Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ahhh, Kenya!

A glimpse into our lives…

     My youngest son, Sam argued with the Kenyan vendor trying to sell him a pair of used blue jeans in an open market in Nairobi. “These don’t fit right. They are women’s.”
     The young man was adamant. “They are men’s.”
     “The pockets are small.” Sam lifted the pants to reveal the leather tag. “Here,” he said. “It says ‘women’s’ on the tag.”
     The man promptly cut the tag off with a pair of scissors. “They are men’s!”
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     My wife, Kris cautiously drove in the exact middle of her single lane in downtown Nairobi to no avail. A matatu driver crowded his van up on our right (we drive on the left here) forcing us to the left, creating two lanes out of one. A few minutes later, I noticed she was hedging the car further to the left. “What are you doing?” I asked.
     “Trying to block another matatu from passing me on the other side.”
     I smiled. I hate driving in Nairobi. Being behind the wheel is the most difficult place for me to “act Christian.”
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     An elderly woman walked into my clinic this week, looking very much like she was carrying quadruplets. Of course I knew better. She had a large intra-abdominal tumor, something she had ignored, likely for years. Denial? Probably not. Access to healthcare? Suspicion of western medicine? Money?
     They are all roadblocks here. They keep the tumors growing. And growing.
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     I spent a week last month operating in a hospital in a neighboring country. I operated on one gun-shot victim with urine draining straight out of his lower abdomen. He told me he had been in the hospital for the last TWO YEARS. Wow.  That even beats my last ahhh-Kenya moment.  Mostly, I did surgery for complications of gunshot injuries. The last evening that I was there, some Muslim extremists chucked a few grenades in a public place where children had gathered to watch TV. TV is evil, or so they say and watching must be discouraged.  One child died. A seven year-old boy’s leg was blown off and his intestines were exposed. All in the name of legalistic adherence to rules of a harsh God.
     It’s so sad, and such a difficult place to live. My host, a Muslim doctor friend named Mohamed, grows tired from the constant violence. Pray for him. He is an exceptional man who has decided, for now, to stay in a violent environment to help his people.

     Last week, I operated on a twenty-five year old woman with esophageal cancer. The rates of that cancer here are astronomical. Haven’t exactly figured out why. This was the youngest patient on whom I have seen the disease. Her age warranted an aggressive approach. The good news: the 36 lymph nodes taken out with the specimen were all negative!
     Tomorrow, I'm planning an operation on a patient with pancreas cancer, another deadly enemy lurking in this country with frequencies I didn't see in the West.

     So why did I put a picture of Kenyan coffee at the top of my blog?
     Because I thought things were sounding a little negative from my end, so I wanted to assure you that I love this place and give you one example of why: the coffee here is unmatched!  I have to say, I'm an addict, and coming to Kenya has spoiled me for the mainstream coffees back in the USA. I'm always looking for an excuse to share a cup (something I'm doing RIGHT NOW as I write). I've got my favorite mug, a black mug with a yellow emblem on one side that says "Deal's Gap Dragon Slayer: 318 curves, 11 miles"...something for the subject of a later blog perhaps, a reminder of a great trip I took with my oldest son.

     Anyway, I'm sipping my coffee and saying "Ahhh, Kenya!"