Olivia Valencia

These blog entries are the views and opinions of the residents during and after their international experiences, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of VIA or VUMC.

End of Week 1

Habari ya asubuhi (good morning) from Kijabe, Kenya! I am currently writing this while sitting cross-legged on our front porch, watching the first rainstorm of the week. We are not yet in the rainy season, so a good soaking is much needed. The raindrops are loud on the metal porch roof and turn the red-orange dirt that is so characteristic of Kijabe to a dark brown mud. Despite the rain, I can still hear different birds chirping from nearby trees and some are brave enough to fly in it. The view is spectacular. Our front door (armed with a traditional lock as well as a padlock to keep the baboons out) leads to a small patio with a wide, L-shaped wooden bench that looks out into the yard featuring various green plants and trees (some with multicolored blossoms and leaves) as well as a long, metal clothesline. In the distance beyond the greenery is an expanse of golden-colored land dotted with trees and the occasional road and building surrounded by tiers of purple mountains. This is the famous Rift Valley, where the first humans are believed to have originated thousands of years ago. It is incredible to me, sitting with my laptop, to be so close to where are human life started.

After a long journey from Nashville to New York to London to Nairobi, the three of us were picked up by Philip (our trusted and knowledgeable driver known for his love of Celine Dion) and driven two hours northwest of Nairobi to Kijabe. Kijabe is a town of about 2000 people first inhabited by the Maasai and later by Western missionaries who established a mission hospital, which has now grown to encompass the AIC Kijabe Hospital (the main adult hospital where we are learning and working; their motto “Healthcare to God’s Glory” beautifully describes their approach to their work), Kijabe CURE Hospital, and Bethany Kids, each with their own focuses. On our first night, we were graciously welcomed by Dr. Kynes (a pediatric anesthesiologist affiliated with VUMC now living in Kijabe), his wife Ansley, and four kids for a delicious dinner of vegetarian and gluten-free enchiladas (thanks, Ansley!) and vanilla ice cream with homemade raspberry sauce (thanks, Grayson!). We also met some of the incredible support staff that make this rotation possible, including but certainly not limited to Sylvia and Joyce (house manager and housekeeper) and Faith (rotation coordinator).

I was able to spend the first day in the AIC Kijabe operating theater observing and helping in room 1 doing a variety of adult general surgery cases. I have so many thoughts and observations from the day, but here are a few that most stuck in my mind. First, the anesthesia staff, and hospital in general, do so much with fewer and oftentimes poorer-quality resources and yet still take great care of patients, which amazes me. The anesthesiologists, residents, nurse anesthetists, and students are therefore very intentional with their anesthetic assessments, plans, monitoring, and medications to maximize their interventions and conserve resources. Second, the recovery room was quite unlike ours at home. It was so interesting/terrifying/challenging to care for a woman having a postpartum hemorrhage next to two postoperative hypoxemic adult patients with only one oxygen source next to a young child recovering from multiple severe bronchospasms. Third, I was also lucky to meet Rebecca who along with her colleague, Eunice, were experiencing their first day of Kijabe’s brand new anesthesia residency! They are truly incredible women and we are so excited for them. Congratulations!

As luck would have it, I tested positive for COVID shortly after arriving to Kijabe and have been quarantining for the remainder of the week. Initially, I was disappointed to be missing several days of work, but as Joyce reminded me, there is no purpose in worrying about the things I have no control over (very wise) and I am grateful to have relatively mild symptoms. Although not what I initially planned, this time has been very valuable for reading and reflecting, and I am grateful to be here.

I am excited for all that the next three weeks have in store!