Jim Ritchie and his wife Martha and son James entertained us and showed us around the place. They have been expecting us for several weeks, but didn’t find out until this past Monday, two days ago, that there was also a big shindig for church leadership planned for today and they also were called unexpectedly to visit their daughter in boarding school. Our visit will be cut short just a bit and we will need to find something to do in our sorrow, like see some animals at Samburu National Reserve.
We learned a lot in the short time that we had together. There are several very exciting aspects to this site for teaching family medicine. There is a great level of need. Faculty is being developed and the hospital is gearing up to be a teaching hospital. There is already a nursing school here. They have started their first class of family medicine residents this year, one of which is from Burundi and plans to go back to develop family medicine there. They see their mission as being considerably more than just teaching good doctors for hospitals in Kenya. They want to improve the health of countries the region, and develop family medicine in places like Burundi and South Sudan. Security is not a concern here, there is a nice campus to stay on, they are not so busy that creating an academic setting is difficult, and they have adequate financial support for the residency, all important considerations. The two concerns that I have include whether or not there are sufficient patients- in part because of some interesting insurance changes by the government- and whether or not there will be sufficient need for us to be involved as support faculty. It looks like there will likely be enough help so that we may not be needed. Either way, if I end up working at another site to help with family medicine, these people are worth knowing about since they will be developing physicians who could become faculty in Bururndi, South Sudan, and elsewhere, helping to establish family medicine in those places. The only other drawback is that the concentration of road bumps between Nairobi and Chogoria is like nothing else I have ever seen in the world. This is the highest concentration of road bumps anywhere.
On the morning we left, I talked to the medical director for the hospital, a family doctor himself, a Kenyan named Franklin Ikunda. He is very supportive of developing family medicine training here and asked “when can you come?” He has been in Grand Marais Minnesota in Bruce Dahlman’s home. His recollection of Minnesota was beautiful and very cold. He said the lake was frozen over when he was there. Bruce, who would invite their African friends to northeastern Minnesota in the dead of winter? Ice fishing? Snow shoeing? What were you thinking?
I got a call from Samuel, our Kenyan partner in the peace initiative in Kapedo. He said again that the rivers are flooding and cars are stranded on either side of the river. It is very possible that we will not be able to travel to Kapedo in that case. We will therefore work on a backup plan, in terms of our itinerary. We will make a decision tonight, Sunday, on whether it makes sense to try to ford the rivers of northern Kenya in flood stage to visit the project there, or to give Samuel the equipment with instructions and let him work it out. Crunch time is tonight. We may not have options. At the very least, we will put the whole system together and test it to make sure it works and hand things over to Samuel. Not ideal, but better than floating down the river with our luggage.
Some of you have expressed concern about the terrorist attack in northeastern Kenya. This occurred in a place called Garissa, far from where we are, the same location as a university attack a year or so ago. Very sad, and I don’t want to diminish its significance, but I also want to reassure you that we are very safe. We are able to continue on with our plans, unless the rivers rise and we can’t move forward. We will send you updates after tonight’s decision.