A Week of Getting Stuff Done

Saving Mothers Surgical Camp in Kenya

Jan 06, 2023 · Barbra Churco

When Doximity announced the Dox Foundation, created to help fund travel for healthcare professionals participating in medical missions, I was excited to hear about our company continuing to live up to its mission to support health care professionals. One of our company mantras is GSD – Get “Stuff” Done, and this effort was right in line with that core value.

Wait, me?

While I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join Saving Mothers on their latest mission to Kenya, I was nervous about my ability to help. Am I taking a seat on the plane from someone who could really contribute? As it turns out, there was a lot to do, especially for someone who didn’t need to stay sterile and perform procedures.

What are YOU going to do there?

-Quote from my mom, an OR nurse asking her kid with zero clinical experience

Setting up

From the moment we arrived at Kapenguria Hospital in West Pokot, we went to work. The doctors screened the patients while I worked with the nurse and scrub tech to unload the supplies in preparation for the surgical camp. From disorganized supplies and missing instruments to the state of the operating room (OR), my eyes widened at a couple points throughout the day. Ultimately, the team showed their resolve to make it work and GSD.

In the room

Surgeries started early the next day. I walked into the OR and immediately saw a patient undergoing a cervical prolapse repair – just another day in the office for the others in the room, but a first for me. One by one, I observed the team perform myomectomies, sphincter repairs, and hysterectomies. I’d help the surgical team with their gowns, grab supplies, and provide another set of hands that could touch things outside of the sterile field, which they couldn’t touch once gowned up.

This team worked without skipping a beat. I asked if it was very different from working back in the United States and the answer surprised me. While there were definite differences in venue (and I don’t think the power would go out as often in New York City hospitals), resources can be short no matter where you go, and you just have to make it work. The MacGyver-style resourcefulness of the surgical team was truly impressive.

That wouldn’t happen back home!

Mid-week, I was walking with Dr. Shirazian and we ran into a patient in the halls, let’s call her Rose. She had met with Dr. Shirazian a year prior, and immediately asked if she could be seen that same day to have a fibroid removed while we were still in town. She was screened later that day and had her surgery the last day of the camp. I tried to imagine doing that back home – bumping into a doctor in the hall, requesting a same-day appointment, and getting surgery that same week. It seemed inconceivable, but we were there to GSD.

Meeting the Traditional Birth Assistants

One of the ways Saving Mothers ensures its lasting benefits to the region is by providing training to Traditional Birth Assistants (TBAs). These women are most often the ones that see expecting mothers and deliver babies in the local communities. The training provided by Saving Mothers helps them to know what to look for in terms of complications and when a patient might need to be referred to a clinic or hospital. Some of the TBAs come as far as four hours on a motorbike to receive this training.

Sad Realities

By the middle of the week, we found a rhythm. I had seen more than a few patients have fibroids and dermoids removed and even made it to the Labor and Delivery ward to witness someone give birth. During one of the surgeries, I got a text to see if any of the doctors were available to help with an emergency case. A patient delivering twins was having complications with the second baby, as the baby’s arm was prolapsed. The team sprang into action to help with an emergency c-section, and worked tirelessly to resuscitate the baby. Sadly, she didn’t make it. While I’ll never forget the devastating emotions of that day, I’ll also never forget the admiration I have for the local and visiting teams working together to try to save her.

Many people described this trip as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. I can only hope it’s not. I am incredibly grateful to Doximity and Saving Mothers for their continued work, and I’m excited for the next Doxer able to share this experience.

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