Monday, November 30, 2009

Cattle Dip Crisis

Two nights ago I got a phone call from William that he was rushing a small child to the clinic. He told me the child had just been pulled out of our local cattle dip. (Pictured above. It is a channel full of water and chemicals used for killing ticks on cow's hides.) Five-year-old Mercy was not from our community. She was here visiting her Aunt and Uncle on a big adventure to have a sleepover with her cousins Joylynn and Jerom.

As her auntie was preparing dinner Mercy and Jerom went outside to play. The story was narrated to us by four-year-old Jerom who told us that Mercy jumped in the cattle dip. He said that once she got in the water she started screaming and splashing. Jerom ran to get help and grabbed the first man he could find.

The man saw her floating in the dip face-up. He jumped in and pulled her out. The village screaming alert was started around the same time she was pulled out. Several of ELI's sustainable agriculture students arrived on the scene about that same time. These students were trained in our First Aid and CPR course back in October. They immediately began performing First Aid. William arrived as Mercy began to cough and vomit. He transported her to the clinic via ELI's ambulance.

I arrived just moments after Mercy did. There was a huge crowd gathering at the clinic and a few women and girls were screaming/crying. As I reached the exam room I found that Mercy was also screaming. At that point I heaved a huge sigh of relief. A screaming child is a good sign; it means she is healthy enough to scream.

Her lungs were miraculously clear and vital signs were stable. We stripped her down to her skin and scrubbed her with soap and water from head to toe. She was also given medications to help counteract the effects of the poisons from the dip. It was an adrenaline packed night that thankfully ended well. Mercy returned to the clinic for a follow-up the next morning and was doing great.

* As a follow-up to my last post, the woman and her baby were taken to the village chief. He felt that the best course of action was to involve her family. The baby was taken to the family so that they could be given the option of raising the child should they want to do so. I haven't heard anything else about the little boy so I'm assuming the family chose to keep him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rainforest Retreat

At the beginning of Thanksgiving week William and I took my parents and sister to our favorite getaway, the Rondo Retreat, in the Kakamega rain forest. We spent several days hiking, relaxing, and taking in God's amazing creation. Here are some highlights.

Dad taught William how to play chess.

Mom and Dad relaxing on the porch of our guest house.

William and I at the edge of the forest.

One morning we went for a long hike and climbed a peak in the middle of the forest. It was quite a climb but the view was worth it!

Ashley was thrilled that we got to see bats inside a cave.

Dad and Ashley on top of the peak.

Ashley pretending to be a lioness in the grass.

This rain forest is full of monkeys. This one is a colobus.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Social Work

Several times in the last two years I've longed to pick up the phone and call a social worker to come in and rescue me and my clients from some crazy situation. One of the beautiful things about life in the USA is that we have lots of safety nets. Those safety nets simply don't exist here in Kenya.

Last night my family and I were on our way back from a few days in the Kakamega Rainforest. It is one of my favorite getaways and I'll try to get some pictures of our trip up later today or tomorrow. We were on our way home and just a few miles from our house when I got a phone call from the nurse I left in charge at the clinic.

He informed me that a woman had delivered at the clinic and was saying she did not want her baby and would not take him home. I was requested to come and help deal with the situation. Abortion is illegal here in Kenya so when women want to terminate a pregnancy they usually try to do it on their own. Often women will drink laundry soap or take an herbal concoction. In this case the mom told us she had made two unsuccessful attempts. She made it clear that she had no interest in the baby boy whatsoever.

Our staff told me that they were afraid if they asked her to take the baby back to her family that she would throw him in the river. We didn't have any formula on hand and it would have been impossible to get any until the next day.

It was one of those situations where you take a deep breath and pray.

After much discussion I proposed that we buy time by asking her to stay overnight and have someone stay with her and the baby. Then we would have some time to think and pray through the situation. She agreed and I brought her a hot meal.

Word began to get out that there was an abandoned baby and we had several infertile women come forward asking for the baby.

These are times when I thank God for my incredibly wise husband. William pointed out that things needed to be handed in a very legal way so that no disasters would come up in the future. No one from our community knew this woman. For all we know she could show up in a month suing us for stealing her baby. He proposed that we take her to the chief's office and have her sign papers to relinquish her parental rights. So that is exactly what we did this morning.

We also sent the families interested in taking the baby to the chief. I'm not quite sure how it will all work out but I was thankful that the chief was willing to get involved in this case. So often I get in a situation like this one and think to myself "We need to call in some help" and then I remember that I am the help that was called!

Please join me in praying for this precious baby boy. God obviously has a plan for his life! Once I know where he winds up I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holy Moments

I always wonder what people's perception is of day-to-day life on the mission field. Quite honestly many days are just hum-drum routine days. But every now and then I have a moment that I would simply have to describe as holy.

This week has been a bit hectic. I have my family here which is WONDERFUL but I'm trying to manage working this week at the same time. On top of that we had a major plumbing disaster last night which resulted in needing to have the pipes dug up and replaced today. So in the midst of the craziness I rushed home to grab some things before heading out to meet my family at an ELI function. As I was leaving I was told that there was a lady outside looking for me. When I stepped outside I recognized her immediately.

Back in September we had this one crazy week where we delivered like 8 babies in just one week. For our little dispensary that is a big deal. (I know my labor and delivery friends in the USA are rolling their eyes!) Well one of the pregnant woman who came in that week did not deliver at our clinic but was referred out.

I instantly connected with this mom from the moment she walked in the door. I'm not sure exactly what it was about her but we just hit it off immediately. Her name was Jackie. She had walked about three miles to get to the clinic. Her mom came with her. She had been a university student and was abandoned by her boyfriend when he found out she was pregnant. But nonetheless she seemed really excited about having her baby. When I checked her prenatal record I found that she was super early. On exam she was 5cm dilated which meant she was in true labor and there was very little chance of stopping it.

I explained to her that she absolutely had to go to a big hospital. I told her that she was in true labor and I couldn't stop it. I was straight-forward with her and told her that at this stage the baby had an almost zero chance of surviving if she delivered in our clinic. If she delivered in the hospital there might be some chance but I couldn't make promises. She began to cry. Her and her mother told me that they had about $5 between them and that was all they had. Period.

I stepped outside for a moment to let them talk. When I came back in they told me that they were going to walk home then pray and wait and see what happened. I told them that they absolutely could not go home and that I was not chasing them out of the clinic but that I knew a delivery at our site would have a bad outcome.

This was one of those moments where God didn't have to speak in an audible voice. It was very clear that I needed to get this woman to the hospital. So I reached in my pocket and handed her the cash for transportation to the hospital and to be admitted. I laid hands on her and prayed for her and the baby. Then we put her on the back of a motorcycle and sent her on her way.

Well this afternoon as I walked outside it was none other than Jackie standing there with her baby boy. I immediately got goose-bumps. It was an overwhelming and beautiful moment. She told me that she had to come show me her son. She is looking for work and trying to find a way to support him. I promised her that I will keep my eyes and ears open. Jobs are so hard to find right now. I prayed with her and for her son. I told her that God obviously has a great plan for this little one because the odds were totally against him. He truly is a miracle and looking into his little eyes was a holy moment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I'm feeling a bit spoiled as I write today. My parents and sister Ashley arrived on Sunday afternoon. They were very surprised and overjoyed to see me at the airport in Nairobi. We had a wonderful afternoon together and came up to the village yesterday.

Well last night became my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one. They had brought gifts for my my birthday last month as well as Christmas presents for William and I. My mom even had a cake mix and frosting to have a little party last night.

And I think the icing on the cake of the day was my sister Ashley making some efforts to reconcile with my husband William. Ashley and I have always had a special relationship. And when I moved to Africa Ashley blamed it on him taking me away. She hasn't exactly made life easy for them when they have been together in the past. Last night before heading to bed she told William that she was jealous of him but that she wanted to let that go and be friends. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

So today I'm in the office at the clinic trying to get paperwork caught up and things in order so that I will be able to make my getaway for our planned family vacation. I was internet-less for three days so it's quite a bit of catch up! I just got a call from one of my maternity clients who insists on seeing only me. I assured her that I'm in the office today and she is on her way. So we shall see what the rest of the day and the week hold in store for us. But I can tell you that my heart is full of joy to have part of my family here with me. And for the rest of you, I wish you were here with us!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quick Update

So I've been getting requests for an update on the rabies situation. Thus far both Pasadena (the cow) and Socks (the dog) are doing fine. They both received post-bite care from the vet. We have separated Pasadena's food and water source from the other cows. We are hoping that no news is good news at this point. I think we will wait a few more weeks till we say that the coast is completely clear. But so far so good! Socks actually had puppies within a week of the bite. They are adorable and she has been a great mom. Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures up after my parents and Ashley get here with the new camera battery.

Speaking of which, we have less than 24hrs until they arrive! They should be landing in Dubai as I type this. They will spend the night there and then catch a flight to Nairobi tomorrow. They don't expect to see me until Monday at the domestic airport near our village; but I'm surprising them and meeting them at the airport in Nairobi. So shhhhh, don't anyone call them up and tell them!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Perfect Timing

I have to say that in the last few months I've gained a much greater appreciation for health-care professionals who do lots of night call hours. Since September I've been doing more scheduled call nights than ever before. I've learned that it is not easy to put in a full-day's-work and then see as many emergencies as arise during the night only to be back for another full-days-work the following day.

We've been in the midst of some staff transitions which is why the call schedules have been switched up again. Thankfully things seem to be evening out now. I actually won't have to do a long stretch of on-call nights again until mid-December. Praise God! I'm just one of those people who does not do well with sleep deprivation. I don't think I've ever successfully pulled an all-night in my life.

Last night I had two cases. One around 9PM (sewing up a child who had been kicked by a cow) and another at 1:30 in the morning (pre-term labor). I think the toughest thing about being on call is knowing that you are the only one to handle the situation. There is no support staff, no one to consult with, no assistant to help you hold a piece of skin in place while you sew it back to where it is supposed to be. It's just you and the patient.

In the past few weeks I've been feeling a bit drained. I have to say that I'm ready to step away for a little break. It's been a great year, but it has also been a super busy year with tons of teams, interns, and major happenings at the clinic. One of my colleagues in the USA frequently asks me "Michelle are you getting any time to rest?" I have to confess that I usually skirt the question because the truth is I don't have time to rest very often. But Diana I have good news for you, I have rest scheduled on my calendar!

At the same time as I'm beginning to feel weary I'm also feeling thankful for God's perfect timing. You see tomorrow I'm traveling to Nairobi to meet my parents and baby sister at the airport. They are flying in and staying through December 10th. The first two weeks they are here William and I will still be in full swing in both our jobs. But after that we are getting a chance for some rest and relaxation with my family. God worked it out just perfectly so that our new nurse at the clinic, Percival, could finish her orientation just in time for me to get away. It is perfect that just as I'm feeling a need to be refreshed my family will be arriving. It's perfect that while my family is here I'll be able to take some time to step away from my normal daily activities and spend some time of refreshment with them. And I've also recently been reminded of God's incredible provisions as he uses his people to meet our needs. As we head towards Thanksgiving I'm finding I have so many things to be thankful for.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Time to Sew

Ecclesiastes in the Bible says that there is a time for every season. It seems that we here at the clinic have moved into a season of sewing up wounds. People in our village are finishing up the harvest season which means a few things.
  1. They are using more sharp instruments.
  2. They have cash in their pockets from selling maize.
  3. Said cash is being used to purchase alcohol.
  4. Alcohol is leading to fights involving sharp instruments.
Get the picture?

The other night I got a knock on my window that there was an emergency at the clinic. It just so happened that the electricity was out that night. Let me take you on a rabbit trail for just a minute here. I have to confess that if you ever came to Kipkaren and used a head lamp I was probably snickering to myself at how funny you looked. I realize that probably makes me a terrible host, but I think that walking down the road with a headlamp just looks a bit dorky. However a few months back I had to deliver a baby in the dark and a USA team member came to the rescue with a head lamp for me to borrow. It was amazing! We have since had several headlamps donated to the clinic. I keep one of them on my nightstand for night-time powerless emergencies.

So I get this knock on my window and I'm heading to the clinic with my oh-so-stylish headlamp when I begin to see drops of blood on the ground. It is pitch black out so my headlight is the only illumination around. I felt like I was in a movie following a trail of blood. It lead me, you guessed it, to the clinic!

The first person I met was a mom who had just arrived with her sick baby. I could see the baby was sick but not critical. So I told the mom that I needed to find out where the blood was coming from before attending to the baby. I found a slightly intoxicated young man who had been attacked with a knife. The attacker went for his throat and he fended the knife off with his hand. His thumb was pretty sliced up but not life or limb-threatening. So I had him hold pressure and moved on to see the baby.

After taking care of the malaria baby it was back to Mr. Knife-Wound. It took me about an hour to sew everything up using the super-duper headlamp. There were at least half a dozen people in the room all giving their input throughout the process. Every now and then I wish for a good old American hospital where you can throw the crowds out and use some good modern technology (like electric lights for example)! As I was putting in the last stitch the power came back on. Great timing!

While still on the subject of wounds, let me ask my praying friends to be praying for a young man named Kimeli. He is in his early twenties. Last weekend he was assisting a friend of ours with cleaning up after his harvest. They were using a wood-chipper to grind the maize stalks. Well you may be able to imagine where this story is going. At the end of the day they were finishing up and Kimeli decided to toss one last bunch into the machine. It kicked back a bit and instead of looking for the stick they use to push material in he used his hand. He lost the hand completely. Thank God there was a vehicle on site that was able to drive him immediately to the closest medical facility. He was then transferred to a hospital in Eldoret. I understand he is being discharged today. Your prayers for Kimeli and his family would be greatly appreciated.

In fact please pray that this wound season comes to a quick close. Thanks for all of your ongoing prayers, encouragement and support!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


For the last three months we have not had a working camera. Last week we had a visiting Physician's Assistant in the clinic. I noticed he liked to take a lot of pictures I asked him if I could steal a few. He gladly gave them up. Here are some highlights from last week.

Rex: Our Clinic Mascot

Alfred is one of the boys in our Children's Home. He was slashing the grass near his home with a machete-type tool when he slipped and slashed his leg instead. I'll spare you the gruesome before-the-bandage pictures. But I will say that he was a super trooper and didn't even flinch during the hour of suturing through three layers of muscle, tissue and skin!!

Receiving a donated splint on behalf of the clinic.

Our Sheep and her little Lamb. Too bad the sheep wasn't up for posing for the camera!

A special Children's Day hosted by a team from CA for the children at our Children's Home and ELI School Brook of Faith.