I returned to Samaria with a Clinical Officer, Waweru, in tow to staff Samaria for the week in Susan’s absence. Susan has an obligation to attend training and program review for her participation in Tunza the family planning program supported in part by USAID. If Susan is not able to find a substitute during her absence, then she must close her clinic. In this case it would have been for 4 ½ days, difficult on the patients and Susan’s income. Even so, engaging a substitute adds costs to clinic expenditures, that may or may not be recouped from leaving the clinic open. This underscores the difficulty that private clinic nurses have in taking time away from their practice if they are the sole practitioner. It is difficult to engage in continuing education, a must for any clinical practitioner, if the economics and finding a trusted substitute are onerous.
So off Susan went Monday afternoon to a suburb of Nairobi for her meeting. And then the rains began! Waweru and I were busy with patients until it was time for him to head home to Nyeri. I realized that this relative “city boy” came to Samaria without gum boots or an umbrella. He trudged out in the rain in his dress shoes for what turned out to be a 4 hour commute back to Nyeri. This trip in dry weather is about an hour. Happily Waweru showed up the next day despite the rain and the convoluted travel requirements to avoid impassable roads.
Waweru and I established a good rhythm in seeing patients and had time to share reflections about our respective training and commonalities and differences, which I will address another time. It is still raining!
Eight am the next morning I am called by Waweru that due to a family emergency he would have to go to his family home in Nakuru. He was trying to find me a substitute but to no avail. Hmmm. Given my knowledge of Kikuyu, it was going to be a real challenge alone in the clinic. Susan made some noises about coming home but in the end, it was me with the frequent translating services of her sister Nancy for those patients who remained perplexed by my words. There is nothing like being thrown into the deep end to bring you up to speed. Oh yes it is still raining, so realistically Susan would be hard pressed to make it home.
Fortunately no real emergencies arrived at the clinic. Patients were gracious and patient with my attempts at Kikuyu and communicating with them. Others were forced to use their English skills that otherwise might not have had Susan been there. Oh yes, it is still raining- I introduced the term “raining cats and dogs” to the local colloquium that week. It is very impressive rain.The first two days alone were busy despite the rain and while I tried to establish a rhythm of seeing patients, assessing for health complaints, being the pharmacist to fill the medications I prescribed, collecting payments, and entering patient visit information in the various registers, as required by the Ministry of Health.
The MOH required registers
The “Well Child Visit” crib is a good perch after a long day.
I did use the early morning re-reviewing the MOH guidelines for managing childhood illnesses for under 5 years and various reference books on treating worms, amoebas, malaria, and typhoid. I was very glad that I also brought my Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy. During nursing school I did not fully appreciate the wealth of knowledge this guide supplied, despite its impossibly small 4 point character font! My roommate during the summer also recommended a midwife’s pocket guide that proves to be illuminating for this family nurse practitioner.
Susan returned home Friday night after an adventurous travel home that required hitching a ride with an ambulance on the main road which in fact got stuck and required 13 young men to push it out, after Susan promised to pay them each 50shillings the next day.
I was asked by one of my male blog readers what do the men. Well, in this area many young men wait along dirt roads waiting for vehicles to get stuck. Once stuck the men negotiate a fee, usually 50 shillings, and then push the vehicles out of the mud and muck. Kenya’s unemployment is estimated at 40% (of 39M) of which a large percentage is “youth”, resulting in many idle young men. As you may recall, I was told by more than one man that the construction work on the dirt road that was causing all the stuck cars was too back breaking to be worth the 250 shillings a day for men, however apparently not so for women. Pushing vehicles pay more with less effort. Others are using motorcycles to provide taxi service for people and goods in the smaller communities, that has improved some men’s income. I have asked whether there are co-ed groups or men groups engaging in micro-lending projects as an alternative. In this area there is beginning to be interest by men but it is a challenge I am told to build trust among the male participants. I see lots of entrepreneurial opportunities for men and women, however, there perhaps a lack of mentoring by successful men or men in leadership roles to pursue some of those opportunities.
Back to Susan’s journey: Susan was dropped off by the ambulance to walk about a mile up a hill across farms and along the so called road to Samaria without gum boots. She made it by 10:30 PM. And yes, it is still raining. In fact, I was to return to Mariine Maternity Home and Josephine on Sunday the 3rd and was delayed until Wednesday because of the rain. I did manage to take advantage of a break in clouds on Saturday and Susan volunteered to add a little color to my hair.