Friday, November 24, 2017

All I want for Christmas is...

So Christmas is coming and while I am away from a lot of the commercialization that surrounds the North American Christmas season the thoughts of what I want for Christmas is on my mind. This year I am asking for something big and I am asking for your help.

This year all I want for Christmas is New Ventilators. 

These are not for me personally although I do have a collection of medical supplies in my house. Currently my desk is covered with Laryngoscope blades, I tripped over my spirometer that I store under my bed and this bag of CPAP masks is getting in the way. (Don't worry all this stuff will be used by the hospital). The new ventilators I am asking for will be utilized well. We have already ordered two and plans are to order four more.

Since I arrived in 2010 Tenwek has managed to get by with a collection of donated machines, over time some of these machines would break in a way neither I nor Bio-Med could fix and they would join the broken pile. Since I have arrived we have gotten four 'new to us' machines. Three of these were already 15+years old and one quickly became extra parts for the other two.

We still have a few machines with us that have been here for (way) too long. Two of them always alarm "check diagnostics", one no longer delivers PEEP which is needed for 90% of patients. (Yes my fellow RT's: really 100% need PEEP but head injuries and overdoses do OK with no PEEP.) Now if this was your family member would you want them on a machine made in 1981 and is also found in museums (not a lie) or would you want them on a machine that alarms and no one knows why? DO you want them on a machine that says "No PEEP must keep at 0". While we have been able to provide safe care to the patients a change is needed. So we are working with a distributor to purchase six 'new to us' machines. Two are going to the cardiac surgery area and have already been paid for but the other four will be used in our general population.

Are you willing to help me with this Christmas present? Four machines and shipping will be expensive but will help sustain the ICU and HDU in Tenwek for many more years. Some funds are already in my account but I am giving you the opportunity to help. To give you an idea of cost - I was thinking of buying a car but since I am borrowing another family's car while they are in the States for a year I figured this would be a better use of the funds. So if you want to help - it's easy click the "to donate" button on the side and follow the directions, you will even get a tax receipt. Then send me an e-mail or Facebook message letting me know that the donation is for this purpose. If by chance (that would really be a miracle) I raise more than needed the extra funds will go to preventative maintenance of these machines.

I have also added some pictures to show the new machine and old machines.
The New Machine - We already have one,  it will be great to have more. Isn't it beautiful?

Old machine from 1981, we actually have two of these, this one with some trouble but the other actually works well. You may notice this is the same brand as the new ones we are buying hopefully they will also hold up for 30+ years

another older machine, notice the 0.00 in the top middle. That is supposed to read the amount of air the patient is breathing. A helpful value, however it does not work (despite replacing the sensor). 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Unique Talents one learns on the mission field

So living in Kenya has taught me a few things that I probably would not have learned back in Canada.  I thought I would share a few of them here.

  • Ability to look at the gas burning in the bottom of my oven and know if the temp is set to 350F or 450F necessary as the temperature regulation looks identical to the ones on the stove, no numbers.
  • Able to drive (a standard) while dodging motor bikes, potholes, people, cows, donkeys and other cars.
  • Can now distinguish the difference between Thompson Gazelles, Impala, and Grants Gazelles. 
  • Can give a speech with a few minutes notice, although my 4-H days taught me this.
  • Can hear a ventilator alarm from a different part of the hospital or through the phone line and know what the problem is.
  • Able to go shopping only every 6 weeks, with the exception of a few staples and veggies and not starve.
  • Complete a recipe with multiple substitutions, see why above, and it still tastes good. 
  • Speak to patients in various languages. My Swahili is coming along well, but some patients only speak a local tribal language - Kipsigis, interestingly my 15-20 kipsigis words include cough, don't bite, breathe, breathe by yourself and lie down (relax). I guess you learn what you need to. 
  • How long it takes for me to get cabin fever - 6 -7 weeks. With elections happening we were told to sit tight. So here I am, after not leaving Tenwek for 7 weeks and I am going a little crazy. I guess I know my limit.
  • Able to quickly get to know and work with a new phsyician, dancing the line between advising them what do do and telling them what to do. We have about 150 medical visitors a year so a lot of hello's and good-byes
  • I'm sure the list is longer but that's all that comes to mind right now. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ghana, Non-Medical missions

So I am a little behind but I thought I should write a bit about my time in Ghana. I am serving with an organisation called Reach Beyond.  Missions are full of confusion so they second me to the organisation known as World Gospel Mission (WGM) that I work with at Tenwek. Anyway, Reach Beyond divides up the world into regions and I am part of the Sub Saharan Africa region. A few times a month I have been meeting via Skype with the other missionaries in the region. It was time to meet in person and with visitors from the American HQ coming out to Ghana it was a good time to go. So beginning of January I took off for a few days.

I enjoyed my time in Ghana. I got to meet the rest of the team and their families, the children who had previously been annoying shrieks over voice Skype were now fun to play with. I also enjoy visiting other parts of Africa. Africa is a huge continent with diverse cultures. When travelling across the continent it is interesting to see what is similar and different. Nairobi has much more western malls and fast food than Accra, Ghana but in Accra you can safely walk after dark.

While meeting the rest of the team in person was the best part of the trip, I really enjoyed seeing the non-medical side of missions. The rest of the Reach Beyond group on the team are not medical but do radio. It was really great to see the work going on. Christian broadcasts going out in local language, spreading the good news of the Gospel, another group who has recorded audio bibles in 300+ languages, visits to a community where the water source was a puddle and with some help from reach beyond and a visiting team, a well was put in. Changing the health of a community. The medical side of missions is great, however I enjoyed the exposure to another side, which is also great.
Rather than say more I will share a few photos
I did do some medical work, assisted a nurse in putting a dressing on the finger of one of the boys in the village.

Just like Kenya the kids love photos and strange looking people with white skin and red hair.

Recording live for the radio, we all were in the room trying to be quiet. 

It's a jungle

The DJ at work.

Cocoa beans -yum.

Village's old water source.

New water source, tastes good I drank it fresh from the tap.

Friday, February 3, 2017


So I have become someone who always annoys me - people who have a blog and don't keep it updated. So sorry, I have a good reason and I will use this reason to write a blog post.

Life here in Kenya has become normal, when I arrived in Kenya years ago everything was different and exciting. From new language, a different culture, a different hospital and different responsibilities. All of this gave plenty of material to blog about. I have not blogged about it all but it now seems normal. When visitors come and get excited about the baboons on the side of the road or are dismayed by the high number of suicide attempts or I explain to a guest what we should and don't have to use filtered water for, it is all just normal life now.

Writing about normal life is boring. I keep reminding myself that even though I find my life boring (as in normal) it may still be interesting to you. So I will write about something so normal here but it still makes me shake my head. That is RAIN.

When you read about Kenya in guide books or online you will read about the rainy season and the dry season. How the rains come March through  June and August through October, or maybe about the December short rains. That the rest is dry. However this is crazy in my experience - it rains most weeks, except January, January is dry unless it rains. Why you may ask?  Two reasons: first Tenwek is at a high altitude and therefore gets more rains, second is climate change, now I don't want to get in to an argument about global warming but in Kenya the weather has gone from predictable to unpredictable. The locals tell me they used to be able to say what day the rains would start, now it's just confusing.

So those of you who think I live in a dreary wet drizzly climate couldn't be farther from the truth. Here when it rains - it pours, maybe for 5 min maybe for an hour but then the sun comes out again. I am sure there is a five degree difference between rain and no rain.

SO how does rain affect life here:

Because when it rains it pours - never, ok rarely, a little drizzle - no one goes anywhere. You wait. I have come home for lunch and had my lunch extended by 20 min waiting for the rain to stop, it never rains for long. A walk to the hospital even with an umbrella and I could get drenched.
Some days at the hospital it may be slow for me and I think one more thing and then I will work on things at home, then it starts to pour so I work longer or vice versa, if it has been an on and off rainy afternoon I may go home early if there is a break in the rain. Or there are days like yesterday where I decide to run home in the rain and get completely soaked. You know the type of soaked where you don't even walk through the house but are thankful you live alone and the curtains are closed so you leave the wet clothes in the entrance.

I don't complain about the rain, it's normal and as a farm girl I know about the importance of rain. Much of Kenya right now is experiencing a drought. So while the rains have started here at Tenwek (it's no longer January) parts of the country remain dry. So join me in praying for rain for those suffering from drought.

How's that I don't write for months and then all I talk about is rain? Pathetic, I know.