Thursday, December 13, 2012

Look Both Ways

Life in western Kenya continues to treat us pretty well.  While we lose power almost every day, and the water on occasion goes out for days, we are reminded that we are still part of a relatively small group of lucky individuals in this part of the world (for starters, simply by the fact of having electricity and indoor water and plumbing, for example). Though several of the cases are challenging and saddening, most of the patients have been doing relatively well. We see a patient with a new diagnosis of HIV, TB, or malaria most days. But thankfully, there is treatment available now for all of them.  It’s those that wait the longest before presenting to the hospital that have the hardest time recovering.  Besides the common cases of infections, we have recently cared for some patients that have suffered various types of trauma. An adolescent girl was hit by a motorcycle as she ran across the road and presented with a swollen face. The x-ray revealed a fractured jaw. Motor vehicle accidents are a major cause of death in Africa. She was one of the lucky ones that could walk away from one. She was referred to the regional hospital for evaluation by the surgeons to see if she needs her jaw wired so that it can heal well. An adult woman came in after being beaten by her son with a hammer.  Thankfully she has no broken bones and will heal, though I can’t imagine what the psychological and family healing processes will be like.

I witnessed an interesting cultural phenomenon today. An elderly man with advanced chronic illness passed away as his wife took her lunch in the next room. When I suggested that someone go tell his wife, every Kenyan health worker I asked said to allow her to finish eating before telling her the news. They said that she would be mourning for a number of days and would probably not be eating during the process.  The cafeteria crew seemed to know the family, and after she had received the news of his passing, brought her to his bedside and sang a local hymn to the tune of Amazing Grace.

The weather has been mostly fair, with cool nights and mornings, sunny blue skies in the day with temps up to the mid to high eighties and a short shower in the evenings. We can tell that the rains are letting up though, which means fewer blackouts, and hopefully, fewer malaria-carrying mosquitos. 


sarah said...

Interesting! The cultural norm in the U.S. is to eat (or at least to be given lots of food) when in mourning.

I am worried about the woman whose son beat her with a hammer. It fits in with a lot of conversations happening over here right now because of the latest mass shooting/suicide carried out by the 20-yr-old son of an elementary school teacher at her elementary school. 20 children were killed and 7 or 8 adults (including the mother). There are many calls for better gun control laws. A few are trying to get a conversation about how we deal with mental health in this country going. But based on previous experience, I am not optimistic that we will do anything productive on either front.

Keep up the good work, Piercy! We miss you lots!

Jefe said...

Thanks for that, S. One of the Kenyan clinicians gave me his condolences today about the tragic events in Conn. He feels that violence within families in Kenya (he gave examples of machetes used against wives and children) is increasing. While there will be violence and homicide whether there is access to guns or not in the US, it seems like the total number of people killed at any one time will have to be less if the weapon used isn't a gun.