| Jan 22, 2012
Today we visited Damajalee and Hamey, two villages on the Kenya side of the border with Somalia. Medical Teams International has been working in these villages for the past six months. Since the two villages are located less than 10 miles from the Somali border, it is necessary to travel with a police escort. The dirt roads were rough, and with the heat of the day, the dust flying in the air seemed more biting. We drove 2 1/2 hours at high speed over rough roads to get to Damajalee, a city of 17,000 people. I was told that we drove so quickly in order to reduce the risk of ambush. I appreciated the safety measures as we bounced around on our bench seat in the back of the Toyota Landcruiser.
In Damajalee we only stopped to visit the clinic and meet with the community health worker and the nurse. The clinic was open and we were given a tour of the small facility. We found the clinic dirty and felt that the staff could do more to keep it clean. Andrew Njenga, Medical Teams International Project Manager, has been speaking with the district health office about this problem, but it has been difficult to see any positive results. Andrew will continue to press the local authorities to ensure that the clinic remains clean. After our courtesy visit, we took off for the village of Hamey where our medical team will be working for the day – another 45 minutes of bouncing in the Landcruiser.
Upon arrival in Hamey, a town of 8,000 people, we stopped alongside a large tent. The team members began setting things up for clinic services while some of our staff went into town in order to let people know that we are open. People began showing up at the clinic. Initially, it seemed like any other clinic I’ve seen in Uganda or Liberia. But I knew this clinic day would be different when I saw an elderly man leading a donkey pulling a cart. On the cart was an elderly woman covered up in a blanket. Andrew examined the woman and determined that she had Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a life-threatening reaction to medications. The reaction was causing bleeding around the eyes and mouth with severe pain. Andrew and our volunteer began running an IV right there on the cart. It wasn’t 10 minutes later, a woman came to the clinic carrying her 1-year-old baby boy. It was suspected that he had measles and pneumonia. One of our volunteers told me that the child won’t survive the next few hours unless we can get an IV into his arm with medications. Fortunately, another medical team member, Ashley, worked in an ER at home and became a specialist in inserting IVs into children. With Ashley’s special skill, the line went in and the child began to receive life-saving medication. We knew however that mother and child needed to be sent to the hospital in Dadaab, which was over three hours away, and that we would be the ones to take them.
Shortly after this, a second child was brought in with the same symptoms, and then a third child. All received the same quality care; all are improving. The critical baby and mom rode with us to the hospital in Dadaab. We helped with admitting the child and informed the nurse at the hospital of our diagnosis and treatment. We also left some food for the mom because most hospitals in Africa do not provide a meal service for patients or family. Andrew and the team visited mom and baby each day and brought food for the mom. The baby is improving and will survive. I was told that two of the children and the elderly woman in the cart would have died if we had not intervened.
Andrew also told me an amazing encounter he had while caring for the woman on the cart. He said that the woman’s sister came up to him and asked, “Who do you worship?”
Andrew replied, “I worship God.”
Woman: “Are you a Christian?”
Andrew: “Yes, I am a Christian.”
Woman: “You know, in the Muslim faith, we call each other ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ but they have not helped us like you Christians have helped my sister on this cart. This makes me wonder why am I a Muslim?”
Andrew and team are demonstrating the love of Christ to these Somali refugees and the refugees are taking notice. So today we saved three lives. It was hot and dusty. I bounced around in the back of the vehicle for over three hours; I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days and feel very dirty. But we saved three lives today. Awesome!