I was a little nervous when the captain welcomed us onboard across the intercom, after which he gave some details about the flight. To calm my nerves I said a short prayer and thought about the country which was going to be my home for the next 8 weeks. The thought of a vibrant Nairobi and my associations with other medical students made me less jittery, and before I knew it, we were airborne. The flight was long, and I took some time to watch a movie, read the paper as well as catching up with sleep. Occasionally we would chat with the beautiful Kenyan lady sited on my left.
First Kenya Experience
The captain eventually announced that we were approaching our destination. The view of the clouds and the appalling beauty of the capital city of Kenya was amazing. As the jumbo plane continued with its descent, everything became clearer. The landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was quite smooth. I was met at the airport by a friend who I had met earlier during his medical elective term at our university hospital.
He took his time to welcome me to Kenya, and in a short while we were aboard a taxi, headed to Kenyatta National Hospital where I was going to be based. The sight of the humungous hospital that serves as the sole referral centre in the country was quite something. My pal took me round, showing me the various departments. Had it not been for him, I would probably have been lost.
My Adventures and Experience
Eventually we got to the hostel where I would be staying. It was not really what I expected, but it was decent all the same. Then my adventures began. On that first night my friend took me out to sample night life in the city. It was not disappointing. The music was good, and the DJ did his thing quite smoothly. We danced for a long time, and had a couple of drinks. Kenyans have this distinct way of partying which I really liked. It was cool.
The next couple of weeks were interesting. I would wake up every morning to attend some morning lectures, and during the day I would spend a lot of time with patients. My main interest was in Surgery, and we saw all kind of patients, ranging from appendicitis to sigmoid volvulus to valvular heart diseases. The major ward rounds were usually the highlight of the week. We would go through all the patients in the ward in no hurry, and the consultants were always patient enough to listen to the long histories presented by medical students. A series of questions would then follow, and the amount of knowledge passed on during that particular forum was enough to last a lifetime.
Then there were these grand rounds which used to happen on a weekly basis. The presenting ward would look for an interesting case, and prepare a nice presentation on the same, with a brief history, physical examination findings, investigations and the management that was instituted. The discussant would then come up and stress upon a few issues. That is how I got to know more about the management of fournier’s gangrene, prostate cancer, spinal dysraphism, urethral strictures etc. The professors were fond of such forums, always asking questions that were totally relevant to the subject matter.
I also got to assist in a couple of surgeries. Each student was assigned a certain operation, during which we would assist the surgeon to complete the procedure. Intra-operatively, the surgeons were keen on showing us vital structures and what to look for depending on the operation. I also got to witness a few transplant surgeries. Before long, I was feeling at home and fully knowledgeable.
The post has been offered by Josh Elliot who spent 6 months working in Kenya. For a similar experience in the developing world, Josh recommends Work the World Electives, who offer custom healthcare internships in Africa, Asia and South America.