The town of Kakamega lies in Kenya’s second most populous county about 30 kilometers north of the equator. Within this county, Kakamega Provincial General Hospital has a catchment area of over 4 million. After the ISMS Pediatric mission to Kakamega took place last year, the need for medical attention in this region was so outstanding that a new ISMS team (Team Michigan) was created with a goal to return to this area for their first mission.
We left on June 6th, 2013 with 24 team members lead by Claire Mehta and included Dr Mehul Mehta, Dr Matthew Rontal (Plastic Surgeons), Dr Praveen Prasad and Dr Helen Mohan (General Surgeons), Dr Aruna Parekh, Dr Rory Whelan and Dr Shakuntala Advani (Paediatric and Adult Primary Care and Internist), Mimi Veloso, Priscilla Patterson and Harriet Carty (CRNAs), Jodi Drouillard, Marguerite McMahon, Amanda Brandon, Stacy Oglesby, Randee Rosenberg, Marty Priest, Stephanie Ibarra, Sandra Cole and Cliff McAfee (OR Nurses), James Gragg, Emily Smith, Lily Mehta and Meera Prasad (students). We took 61 bags and crates full of supplies and traveled over 8,000 miles arriving two days later in Nairobi, Kenya and then finally arriving in Kakamega on June 8th. We certainly had a number of obstacles along the way! Travel plans had to be changed last minute, 3 team members and 11 bags arrived two days behind schedule, but thankfully in time for the start of surgery. Furthermore, power was lost in the operating rooms each day for a couple of hours resulting in late operations and late nights and there were some minor technical issues with anaesthesia machines and monitors. One hundred patients waited patiently to be triaged on the first day of the mission, having traveled many miles to get to the hospital. Triaging did not end that day, instead, the doctors continued triaging in between surgeries, throughout the week, to add on the most needy cases to their already packed schedules.
Despite all the challenges and effectively only two and a half rooms being available, 45 surgeries were completed in four and a half days, including cleft lip repairs, burn treatments, post burn contracture releases, hernia repairs, thyroidectomies, removal of tumors and hand surgeries. The off site team went to four different remote locations outside of Kakamega, travelling up to three hours each way seeing over 500 people. Many adults and children were seen with many different treatable diseases including Malaria, fevers, worms and many skin conditions.
Surgery was completely life changing for many of the patients. One 12 year-old boy, named Yohana, patiently waited three days on the ward to have his cleft lip repaired. He traveled many miles with his mother to be seen by our team. After his surgery by Dr Matthew Rontal, the mother was overjoyed and said to one of the nurses “now he will have friends and be a normal boy”. Another little six year-old boy named Wycliffe, had tragically been pushed onto a bonfire by a group of boys. He had been an inpatient at the hospital for three months and his injuries were not healing. His whole back was raw because he had 3rd degree burns over 25% of his body. Thankfully, Dr Mehul Mehta was able to skin graft most of his back. Wycliffe was in the HDU ward for about three weeks, after surgery. Throughout the week, many of our team members would visit him, sit with him, and talk with his father who was unemployed and extremely poor. He was so thankful to everyone after the surgery. Since we have left Kakamega, Wycliffe’s back has healed very well. He was discharged last week and is now back at home.
After the week was complete, we were able to leave $25,000 worth of surgical supplies at the hospital and medical supplies at the off site clinics. Within the hospital and the off site program, flip-flops, toys, crayons, coloring books and homemade dresses were distributed to many children.
This mission could not have been done without the support of our private donors, local businesses and charities, which included Map International, Americares and World Medical Relief.
Our mission was completed on June 14th, 2013 after eight full days of triage, surgery and off site work. It was hard work, long days, and very little sleep but one full of many memorable experiences for the whole team.
We are already planning for our next mission in 2014.