Gatundu, Kenya. September 2017



Team Members:

Dra.Mar Pardo de Lama ( surgeon) – Team Leader

Dra.Laura Vega Lopez (surgeon)
Dra,Libertad Martin Preto (surgeon Resident
Dra.Marta Magaldi Mendaña ( anesthetist)
Dr.Jose Miguel Moran Penco (pediatric surgeon)
Miss.Sandra Rivas Losada (nurse)

Finally the day arrived, everyone met at the airport to start the adventure. 3 general surgeons, (1 last year resident), 1 pediatric surgeon, 1 nurse and 1 anaesthetist. We carried large bags for the campaign (full of drugs, toys, surgical material…). The trip  was long, 16 hours, with a scale, final destination in Nairobi. It wasn`t easy to leave the airport, the drugs that we brought in the bags alerted the police and we were retained for 6 hours until they got “the permission of the President” (or that’s what they told us). Outside the airport was waiting for us the man  who would be our faithful driver throughout the mission. He took us to Ruiru, where our hotel was. This was about 20-30 minutes from Gatundu, where we would be going to work. It was a level 4 hospital. China had cooperated and constructed a new building, with “modern” operating rooms and some hospitalization rooms.

We spent the first day in the consulting room,  exploring and scheduling the patients who would be operated the following week, adults and children. As we were collaborating with Hernia International, most of the pathologies were hernias, inguinal and umbilical. Some hydroceles and testicular tumors were also scheduled. We also operated cryptorchids, and a thyroglossal cyst in children. As an exception, we operated an intestinal obstruction that required small bowel resection.

The following days followed always the same routine, we were picked up at the hotel at 07:00 – 07:15, arrived to the hospital at 07:30 – 07:45 and reviewed the patients operated the day before. We used to gift some toys to the children, make the complex cures and explain the recommendations to the discharged patients. Patients loved watching us, always smiling when they saw us coming, some of them even asked us for some photos. We began operating at 09:00-09:30. We had 2 operating rooms, quite modern, one for children and other for adults. About 11:00-12:00 the desired coffee arrived, accompanied by typical breakfast, sweet potato, and the “wase” (similar to the potato but softer, the reality was that its flavor didn`t convince any of the Group). Lunch was at 14.00-15:00. Always the stew beef with vegetables, coleslaw and corn bread, with a basket full of bananas for dessert. 7 to 10 patients by operating room per day. We used to finish rather late, so there was no time for sightseeing. When we arrived at the hotel after work we used to go straight to the dining room and order our deserved and desired “Tusker” (a typical beer there, was our favorite). We had to get used to the African rhythm, everything  was made with a lot of calm, veeeery slow (this was applicable not only at meal time, but also in all aspects of the daily life). During dinner we talked, reviewed the anecdotes of the day and used to connect to the wifi.

Libertad Martin Preto

We worked hard, but the good company and the love for our profession made the experience worth it. We became friends, (between us and with the hospital staff who helped us in the operating room) we learned about each other, we laughed (that above all), we sweated and got tired. All this, added to the charm of Africa, discovering other cultures, other landscapes, made us returning back home with a big smile and unforgettable memories.

I will also say that the working week was followed by 4 days of a spectacular Masai Mara Safari. A new experience, unlike any other, which all of us enjoyed fully.