Sunday, July 27, 2014

3 blog posts in 1

So July has been a busy month with lots happening that makes for interesting reading but no time for writing, I’m finally catching up as I am starting 1 ½ weeks of vacation. I am currently in Nairobi and later tonight will be heading to the airport to see family in Holland. Anyway here is a three for one blog deal

I Lied

So I have said before that I am the only RT in Kenya – I’m sorry I lied. About a year ago I met another RT, a Kenyan lady who trained in the US and then returned home to Kenya to work. She tracked me down via this blog. We met for supper one day and chatted about everything RT related. It was great to talk “shop”. Then a few months ago while in Eldoret (read about that trip here) the neurosurgeon told me there was an RT who worked in Eldoret. I filed this knowledge away and thought – really three of us in Kenya. My next thought was how do I track this fellow down. I met some nurses who had done ICU training in Eldoret and they again confirmed – yes there is a guy who is an RT in Eldoret. Now I really wanted to track him down.
Back in 2011 I worked at Tenwek with a nurse who since moved to Eldoret, so I tracked down his number, called him, reminded him who I was and asked him for this RT’s number. He was happy to help. So now we finally connected, a brief conversation on the phone was the beginning. Now that I knew there was three of us we needed to have a meeting.
It took some organizing to get all three of us together – wait make that four of us. The fellow in Eldoret knew a fourth RT. So we met up in Nakuru for an afternoon of chatting and planning. To all meet was great. To know we were not alone. M from Eldoret has been here the longest – since early 2010. So saying I was the only RT back then was a lie. The other two ladies have arrived in the last year and are looking for jobs. We sat around the table sharing challenges of working here and where we see the profession going. We decided it would be a good idea to create an association so we are working on creating the Kenyan Association of Respiratory Therapists (KART) – makes for a fun acronym, when I created the Facebook group Facebook wanted to associate it with MarioKart. Anyway I am excited for the future of respiratory therapy in this country, and may have more updates to come.
4 RT's in Kenya
Drivers License
Driving is something normal for most Canadians. You turn 16 and away you go ; your license gives you freedom. Driving here is a little different and not something I have yet had the opportunity to do here in Kenya but a few weeks ago I took a step in the right direction and got my driver’s license.
                This was something I planned to do a year ago but did not think was possible. I was told before I got my license I would need a work permit. That did not come through until about October (I think). However also to get my license I thought I needed an international licence which, in Kenya, expires after 6 months. Since my work permit took 9 months the international license had expired. Therefore I thought I was out of luck unless I wanted to take the driving test and I really did not want to do that. But than a few months ago I got some good news since Kenya and Canada are both part of the commonwealth they would recognize my Canadian license to get a Kenyan license. Yay.
                So while I was in Nakuru for the above mentioned meeting I went to get my licence. It went something like this. Got dropped of outside of building and go up five flights of stairs to KRA (Kenya Revenue Agency) office. There is an elevator but I was told it often was broken, since I did not want to get stuck in elevator I took the stairs. Upon arrival in office, I saw random people lining/gathering in various places and I had no clue where I was to go. I talked to a security guard who points me to a desk so I joined the line/mob and finally get to see the lady. She looked at my papers and told me I need photocopies. Before coming I had photocopied what I thought I needed but apparently I needed more. So I went down 5 flights of stairs where I got photocopies done. I then ran across the street to buy a pen as the one in my purse disappeared and I did not think I would find one upstairs. The stationary shop was excited when I walked in to buy a pen and started showing me all these fancy pens. They were disappointed when I told them I wanted a normal one.
                Pen in hand I went back up flight of stairs and filled out the form then joined the line – security had turned it into a more organized line at this point. Got to front of line and gave my passport, ID card, Canadian driver’s license and form to lady. She dropped it in a pile and told me to sit. Sitting and making sure my pile of documents did not disappear I was called up again. Now I was told to pay 700ksh. I reached for my wallet and she said no not here, you have to pay at the bank. So given all my documents plus deposit info I went down the stairs and down the block to the bank. It was now 1230 and since the office closes at 1pm for lunch I was told not to come back until 2. Stood in line at the bank, thankfully they had a line just for people like me doing KRA deposits. Now with a hour to kill I went for lunch, which worked out well as I was hungry. Lunch done I headed back to the office, up five flights of stairs again,  and sat in a different line. Yes I said sit. Since it was always a long wait it was benches and chairs that formed the line and you would slide down a seat every time you someone got served. Much more comfortable than standing. So finally got to the front of the line and got my driver’s license, actually I got a sheet of paper. My real license should be mailed to me in the next few months.
Now that that’s done I just need to work up the courage to drive. Have not had a chance yet  but maybe when I get back from vacation.

Mount Longonot, again
Last week I climbed Mount Longonot again. The first time was with some friends in language school, the second time was when my parents and friends visited and now the third time was with some staff from the hospital. Each time has had its own flavour. This time we left early in the morning with the 40+ of us piling into the bus. Out of the 40 some of us, I think only 2 had been there before one of the nurses and myself. When we arrived at the mountain we got ourselves sorted out and climbing. From what I gathered hiking is not a common hobby among my co-workers. When you walk to work most days, do lots of manual labour and have lots to keep you busy hiking for fun does not make the most sense. I heard a few people say we paid so we could walk. That all being said I think everyone had a good time. Most of us made it to the top, even two young girls who managed to go all by themselves although my friend Ann and I gave them some help for the last ½ km.

I have always been impressed about how “smart” my Kenyan colleagues look. Now “smart” is  a term here not meaning wise but looking good, clean, well put together etc. It does not matter where I am I always feel slightly under dressed. Climbing Longonot was no different I had on an old pair of runners, capris and a T-shirt. My friends were beside me hiking in dresses, suits, sandals, dress shoes and they managed to “stay smart” looking. That is a talent I don’t think I will ever have.
Up we go 

After the climb we headed to Lake Naivasha. We managed to see some birds, but no hippos. I’m a little glad that we did not see hippos as we took a boat ride and I think if in the right mood it would not take much for a hippo to tip the boat. It was a fun day and I enjoyed seeing everyone outside of the hospital environment. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Guest Blogger - Jess's Perspective

A few weeks ago I had a lovely young lady, who is going into nursing school, spend sometime with me. It was a fairly average week in terms of workload and she wrote about it and gave me permission to share it here. So here is Jess's Perspective

     Ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, I’ve tried to practice looking at my everyday experiences through a different lens. Instead of just going through the motions and being sucked into our agenda-driven society, I want to be able to slow down and thank God for the little blessings as well as the big. With this goal in mind, I began writing 5 “gifts” that I'd noticed from the day in a journal each night. Looking back through it months later, they’ve included everything from “5. sun, beaming through fall leaves and bouncing off shiny horses’ coats" to “483. Hilarious family dinners.” Pretty random, I know, but this exercise has helped me shift my thinking and truly enjoy each day.
     Well, this past week at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I was faced with a challenge. How could I possibly find things to be thankful for in a place filled with pain and death? How am I supposed to find beauty in suffering? Is there only good in the medical success stories, or is there a gift in the sad endings too? Because I shadowed a respiratory therapist, this was a particularly challenging question that I had to face. I realized part way through the week why it seemed like almost all the patients we saw died. Any patients who begin to get better are transferred out of ICU, Casualty (their ER) and HDU (high dependency unit), and we don’t typically see or treat them again. Respiratory therapists only care for the patients who aren’t able to breathe well, so to put it frankly, I saw a lot of death.
        Here is a window into what my days were like… I wrote these notes in my journal one evening. "I hold the hand of an elderly man who reaches out looking into my eyes longingly, only to find out the next morning that he had died. We walk outside. Sitting in the sun is a patient who attempted suicide over 6 weeks ago and had all medical odds against him, but is going home today with his caring family. “We Treat, Jesus Heals,” I think to myself.  Next stop, HDU.  At bed 1, I cringe as I hold the swollen, crinkly head of an unconscious  5 year old child with a broken skull who has hit by a motorcycle while walking home from school. Annette re-tapes the tube going down his throat. In the nearby ward, I perform CPR on a woman with AIDS... no heartbeat, it’s been too long. Time for lunch break. We eat, then head back up the hill to see how things have progressed. A woman in ICU with severe epiglottitis  finally gets extubated, and is able to talk again. The first thing she says? "Praise the Lord!" “I've just gotta hold on to victories like this," I think to myself. We walk to Casualty. On bed 6 is a young man, my age, who has just arrived following a car accident. The staff member who is bagging (breathing for him) is paged. I offer to take over and he agrees. Several minutes later, it is decided that his brain damage is too severe. We need to let him go. Walking out of the room, I meet the gaze of his anxious, questioning brother and try my best not to let my face give away the devastating outcome. Back in ICU, the possibility of survival for the small boy with pneumonia is looking grim, the doctors and staff circle up and pray for the Lord’s healing."
     Exhausted by the emotional roller coaster yet? I know, it doesn’t take long. Yet this is what these doctors and nurses deal with all day, every day. I admire their work. I wonder, how do they process it all?
      I listen to the horrifying screams of an 8 year old girl suffering from the painful spasms that tetanus brings and find myself at a loss for what such a precious, fading life could reveal about God. What is there to be thankful for in such places of sadness and pain? Surely there is more to be learned than the consequences of pain and death that occur because of the depravity of mankind.
There is a sense of raw humanity in this place. Pain and death unite the young, the old, the rich and the poor. They have the ability to bring us all to our knees, crying out for relief…and when everything is stripped away, all that remains is Christ. It is a depth of pain and sadness that I don’t claim to have experienced personally. I don’t know their grief, but I feel like I’m just beginning to envision the depth of peace and comfort that the Holy Spirit provides when a child of God is at the end of everything he knows to do.
There’s nothing I can say to take away these people’s suffering. There is nothing to do but sit and cry with them… but I know that in the midst of the pain and the loss, when we're brought to our knees, we are held by our Maker.
     As for my question of what the gift could be…there is no simple answer. I can’t simplify it to a line in my journal as number 987... but I know it’s there. It’s there because I’ve heard the testimonies of those who have been brought lower than they ever could have imagined. I know because of the way that God speaks to and comforts me when I’m merely watching it.
     Sometimes after a day in the hospital I like to take a little walk down the dirt road to the sewing ministry. It’s refreshing to see healthy children happily skipping down the remind myself that God gives joy and health, and to hug dear sisters in Christ.
     The contrast of my time in Tenwek’s community and at the hospital has really echoed a quote I recently read in the book, When Helping Hurts. The author explains, "Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us” (79). The raw humanity I saw in the hospital stripped away any remaining dividers I saw between myself and the people of Kenya. Physically AND spiritually, we’re all broken to the point of no repair. We are left with nothing but to cry “Abba, Father!” begging Him to rescue us from our state of despair. Our only response can be one of awe. Awe of our need and His redemption. This is what unites us.
 “Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the old things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."" Revelation 21:4