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October 19, 2010 / Dan Whipple

Wanacheza ngoma

In the registration tent

Last Wednesday, I joined the Nation Media Group volunteers at a one-day medical clinic at the Kibagare slum in Kangemi. The clinic was sponsored by AMREF, a group of African doctors who try pretty hard to keep up with demand.

I worked in the registration tent where we signed people in, took their blood pressure, pulse and temperature, weighed their babies, and distributed them to the diagnostic tents. Mostly, I wrote down on large index cards what my two beautiful nurse buddies told me to. Their pictures are toward the end of this accompanying video, but I am ashamed to say that I never got their names. BP. P. Temp. Weight.

We also had to prepare the index cards before the people came into the tent. This consisted of writing by hand, in blue ink, the categories for someone else to fill in later. NAME: AGE: SEX: DATE: (I thought you were supposed to have a date before sex, but was voted down). We did about a thousand of them. Don’t they have machines for this sort of thing?

The crowd was vast. In the four or five hours I was there, more than a thousand patients went through the registration tent. There was still a long line waiting when we left. Ninety-five percent of the adults were females, and most of them were young with children, usually more than one. The children had most of the usual kid ailments, runny noses, coughs, sore throats. Some had diarrhea. One appeared to be severely malnourished. Or so my beautiful nurse buddies said.

There were a few male patients. One or two fathers brought their children, but this was very rare. If a guy was a patient, he was really sick or injured. The healthy men showed up at lunch time when they gave away the free food. There was a mini-riot then.

The doctors' waiting room

The doctors' waiting room

We talked to a doctor from the diagnostic tents during lunch. He said he’d seen mostly coughs, fevers, two cases of dysentery. I know that some of the women had seriously high blood pressure, because I registered it myself.

We weighed every child up to about two years of age. This was a blast. They squealed and squiggled on the scale (note to AMREF: I have some concerns about the accuracy of your scales). For a few of them, I think I was the first mzungu they’d ever seen.

There were only two wazungu at the event, me and Lisa Weighton, a Canadian reporter working at Daily Nation on an Aga Khan Fellowship. Our western sensibilities were a little shocked by the lack of Hippocratic solemnity at the opening of the clinic. There were all these very poor, sick people waiting for health care. In the end, though, I thought it was a big improvement over the national anthem tradition.

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One Comment

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  1. Sharaine / Oct 26 2010 10:23 pm

    You’re stories bring Kenya to life for me, Dan. Keep them coming. How exciting to make contributions to the new world you live in. Wish I was with you!

    Love, Sharaine

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