We were very blessed to be able to be at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya from Jan 6, 2005 until Mar 20, 2005. When we arrived we were dead tired from traveling, and I was on call the next day. On Jan 7, I admitted 4 patients to the hospital. By Jan 11, 3 of them had died, and the fourth had renal failure with HIV, and probably only a few months to live. One of the other Family Physicians said a few weeks later, “They sure come in sick and die quick”, which expressed well my experience. Despite the grim prognosis for so many of the patients, it was a joy to be there, and part of my heart is still in Africa.
The memories are very real. The physical beauty of the setting is stunning. The climate and soil allow almost anything to grow, and I thought often of the garden of Eden. We never felt any sense of personal danger except one dark night when I was going over to the hospital and saw two scary looking men--it turned out they were security guards.
The people I worked with were wonderful. The long term missionaries were extremely gracious, and extended themselves to us, and we made friends. The other short term families became good friends, and we now have a longer Christmas card list. We were blessed by the medical students, and hope to see some of them again. The hospital staff, who must be wearied by the constant stream of new volunteer doctors, were nevertheless kind and patient. The patients were a joy to care for, and the opportunity to see many patients from Somalia was an unexpected outreach.
We had a wonderful time in Kijabe, and hope to return in 2007. Many of the elderly members of the Kikuyu tribe end a conversation by saying, “May God bless you!” We were indeed blessed by our time serving in Kenya.
By Donald F. Brautigam, MD, FAAFP