We are still here in Kijabe! It may appear our life is always interesting. But our life is more normal than you probably expect. Allison goes to teach at RVA. I go to the hospital and take care of patients. Our kids have successes and failures as do we, the parents. Sometimes I want to pray and read my Bible. Then I have stretches where it is hard and I watch Instagram Reels instead of praying. So the point is that life is normal no matter where you live, and it gets hard to think of things to put on the blog. And then sometimes things are hard and you do not want to do the blog. Or work and life is busier and it is hard to find time. However, I will give it another try, because I feel responsible to those of you who pray for us and support us to let you know what is going on. And really it is a joy to share how we get to serve God, as long as it does not become too narcissistic. Thank you for anyone who manages to check this again after months off the internet. Enjoy some pictures from the past several months. . .
We train doctors and clinical officers at Kijabe. If you come to the hospital as a volunteer physician, be ready to teach. We can help the people in front of us while preparing others to help the people we will never meet in the future.
One year ago our hospital received patients from a massive traffic accident. This is nothing new. We have patients from car wrecks daily. Sometimes a dozen at a time. We are just below the busiest highway in Kenya, and so when there are wrecks. people are picked up and dropped off at our hospital. One thing that is interesting is that often people come in the back of passerby’s cars. There is not a robust ambulance system, and so travelers will help out of the goodness of their character. I had a friend who was in a severe car wreck, and as he pulled his family, bleeding and unconscious from the car, he handed them to strangers who put them in the back of their own cars and drove them to the nearest hospital. He thought to himself as they drove away, that is the last time I am going to see them alive. (They lived and were eventually transferred to Kijabe hospital where our team cared for them).
What was different a year ago was that a very important politician in Kenya was one of the victims. We realized something was different when 2 helicopters landed on the soccer field across the lane from our house. He was operated on and then flown on to Nairobi. He has healed, and this past Sunday he walked from Nairobi to Kijabe hospital to raise funds for our trauma department. He had lots of people walking with him including some of our doctors from the hospital. They started at 2 AM, arriving to the hospital about 12 hours later. It is a long walk. It was nice publicity for the hospital, and it was an honor for us to be thanked and recognized for work we do for anyone, no matter the importance. I was impressed this man walked as he did just one year after his accident. It makes me thankful for the continuing ability to walk and work.
For my recent birthday, Allison invited a few people for coffee and sweets on a Sunday afternoon. I was glad to spend some time with a lot of good people, and I was especially glad to spend time with the Kijabe Hospital Internal Medicine team. We have a great group of American and Kenyan doctors working together to take care of the complex medical cases in the medicine wards, the intensive care unit, and the COVID ward. We deal with a lot of tough cases and some really desperate situations, but there is not a day that goes by without this group giving me something to laugh and smile about.
I am back in a normal hospital ward for a change, and it feels so relaxed in comparison to the weeks I have spent in the ICU and in the COVID wards. It turns out this is the week of ascites and liver failure. I do not recall ever having so many patients with liver failure at the same time in Kijabe. Alcoholism, Hepatitis A, and still to be diagnosed causes for liver failure fill the wards. I have been opening my computer and looking up possibilities for liver failure and ascites to try and solidify diagnosis. In addition heart failure, intestinal bleeding, and bone infections round out the service.
I am glad to be on the wards, because we have more clinical officer interns and medical officer interns present to know and to train. Frequently I find myself pushed to improve through their questions. This week I am working with one specific intern who begins many of his questions with the phrase “with all due respect”. When I hear that at the beginning of a question, I know that I have possibly missed something and that my intern is feeling pretty secure in questioning a treatment plan. This intern has me on my toes, and it is good. He makes me look into why I am doing some treatments in the manner I am doing them. Have I gotten a little relaxed in a resource limited setting? Am I still pushing for excellence in the care of our patients? He knows what the book says, and he wants to know why what we do does not always match the guidelines. Often there are reasons that are sound because of the financial and logistical constraints of the hospital, but other times I am left with the thought that I should be pushing harder for increased levels of care. In this way it is a good push, despite the discomfort of being questioned. Even as I sit typing the post, I am wondering if all of the internal medicine consultants should get together to see if we should go over our guidelines again to see if we can become less constrained by our resources and push for less limitations in our ambitions.
This is from the Samaratin’s Purse website.
Mission Organization: Africa Inland Mission (AIM)/Africa Inland Church (AIC)
Profile: Kijabe Mission Station was first established by missionaries from AIM as an outpost in 1903. The first hospital at Kijabe, Theodora Hospital, was established in 1915. This served the medical needs of the area until the present complex was begun. The first building of the present complex was opened in 1961.
Today, Kijabe Hospital is a non-profit, 363-bed hospital owned and operated by AIC of Kenya as part of a network of four hospitals and 45 dispensaries. It employs over 900 staff and strives to balance Kenyan and missionary consultants. The hospital offers a broad range of inpatient and outpatient curative services to people from the surrounding farming communities. The hospital includes five inpatient wards (general surgery, medicine for adults and children, obstetrics and gynecology, neonatal care, and rehabilitation), nine operating rooms, an outpatient clinic and 24-hour casualty department, an eye clinic, and a full-service dental facility. Support services include a clinical laboratory, a fully equipped pathology department, X-ray, ultrasound, electrocardiogram, pharmacy, physiotherapy, and central medical supply. Kijabe’s laboratory offers immunohematology, hematology, biochemistry, parasitology, urinalysis, bacteriology, and blood banking services.
The pathology department provides tissue diagnostic services to 37 mission hospitals in East Africa. The OPD provides services for general acute illness as well as specialty clinics in diabetes, orthopedics, rehabilitation, ophthalmology, TB, gynecology, high risk pediatrics, and AIDS. Malaria, pneumonia, TB, tropical diseases, and AIDS are common diagnoses. A Maternal-Child Health Centre (MCH) within the hospital provides antenatal care, family planning, and childhood immunizations. Kijabe also sends mobile health teams to 12 villages each month to provide these same services.
Kijabe is a general hospital and performs more than 200 operations each month. In past years, the most commonly performed operations have included: C-section, tubal ligation, exploratory laparotomy (non-trauma), skin graft, supra-pubic protatectomy, D&C, hysterectomy, ORIF femur fracture, salpingectomy (ectopic PG), sequestrectomy (osteomyelitis), and removal of various cancerous tumors. A dental department was begun in 1978 as a satellite clinic of the main AIM dental clinic in Nairobi. The hospital also trains nurses and medical students and has Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and chaplaincy programs. Because people know they can receive quality care at Kijabe, many are willing to wait weeks or months for their procedures. Bed occupancy averages 80 percent.
Travel: Fly by commercial airline to Nairobi; drive approximately one hour to Kijabe (6 km down a steep, winding, narrow but paved road off the main Nairobi/Nakuru highway). Time Difference +7 hours Daylight Savings Time (EST), U.S.A.; +8 hours Eastern Standard Time, U.S.A.
Location: Kijabe Hospital is located about 60 km north of Nairobi. The altitude is 7,200 feet up on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley which extends from the Sea of Galilee to Zimbabwe. People The largest group of people served by Kijabe Hospital are the Kikuyus, although the number of Masai patients has recently increased.
Language: Swahili and English are the official languages of Kenya although local tribal dialects are also spoken. All medical staff speak English fluently, and nurses provide translation to Swahili or Kikuyu. Medical records are written in English.
Religion: The population is primarily Christian (Protestant and Catholic), although some of the more remote tribes practice animism and spirit worship. Muslims and Hindus comprise a smaller portion of the religious community.
Climate: Kijabe is a Masai word meaning “Place of the Winds.” Although strong winds are common, there are periods of calm on most days. The high altitude makes for generally pleasant days (about 80°F) and cool, windy nights (about 55°F). There are two rainy seasons in March–June and October–December. June–August can be quite cool and December–March is typically dry and hot. There can be a lot of mud in the rainy seasons. June––August can be quite cool. December–March is the driest and hottest season.
Housing: Housing is in modern, comfortable homes, duplexes, or apartments which have kitchen equipment, hot water, and electricity. The housing is simply furnished, secure, and near the hospital. Daily housing costs cover electricity, water, security, appliances, and furniture. The Pathology Department has its own apartment for visiting and/or resident pathologists.
Food: Meals are not provided at the hospital so be prepared to buy your own food and prepare your own meals. Most basic items (including fresh foods) that are available in U.S. grocery stores can be found in Nairobi. For More Information Contact Mackenzie Welde by email or by phone at: (828) 278-1371.
We appear to be finishing our third wave of COVID infections in Kenya. I am rounding on the COVID ward this week, and while we started the week with every bed full, as the week has progressed we have decreased our census. The way the COVID ward works is that any patient who comes to the hospital with low oxygen levels, cough, shortness of breath . . . basically any sign of respiratory disease . . . will be sent to the COVID ward clinic, or if they are sick enough they go to the COVID emergency room. When I am working in the COVID ward I cover the COVID ER, the COVID wards, and the COVID ICU. I take care of patients who have COVID pneumonia (not that many currently), but I also have the task to figure out who actually has another disease such as heart failure or some other issue that can look like a COVID but is not. We assess them, and if we determine they do not likely have a coronavirus infection we send them to other parts of the hospital to receive more appropriate care. This week has been a good week. In the past everyone looked like COVID. Now most look like something else and I have been able to move them out of the COVID ward. It is a real relief.
Unfortunately, our fourth wave is predicted for July. We are all praying that despite not having many vaccines in Kenya, that maybe we will avoid the fourth wave.
A New York Times article explaining how the CDC is misrepresenting the statistical risk of COVID transmission demonstrates my frustration with the COVID messaging. You cannot get good information. The news does not understand what they are reporting on, and often do not seem like they are trying. They are sensational without nuance. And then the governmental organization are so scared of being wrong that they will not share what they know to be true. That causes more confusion because what people see with their eyes and experience does not match up to what an entity like the CDC or municipal government says is occurring. And that breaks down trust. Regarding the CDC saying that less than 10 percent of transmission was occurring outdoors . . . “That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation. Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.” . . . Which gets me to the idea that we need to get back to being brave with truth. I tell my kids that when you tell the truth, there may be some consequences, but you have nothing to fear. Living a lie is hard, and telling a lie leads to fear. Read the article for an interesting analysis of the data.
What does medical education look like? Let me describe today.
I was up early for some reason, eyes open at 4:30 AM. I have been getting up early this week . . . but 4:30 is about an hour earlier than usual. So after showering and some reflective time and Bible reading, I started reviewing my notes for today’s lecture on shock and sepsis. This review was an ongoing process while waking up the kids multiple times until they are out of bed, and then seeing them off to school. I went into the hospital around 8:30 AM, quickly walked through the ER and the two step down ICU units, finally ending my walk in the ICU. I wanted to see who had been admitted overnight. Around 9:00 AM as I was reviewing my patient’s labs and x-rays while also updating our audit sheets, I was called by the ER doctor that he had just intubated a young woman in the ER and was sending her to the COVID ward. He wondered if I was covering COVID. I told him I was in ICU, but that I could help in the COVID ICU if needed. One of our medical officers is covering the COVID ward this week, and I am her back up for complicated patients. I decide to run down to the COVID ward to meet the patient on arrival. Unfortunately, the patient was not there yet, but I spent the opportunity to review antibiotics, ventilator settings, and plan of care with the care team in the ward. This was an unplanned teaching moment, but it was a typical educational opportunity at Kijabe. We teach at the moment of giving care or preparing to give care. Not all the interns or medical officers are comfortable with the ventilator, and reviewing the machine is a good chance to teach about how the lungs work, how the body balances acid and base levels, how circulation functions in different pressure scenarios, and how to think logically about the process.
While there, I got a call from the gynecological team for help with a patient. I was just across the courtyard, and so I ran over and gave a mini-lesson how to manage inpatient blood sugar levels and how to start insulin on a new diabetic patient. That was my second unplanned teaching moment of this still early day. Since the patient had still not arrived to the COVID ward, I ran upstairs to round with the ICU team. My trainees are muslim and Christian, and it is a good chance to try and model Christian medical ethics to all of them. This was my first scheduled teaching time. We had several new patients admitted overnight to meet and several previously admitted patients to review. With each patient there is a new topic to cover. Diabetic Ketoacidosis, tuberculosis, meningitis and renal failure in one bed. An epidural hematoma in the next. A hemothorax and multiple trauma injuries suffered by our next patient. The fourth bed is an HIV patient with a cheek tumor. Then we went on to the two HDU’s to discuss hyponatremia, seizure disorder, stomach hemorrhage, and stroke among many other things. After rounds, I ran down again to the COVID ward to discuss the new admission. We reviewed her chest x-ray, the possibilities diagnosis that she might have and how we were going to sort them out. Again I did a quick review of ventilators. This is another great chance to try and teach. I went back up to the ICU, and as I was reviewing some other patients I get a call that the woman in COVID ward is needing resuscitation. So we spent 40 minutes trying to save this patient, and through it all we are reviewing the rules of Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support. We got some labs back that show she is in complete renal failure, and so we spoke a bit about that. We teach while treating patients. Then I was tasked with informing her husband about her passing, and I did that with one of our interns. This is different, but it another form of education. It is a chance to model Christian compassion while breaking bad news.
I quickly ran home for some lunch, then, as there was a small break in the rain, I ran back to the hospital. Now it was a formal teaching time, and I reviewed for one hour sepsis and shock with the interns assigned to the ICU. Afterward, I received two calls from my medical officers, reviewing patients with them. More informal teaching. The afternoon exit rounds were spent reviewing a man who had been in a car accident in whom we found a diaphragmatic rupture on CT that we ordered in the morning. I spent another 30 minutes going over all of his x–rays and CTs trying to see if there was a way it could have been found earlier. That was a learning time for me, trying to get better. And I hope it models a certain humility and need to always try and get better to our interns.
That is how teaching works in a teaching hospital, and specifically at Kijabe Mission Hospital. Formal times mixed in with many random opportunities. I learn each day, and I try and pass on how I learn and what I learn to those interns who entrust their education to us.
We have had plenty of COVID patients in the hospital. It is a weird disease. If you are low risk, you are definitely in good statistical shape in regards to your quite low probability of dying. If you are older, obese, or diabetic your risks are higher. And it is an infection that when it gets going, and if you are susceptible, there is no good way to stop it. Dealing with it in a resource poor hospital is even more challenging. And so we continue to do our best within the situation we find ourselves in. I am one of those who has respect for COVID, but not fear. And I strongly feel like the Christian response to a pandemic should never be fear. Caution is normal, but as followers of Jesus we should run toward the infected and not away from them. If someone needs a final hug before dying we should give it. We are the ones who lay down our lives for the sake of others. I know that vector transmission and societal good complicate how a person views Christian compassion, but I strongly believe that compassion to the person in front of you even when you are at risk is a character trait of highest value.
I hope that as a Christian brotherhood and sisterhood we spend some time thinking through the theology of Christian love in an era of pandemic. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, the one who came into our world of sin and died because of it for the sake of all of us? I want to be different than a normal person. I want to be a Christ-affected person who shows compassion even at risk of personal safety and security. It intimidates me to write it, because it is such a high standard, but the highest standards are worth striving toward.