By FGHL James Matthew Kynes, MD
It has been an eventful first week at Kijabe. My time has been spent teaching the KRNA students in the mornings, and supervising the general pediatric surgery rooms throughout the day. I have worked with several of the students directly, and it is a pleasure to see how receptive they are to the teaching and coaching that I can provide. The stories of the students have been especially impactful. One student, named Monday, is here for a short period to receive his first anesthesia certification after practicing in South Sudan for several years at a mission outpost. He was working as a nurse there when the surgeon, the only one for a large segment of the war-torn border between north and south, began to train him to provide anesthesia. He is one of three anesthetists for the hospital, and when he returns he will resume treating patients ravaged by war and poverty in a setting with few of the resources even available at a place like Kijabe.
Another anesthetist (pictured) has an incredible story of starting as a janitor in the operating rooms at Kijabe hospital. He saved money to enter the nurse training program and began work at Kijabe soon after. He aspired to become an anesthetist, but the cost of the training program was prohibitive. He applied to and was accepted to join a training program in Uganda at a well-regarded hospital there, but there was confusion about his application and another student took his place, instead. Finally, he saved enough to join the program at Kijabe and has stayed on after his training to become one of the full-time KRNA's working clinically and teaching KRNA's-in-training. His demeanor and gratitude in every interaction speak to the deep determination and grit he has displayed to get to where he is now.
On June 16-18 there will be a continuing medical education conference gathering over 80 anesthetists, clinical officers, and anesthesiologists from facilities across Kenya. Many were trained at Kijabe and are now providing care in under-resourced areas throughout the country. In many of these places they are one of only a handful of anesthesia providers working in settings with limited access to equipment, drugs, and staff required to provide safe anesthesia. It will be an opportunity for them to share their experiences, refresh concepts in patient care, and reconnect with their friends and colleagues.
The need for qualified health workers across sub-Saharan Africa is astounding, and it is humbling to meet people who are filling those needs by overcoming incredible odds. Their passion is inspiring.
James Matthew Kynes, MD is a Clinical Fellow with the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology at Monroe Carrell Children’s Hospital. He is serving his rotation in Kijabe until June 24, 2016.