It’s been almost a week since my arrival in Nairobi, Kenya and its been astounding!
I am currently volunteering at Zamzam Medical Centre in Ngong town. Unlike the UK where I am from, I get much more hands on experience. So far, I’ve learnt how to look for malaria parasites following a phlebotomy (drawing blood), testing for HIV, arthritis. I’ve also been taught how to look for parasites in stool and UTI’s in urine. All of this in the span of a week. I have learnt more at the Zamzam Medical Centre on my first day than a two week hospital placement back home.
Another thing I’ve noticed here is how welcoming the seniors are. They come without a judgmental attitude even when I make stupid mistakes. They make me feel welcome and supported which unfortunately wasn’t my experience back home. Many medical students complain about the toxic environment created due to competition in the high stress environment. Here with even what would be considered a ‘stressful case’ is carried out with ease and skill.
One thing that fascinates me however is how positive the patients are despite feeling sick, tired or in pain. There was a patient that needed stitches all over his face and scalp, bleeding, with deep grazes but him and his friend just kept laughing it off until the procedure was done. And this is without emotional support from the medical team.
Another drastic difference between the two healthcare systems I have noticed is how doctors/medical professionals approach reaching a differential diagnosis. Due to the NHS being free for all, supplies are scarce. Therefore, our approach when diagnosing a patient goes from from least invasive (history taking) to most invasive (surgery). However, I’ve noticed here that blood drawing is very common and is sometimes done to confirm a cold! Receiving test results is very quick unlike receiving results from our GPs.
Kenyans can definitely learn from the west but we can do a lot more by implementing some of what they carry out here too.
As for Kenya itself…what can I say! The people are so friendly and fun to be around. They are so welcoming and want to learn so much about England. Everyone here speaks amazing English (a million times better than my Swahili). There is definitely a lot to do here. From feeding giraffes and monkeys to modern shopping streets and malls.
But hands down the most rewarding thing I have done in my life thus far was street feeding the city children and visiting the Kibera slums, the largest slum in Africa and second in the world. Opening my eyes and mind to how some people live was heartbreaking but definitely much needed. On one side of Nairobi; no electricity, water or food and on the other; gigantic houses and expensive rent. Despite the Kibera living conditions, the women and children all had smiles on their faces and were incredibly grateful for everything given to them. I am definitely going to implement the positive attitudes that the woman they carried. Despite all the bad luck life has faced them with they stand strong and help one another.