16 July 2011

Mission to Maua

As most of you are aware, most of my writing for the Health Care Blog has been about medical diseases and treatment.  This time I want to relate a personal experience.  My wife Donna and I served as volunteers this May and June at Maua Methodist hospital in Kenya. We participated under the auspices of the Individual Volunteer Program Area of the UMC Board of Global Ministries.   Maua Hospital was founded by the British Methodist Church in 1928.  The hospital serves a largely rural population of nearly a million in the Kenyan Central Highlands.  As you might imagine, the 280 bed hospital is incredibly busy, with 12,000 admissions, 3000 deliveries, and 100,000 outpatient visits per year.  In addition they support a variety of outreach programs, including dispensaries, and programs for palliative care and for AIDS orphans.  A long-standing School of Nursing, a new intern program and training for clinical officers (like our PAs), provide many opportunities for teaching and training.  With the exception of four long time missionaries, two from the US and two from Britain, all of the medical and nursing staff are Kenyan.
When I decided to go to Maua I was faced with a dilemma.  How can I best help the hospital mission during my two-month stay?    The answer came when the UN and the World Health Organization cited the continued high neonatal mortality in Sub Saharan Africa, a finding that has caused a flurry of articles in major medical journals, and a concerted effort by a number of organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics to address the issue.  I decided to devote my major efforts toward teaching newborn resuscitation skills.  The problem was that I had not done any newborn care for 20 years.  I took several workshops and carefully prepared how I was going to teach.  Using small, hands on sessions, everyone had a chance to practice their skills.  One session bore fruit within a week when 2 interns expertly and successfully resuscitated an apneic premature infant.
            The pediatric ward at Maua was crowded and often chaotic, filled with acute pneumonias, meningitis, malnutrition and malaria, mixed in with conditions that would challenge the expertise of a US tertiary medical center. I was able to serve both as a pediatric consultant, and do a lot of one on one teaching with the interns.  The nursery facility was quite primitive by our standards, and at times their capacity to care for sick newborns and premature infants was exceeded.
My wife Donna has no health care training, but she found her niche by participating in some of the many outreach programs supported by the hospital.  
We were impressed with the ability of the hospital staff to accomplish miracles of care in the face of severe financial constraints, critical shortage of nurses, antiquated equipment, and limited labs.  It was an inspiration and a pleasure to work with them.  I certainly learned a lot about acute care tropical pediatrics.  In turn, I believe that I was able to help them make some improvements in the care of sick newborns.  Donna is prepared to be an advocate for several of Maua Hospital’s outreach programs. Throughout our stay we participated in the many worship opportunities that the hospital provides, and felt guided by the presence of the Spirit in our lives and work.
We can highly recommend Maua in terms of the facility, the provided housing, and the quality of the experience. Their rapidly expanding education program for nurses, interns and clinical officers, and the projected affiliation with an area medical school will provide many opportunities for teaching. The hospital staff is very supportive of volunteer physicians who are willing to teach and consult, particularly in specialty areas.
For more information on Maua, the hospital website is mckmauahospital.org.  We have written a blog about our experience, mission2maua.blogspot.com.  You may contact us for further information at boeroger@cableone.net, or call us at 208 233 5651.
Roger and Donna Boe

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