Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This is only my second post for February. Where has the time gone? I have been thinking more about time recently. How much more time do I have with my new friends before they return to the States? How much time do I have until I go to Kijabe (actually as I am revising this it is Sunday and I am already at Kijabe)? How much time until my friend comes to visit? And the worst question how much time do I have left before I have to say good bye to Tenwek and return to Canada? Time flies. I am looking forward to some of these things, hoping they come soon and others I wish I could put off for a few months. It reminds me of when I was younger and Oma (grandma) would come and visit in September – my brother and I could not wait for her to come and time would not go fast enough but on the other hand the same time Oma came was when school started and we wished summer would go on forever. Time – it is a good thing it is out of our control – and in God’s hands.

I am not looking forward to these goodbyes and am looking at the busyness that I will have in the next month (I return to Canada March 31). There are many projects that I have procrastinated that I need to complete. I need to leave more knowledge with the staff so they are able to get by without me. I have been trying to do my job in a way that is more educational than me just doing things – I think I may be in trouble in a few months when I actually have to do the work rather than just explain how to do it .

I also wonder if there will be a time when I come back. I often find myself saying if/when I come back I will do ____. I am sure I will know all in God’s time but please pray that his plan for my future – wherever that may be will be revealed to me, and that I will have peace with it.
Those of you who are on Facebook may have seen that I have been spending my time in various ways – some friends and I took off for a weekend and did something I never thought I would do - we rafted the Nile – wow what an experience if you are ever in Uganda I suggest you do it – it is amazing.

I have also been busy at the hospital – figuring out how the ventilator works – after 4½ months I have finally figured out that one of our ventilators is backwards SIMV means AC and AC means SIMV – I think (I miss the Evita). I have also, finally, started to work on basic instruction manuals for the vents, something I should have done long ago but procrastinated. We have had a real ICU this past week with 6 very sick patients please pray for them for me, we currently have a young man in the unit who is 30 years old, he has severe heart failure and has been on Dopamine for over a week. This morning he was sitting up brushing his teeth, while on 15mcg/kg/min of Dopamnine – his blood pressure 60/35, we don’t know what to do with him, if he were in Canada we send him to a Cardiac surgery unit and he would be in line for a crazy surgery or transplant or something. Here we will have to eventually turn the Dopamine off and then he will die – how do you do this to a completely conscious young man. We did manage to turn the dopamine off, his BP is still very low but his kidneys are functioning and he says he is fine. Last week we also lost another young man to Guillain-Barre, I found this difficult as back home we would trach him and ventilate him for a few months and then get him into rehab and his chance of survival would be reasonable. Here the decision was made not to intubate as the likely hood of him surviving our ICU care for a prolonged period of time (high likelihood of VAP, bed sores, other nosocomial infections etc) the fact that he also was immune-suppressed made this highly likely. We were also wary of giving him a ventilator for months – we only have 3 and if one patient ties one up for such a length of time then we are in trouble.

I have also been asked to update on the quadruplets born after Christmas – I am sorry to say they are now the quad-triplets, we lost one of the girls a few weeks ago, the other 2 girls were also battling some infections but appear to be getting stronger. The little boy is doing fine (strange, as girl neonates tend to do better than boys). Please continue to pray for these babies as well as all the other patients in the hospital.

I was hoping to add some pictures to this post but I am having some difficulties with internet so next time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Perspective and pictures

Looking back at this week it has been a different sort of week. It has been good to reflect. It was a quieter week at the hospital, usually when things are quieter I go home and work on various projects. That was a little more difficult this week as we have been having power issues at Tenwek. The hospital has had power but the homes do not have the same reliable backup system and so when we had problems with the hydroelectric dam this week we were in the dark. The worst part about no power is no computer or internet; this can make things frustrating. However being without power is OK, I kept reminding myself that many Kenyans do not have regular power. We bought some more candles and things were just fine – although I did escape to the guesthouse where there was power. I am not one who is good at keeping up with current events (having no TV or Radio makes this worse) however I have heard that parts of North America have been hit with horrible snow storms. I am sure there are people there who are without power as well. Here when the power goes out the water still works, we stay warm (no heat to go out) the stove still works (gas) so it is OK. I have memories of being on the farm with no power – cooking and boiling water on the camp stove outside in -20 Celcius. Despite it being OK here to be with out power I am still happy to have it fixed and back on.

Friday I was invited to go mudding – I am sure you are thinking driving a big 4X4 vehicle through the mud in Kenya – not what I envision a missionary in Africa doing – well we did drive a big 4X4 but not through the mud. We drove to a nearby church and mudded a house. I have seen many mud homes in my travels but this is the first time I got to help make one. The local church and Tabitha bible study (started by one of the missionaries here) are helping a family build a home. Myself as well as a few other ladies here were invited to go help – mudding is a ladies only job. We were doing the third layer of mud the first two had been done previously and allowed to dry. I am not sure how exactly the first 2 layers go or what exactly they are made of. But the third layer was clay, dug from about 5-6 feet down and than mixed with water. This mud was than brought to us in five gallon pails and we smeared it on the walls. I learned there is a technique to this and I don’t know if I was very good but they did not fire me. The trick was to use the palm of the hand to smear the mud and get it in the cracks while sliding your hand up to make it smooth. I don’t know how smooth my part was but thankfully they have one final layer to go (made with white dirt from the river) and they can make it look pretty. This was a lot of fun, we had many Kenyan children observing us, I don’t think they have ever seen wazungus (white people) “playing” in the mud before. It was also great to be a part of the community and help out. 
getting it all covered, dark is done light still needs to be done.

muddy hands in front of the house, all the layers on the outside of the house are done

I was really tempted to start a mud fight

Hard at work with a young Kenyan watching us

More of the audience

The ladies in the pit hard at work making the mud

I recently read the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, this book talks about how to help in a way that is helpful to all involved and to not just take over and do something for the people but focus instead on communities helping their own. This description does not do it justice, I recommend anyone going on a mission short or long to read it. I was thinking about this as I helped and was shown by the ladies the proper way to mud. I was one of them not the Canadian coming in and asking why we just don’t hang drywall.

Friday evening was a different evening. Six of us hiked up to Motigo, local high point, to camp. The group consisted of a real live mountain guide, a real live eagle scout, a real live (token) Kenyan, a real live dreamer, a real live southern gal and a real live Canadian (me). We are a fun group and after rounding up some sleeping bags, tents and firewood we were off. The timing worked well and we were able to watch the sunset from a beautiful clearing.
The children wanting to see the picture I took


The path

 The hike up went well and was interesting, we saw six people all riding on the same Piki (motorbike) the previously seen record was five. This was an entire family so some of them were little but amazing anyway. We did not see a cow in the back of a Toyota Corrola like last time though. After we reached the top we set up camp and made a fire. The s'mores had to wait though. All the children who had followed us up helped with the fire and remained. We had some fun with the kids - a young boy who said his name was Petunia (I hope he was kidding) after we had all gathered around the fire said - this country I come from is very cold. Needless we had a good laugh. The stars were beautiful as it was a clear moonless night. The children did eventually leave allowing us to enjoy some s'mores and good conversation, until the wind picked up and we put the fire out as we did not want to start a grass fire - the problem with camping at the peak: no shelter from the wind.

I think our buddy Petunia is the one beside the white guy

The ladies enjoying the early morning sunrise

All of us at the top before we headed back down

We hiked down Sunday morning in time to shower and head off to church. It was a lot of fun. I have decided that the sky is one of God's most glorious pieces of art. It is amazing that such a beautiful picture is painted for us twice each day.

I would like to end this blog with a request. Toshiba has generously donated a CT scanner to Tenwek. This is a wonderful donation as currently the nearest CT scanner is about 3 hours away. As we have no air ambulance or even paramedics and this transport is much to dangerous for many of our patients so we end up doing "cut" scans or just wait and see. Anyway the need for the scan is high we have the machine but Tenwek still needs to cover the price of the building to house it as well as the technology to support it. We hope to have the scan operational by early summer but we are still in need of $300 000 USD in funds. Here is where you come in please give - click on this link where you can give online at the WGM website. Please e-mail me (this is my spam e-mail address so if you have other addresses for me use the others one but I will respond to this one as well, it just may take more time) if you have any questions.