driving on the left side of the road. However, sometimes we drive on the right side of the road when there are less potholes. Dodging potholes, stray dogs, and cows are a frequent occurrence. I’m glad I won’t be doing any of the driving here!

I am 90 minutes from the nearest paved road. So in the rainy season we will probably won’t be doing any traveling because the road is impassable. The area surrounding the hospital is very rural. The standard house is a mud hut with straw roofs, or shacks with tin roofs. Electricity lines have yet to be installed in Karungu. The poles are in the ground but no lines are up. With that being said, the area within the gates of St. Camillus hospital are very nice. Its like a palace compared to its surroundings. Our accommodations are very comfortable. Christy and I have our own separate bedrooms, and a bathroom with running water. The whole compound has a generator. So we have power, a few hours in the morning, a few hours around lunch, and its on continuously at night. I’m in the African bush, but the ritzy part of the bush! Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I can see Lake Victoria from my bedroom window! The sunsets over the lake are amazing!

Well, I got to head to bed. Tomorrow is my first day at work! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Tomorrow is the day! I'm nervous and excited for the journey that is awaiting me. I had a fabulous weekend. Friday night was a surprise going away party with friends, and Saturday was a party with family. Thanks to everyone who came! I couldn't ask for a more perfect weekend.
Everything has come together in the last few days. Friday, I finally got my passport back. It had to be send to the Kenyan embassy in Washington DC in order to receive my visa. Today, I received a shipment of medical supplies from the Catholic Medical Mission Board drug warehouse. I am bringing a whole suitcase of drugs and other supplies with me. Very exciting stuff! I'm also taking a $730 donation which was collected from my wonderful coworkers at Good Sam Hospital. It's wonderful to see one hospital help another hospital. Thanks again guys!
If the weather cooperates I should depart Cincinnati at 11:45am. I head to Chicago, then to London, and finally Nairobi, Kenya. If everything goes smoothly I'll arrive Thursday at 9:30pm, Kenya time. They are 8 hours ahead of Cincinnati. All this snow is beautiful but I'm ready for some warm weather! FYI: it's currently 88 degrees in Kenya.
Well, this is it. I'm not sure when I'll be posting again. The hospital has satellite internet, I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I've been warned it overloads easily. I'm expecting the "snail paced" internet I encountered in Ghana.
Can't wait to update you once I arrive! Keep in touch!