Sunday, October 05, 2008

Update: Arrival in Kijabe

Road to Kijabe

View of Upper Rift Valley at dusk

View of south side hospital entrance

Dear friends and family,
I have finally arrived in Kijabe, Kenya. It is truly beautiful here. The pictures above give you an idea of the surrounding landscape. Kijabe means “place of the wind”. Kijabe is a rural town with an approximate population of 16,000 located along the edge of the Upper Rift Valley in a farming community nestled in a mildly rugged area of hills and mountains and is only about 60km from Nairobi. My living conditions are surprisingly comfortable with indoor plumbing. There is not much need for air conditioning since we are at 7000 ft elevation, and there is a fireplace for really cold nights. We also have electricity (but it does go out on a relatively frequent basis).

To remind you, about half of Kenyans live on about one US dollar per day. The hospital here in Kijabe therefore cares for a large number of relatively poor patients. About one-third of the patients are from the nearby community, but the other two-thirds are from far away. Kijabe hospital has an excellent reputation in this region of Africa, and a surprising number of the patients are from nearby Somalia which has even worse access to health care than rural Kenya.

I am still getting settled, but I took a tour of the hospital on Friday. As you can imagine, there was overcrowding of the wards, and the outpatient department was quite busy with the waiting areas overflowing into the nearby courtyard with patients waiting to see a physician. Despite the challenging conditions, the 200+ bed hospital is able to provide some surprisingly comprehensive and sophisticated care. Kijabe does not have CT scanners, but it does have x-ray, ultrasound, a laboratory, a blood bank, and it is the pathology referral center for more than 50 other smaller hospitals in the surrounding area. There is a children’s hospital next door, as well as the AIDS Relief Center which are remarkable institutions in themselves.

I met the other three general surgeons on Friday. I will be working with Dr. Irungu for the next month, until I am up to speed, at which time he is going to turn over his service to me for my remaining time here.  (Dr. Irungu is going on to concentrate exclusively on pediatric surgery.)  The other two surgeons are Dr. Davis who is a relatively young American surgeon (about 2 years out from residency), and Dr. Bird who is a more seasoned surgeon originally from Australia. I will take call roughly every third night. The problems we encounter as surgeons are similar to that of surgeons in the US with a few exceptions (I did not see one obese patient the entire time I was touring the hospital…). There is a substantial amount of trauma mostly from RTAs (Road Traffic Accidents), but some penetrating trauma with the occasional unusual injury (e.g. hippo attacks). There are many burns since people often cook at home over an open fire. There is also a large amount of thyroid disease, diabetes, breast disease, AIDS, and benign prostate disease. I have much to learn and look forward to starting this week.

In addition to working here in the hospital, groups of doctors from Kijabe Hospital often travel to severely underserved areas of Kenya or to nearby countries such as Somalia. I have been invited to participate in some of these trips to the camps of displaced persons from nearby countries as well as Kenyans still displaced from the violence last January. I am very excited about the prospect of being allowed to participate in meeting the medical needs of those in the most dire of circumstances.

I hope to be updating this blog at least once every couple of weeks. It may prove difficult with the amount of clinical work (and the inconsistent internet access). I will use the blog as my primary means of communicating how things are going. I would love to hear from you especially by email (but keep in mind my limited ability to reply to all messages). Also I have furnished my contact information (i.e. mailing address) in a previous post should you need it. As far as financial contributions go, I am still waiting to hear about the Durant Fellowship in November, so I will wait to solicit direct financial support until that time. (However, I am more than happy to receive any small contribution you would like to make in the meantime.)

As I walked home tonight, I looked up and saw the beautiful African night sky with all the bright stars, and I could not help but think that Kijabe is truly a special place.  It's just a tiny outpost really, but there is a concentration of "goodness" here, and an amazing amount of energy focused on healing and helping.  I have a hard time expressing my anticipation of the work I will do here, but I expect it to be a very exciting time. I hope to learn much and serve more. Please continue to keep me in your prayers as I endeavor to do my very best to care for the sick here in Kenya.

Kwa herini,

A great city is not to be confused with a populous one.


At Mon Oct 06, 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

yo son, hippos is very gangsta, i seen them nukkas on the discovery channel and they was on some "run up in your house and smack you in front of your wife and kids" gangsterism. watch your back homeboy.

on the real...miss you already and my mild worry and concern is soothed by the fact that you seem to be really following your bliss.

love love and mo love (say it like the luke song)


At Mon Oct 06, 11:39:00 PM, Blogger Evang. Ro* said...

Hippo attacks?! PLEASE read Psalm 91 everyday!

I love your blogs. They are great. I look forward to them. The pictures are awesome. The mountain view is breath taking.

Hippos??!!? I don't know....
Please don't go swimming ;-)

So are you running the whole floor once Dr. Irungu leaves? Are there enough nurses? What about supplies? Does the U.S. contribute at all?

Some folks at Union mentioned sending you a "Care" package...what do you need??

Stay Under His Shelter...

Evang. Ro*

At Sat Oct 18, 03:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any way I can help (maybe with donations of supplies, etc...)

At Wed Oct 22, 11:11:00 PM, Blogger Altrivice said...

This is going to be an interesting journey for me...through your eyes of course. Thanks for taking the time to write and post pictures. Of course, I continue to pray for your well being especially given the occasional hippo attack --- GEEZ!! Please be safe. Miss you. Love you.


At Mon Oct 27, 03:24:00 PM, Blogger solomon said...

Good job chad I am glad that you are able to share what other people rarely get to see or here. I know you are very safe God is watching over you. I will be in Kenya over January but we are headed to Kisumu (Bondo District Hosp).Keep the good working going. Asante sana,Nethengu mono.


At Mon Nov 10, 03:12:00 PM, Anonymous Darlene Beaird said...


I truly admire your dedication. Words cannot express the amazement of your experience in Kenya. I wish you many blessings on your journey over there. Stay safe and God bless!

Darlene Elizondo Beaird


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