Gatundu, Kenya. May 2019

Trainee’s Report – Omar Nasher

Location: Gatundu Level 5 Hospital, Kenya – Africa

Period: 18/05/2019 – 24/05/2019

Team members: Magdi Hanafy (Surgeon – Team Leader), Iain Muir (Surgeon), Omar Nasher (Surgeon), Gudrun Graf (Anaesthetist), John Pickering (Operating Department Manager), Vicki Clark (Nurse), Sue Dale (Nurse)

Since before entering medical school, I always had the dream to participate in a charity medical mission as I believed it would have been a uniquely rewarding experience.  Hernia International gave the opportunity to join the UK Team on the mission to Gatundu in Kenya and I was very grateful for that.

Prior departure, I had several email correspondences, phone calls and a meeting with John Pickering who, having been on numerous missions himself, was able to share his wealth of knowledge and mentally prepare me for what was going to be an amazing life experience. After a long direct flight from London, we arrived at Nairobi International Airport late at night where we were greeted by Cyrus, our exceptional driver/guide in Kenya, who drove us to the hotel.

There we received a smiley welcome by the hotel staff who were able to provide us with warm food despite our late night arrival. The following day after an early breakfast and a 45min adventurous drive through a spectacular countryside of fertile lands and coffee plants, we reached Gatundu Hospital. Upon arrival, we unloaded the jeep of all the boxes containing our equipment which included gowns, gloves, suture materials, instruments, medications and teddy bears for the children.

 After having been greeted by the hospital team we started working. Johns, Vicki and Sue unpacked all the equipment, created surgical trays and tidied up the two operating theatre so that they then became perfectly functioning and organised.          I, Magdi, Iain went to assess the patients (adults and children) on the surgical wards to make sure that the proposed surgery was clinically indicated and we then created our first elective operating list for the following day. Gudrun did a pre-operative assessment of the patients and along with Sue made sure that all anaesthetic machines, equipment as well as medications were ready and safe to be used.

 During the whole week we operated on multiple patients with different pathologies ranging from various types of hernia to undescended testis and hydrocele. All patients stayed in hospital one night after surgery to make sure that they were well post-operatively before going back home which in some cases was quite far away. Every day we reviewed the patients operated the previous day, perform the planned surgeries and then assessed new patients for the following day.

 I had a great pleasure and enjoyment in interacting with the brilliant local doctors, physician associates and nurses who were always accommodating any request we had and demonstrated a great level of enthusiasm as well as willingness to learn despite the limited available resources. One day I was also asked to deal with a 38w newborn with exomphalos (not antenatally diagnosed) and faced the challenge of needing cling film which the Neonatal Unit did not have. Fortunately a member of staff was able to get it near the hospital so that we could initiate the immediate management plan for the baby before transferring him to a tertiary centre in Nairobi.

    The parents and patients were incredibly appreciative for what we did and they really made me feel truly grateful to be in the healthcare profession.

   One day I was given an informal tour of the hospital by one of the interns and visited different areas such as the medical wards, emergency room, radiology, maternity, etc. Wherever I went, people wre always smiling and welcoming me to make me feel as if I was at home.

 Furthermore, I delivered a Paediatric Surgery teaching session which I thought it was going to be only for the surgical doctors but it then turned out to be a session for every staff member including the medical director. The session was well received and found helpful despite my initial apprehension.

My birthday happened to be during the mission period and I must say it was one of the most memorable ones. The mission itself and the team I was with definitely made it a very special day for me.

 This charity mission was a fantastic life experience during which I learned how to best utilise the limited available resources to look after patients and allowed me to reinforce my teamworking skills as I interacted with people belonging to a totally different healthcare system.

 I would definitely recommend this experience to any healthcare professional and I am already looking forward to the next mission!

Omar Nasher

SpR in Paediatric Surgery

Hernia International Volunteer