Giving

It is in giving that we receive. This week I found out I was selected to receive an award. This award will pay for expenses on my next trip to Rwanda ;)- flight and accommodation- yay! Plus I am going to accept the reward at a ceremony in Las Vegas- they are paying for my flight and accommodation in Vegas.
I can’t even explain how awesome it is to be able to go back to Rwanda and serve in 2014! God surely has been good to me. Here’s to Kibagabaga 2014! Can you tell I am excited?

Advertisements

Brother of my heart

Dear J, the day mom brought you home from the hospital was one of the best days of my life. You were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen in my short 8 years on this planet. It was the first time I fell in love, and the day you stole my heart, and captured my soul. I knew I would love you unconditionally. I remember just staring at you as a kid and thinking, man! I love this baby.
Years have gone by and you’ve remained a constant- you have the ability to steal my heart in a beat.
I’ve always known you’d grown into a man of integrity. There are days I wondered if our sister and I were cut from the same cloth as you. You, with your “OCD” and cleanliness. You who wrote a list of household rules when you were 11, which included stipulations on how we should discard our feminine products. You, who stayed with me during summers, and cleaned my house like it had never been cleaned before. You, who is so organized, that you make me feel like a slob. But we are cut from the same cloth, only you came out way cleaner, organized and introverted that the women in our family.
When you were in high school, I worried about you, yet deep inside I knew you’d turn out just fine. To become a man, yet you were raised by women. To know your way in this world. I am honored when you confide in me, when you tell me your hopes and dreams. I worry for you, about the things you do, about the life you want, but deep inside I’m sure you will exceed my expectations. Yesterday, as I watched you walk across that stage, and become an American soldier, I prayed to God to give you courage, and wisdom. That he may continue to show up and show out in your life.
May the words of the Soldier’s creed, ” I will never quit” always be on your mind when you set to accomplish something in your life. May you stand tall and remember your roots.
Thanks for being the best brother a girl could wish for, and thanks for always having my back. I love you bro

The Big C…..Again

Last month I had a huge scare. Earlier in the month I had felt a breast lump in my right breast. I went to my doctor, who sent me to a mammogram and ultrasound.
My beautiful friend Mel went with me to the mammogram and ultrasound. Talk of good friends! They hold your hand even when you pretend not to be scared. My ultrasound showed a lump, and the radiologist said I needed a biopsy so I came back three days later. Well, it was not a fun experience- thanks Mel for taking me and hanging out with me when I had ice stuffed in my bra!
So I got my results three days later and it showed my lump had characteristics of a phyllodes tumor . They recommended an excision, because phyllodes tumor can grow pretty big.
I cried a lot…. And then decided that I wanted one of the surgeons at my job to take a look. She read the pathology report from the other hospital and she said she needed to remove it. We scheduled surgery for may 14th. She also wanted the cancer pathologist to look at it and get a better diagnosis. I prayed about it and made peace with the idea of surgery. Prayer helped with the nervousness.
Fast forward I go to Rwanda and on May 6, I had my pre-operative visit with my surgeon. She had great news- the cancer pathologists didn’t think it was phyllodes- it is a fibroadenoma and doesn’t need to be removed at this time. So for now we are just going to watch it by ultrasound and mammogram every six months. I can’t tell you how excited I was! I just thank God for being there and holding my hand. And for giving me family and friends who always support me.
So the lesson I hope you learn from this is that It is very important to check your breasts because only you know when something is wrong.

20130517-095858.jpg

Perspective

I came back from Kigali with renewed perspective, but thanks to the Houston Allergies, I have not been able to blog about my trip as much as I would have liked to.
In a few weeks, I turn 30. I am excited about this new chapter in my life. I am grateful to be able to celebrate becoming 30. Me, a Kenyan girl from a village , born to an 19year old woman, and a 24 year old man. Blessed to have been born months after my mother lost her first child on Sunday August 1, 1982- The day of Kenya’s coup d’état attempt. My sister lived 8 hours, that was it.- my sister didn’t live- I did, and for that I am LUCKY to be here. I live for myself, and my sister Eunice, buried in a pink dress that my grandfather picked out. I wonder what kind of woman my big sister would have become, and I wonder if she had lived, would I be here? Perhaps not, perhaps yes. I will never know. My big sister is an angel in heaven, an angel I will meet one day.I live for both of us. sometimes I think that’s the reason I’m a Gemini – because I’m two in one. So today, I’m grateful for perspective. I’m grateful to have met African women who could have been me. But God wrote me a different life story. And I’m going to make the best of this story.
This Blog post is written in memory of my Big sister, who never lived to tell her story, and in memory of all the little angels who never lived to tell their story. Rest in peace my dear angel. Keep watching over us, your siblings.

20130515-212443.jpg

Kibagabaga diary

Where do I begin? I guess I should talk abut how I ended up here.
A few years back, I watched an episode of Oprah featuring women with fistula. What is fistula?, you ask?
Obstetric fistula occurs in many developing countries. It is a hole between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell

After watching this show, I knew I wanted to do something to help. Fast forward a few years later, a friend introduced me to the director of IOWD, and that’s how I ended up in Rwanda
After traveling from Houston via Washington DC and Brussels, I ended up in Kigali with the rest of my team on April 20th. On April 21st we went to check out Kibagabaga hospital. We found out we had a case scheduled, so we got busy and did our first surgery. It was a success!

The hospital is located in Kigali, Rwanda. The women come from all over Rwanda, mostly from rural areas. They come in large numbers, and have to be evaluated one by one by the IOWD surgeons ( the surgery team is made up of obstetricians and urogynecologists). Not all patients can have surgery, and this is very depressing. The surgery candidates undergo an exam under anesthesia (EUA) and cystoscopy (cysto) and the decision is made regarding what surgery the patient requires.

As far as our anesthesia team was concerned, we intended to give the best care to every patient regardless of the scarcity of resources. We had one working anesthesia machine, and halothane gas which most of us have never used. Talk of a steep learning curve! We did most of our cases with subarachnoid blocks (spinal)- where we inject local anesthesia in the patient’s spine and that numbs the body from the waist down. It was an interesting experience because the patients did not speak English, so we relied on the hospital staff to interpret what we were saying.

Doing anesthesia pre operative interviews was one of the highlights of my trip. It enabled me to learn more about the women, and relate with them. It was funny how most of them thought I was Rwandan ( think the East African forehead did me in) , and would speak to me in Kinyarwanda.

One of the most interesting things was that we used every resource we had to the maximum. We wasted nothing, and never complained when we had little to work with. It was an eye opening experience because we all realized we waste a lot in the US. We had one working autoclave machine, and therefore we used chemicals to sterilize equipment between cases. Everyone helped out, regardless of rank and title. It was not unusual to see one of the surgeons mopping the floor between cases. Did I mention we ran out of sterile gowns on our last day, and the hospital washing machine was broken?

We would arrive at the hospital around 8 am and work until around 5pm. By day 4, I was feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. I was more emotionally drained than I had prepared myself for. There was no time to sit and complains about being exhausted. The women needed us, and so we all soldiered on.

I got the opportunity to visit the women’s hospital at Muhima hospital. I was following the anesthetists at Muhima to learn how they do things. We had one urgent Caesarian section delivery for a baby in breech position. If I recall correctly, the baby was around 30 weeks gestation. When the baby was delivered, we heard a single cry, and noted that the baby was blue. Dr M, (one of the obgyn doctors on the IOWD team) and I took the baby to the NICU. When we arrived in the NICU, we didn’t have oxygen, so we decided to just help the baby breathe with room air. After a couple of minutes we ‘borrowed” oxygen from another baby in the NICU, we were also able to get some suction working, which helped quite a bit. I now know firsthand what they mean when they say God takes care of children and fools….. That was my first ever neonatal resuscitation. After what felt like hours, the baby was breathing on her own, and looked better. The memory of that resuscitation will stay with me forever

By the end of the trip we had operated on over 35 patents, and that was such a blessing. It was sad that we could not treat every patient with fistula. But one thing I know for sure, is that the women we helped will live a much better life than they did before.

20130505-194720.jpg

I will take care of you

Today I took care of the cutest little old lady. When I met her, I just connected with her. She was so anxious, and she was having this surgery, worried about her hubby of 47 years. See he has some issue with balance and she is his only care giver. He fell on her last night, and her hip was hurting. In addition to the stress of surgery, she has to take care of him because they have no other family in the area. So we came up with a plan to keep him put until after he surgery in the waiting room, get her a private room, so he could spend the night, and then tomorrow she will drive home (scary, I know!). I really wanted to adopt this cute lady. She told me I had a beautiful smile and soul (Mhhh…maybe I just wanted to adopt her for constant flattery).
Anyway, tonight I’m saying a special prayer for her, because truly she loves her husband more than she loves herself. That, my friends, is the brand of marriage I would like to create one of these days 😉

20130206-203142.jpg

The last lecture

20130122-105815.jpg

If you have never read or watched Randy Pausch’s “The last lecture“, please read or watch it NOW.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the Last Lecture
“The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”-Randy Pausch