by Julie Shelton
Resident, Department of Surgery
Vanderbilt Medical Center
Photo: Kijabe Hospital
I have been in Kijabe for almost three weeks and today is the first day I received a hard and fast sign that I am in a developing country. No power. No explanation. On one minute then off the next. It happened in the OR – just a blink – but serves as a reminder that as much as there is available here in Kijabe, more than in many other hospitals in Kenya, it is still a tenuous resource. One that is dependent on the hard work of so many to keep things running as smoothly as possible so that the lights stay on, the available suture will be strong enough to hold a knot, and blood will be available for the patient with anemia who needs to have his spleen out.
My first night here I was summoned to “Casualty”, Kijabe’s version of an Emergency Room. There had been an “RTA” (a Road Traffic Accident) and all the victims had been brought to Kijabe. There were 11 total, easily filling the small room that is Casualty. Not quite knowing where to start – which patients had been seen, which had not, I glanced around the room quickly triaging patients. Doing so, I noticed some family members gathered around a stretcher with a young man lying on it. One man in particular looked up from the patient and met my gaze. The look on a trauma family member’s face is unmistakable and is the same no matter where you are from. Grief and sorrow mixed with disbelief and hope - there is hope in there as well. Hope that the news will be good. Hope that the injuries will be minor. Hope that if they are not minor, that their family member will recover quickly and without lasting harm. Hope that you will be able to help.
I was stopped in the hospital corridor the day following that trauma by that same family member – this family member described the trauma victims as his people. He wanted to thank me for helping his people. He was not satisfied by my simple “you are welcome” but in our mixed conversation of American English, British English, and Swahili I think I managed to convey that it really was my pleasure to be here and to be able to help.
His cousin in particular was one of the more seriously injured but went home after a few days of monitoring on the wards – grateful to be able to get back to his job and his family.
This is what Kijabe is able to provide by combining the work of so many – a resource, a place for people to come to heal. A place where it is a true pleasure to be able to help, where one can join with many others to keep the lights on.