Thursday, August 23, 2012

Last Morning in the Hospital

Thursday morning we woke up and caught the first shuttle to the hospital.  Chelsea, Allison, and I went straight up to major theatre to see if we could observe some surgeries.  On Thursdays and Fridays there are usually specialists who come from other parts of the world.  When we first got there we suited up in the surgical boots, hair net, and mask and went into one of the operating rooms.  The first surgery we observed was a man who was undergoing esophageal surgery.  He had cancer and they were going to try and remove it.  At first they went through his abdomen but they couldn’t get to the cancer so they had to sew him back up and go through his side.  I felt badly for the patient today. They get taken to the operating room, and no doctors talk to them or try to comfort them as they are being pricked with iv’s and needles. It made me think back to when I had my appendix removed and how scared I was before I was put under.  I couldn’t imagine the way the patient felt facing cancer, but also about to have a major surgery.  My heart ached for him.

                                                          Allison and I-ready for surgery

Next, I went and saw an orthopedic surgery and let me tell you it was halfway disturbing.  The man had broken his femur and the doctors were manipulating his body, legs twisting everywhere trying to get the bone back into place.  The nurse joked that the doctors didn’t need to work out for the rest of the day because they literally had to put their full body weight into what they were doing.  It was slightly gross but actually really cool the way that they can fix bones like that.  The doctors performing the surgery were from Germany and none of the drills in the theatre were working.  The doctor said he brought one with him that they could use and when he pulled it out I wanted to laugh.  It looked exactly like a Makita drill that my dad uses for construction.  He assured us that it was special for surgery and he put a cloth casing over it and continued to use it.  It took three doctors to correctly set the femur but the leg looked straight as they were closing up.
                                             fixing the broken femur
After being up in surgery I made my way back down to minor theatre.  I did a couple dressings when one of the students from our group, Chris, came and told us there was someone in casualty we had to see.  We made our way over to casualty and it was a woman who had been in a massacre a day ago.  I have never, ever seen anything like it.  As I sit here trying to describe to you what I saw I’m at a loss for words.  The lady had been severely cut on her cheek so that you could see her teeth and upper jaw bone through the skin.  Her arm was mangled and looked like the tendons were barely hanging on.  The amazing thing was that the massacre happened very far away from Mombasa, and she was found in a town halfway between Mombasa and where the massacre had happened.  The massacre was all over the papers and it was a tribal battle over some pasture land.  A lot of women and children were killed but only 8 men.  I couldn’t believe that innocent people were being killed over some swamp land.  What amazed me even more was the woman’s resiliency.  Her whole family had been killed and she was badly injured yet she wasn’t screaming in pain or making a commotion.  As we left to go to lunch the doctors were taking her up to surgery. 

                                             The newspaper article on the massacre

After lunch we made our way to Old Town to do some last minute shopping.  I got some souvenirs for friends and family as well as myself.  It was fun to shop but the store owners are so frustrating sometimes.  They really pressure you to buy things and sometimes just go too far.  I was ready to leave after a couple hours.  Now we are back at the compound and are preparing our last celebration here at the compound.  We are planning on having a good time tonight with all the other students for our one last hoorah.  It’s a sad realization that today was our last morning hospital visit.  Tomorrow we are working on painting the orphanage and then we are going to try to do a night shift so we are tired for the plane ride.  I can’t wait to see everyone but it will be hard leaving this place, quite bittersweet in my opinion. 
                                                Angie, Natalie, and I with our henna (picture from yestertday)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


This morning we took the middle shuttle to the hospital and arrived about 9 am.  We attempted to catch a live birth and actually got to see one.  We waited for about two hours until the baby was ready to come out.  The African mothers are truly strong in my eyes.  Every time I am in maternity I never see them with any family members or husband, all are usually independent.  The lady that gave birth today didn’t yell or seem affected by the pain at all even with minimal pain medications compared to what we are used to in the United States.  On the other hand she didn’t seem as excited as we are about births in the United States either.  Once the healthy baby boy cried for the first time all of us students smiled and were very happy, but the mom didn’t even say much at all.  Actually, it was funny because she was on her cell phone at least two minutes after the baby was born like it hadn’t even happened. Once the mother was cleaned up we checked on the baby and he looked healthy and was returned to his mother. 
After hanging out in maternity for most of the morning we went back to minor theatre.  It was pretty busy and there were numerous things going on.  We met a Hindu doctor in minor theatre yesterday and we asked about her henna tattoos that she had all over her arms and legs.  She told us her aunt did them and that we could call her and get some if we like.  We called her this morning and she said we could come today.  Chelsea and Megan went before lunch time; while Natalie, Angie, and I went after lunch.  We figured how many times could you get an authentic henna tattoo? When in Rome—er—Africa right? We ate lunch at Caribou and rode a motorbike home.  I was actually really nervous to do this as well because a lot of patients at the hospital get in accidents because of either motorbikes or busses.  I had to say I did it at least once so Angie and I hopped on the bike and made it back to the compound safely. 
We changed and made our way back to the hospital.  The lady’s house that we went to was about a block from the hospital.  She was such a nice lady and charged us such a small fee.  I got my hand and wrist done as well as my foot and it was only 200 shillings which is like a little over two dollars.  I don’t have any pictures on my camera, but Angie and Natalie both have some on theirs that I will try to get later.  We just finished eating dinner- lamb, deep fried potatoes, and vegetables; and later I believe we are going to hang out at CafĂ© Mocha. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to the Hospital

Tuesday was back to our normal routine.  We woke up after a great night sleep and made our way to the hospital.  A couple of us headed to maternity to see if we could catch a live birth but there were already too many students and interns there.  I found myself back in minor theatre which was pretty steadily busy the entire morning.  I redressed wounds at first including some of the regulars who we see every couple days.  A man came in who had been in a knife fight and had multiple slashes across his back and he needed his stitches removed.  Allison and I removed at least 20-30 stitches off the backside of the man.  I watched a couple abscesses being cut and drained which is something I hadn’t observed yet.  One of the abscesses was on a man’s leg and the other was on a poor toddler’s forehead.  One of the saddest things I saw today was a lady who came in and had huge tumors on her lymphnoids under her armpits.  She had previously had a mastectomy but had never been treated for chemotherapy.  She was clearly sick and unfortunately there was nothing we could do except send her to get a biopsy of the lumps.  Cancer is something that is always hard for me to see and it was obvious it was so far advanced. 
                                            removing sutures from the man's backside

One positive of the day was that we have some really appreciative patients.  People are constantly telling us “God Bless You” or “Thank you so much” which is something I appreciated even though I feel like I can’t help them enough or I am doing too little.
                                                       what a room in minor theatre looks like
After the hospital we went to the beach for our last trip before we leave Africa.  Angie and I rode a camel on the beach! It was such a cool experience and we loved every second of it.  The camels name was Susuki.  The African people stared at us as we rode down the beach but we didn’t know if it was because we were mzungus or because we were riding a camel, maybe a little of both?  After getting off the camel we layed out, played volleyball, and swam in the ocean.  It was a perfect last memory of the beach and a beautiful warm day.  We just finished dinner at Cafeserrie and I’m finally feeling caught up on my blog.  I’m sad we only have three more full days here; the trip has flown by.  See you all soon, that’s all for now!
                                          Angie and I- "we're on a camel"

Final Safari Post

Once we returned back to Nairobi we went to one of the most famous restaurants in Kenya.  It was called Carnivore and was worth every penny.  First, they served us appetizers of pizza bites and corn on the cob.  We were all starving because we hadn’t eaten a substantial meal all day in preparation for this dinner.  After appetizers we were served bread and butter, then soup.  I had never had a soup like it before but it was a carrot and beet soup.  Surprisingly delicious! Next, we were served a salad platter.  Then the main courses began.  Carvers came around with about every type of meat imaginable on large sword-like skewers.  Our table literally had a white flag on it that we had to put down when we surrendered or were done eating.  I tried everything they served from pork ribs, pork sausage, chicken wings, chicken breast, prime rib, ostrich meatballs, crocodile, turkey, lamb, pork leg, and even ox balls (testicles).  We were stuffed and finally surrendered to our full stomachs.  To our surprise we still had another course: dessert.  We had about ten different options and I chose the choco-chip blondie brownie.  It was an awesome experience and meal.  After eating we returned to the hotel and crowded the bar area once again.  Those who know our group could infer how well behaved we were. J We eventually went to bed. In the morning it was a long eight hour bus ride back to Mombasa.  I couldn’t really sleep on the bus so it made for an excruciating long trip.  When we finally got back to our compound we chilled and relaxed for the rest of the night.  That pretty much sums up the Safari trip, I tried to be brief but we did so much! I’ll try to upload pictures to Facebook but I honestly don’t have enough internet to do it here; in the meantime here's a sneak preview of the safari. 

the beautiful sunrise on Safari
us at the Carnivore restaurant

Safari Part 2

I woke up Saturday morning with my mosquito net halfway covering my face, which explains why I have seven or so bites only on the right side of my body.  One thing that I can always count on to remind me that I am in Africa is having to crawl underneath a mosquito net as I prepare for bed.  I untangled myself from my net and went to go get breakfast. It was probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve had since being in Africa.  I had toast, sausage, and eggs.  After breakfast we loaded up the vans and headed out to safari.  We were on the safari from 7:30am to 4:00pm.  It seems like a long time but it was incredible and flew by.  We saw so many animals including giraffes, lions, cheetahs, elephants, and a rhino which is incredibly rare.  After seeing all the animals on safari I don’t know if the zoo will cut it anymore. Haha! Throughout the morning we drove through the game reserve until we reached a problem.  It had rained and there was a u-shaped hill that we had to pass through to get to where we were trying to go.  The first van powered through it but when my van attempted the dip, we got stuck.  We rolled up the hill and then back down into the mud.  We had to evacuate our van so that we could be pulled up the hill.  Instead of getting our shoes all muddy we climbed out the top of the safari van and slid down the hood to a less muddy area.  It was quite the sight.  After being in the van all morning I had to go to the bathroom badly.  I found a nice looking bush along with some of the other girls and relieved myself in true wilderness fashion without getting eaten by any wild animals.  We all piled back in our vans and continued looking at animals until lunch.  At lunch we found a tree in one of the approved areas of the park and sat outside and had a picnic.  Our camp had provided lunch and it was very interesting.  It consisted of an unidentifiable meat sandwich, a chicken leg, chips, an apple, banana, and juice.  Despite the mystery of the lunch we were all hungry and it tasted delicious.  We loaded back into the vans and made our way to the river on the game reserve.  It separates Kenya from Tanzania so we got to see another part of Africa! In the river we saw crocodiles and hippos.  After seeing the river we made our way back to the camp.

                                                us on the safari van

                                             lunch time!

Once we got back to the camp we had the option of going to the Masaai Mara tribe’s village.  They showed us where they lived and they also talked about their lifestyle.  It was very interesting.  All of their houses make a circle and they have a fence made of sticks surrounding the outside.  Inside the houses is where they keep their goats and cows.  They danced and sang some of their traditional songs for us.  First, the men did a dance which consisted of skipping and jumping. In their tribe, the men had multiple wives and when they were married they would do this dance.  The higher one could jump indicated that the man would be able to pay less of a dowry for the woman.  Typically a woman would be 10 cows, but if the man could jump high it could be as low as 7 cows.  Next, the woman did a dance which was actually really simple.  It consisted of swinging their arms back and forth.  The men talked about what each gender did which was also really interesting.  Men were in charge of protecting the village from wild animals.  Once a boy killed a lion he would be considered a man.   The women were in charge of building the houses in the village.  The houses only last 9 years so once the 9 years are up the village moves.  The village we saw was 120 people and the only thing they ate was blood, milk of the cow, and milk of the goat.  We got to go inside the houses as well.  The women each had houses while the men would go from house to house to visit their multiple wives.  The houses had a couple rooms tops, one of them usually being for the baby cows and goats.  Chelsea and I were inside one of the houses and they asked if we had any questions.  Chelsea asked what the houses were made out of.  The man replied, “oh! You like? Touch it.” So Chelsea and I proceeded to feel the walls of the house until he says “It’s made of sticks and cow dung.” Needless to say we sanitized our hands afterwards.  We left the village feeling very informed and blessed.     
                                                    inside the village with the Maasai Men
That night we had dinner which was again the usual, and went to bed.  In the morning we woke up very early to go on Safari before the sun rose.  It was beautiful to see the purple and pinks behind the zebras and giraffes.  After exploring the park for a couple more hours it was finally time to leave.  We ate breakfast then proceeded back on the bumpy road to our hotel in Nairobi.  I promise I will update the last portion of the safari soon, there is just so much to say! I know some people don't know how to comment on my blog so my dad suggested putting my email address as well.  If you want to contact me for questions, comments, or even just to say hello my email is Thanks! :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Safari Trip Part One

I am officially back in Mombasa safe and sound.  I’m going to have to break up my blog posts by a couple days because I have too much to say to put it all in one.  Thursday morning we left early to get to the bus station to leave for our safari. The bus took us from Mombasa to Nairobi and was eight hours long.  Surprisingly, the bus ride there went quickly and was similar to an airplane ride in that we received snacks and refreshments on the way. 
                                                                     Chelsea and I- bus buddies!
 We stopped at a “rest stop” for lunch where we could purchase food if we liked.  I didn’t want to risk getting sick from the meat so I stuck with french fries.  Before we left many of us wanted to use the bathroom which was basically just holes in the ground.  We managed to find one individual stall with an actual toilet so we took turns.  After we made the trip to Nairobi, the Elective Africa coordinators-Flavia and Grace- picked us up from the bus stop and we took taxis to our hotel. Nairobi was a lot more urban than Mombasa and seemed cleaner.  We didn’t know if it was this way because it was the capital or if we were just in a nicer area of the city.  Pulling into our hotel was a bit of a shock.  Most of us expected a hotel, something basic like a Super 8 but we pulled into a backpacker’s hostel.  All the buildings were painted with a mural of an African savannah and we stayed in rooms with sets of bunk beds.  The hotel wasn’t what we expected but it really was clean and a cheap place to stay.  I think part of the unexpectedness was because we had heard from other previous students about their hotel and all of us assumed that we would stay at the same one.  All of us were very hungry so we went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant.  It was very very nice and I almost felt underdressed in jeans.  I had pizza; yes. I am so ready to eat American food again. Haha! After dinner we went back to the hotel, hung out around the bar and played cards. 
Friday we woke up to a frigid, rainy morning. I didn’t expect Africa to be cold and didn’t bring many items of warm clothing.  Luckily, one of the girls brought two pairs of sweatpants and let me borrow on for the safari trip.  The safari vans came and picked us up from the hostel so we could start our journey to the game reserve.  Our group was large so we split up into three safari vans, everyone got a window seat for maximum viewing pleasure.  Our vans drove to where we would be staying which was in the Maasai Mara game reserve.  On the way we drove through the Great Rift Valley which is beautiful.  The roads wound through the hills and reminded me of driving through Spearfish canyon back home.  Since my group was in “Safari mode” we managed to relate almost everything we saw to The Lion King and we even threw in a couple songs off the soundtrack along the way. 
                                                our safari van group at the Great Rift Valley
After about two hours of driving we stopped for some lunch which was traditional Kenyan food. Our driver, Peter, told us we had 2 and a half more hours to go, but he warned us that the last hour and a half the road was very rough.  He wasn’t kidding, but he also didn’t slow down. We raced down the bumpiest road I’ve ever been on.  The only comparison I have to that road would be driving in grandpa’s old manual pickup through the pasture, hitting every single rock- except much faster and about 10x worse.  We finally made our way through the savannah-like environment and arrived at our hotel.   The camp area we stayed in was a mixture of rooms made of cement and military tent rooms.  Four of us stayed together in a cement room except there were holes in all the walls leading outside and our glass windows didn’t close all the way.  The caretakers told our group to make sure we shut our windows at night or else the monkeys will come inside our rooms and steal our belongings.  We were also informed that the electricity is only on from 5:30-7:00 am and 6:30-10:00 pm, meaning we had to be very conscious of when we showered and got ready in the morning.  Once we got settled, we were going out on our first safari that afternoon.  One of my roommates, Chelsea and I had purchased safari hats for the occasion and were ready for the experience! As we entered the park tribal women stuck their hands inside our van to try to get us to buy their items. It was slightly awkward and irritating as we declined.  We finally got inside the park entrance and I think all of us were more than amazed.  We saw zebras and wildebeest first right off the bat.  The funny thing is we were so captivated by the zebras but throughout the entire safari we probably saw at least a thousand zebras.  I didn’t know they were so prevalent.  We saw quite a few different animals and I have loads of pictures.  It soon started to get dark so we made our way back to camp.  Dinner was prepared and it was traditional Kenyan food again-lots of starches of course, but I wasn’t feeling the greatest so I didn’t eat much.  After dinner we showered and got ready for bed.  Since the lights go off at ten there isn’t much to do except go to sleep and we were all exhausted from traveling.  We were told not to go outside the camp fence because the animals come out close to camp at night; wisely, we followed directions.  We went to bed in anticipation of the full day of safari. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Last Day in the Hospital for the Week

Last night about thirteen of us went to the Dark Knight at the Cinema.  It was so cheap compared to the United States prices, like the popcorn was only 100 Kenyan Shillings which translates to a little over a dollar.  Once we got inside the theatre a Kenyan Flag appeared on the screen with an announcer saying “Please rise for the Kenyan National Anthem.”  I found it pretty amusing they played it before a movie when we only hear our national anthem for sporting events but we all stood up and gave our respect to the picture of the flag waving in the wind as the speakers blasted the Kenyan Anthem. The theatre was very nice and huge; it almost felt like I was in America again! The movie turned out to be really good and I’m glad I ended up going.  We made it back to the house, some of us took motorbikes and some of us took tuk-tuks.  The record is four on a motorbike and eight in a small tuk-tuk, pretty impressive if you ask me! We made it back safely and went to bed.

This morning I got up early and took the first ride to the hospital.  My roommates went up to major theatre to see an osteopathic surgery but I thought there would be too many if I joined so I made my way to minor theatre.  The same matron was in there again today and was unreasonable crabby again.  Everyone was trying to avoid her nit-picking and complaining about how we were doing everything wrong.  I tried to stay out of her line of fire for most of the morning and was successful until she directed an outrage at all of us telling us we need to follow the rules, even if no one else including the nurses are.  I try to not take it too personally but it is hard when someone is constantly breathing down your back seeking out things to criticize.

This morning was pretty steady.  I assisted my friend Allison in changing a couple catheters and some wound redressings. I also got to take out my first stitches today by myself on this man’s foot so that was exciting for me!  Today we also saw a man who had dislocated his thumb and had already been here to have it reset.  Unfortunately it moved back to being dislocated so we dressed his wound and had to send him to orthopedics. We finished about an hour early today and headed back to the compound. I don’t have many pictures today because I was nervous to take any under the watchful eye of the matron. A small group of us changed and went to Cafesserie for lunch because the lunch choices at the compound are slim pickings.  There is only so much peanut butter toast, ramen noodles, or grilled cheese one can handle.  I had a cheeseburger and it was so delicious it almost felt like home.
                                                            The man's dislocated finger

Tonight we have to pack and prepare for our safari trip.  My roommates and I are going to head down to the Nakumatt (the market, like a small Wal-Mart) to get some snacks and drinks for the 8 hour bus ride to Nairobi tomorrow morning. We stay in Nairobi for a night then we drive to the Mara, 2 hours away to begin our safari.  I won’t be bringing my computer; in fact I won’t be bringing much because I hear you are very limited for space.  That being said my blog won’t be updated for at least five days.  We return late Monday so don’t be alarmed if I am not updating!  Talk to you all after Safari!