2019-03-27 to 2019-03-28
Sitting on the steps of our one-story house in Kenya, planted within a semi-circle of other American houses, I waited. Since the eager age of ten, I planned to become a doctor. Science seemed to spark a drive in me, and I was ready to follow that drive into the wonderful world of medicine. The plan to go to Kenya was set for May 2012; my family would go through Samaritans Purse, and excitement was high. My father planned to work in the hospital of the little town we were to visit, and what I didn't know was that I would soon get a science class more advanced then you could find in first year university.
Lucky me, I started my medical journey sitting on the porch steps awaiting my father and dressed in scrubs (too big to fit properly). On this sunny day in a little town in rural Kenya, I would get to watch my first surgery. The little hospital that the people in Kenya knew had long waiting lines and where the “muzungu" [the white people] were was only a five-minute walk from where we lived. The hospital consisted of different wards: the maternity ward, children's ward, and male ward where a couple of visitors would come to mourn the sick and dying in their family.
The first few days I went there with my father, I would follow him around from bed to bed just like the older residents would, watching him assess the sick people and trying to find a cure. There was this one man in the male ward that I can remember. He had severely burned his body from a hot oil accident. Here in Canada, you would get to be put on an iv and get an assortment of painkillers flowing into your body. But in Kenya, medicine costs a lot, and there wasn't much variety; so this man with a full body three-degree burn was medicated with Advil.
The scene I encountered walking into the operating room was not an expected one. Instead of all the fancy white lights, insanely sterile environment, and many signs explaining to wash your hands well, I was met with a space no bigger than a child’s room with so few instruments and gadgets, I guess there would be more in the game Operation.
Among the few male medical students there, my father the anesthetist, the surgeon, and a couple nurses, there was also a boy laying on the surgical table. I can vaguely remember him in hysterics scared to be put under anesthesia. After the few minutes it took to calm him and place the mask on, the surgery began.
I watched for a while, standing in my corner beside the door, as they placed a purple liquid on his arm that was supposed to keep things sterile. The boy lay under anesthesia as I watched his arm being worked at. The surgeon sat on a black stool wearing mint green scrubs and a mask overlooking the boy's arm half split open. The boy had a broken radius that would not heal on its own; so it needed to be placed back together. I only stayed a short while after the surgery began because my brother and sisters wanted a turn to see the surgery, too.
A day later, I would get a glimpse of another surgery and really understand what the words “guts” and “gore” meant as I watched an open abdominal surgery and was introduced to my dad’s anesthesia equipment and procedures.
The fact that I was ten and had already seen my first surgery and had walked around the hospital watching people being assessed was astounding and such a great experience. The number of people that would come every morning and line up for their family to be helped was incredible. These people didn't know if they would be seen at all.
Through the three weeks that my family stayed and worked in Kenya, I got to experience the real idea of what a day in the life of a medical student was like. There was a baby that died from malaria, and my older sister had watched it happen. My father had spent a long time trying to get its heart to beat again, but to no avail. There was a young boy no older than my younger brother that had so little to eat you could see his ribs—every single one completely visible.
After a couple of flights to get back home, I was sad to find out that watching my next surgery would have to wait until my real residency would begin. “Bring your daughter to work day” for a doctor doesn't exist in Canada.
There in that little town of Kenya, my medical journey began. The mini-residency that I experienced was one that I will never forget and will carry with me until my actual residency begins one day.