Kenya update 2/7/16

Hello from the LSU/SHIP team in Bungoma, Kenya!

I don’t have a lot to report after a weekend of rest–the long flights over, the jet lag, and immediately beginning work after our arrival in Kenya had taken their toll on me, so a weekend off was much needed.

Seven of the team went on safari to Masai Mara, and have returned excited and exhausted, with tales of the wildlife and other sights. There were some hard core bargainers in the group, and the stories of their souvenir shopping are amusing.

Brittney, Fran and Dianna took a day trip to Kakamega rainforest, and spent the rest of the weekend manufacturing a free weight gym with Maurice. I am quite impressed with their ingenuity. Then Dianna and Brittney learned to make chapati, and to cook over an open fire.

Another week of mobile clinics begins tomorrow with Lumboka. We are looking forward to serving God and the people of western Kenya, and as always, appreciate your prayers and support.

Mungu awabariki wote–God bless you all!


Kenya update, 2/6/16

Greetings from the LSU/SHIP team in Kenya!

Saturday, a day to relax for the first time since last Friday. Seven of the students/residents are on safari at Masai Mara Game Preserve, and the other three are touring the Kakamega Rainforest Reserve. Don, Amy and I are enjoying the rest and cool breezes here at home. Don and Amy plan to visit friends in nearby Webuye later today.

I thought I would let everyone know a little about our routine here. Our schedule on work days begins early; some of the girls are up at 5 AM running and working out. We gather for breakfast at seven, and have a student presentation or other clinical discussion.

At eight, we trek across the drive to clinic headquarters to begin loading equipment and medications. Sometimes we have a local patient or two, and watch the children playing on the grounds of Epico St. Jahn’s Academy (Mama Betty’s school). Rena Brittenham, our case manager at LSU Children’s Center, sent soccer balls for the kids, and they are very excited to be able to play with a new ball.


Kenya time can be a little imprecise, and travel time varies with the distance and conditions of the roads. We travel in what Bishop Reuben calls the “green fleet”, a Toyota LandCruiser, and a matatu, or van. When the whole team of volunteers and locals is loaded, it can be quite packed! We pick up some of our interpreters in Bungomatown, and generally arrive at the day’s site around 10 AM. After unloading and setting up, we are seeing patients by 1030.


Lunch break may come between 1 and 2 PM, which is about the time the patient arrivals begin to pick up. Afternoons can be very busy, and frequently we have to cut off registration to be able to be done and loaded by 530. Then the trip home again, which seems longer for the tired students. All of the meds and equipment must be unloaded and stored in the pharmacy.


We usually arrive home between 6 and 7 PM, where chai is waiting. A good cup of chai in the evening is great, and I may take up the habit at home. A hot shower and clean clothes feel wonderful; dinner is served about 730-800 PM.

I am not sure about the other team members, but I am in my bunk by 9-930, and I sleep like a rock!


A missionary physician once told me that no one comes to Kenya for the food, but what I have experienced has been quite good. Breakfast is usually fresh fruit, and bread with an excellent jam and butter or peanut butter. Sometimes we have mangazi; think deep fried biscuit dough. Mama Betty makes them about the size of beignets, but they are sometimes bigger. Mangazi is fantastic with your morning coffee or chai.


Lunch at the clinic site is whatever we bring with us. Snack bars, jerky and Slim Jims are popular, and some of the volunteers will make PB&J sandwiches. I will trade jerky with Mama Joyce for chapati, another fried bread; it looks something like a tortilla, but thicker, and quite tasty. A soft drink is provided; it usually isn’t cold, but no one complains. I have become quite fond of Stoney, a sort of ginger beer which I haven’t seen in any other country.


Dinner is long on vegetables–stewed kale, mashed squash, and lentils are common. There is rice with a little stewed meat; a couple of times this week we have had fresh tilapia from Lake Victoria. Kenyans use very little salt or seasoning; some volunteers bring Tony’s or hot sauce from home, which the Kenyans also seem to enjoy.



As I mentioned before, the Lubangas have put a lot of work into making the accommodations for the volunteers more comfortable. There are now new mattresses on the bunks, light and electrical outlets in the huts, and flush toilets and hot showers in the bath house.

There are four huts with thatched roofs. Each hut has bunks for four volunteers. The huts are cool enough at night, but I usually don’t need my blanket until about 3 AM.


The thatched roof “gazebo” (our term for it) is a nice, cool place to rest and relax, an impromptu exercise room for some of the girls, and a sort of common room for card games and conversation.


The main Lubanga home is the meeting place for meals, planning the day, and catching up on email. There is also a guest room for volunteers, where I am accommodated this trip.


The much improved bath house has a new roof, two flush toilets, and three showers with hot water.


We still obtain water from a had-pumped well, and use LifeStraw or SteriPen to make sure our American GI tracts will not be offended. Laundry is done in a five gallon bucket; I brought travel packets of liquid Tide, which seems to work well. Then rinse in another five gallon bucket, and hang your clean clothes on the line to dry.



Many of our patients are middle aged or elderly, and present with the aches and pains of a life of labor. We treat a lot of DJD/OA, and chronic injuries which did not receive attention when they occurred. There is some hypertension and a few patients with diabetes; this is apparently a fairly new phenomenon. Dr. Don thinks this is due to an encroachment of Western diet and lifestyle. There are very few smokers in rural Kenya; the COPD that we see is in middle-aged women. Most cooking is done over an open fire, but in an enclosed space, and years of cooking results in chronic lung disease.


Children frequently present with impetigo, tinea capitis (scalp ringworm), scabies and jiggers (sand flea larvae imbedded in the palms and soles). They also have upper respiratory infections, as in the US, but very of the little asthma, allergies and eczema that we see at home. Malaria is frequently worst in the young, and these children may present quite ill. There are some children with sickle cell disease. In the US, these children would receive specialized care that would allow them to live into adulthood. Without this care, these children’s lives may be quite short.


We have seen several apparent malignancies in advanced status, HIV, and surgical problems that cannot be handled by a mobile clinic. We refer these patients to the nearest district hospital (Bungoma, Webuye, or Kakamanga). The nearest subspecialty care is frequently at mission hospitals, often in fairly distant Eldoret or Tenwek.

There is one situation that reminds me of home. In the US, many patients will present to their physician, the hospital ED, or an urgent care clinic with upper respiratory symptoms, and will expect a Z Pack and a shot of Celestone. They can be quite put out if they don’t receive it. The situation is similar here with malaria. Some patients expect to be treated for malaria, and are upset when they are told that they don’t need it.


Overall, the LSU/SHIP team is having a great time, working hard, and learning a lot about tropical medicine and the Kenyan culture. We are always grateful for your prayers and support.

Kenya update 2/5/16

Greetings from the LSU/SHIP team in Bungoma, Kenya!

My internet connection was not available last night until late, so I didn’t get a post in. We use a Safaricom wi-fi hotspot owned by the Lubanga family, paying for the data as we use it. We take the hotspot with us to the clinics, plug it in to a power inverter, and run it off the truck battery. In most places, we have enough cellular reception to email and even upload pictures to Facebook; often I cannot upload photos via WordPress, however. Then, in the evening, we set it up in the Lubanga living room, and catch up on correspondence.

Yesterday, clinic was at the church in Muanda, one of the places we visited last year. The church was not as well ventilated as some others, so we ended up outside under the shade trees. This was a much more pleasant experience for us and for the patients we saw there. We saw 126 patients, and again treated several children with malaria–we saw far fewer cases last year, so seeing these very ill children in rural, temporary clinics is a new challenge.

Today, seven of our team members took off for Masai Mara for safari. So, we worked with a short team at the clinic at Nasianda. The small church there is far out into the sugar cane fields; many of our patients work in the fields there. We saw many folks with the aches and pains expected of such hard work. We also found a couple of suspected malignancies, and more than one case of suspected HIV. Patient total was 82. bringing our total contacts to 464 (I think) for the week.

More tomorrow about our experiences; dinner is calling!


Kenya update 2/3/16

Long day, short post.

Greetings from LSU/SHIP team in western Kenya!

Clinic on day three was at the church in Ng’ola; we saw many more patients today (156 by one count), and they included some who were sicker than those we treated on the first two days. Several children were treated for acute malaria; some adults were seen with heart disease, and one young lady with tuberculosis had developed a pleural effusion with decompensation.

I have been very impressed with this team of students and residents–they are like sponges, soaking up everything new to them. And there isn’t a whiner in the bunch.

We travel to Muanda tomorrow for the next step in our adventure. Please pray for our team as we try to bring some needed healthcare to western Kenya, and to spread the love of Jesus to our fellow man.

Good night, everyone!


Kenya update 2/2/16

Greetings from the LSU/SHIP team in Kenya!

On our second work day we set up our clinic at a church in Bulondo. The available space in the church was a good bit smaller, but we were able to set up stations for each of the students and residents. We saw 75 patients, several with pathology that was new to the students, including leshmaniasis, and four children with acute malaria. There were also patients with “jiggers,” which is sand flea larvae embedded in the skin of the palms and soles, and lots of kids with intestinal worms.

After clinic today, we visited downtown Bungoma, and shopped for water and snacks at the Nakumatt (not quite WalMart, but close enough).

I had come to Kenya without the towel I thought I had packed (cue the Hitchhiker jokes from the nerds out there); Nakumatt had a nice selection, so now I am in good shape.

On to Ngoli tomorrow.


Kenya update

Today was the first workday for the SHIP team from LSU–holding clinic in the Samoya church, just outside Bungoma. We started out slowly, as the students and residents met all the Kenyan members of our team, learned to set up clinic, figured out the mechanics of using an interpreter, and met the challenge of a limited pharmacy. We picked up the pace as the day went along, and saw 135 patients by 5 o’clock.

I found plenty of children with which to play, and had a great time. I did have one unusual (for me) experience. There was one 2 year old little girl who was terrified of me, on sight. When I walked up to the station where she was being seen, she got a horrified look on her face, and screamed bloody murder. Her mother said that the child had never seen mzungu before, and had never seen a bearded man. Talk about stranger anxiety! I had to stay away from that station, but the poor little girl would look around every couple of minutes to make sure I was not approaching again.

Over all it was a very busy but fun day. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve God and provide needed medical care for these wonderful people.


Safely to Dubai

Big, beautiful airport. Can’t really say much else about Dubai. We have a five hour layover here before flying on to Nairobi.

Atlanta to Dubai was about 7,800 miles, and took 14 hours. Not the worst flight I have done, but but not a lot of fun.

The education began early; some of the students had not heard of a Great Circle route, and didn’t understand why we had to fly over Denmark to get to the Arabian Peninsula. I learned a few things as well, like the physiologic reason that salty foods taste less salty at altitude.

No photo–not enough bandwidth, apparently.

Three months until Kenya 2016

It is time to make plans and get prepared! I am feeling the eagerness a little more each day–God is providing another opportunity to teach, serve the less privileged, and spread the Good News in Kenya. Please keep me and the LSU team in your prayers.

This year we have decided to take two trips to Kenya to provide care. We are also overjoyed to announce that SHIP has worked with LSU Health to create the Global Health Elective for 3rd and 4th year medical students which will allow more students to attend the trip! Currently, we have 16 medical students, 3 attendings, and a resident planning to travel to Kenya in February 2016 and April 2016! Please keep watching out for news about what we are doing for the people of western Kenya!

The countdown timer for the February mission is in the right sidebar.