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Culture Shock—Monday and Tuesday at Tenwek

July 15, 2009

It never fails that you have some difficulty adapting to a new place especially a big hospital as busy as Tenwek.  The first day you’re beyond disoriented and praying for wisdom on how to simply exist.  Remember my comment about the water?  Here as in many places you need to boil your water first—you’ll note the pleasant rust-colored sediment at the bottom after boiling it.   Then you run it through filter that looks like a large stainless steel coffee urn (you see it on the counter on left in the kitchen picture). AptKitchen Our first experiment with non-bottled water was less than great as the water at one of guest houses tasted like pure petroleum.  When I asked some fellow visitors at the housing complex why their water tasted so bad, they responded that they simply used a concentrated flavoring agent to hide the taste!  Needless to say you can imagine how thankful I was when I hesitatingly tasted the filtered water in our apartment, and there was only a metallic aftertaste—but no petroleum aftertaste!  I did try the local boxed irradiated milk which is good for a year unopened—I’ll pass on that one in the future.

Family room

Family room

Of course there are other humorous things to remind you that you aren’t in Kansas anymore—being at 6000 ft elevation and panting like you have heart failure walking up short inclines, putting mosquito netting over your bed at night, and not knowing the language to talk to patients.  All pretty overwhelming for your first 12 hours before you head to bed for your first night under the net.netting

The second day for us was more encouraging, because we got to do something in our comfort zone—our clinical work.  Ginnie spent a lot of time tweaking the state of the art echo machin, teaching a Kenyan resident how to use the echo, and seeing patients.  Unfortunately the vast majority of patients had rheumatic fever in the past and present with resultant heart disease on one of the heart valves.

This condition is very rarely seen in the United States because most people are treated with penicillin and never face this complication.  Imagine young underweight children who are short of breath eating and can’t play with other children.  Or on the other spectrum, a young man we saw today who is 33 years old weighs 116 pounds and can’t walk upstairs due to his valve disease.  In the United States these patient would undergo a mitral valve replacement.  But in Kenya the infrastructure to support this operation is currently unavailable.

Echo teaching

Echo teaching

It’s especially hard when the children are already symptomatic at a young age—I don’t remember what the diagnosis was for the child in this picture, but like all young children, the language of innocence is universal.  Little girl2

As for me, I sat in on the resident teaching sessions, saw patients in surgery clinic and did a major operation for bowel obstruction in a 56 year old Masai man.  It was nice to be back in the OR after a year and to be treated as very senior resident.  I’ll post more about day 3 tomorrow (day 4).   It’s easier to post the previous day’s events the next day, but today was a crazy day with everything from orthopedic, brain and thoracic surgery!

Back at home things seem to be going well Melissa sent us a cute picture of the kids looking at our prayer card picture on the fridge at their house.  It sounds like the kids are having fun on their vacation from mom and dad

At the frigde

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2009 9:34 pm

    Cute little place you’re staying in. Glad your work is helping you feel more settled, not less!

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