UK-Swiss Team visits Gatundu


April 23-30: Mission in the new hospital, Gatundu

Gatundu district Hospital has opened its doors to the second hernia international mission this year and it has been another successful and truly enjoyable experience. Our team was led by Mr Alexander Stanek, a consultant surgeon from the UK; whose experience with Hernia International missions and several years working in Africa attributed to the success of the mission. Other members of the team included Leo Mitteregger, a general surgeon from Vienna, Rocio Santos, a general surgeon working in Melilla, Greg Wirth, a urologist working in Vienna and two junior doctors from the UK, Cristina Croitoru and Victoria Carswell. Other members had previously volunteered with Hernia International and were able to convey their varying experiences.


We all arrived separately to the airport, surprisingly without complication and were met by our designated drivers. We carried with us excess luggage containing medical supplies such as sutures, instruments, mesh, gowns, drapes and varying pieces of anaesthetic equipment. To supplement this contribution Mr. Stanek was able to acquire a diathermy machine which was donated to the hospital and will be a valuable asset in various surgeries out with the mission. We were transported to the Rainbow Ruiru resort hotel arriving around midnight. The hotel was impressive and well equipped with mosquito nets, internet and a restaurant that served a variety of foods, albeit served with a reasonable wait.  We were met the next morning by Betty, the head nurse, who escorted us to Gatundu Hospital, which was approximately a 40minute drive. After unpacking the equipment and reviewing the patients for the following day we were given a tour of the hospital. This is a large district hospital recently built by the Chinese government and opened by the Kenyan president only a few months previously. It is located adjacent to the old hospital which is still in use for maternity and family health. Some of the issues met by the previous team must have been addressed as the theatres appeared well equipped and well maintained. There were two theatres for our use which had adequate anaesthetic equipment, trolleys and pre-made surgical sets. Some of these sets contained instruments that were of poor quality which, at times made operating difficult.


Over 5 days of operating the team was able to perform 48 procedures, 14 of which were paediatric. There were 45 hernia operations including one large congenital hernia, 5 incisional hernias and an excision of a large abdominal mass of unknown origin. Thanks to the skills of local anaesthetists, these procedures were able to be performed under GA, spinal or local anaesthesia. The clinical care pre and post op was exceptional, with many of the patients being fit for discharge on the same day or 1-2 days post op for the larger cases. The local doctors were an essential addition to the team; they were bright, hard working and keen to learn. 4 of our surgeons took the time to teach the local doctors surgical skills and allowed them to participate in surgery. They gained a great deal of experience during the week and one doctor became proficient in performing both inguinal and epigastric hernia   


We encountered only minor difficulties, mainly attributed to delays, both in start time and between cases and difficulties with equipment; with regards the aforementioned quality and the availability of sutures and gowns. However the hard work of the staff enabled the mission to be a success and we were able to hit our daily targets. On the final day we finished early around 2pm allowing us to have a farewell lunch with the theatre staff that had shown us such warm hospitality. We then had the pleasure of meeting the medical director Patrick Nyaga who kindly accompanied us to a local school where were able to give the children gifts that we had brought with us. This was a special experience and the children were so excited and curious about our visit. In particular a Sports Company from Northern Ireland kindly donated 30 full football kits this was joyfully received by the children who look forward to using these during school matches.


The final day was used to relax after the tough week and we were able to visit Nairobi's famous giraffe centre. This was accommodated by our driver Cyrus who kindly made sure we were transported safely to all our destinations throughout the week. The week was tough but the work rewarding, the patients were so thankful for their treatment some of which was life changing. The team became close during the week and look forward to participating in future missions. 


Victoria Carswell