Hernia International launches first team to Kenya



 Gatundu, Kenya  April 2015

This time I was asked to join a team to Kenya. The trip was prepared by Professor Kingsnorth and lead by John Pickering CEO of Fairfield Hospital. John is very passionate about charity surgical missions and was previously involved in many missions. John knows how to collect donations and prepare for a theatre from scratch. Two more senior nurses joined us: Susan Daly and Vicki Clark, and so with myself, Magdi Hanafy we had four in the team. . The team was extremely keen and fun to work with and very supportive to each other.

This was the first team scheduled for a new Hernia International (HI) site in Kenya. Prof Kingsnorth has worked hard to create and accept it as a potential, regular site for future missions of HI. There were some difficulties to iron out to start with especially related to communication. But after our first visit that was sorted out.

The hospital was a small district hospital in Gatundu. A small village north east of Nairobi and half an hour from the motorway between Nairobi and Thika.

The hospital is being renovated by building a new hospital just next door sponsored by the Chinese government and is due to open on September 2015. The Chief of Surgery Dr Patrick Nyaga is a very nice man willing to help and learn and is very liked by the hospital team. He is the person to liaise with and ask your questions.


There is a primary school (mixed) next to the hospital. There is as well a football ground with plenty of teams of different ages. If you want ideas about charity donations.

The hotel is on the main motorway mentioned above and is very secure and comfortable. The hotel’s name is Rainbow Ruiru Resort hotel off Thika Highway. We met Mr Kimani Sospeter with whom Prof Kingsnorth has negotiated a good deal for the volunteer’s price of 4000 shillings per night per room. There is a good Wi-Fi in the lobby and the restaurant.

I was under the impression that because we were going to travel in the night outside Nairobi that this would have been dangerous as it is in Africa. But the distance between the hotel and Nairobi Airport is only 45 minutes (depends on the traffic) and safe. So you do not need to stay the first night in Nairobi.

Transport was arranged by the ministry of health with a car and a driver at our service all time from airport arrival to airport departure.

Kenyan people are very kind and thankful. They all speak English and they have English names as well as their Swahili names. (Try and google some Swahili words with their translation to your language and learn them before Departure)


What you need for your visa is a fifty dollar bill that you pay at the airport after a long queue. Visa will be printed on your passport. A letter from Patrick will help in customs when your bags are searched to prove that contents are for charity reasons. Customs will require a list of contents as well with this letter. With those two documents you are very likely to sail through customs.

ATMs are available once you go out of the customs lots of banks. Make sure your credit /debit card provider knows you are going to Kenya before travelling.

We brought the following supplies with us: gowns, drapes, scrubs, shoes, masks, head caps, disposable razors, skin disinfectant, betadine, local  anaesthetics,  syringes,  needles, dressings, pain killers and antibiotics, local anaesthetics, needles and syringes, sutures (inside and skin) sterile gloves. The diathermy machine was very old and lacked the diathermy leads and pens. There is a good sterilisation system there. Your nurse has to make sure there are enough instruments for the number of cases and the speed of work. Theatre lights are not sufficient and are shared among tables, get your own headlight just in case.

The hospital has its own anaesthetists and their drugs. They do not have anaesthetic nurses or recovery nurses. They work on Saturday but not Sunday, but you can negotiate.

There are two operating tables available. You can do more than ten cases per table per day, depending on your speed. But allow for the other table to be taken over occasionally for emergencies. You will finish in plenty of time to see patients for the next day and create a list. You need to teach the doctors who are helping you that the operating surgeon should see his own patients, mark them and at least verbal consent them and the WHO questions asked to prevent mistakes. They speak English very well, and they tend to over help, to make you happy. Accept it nicely but I have seen groin lymph nodes listed as hernias if they try to create a list for you.


There is no air conditioning either in theatre or in the hotel. The hotel has mosquito nets around the beds. Take mosquito spray with you both for the room and your body.

Hospital or theatre has no mosquito nets around the windows. Mosquitos do not fly or feed during the day they are night insects.

Safety is not an issue anywhere. We felt welcome and safe.

On the whole there are a lot of patients to operate on, expect children, adults with recurrent, and incisional hernias. There are doctors and staff to help you and organise patients for you to see and write the lists for you.


Kenya is not only about work. If you cannot spare a few more days for a safari, you can organise a visit to the Giraffe Feeding Centre and Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage, and there is a little safari possibility in Nairobi as well. All this can be done on the last day before you fly if you have a late night flight. Any animal sightseeing should end by sunset i.e. 6:00 pm. Shopping for souvenirs is expensive use your own judgement.

Please contact Kim DeWitt letmeshine4him@yahoo.com for any/all of the above. Her help was tried and trusted. She runs a charity for young girls called Omalayka (Angels) to save Masai girls from early marriage and female genital mutilation. You might be interested to see how you can help.

Magdi Hanafy Consultant Surgeon Cheshire United Kingdom.