Wednesday, 6 June 2012

I can't believe it's our last day in Kenya! :( Sorry for not having posted anything in so long, we had real trouble accessing any internet last week, due mainly to power cuts and also being really busy!! We had an amazing weekend just after my last post... On the Friday night we went for a wander to have a quiet ice cream, but bumped into some friends from the hospital and ended up doing shots in a bar and eventually going out for a few drinks and some dancing that night! Then on the Saturday we all did some shopping and went for a really lovely late lunch at an Italian restaurant on the beach :) After that we had quite a lazy afternoon, before heading out again that night... It was so much fun! There were 7 of us in the group... Me, Aby, the three lovely American girls, and Diana and Nelly, the fab girls we've been staying with - it was such a good group!! We went to a couple of clubs, somehow managing to start this massive dance-off thing at Pata Pata that took over the whole place! Then we were dancing on this wee island thing in the middle of a rainstorm, with people jumping in the pool and just having such a good time! It was crazy but lots of fun :) Then we went to another club, where we met some friends from the hospital and danced some more, before finally heading home at around 5am, they really party late here!!

The next day we all slept really late before going for another wee adventure around the town, watching some more football at the beach and getting some ice cream, yum :) We all had a nice wee girly night in after that, and a bit of an early night, ready for another week at the hospital...

Our last week at the hospital was another really good one. We saw some more surgery, including a young guy who was suffering from a really painful hernia. We also spent some time in occupational therapy which was interesting - we saw a lot of kids with cerebral palsy and other problems as a result of various infections, and helped with the rehabilitation exercises a bit. There was also a severe case of hydrocephaly, and one of microcephaly, as well as a three year old girl who suffered from tetanus as a result of her umbilical cord having been cut with a dirty knife when she was born at home... it was a really tragic situation that could have been so easily avoided, and to see all the difficulties she was having three years later (she couldn't hold herself to sit up, she couldn't speak or communicate, she had muscle spasms all over) was really sad. Some of the children had a better prognosis than others, but hopefully the occupational therapy brings some benefit to all of them.

I also enjoyed a major surgical ward round, which covered all men, women and children who were both pre- and post- operative. Some of the problems were really interesting, and there were quite a few young, otherwise fit and healthy guys who had suffered injuries either in traffic accidents or at work, as many of them worked as labourers. Many of the women needing surgery suffered from obstetric or gynaecological problems, although some suffered from other problems, such as thyroid problems or cancers. The majority of the children had suffered in accidents, such as stepping on glass on the way home from school (one of my special little girls had snapped her achillies tendon this way). I was a wee bit nervous about the surgery side of things before coming here, just because I hadn't really seen that much before. But I've actually really enjoyed it all, and managed to not faint or even feel dizzy at all once! :)

We also spent a fair amount of time in the ICU this week, where we were able to see an ultrasound being performed, and also where we have been able to cuddle lots of babies! The mothers of the babies in the newborn unit really need to get a break sometimes, and so are grateful for the chance to go for a wee walk or whatever to get some fresh air, and we're always really happy to step in! Almost all of the babies in there are premature, and so very very tiny... it's the loveliest feeling when a poor wee baby is crying and you are able to pick her up and cuddle her and she goes all peaceful and drops off to sleep again... All 5 of us felt our maternal instincts kicking in a wee bit at times! Haha there were a couple of slightly awkward moments though, as lots of the babies were clearly wanting breastfed, and unfortunately we were not able to oblige! One little guy I was cuddling was incredibly determined to have a go at it, and was very much unimpressed when he realised my top was not going to budge!

I also enjoyed spending some time in paediatrics again this last week... Most of the kids who were there when we first arrived have been discharged now which is good; it's funny having a completely new batch! A couple of the wee original ones are still there, but most of them are making progress :) we both have our wee favourites and it was really sad saying goodbye :( we've had fun playing with them though and the couple of older girls I gave wee bracelets to as presents were still treasuring them when we said bye to them on our last day! We've made some really great friends amongst the staff at the hospital too, especially in the paediatrics department. I'll really miss them all lots and lots, although at least with facebook and emails we can keep in touch pretty easily, and when we come back (which we're both really hoping to!) we will have lots of friends to see and catch up with!!

We also spent quite a bit of time at the children's home we have been helping out at during our last week. There are some really great kids there, with big ambitions to be pilots and doctors and engineers. They're just great. The 5 of us thought it would be a great idea to take them all to the beach for the day on Friday, as it was a public holiday here celebrating independence from Britain (awkward) so we weren't at the hospital and they had the day off school. We wondered if we had been a bit mad to suggest taking 40 crazy kids to the beach, just the 5 of us, when we were making 80 sandwiches, buying 200 biscuits and getting 30 litres of water in big tanks the day before! But it turned out to be such a fun fun day! Each of us took a tuk tuk, with loads of the kids piled into each one! Ours on the way there had 14 people in it which was just madness, all sitting on top of each other, with some of the smaller kids in the wee boot bit at the back! We played games and football on the sand, swam and played in the sea, and just had an amazing time jumping in the waves and splashing about, with the bigger ones swimming further out, and the little ones enjoying paddling about the shallows. At any given moment the 5 of us each had between 2 and 3 kids clinging round our necks, to our legs and up on our backs, but it was just so much fun. We even taught a couple of them how to swim! The most tricky part was getting everyone ready to go home at the end! We had been there for just over 6 hours, so the 5 of us were absolutely shattered. But every time we managed to get everyone out of the water and up to get dressed and ready to go, we would turn our backs for one moment, before looking round to see them all sprinting en masse back to the sea! Eventually we got everyone dried off and dressed, and after attempting yet another dodgy head count and asking everyone to make sure all their friends were there, we piled everyone back into the tuk tuks and headed home. Phew! All 5 of us were aching from carrying so many children at once, dehydrated, starving and really pretty burnt by the time we got home, but it was so so worth it! After showering we headed straight for some food and a drink and felt much much better!

Then our last weekend was good too, although sad as two of the American girls (Steph and Aubrey) left on Saturday morning to climb Mount Kilmanjaro in Tanzania. We had a good last night with them on Friday though, before saying bye on Saturday morning, which was so sad! :( Rather a lot of drama followed on Saturday afternoon, which included 3 armed men in uniforms arriving in a big van, banging at our really high and spiky gate, and one of them attempting to climb over it! I was the only one awake at this point and had to run around raising the alarm, thinking we were about to get deported or something! It's a rather long story but all was well in the end, and it certainly provided some chat for all of us! It was a lovely wee crew because Nelly and Diana's other sister, Sylvia, arrived, who is also so lovely, so the six of us chatted away about it all and went for one last big night out on Saturday! Sunday was another girly day with some drinks out with friends in the evening, before our last day at the hospital on Monday! It was just so sad saying bye to everyone, there were lots of hugs and swapping of contact details so we can all keep in touch :) The hospital staff really are such a great bunch of people, and we've made some really good friendships there, so saying bye was sad. After a final visit to the children's home, we had one last girly date, the 6 of us, for coffees and hot chocolates at a really nice local cafe, before getting some sleep.

Aby and I both cried after saying goodbye to Nelly yesterday morning - she, Diana and Sylvia really have been like our amazing big sisters during our times here, and I will never forget all the laughs and girly chats till 3 or 4 in the morning, in candlelight because the power was out! And some of the dancing, from Nelly in particular, was just top class!! It was so so sad saying bye to them, and to Aubrey and Steph, and then to Michelle too yesterday morning.... those girls are just awesome, and we all had so much fun and happy times together! Aby and I won't be forgetting percentages in a hurry ;) Yesterday was our second big bus trip, another 12 hours or so back to Nairobi! We made it though with the help of our ipods and some snacks, and so now here we are, waiting for our flight home tonight! It's such a crazy thought that in less than 12 hours we'll be in the air, and in less than 24 hours I'll be back in Jordanhill! It honestly feels like a different world, and although I can't imagine being home just now, I know that once I'm back my Kenyan adventure will probably feel like a crazy wonderful dream! I've met some truly great people out here, and it's sad that this blog has honestly only just scraped the very surface of the last month... There are a million other things to write about - things I've done, seen, felt! But it's something at least, and it's hopefully given a wee bit of an insight into life in Malindi!

Thanks so much to everyone for all the wonderful times I've had on this trip... Without you, it would have been nothing like the experience it has been. I can't wait to come back some day! I'd best be off, check I'm packed, and I think we might have one last wee wander around Nairobi before home time tonight!

With lots of love and hugs from Kenya :) xxx

Friday, 25 May 2012

So here we are at the end of another working week... It's all passing pretty quickly and I'm sure it'll only keep going faster from now on! Still having a really good time, three American girls arrived at the end of last week, who are staying with us and also working at the hospital, so it's been really nice having a wee group of five of us to explore and have fun.. they're really lovely girls so we've all been having a great time together, and we've got a night out or two planned for this weekend which is really exciting, I can't wait to get out and do some dancing! :)

So this week at the hospital has been really interesting and quite different to last week... I've still been in paediatrics a fair amount but we've also branched out a little more... So towards the start of the week we did some ward rounds on the male and female adult wards, where we saw a lot of problems, most of which were completely different to what we've been seeing on paeds. A surprising load of TB is a bit worrying, especially when there are no indications of any attempts to isolate anyone from anyone else. There was also a lot of cardiac and respiratory disease, a guy in a coma, some thyroid problems, diabetics and some really crazy surgical cases too. We also spent some time in A&E, where we saw some pretty scary stuff... One wee boy had been bitten on his upper lip by a venomous snake, and after his mouth had swollen hugely, it spread over his entire face and started blocking all his airways. It was really scary to see, and all just progressed so quickly. Everyone was really worried because, whilst snake bites usually occur around the ankles and lower legs so that the venom takes a while to move up towards the brain, that this wee boy's bite was on his face meant that likelihood of brain damage if not death was massively increased. In the end he was transferred to a bigger hospital in Mombasa; I haven't been able to find out what happened to him, but none of the staff seemed very optimistic at all.

Another guy made a really dramatic entrance with a massive entourage in tow - he had been in some kind of accident, and had some really severe injuries to both his arms, as well as lots of lacerations over his face and trunk. He was in a massive load of pain, and was an Italian - he was so happy to see us as he thought we were Italians too, and it was really sad when he found out we weren't... In a moment as scary as that it would be so reassuring to see a face from home and someone who speaks your language. It was pretty chaotic when he arrived, and his screams were just the most terrible ones ever - he was in an awful lot of pain. Another interesting one was a twenty-something, fit-looking guy who came in with his 3 friends with acute psychosis... It was quite scary - his eyes were bulging and his mouth was foaming, and he was really struggling; it took all 3 of his friends all their strength to restrain him, it was getting seriously violent but thankfully they managed to pin him to a bed so that a doctor could inject a really powerful sedative just in time to knock him out. Apparently it had never happened to him before, and more or less just started out of the blue, which must have been a shock for his friends at the time. The doctor suspected acute onset cerebral malaria, which would make a lot of sense... after he'd been sedated they sent off lots of blood for testing and hopefully he's doing much better now.

But as well as crazy accidents it's also been a week full of babies!! As well as spending a morning in the mother and child, antenatal and immunisation clinics, we've seen two beautiful healthy babies delivered which was just the most amazing thing ever. There are no routine ultrasounds done in pregnancy here, which seems very strange especially as there is a machine available. Everything is done by poking and prodding, which means that, quite often, there is some complication... most babies here seem to be born with their cord around their neck, which is just such a needless risk in so many cases. Anyway, seeing those little babies born was just incredible. The first baby was 5.1kg which is just ridiculously massive, especially to give birth to naturally. The mother was so calm and strong throughout though, I couldn't believe it! The other mother was much younger, having her first baby, and really really scared. To make matters worse, the labour room was really busy that day and, ridiculous as it sounds, there wasn't a bed for her. She was literally pacing up and down, leaning on the wall, screaming and crying and bent over double, and I seriously feared that I might have to jump to the floor and catch the baby, she was that close to giving birth. At one stage she had all her weight on me as I supported her, and it was just beyond belief that there was no bed to help her to. Finally one became free for her and after that the birth was pretty quick... as soon as it was over she was thanking God that she was still alive, and the smile on her face showed just how relieved she was for it all to be over. I got to be the one to tell her family outside that she and the baby were both fine and healthy, and I went back to visit her the next day on the ward to see how she was getting on... She gave me a massive big cuddle and introduced me properly to her beautiful baby daughter, and the two went home happy and healthy that afternoon. It was really such a lovely thing to be a part of.

Some of the other mothers, however, haven't been so lucky. One woman with a breech presentation waited for hours for an emergency c-section which never happened, so she eventually had a natural birth as she just couldn't wait any longer. We've been scrubbed up in surgery seeing some other emergency c-sections though, which have been really interesting to watch; there have been a few scarier moments when complications arose, but thank goodness the mothers and babies were fine in the end. We also saw surgery this morning on a woman who had a c-section 5 days ago, but whose stitches all burst open so that her small intestine was literally hanging outside of her abdomen. That was also unpleasant to see but the surgeons did a good job of cleaning out the infection before re-stitching through each layer right out to the skin. The bowel had haemorrhaged though, and did not look healthy to us, so I worry about that and imagine that some severe adhesions are a serious risk for that patient. I'll go back to check up on her on Monday.

All in all though, a pretty eventful week!! I'm still really loving it out here, and we've had some really fun times with all the girls! And I'm really excited about the weekend, I feel we've all earned a good rest... Sunday on the beach last week was definitely a good shout, so I think we'll be heading there again, as well as hopefully getting some shopping done at the market tomorrow and try out this Italian restaurant we've spotted by the beach... Although we've had some really yummy stuff out here, one thing we've all been having little pangs for recently is food from home! So that's pretty exciting. And the plan is to go for a bit of a night out afterwards so that will definitely be interesting and a lot of fun!!

I'd best be off now however as I think we're going to head down to the children's home nearby for a bit to play some games and football! Oh my me playing football this will be a sight to be seen indeed... sos!

With lots of love and hugs from Kenya!! :) xxx

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Afraid it's going to have to be a quick one as I'm in a busy internet cafe which is pretty warm! Internet access has been very limited so I've not been able to update at all, but I'll maybe try to write a wee something every week!

So we arrived safe and sound in Nairobi last Friday morning after a 17 hour journey... We were met at the airport and taken to our transit house, where we just had time to dump our stuff before heading off to see the baby elephants and giraffes at their sanctuary! They were just so cute, the wee elephants were my favourite... they were so cheeky and splashed me all over with water! And the giraffes were fun too, we were able to feed them from our hands and they were so gentle :) we had a quick nap in the afternoon before going for a wee wander to explore our part of Nairobi a bit... and then headed to bed!

The next day we were up early for our 12 hour bus journey across a big chunk of Kenya to Malindi, the town we are based in for the month. Although it was pretty bumpy and warm, it was a really nice way to see a bit of the country, as we drove through loads of little villages and a couple of bigger towns and cities. We're staying with two sisters who are just great girls, they're fab chat and we've been so comfortable in our new wee home! Sunday was spent exploring Malindi a wee bit, it's a beautiful town right on the Indian Ocean, with cute little shops and so many kids playing in the streets! We're very much a novelty here, with practically everyone waving, shouting 'jambo!' and 'ciao!' (most of the whites in Malindi are Italians), trying to strike up conversations and lots of wee kids wanting to play. We're starting to recognise some people though and have made some friends which is fun, Tony from the corner shop is a particular fan of ours, alongside lots of the guys who drive the tuk tuks which we've been using to get around!

The first time we went properly into the town was pretty eventful... It's just so so different to home, and it's strange being such a big attraction just walking down the street! It's fun though, and down towards the beach is just sunning. We've wandered along the pier and seen some stunning sunsets, and loads of guys play football there every evening, so we've watched a couple of times and made friends with some of them too. They're all obsessed with football here! And rather too much with Chelsea for my liking. Although there's a decent bunch of Man Utd supporters too so that's good. All the boys play football, from the tiniest little league at one end of the beach right along to the mens' teams with proper strips and everything at the other! It looks like eventually we're going to be forced to join in, although it hasn't happened quite yet...

We've been really loving the hospital too, and I can't believe we've had a full working week already. We're based in paediatrics which I just love, as the kids are great and you really get to build up a relationship with them and their mums, who also stay on the ward. The hospital is big, with loads of different departments in separate buildings spread across the site, and this week we've also spent time in ICU, neonatal and maternity, which has all been interesting. Most of the kids are in with pneumonia, malaria, malnourishment, gasroenteritis... there are also a surprisingly large number with HIV and TB, which is a bit difficult to see. We've also seen some more unusual, interesting cases... snake bites, really severe fractures, psychosis with hallucinations, meningitis, measles, hepatitis, congenital defects... stuff we probably wouldn't see much of at home. We've also been able to learn about some of the cultural impacts on the health of some of the children... a few have come in with infected injuries from traditional procedures, such as a poor little boy who had ha his uvula ceremonially removed and ended up in intensive care. When he arrived, he had loads of herbs and stones attached all over with string, which were apparently natural healing remedies, but which the doctors did away with very quickly. These two lovely lovely young doctors have kind of taken us under their wing a wee bit which has been so lovely... They're such fun guys and the four of us have been having so many laughs this week! They've been explaining so many interesting things, and have been letting us do examinations, and generally help out with bits and pieces here and there.

I've made special friends with a couple of the mums as well, who really have a hard time living in the ward for days or weeks at a time, and really appreciate a bit of company from us! Not everyone speaks English, but we've been picking up bits and pieces of Kiswahili, and a lot of the time just the company is enough for them. And when the kids are well enough, they just love to play! I've made a couple of special friends, most of them in the surgical area, where they're recovering from surgery for various accidents. There are three, a wee girl and two wee boys, who have in particular just stolen my heart! They blow kisses and smile and wave all the time! And love loads of cuddles, which is ideal because I do too! Some of the other kids, however, very much associate our white coats with being jabbed with needles and so are a bit more wary at first, which is fair enough! But they're getting to know us much better now and so are usually much happier to see us :)

There have been some more difficult times in the hospital. A severe and prolonged seizure has us all really worried, and some of the malnourishment cases are particularly sad. One in particular - a six year old girl - weighs little more than a baby, and her eyes just show so much pain. Although it's not fun watching the kids kick and scream when the staff are trying to take blood, it's somehow a lot more disturbing to see the children who are just too ill and too weak to resist at all. One little boy with meningitis has completely lot all tone and strength in all his muscles, to the point that he can hardly even swallow, and has difficulties breathing. It's these children you really worry about, and it's for them that the continuity of care aspect is so important... I just really hope he gets that here as he would at home. We also bumped into one of the mothers from the ward it town today. She told us that her baby died this morning. It really hits home when something like that happens. Another woman arrived at A&E, having given birth at home, she was crouched over double and could hardly walk. We tried to help her inside but she didn't want it; we found her shortly afterwards, practically collapsed outside, and eventually managed to find a wheelchair to help her inside.

But as well as the harder times, there have been some great moments. A lot of our children were discharged on Friday, and it's just so so wonderful to see their little laughing faces running around the wards, so much healthier than they were, and knowing that you did a little something to help hem get better. One of my favourite little boys was practically unrecogniseable, so excited to finally be going home to play football with his brothers and friends, and looking just chuffed to bits! The mothers are so grateful for all the help from th hospital, and you can really see how much it helps the people who come here.

Sooooo the internet cafe is closing and we are getting chucked out! But at least I've managed to get a little bit down here tonight. I'd really like to at least semi keep this thing up throughout, but for tonight that's it... We're safe and happy and loving it all so far!! Lots of love from Kenya, I'll update again asap!! :) xxx

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Last Night at Home...

Oh hi J I’ve never done any kind of blog before, so this is me trying my best to be a bit of a techno-chick! But I thought it might be a nice way to keep a wee record of all our adventures whilst we’re away, and make sure I have something to look back on at the end of it all... I really have no idea what our internet access will be like once we’re there, or how much time we will have, but I will try my best to update this at least every so often J

So it’s the night before we leave for Kenya, and it’s all really exciting, although I’m also quite nervie! The journey tomorrow is going to be really long... 17 hours for me! I’m flying to Amsterdam from Glasgow early in the morning, where I’ll be waiting for a few hours before meeting my friend Aby, after which we'll wait a few more hours, then fly to Nairobi! I think I’m more or less packed, I pretty much feel like a bit of a walking pharmacy with all the medications, insect repellants, sun lotions, anti-viral hand foams and everything else that I’m taking, but it’s best to be prepared! I also went to Primark yesterday and bought loads of cute little kiddie bracelets, hair clips, rings and bobbles to give to the little girls there. Last year when I was in Uganda I wished I had thought to bring little presents like that, so this time I’ve made sure I’m well stocked-up!

We are spending a month living in Malindi, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We’re working in the hospital there, which seems pretty big and is a general hospital, so I’m not quite sure what to expect! When I was in Uganda last year, it was a very small mother and baby clinic that I worked in, so it’ll be interesting to compare the two. I’m really excited about getting to see and explore a completely new place, meet some new people, try some new things and hopefully really get involved in local life! It’ll certainly be an adventure whatever happens, and now I’m just looking forward to getting started!