By FGHL Jennifer Elia, M.D.
I have spent the last 2 weeks working in the 5-bed Intensive Care Unit at AIC Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. The ICU here is actually one of the more developed and organized in all of Kenya. In fact, many hospitals - especially those in the smaller towns and villages - have no ICU capabilities. While small, the ICU at Kijabe is quite functional, with 5 ventilators, well trained nursing staff, and a designated ECCCO (Emergency and Critical Care Clinical Officer) around the clock.
Much like it is back in the States, the ICU is a last resort for the sickest patients. At Kijabe, resources are limited but there is also a more general acceptance for the inevitable. During my two-week rotation, I had several meetings with family members where I unfortunately had to inform them that their loved ones were dying, and there was nothing more we could do. To my surprise, the first response would always be words of thanksgiving to God and gratitude for all our hard work. Although at times I felt quite helpless and wished more could be done, the families were exceedingly grateful and knew all was in God’s hands.
Since AIC is a Mission Hospital, it is common to include God and prayer in our day-to-day work. After each patient was presented during rounds, the whole team would gather around the bedside and a team member would say a short prayer. Additionally, a prayer is said before the start of anesthesia or surgery in the OR, and prayer is always a part of family conferences. I found this to be very powerful and so refreshing to invite God into the daily care of our patients. At home, I often forget that God is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and find myself relying solely on my knowledge and the advancements of modern medicine.
Working in Kijabe has reminded me both of God’s grace and His sovereign will. The people of Kijabe have taught me to always give thanks to God, in every situation, and also to be totally accepting of God’s plan. Although the ICU is a sad environment, with most patients on their deathbeds, I’ve seen more people full of peace and hope here than in any other clinical setting.