Friday, May 30, 2008

Day by Day...

This week has been off to a slow start yet will end with a bang. I am giving my 2 day seminar—yes, they requested it be split into 2 days as people are traveling from around Kenya to attend. I will be teaching on rehabilitation and gait training to a crowd of professionals with variable degrees of experience. It always makes me a tad nervous to act like an expert on something—but here goes nothing :) if you are up at 6 am texas time—please pray that I am accurately conveying my points across cultural barriers. Thank you.

Life has been interesting here within the team. We are struggling to get the workers at Kijabe to work efficiently in order to create the prosthetic legs so that I can gait train then so that the other students can perform outcome measures on their walking. Obviously, I am unable to work with and teach someone to walk until the leg has been created….which means, I am basically in a holding pattern until thur/fri every week. I get frustrated knowing a patient needs more rehab than I will be able to give. It simply takes time and repetition. Life here is so different—as you can imagine. We take (they do—I am lactose intolerant)—chai tea breaks 2 x day—at 10 and 4 pm. These breaks can last anywhere from 15 to 45 mins. As you imagine, this is a good chunk of the day spent playing checkers and drinking chai. While it is fun, you should see the line of patients waiting on prosthetics/ orthotics. Do not misunderstand me—chai is served to everyone in the hospital. It is a custom. While I do enjoy the fellowship—I want more than anything to give quality rehab to people—and time is the limiting factor. Im sure you see where I am coming from—I will not beat a dead horse. Please pray that our team as well as the men working in the brace shop are as efficient as possible in order to give our patients the best products possible in a timely manner.

As I mentioned before—this is my LAST weekend in Kenya. Blows my mind ive been here nearly 3 weeks. I am just now finding my niche here in the hospital. Yesterday was pretty awesome—myself along with Ricc (the prosthetists that came with us from the US)—found a neuroma at the end of a 15 y/o patient’s residual limb. A neuroma is a collection of nerve endings or a knot that forms on the end of a nerve that is very painful and can not be put into a prosthesis until it has been removed. We were not sure who to refer the child to—so I walked to the hospital—spoke to the head surgeon—he was admitted on the spot—and will have it removed tom afternoon. SO DIFFERENT THAN THE US. I loved seeing the boy get taken care of. I wish you guys could see what I am looking at right now—our house is on the ledge of a hill—overlooking the rift valley. I can see 2 volcanoes and mountains in the distance. It is green with trees down below. So beautiful. Also, I can see mtns in Tanzania from here. UNREAL. Worship songs come alive to me from this view.

Weekend plans: Saturday—hike 2 hrs to a nearby waterfall and play with a group of people. Should be a blast. We have to hire an armed guide. Crazy! Sunday—going to Nairobi with a group of people to hit the Masai ( a tribe here) market, eat Ethiopian food again, and go feed baby orphaned elephants. I am so excited about the elephants…and im sure you all want me to feed them so ill shut up about it J Monday ) a holiday here---I might climb Longanot—a volcano—in hopes of seeing giraffe. Yes, the giraffe are my motivation b/c lets be honest—ive hiked enough to last a few years with Mt Kenya. I still can not believe I did that.

Alright-im off to get ready for the day as you guys are falling asleep. So weird to be so far from what is familiar. More to come—


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lions, rhinos and sunsets....

hello faithful readers :) this weekend was a time to relax and unwind after a pretty intense week. on sat AM we packed up a van with a private driver and headed to Nakuru Natl Park. as we approached the gate, we were greeted by monkeys galore. they are pretty much like pigeons in the states....just waiting for a dropped cracker. i could have sworn they staged the next scene: baboons playing on a branch, zebras grazing 20 ft from the car, wart hogs snorting, and a ton of deer-like things. there must have been 10 different deer-resembling animals there--but who can remember them when there were RHINOS and LIONS. oh man, i was going to save that until later :)

so as we continued on to our destination to check in--we had no idea what the accomodations would be like...i was pleasantly suprised. we were greeted with a warm towel infused with menthol to wash our faces/ hands. next came fresh juice...this is all on breezeway entering the hotel people. so awesome. as you can imagine...after hiking a mtn last weekend...i was wanting some r & r. the rooms were just as you would picture for a safari--equiped with a mosquito net around the bed, a quaint bathroom with wood trimmings, and a sweet front porch with a view of the lake. oh yeah, i failed to mention the national park has a lake--where all the animals seem to gather. the resort is on a hill facing the lake. i had to pinch myself multiple times.

the food was delicious--and it was all inclusive. so yes, i tried anything and everything. i loved the indian dishes--as they prepared foods for people from all over who were staying there. we thought everything was included ONLY to realize our fruit punch (FRESH pineapple, passion fruit, and mango--with fruit at the bottom--aka--nectar of the gods) was nearly 4 USD. oh well--guess its like starbucks...but WAY better. back to the food--every meal was an event--with soup, a main course, cheese, and dessert. all buffet style...but still classy. so unexpected.

here is how a safari resort works--wake up early to be in the car by 6:30 AM to see animals at their peek times (morning and dusk), return for breakfast, hang out until lunch (dont you love days based around food and fun?), gear up and go out at 4:30 pm to see more animals, tribal dancers at 7, dinner at 8, and hanging out by the fire until whenever. almost a perfect day.

ok ok--so you are wondering what animals i saw....or you should be :) well guys--God was good and i prayed very specifically--and He showed off His creation. we were able to see-- a black rhino (who came incredibly close to our car), 6 white rhino, baboons and monkeys galore, cape buffalo, zebras, deer-like things, hippos--even a mom and a baby, flamingos, pelicans, hyenas, jackals and last BUT certainly NOT least...a male LION resting on a small cliff. i jumped up and down in the safari van :)

to paint the picture---we had one of those vans you see on the discovery channel--where the roof pops up so you can stand and look out. very fun! you are NOT allowed out of your car--and why would you get out?? BIG animals everywhere. in the AM and at dusk---people are driving around--not traffic filled--but dispersed throughout the park. if you see a car stopped with people hanging out---you stop and look--for what they are seeing. such a rush!!

the lake was placid and beautiful. in the background--mountains and endless blue skies. the Lord blessed us with perfect weather. i was struck with the Biblical truth that God created ALL of these creatures...and put US over them. i felt prized.

after an unforgetable weekend--we drove to a nearby lake--rented a local guide and boat--and set out to see hippos--> we clearly had "animal fever". i was quite reluctant to get into a boat knowingly headed into crock/hippo infested water. im afraid of crocs and....deep water. what a great combination, eh? turned out to be really neat--we did NOT see crocs but we saw a family of hippos--as in around 20 of them. they were HUGE and definitely worthy of respect. the guide knew better than to get too close--for fear of the hippos flipping the boat. i was quite alright with distance. that is what zoom lenses are for :) i also saw a few giraffes and wildabeasts in the horizon by the lake.

so yeah, i have one more weekend in kenya and it is...MISSION ELEPHANT. it may not happen...but im going to try :)

the week ahead has 2-3 new amputees with 2 that stayed over this weekend due to slow production of sockets--in order to create the prosthetic limb. please pray that i would have more time to do gait training and rehab than i did with the last 3 men. their new legs were not made in time--thus--i didn't get to do my part. i have been doing exs and activities with them throughout the day--and working with kids in between--but i would like more time walking with them.

also, please pray for our leader, karen, as she is making big decisions and dealing with unexpected complications. as she said at dinner--pray for a wise head and a calm heart.

thank you all for reading and sharing in this adventure with me. the Lord is teaching me so much--and i think when i get home will be digestion time as now is survival. i love each and every one of you.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mountain top experience....

yes, friends and family...i reached the summit of mt. kenya's lenana peak--16,355 ft-- by GOD'S GRACE...sunday morning at 7:05 am. see this link for a pic as i am having difficulty loading pics from here:

we (myself, karen--on LEGS team, and 4 locals to carry bags, guide and cook) set out friday-- 9.94 miles through thick forest-- i saw zebras upon entering the park. yes folks, real zebras. so cool. after getting a late start, we ended up hiking a bit in the dark. not exactly a city girl's comfort zone knowing that rather large animals are nearby. many prayers were sent up and sounded a bit like this: dear Lord, i really want to see an elephant...but not at night and NOT NOW. protect me as my only weapon of defense is a water bottle.

all that being said, we safely arrived at base camp standing tall at 10,826 feet. by this time, i was struggling with altitude sickness (lets remember i am from sea level). not what you want to have on day 1 of a 4 day hike. so yeah, i was up all night sick and praying that the Lord would heal me. He was indeed faithful and i was able to continue.

saturday held a 9.94 mile hike to a 13,779 ft camp. the terrain was incredible and the hiking was challenging ( little did i know). we stopped frequently to look at wildlife and take in many different views of the valley and 3 peaks. it was incredible to see how the plant and animal life began to dissipate as we climbed higher and higher. sat night was rather rough as i was unable to breathe. not fun. it is a funny thing when you have to remind yourself how to breathe--in with your nose, out with your mouth, megan. not my idea of fun--but an experience nonetheless. it is increasingly more frustrating when you know that you have the hardest aspect of the hike-the summit--awaiting you at 2:30 am. yes, we began the ascent in the early AM so that we could reach the top before the clouds roll in. it is unreal how quickly they cover the mountains.

sunday morning we set out with the moon as our flashlight and headed 3.10 miles uphill for summit. i specifically remember thinking--this is CRAZY and if my mom knew i was doing this--she would die. i also knew--there was no other option but getting to the top. so picture this: its 2:30 am, pitch black, and we are hiking at somewhere around a 45 degree angle on gravel-like rock for nearly 5 hrs. yes, 5 hours uphill. this was the part of the trip i somehow overlooked in the description---or else i would not have signed up :) oh and you must know it was somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees and im wearing EVERY layer of clothing i brought--and i look like the kid in The Christmas Story :) altitude sickness was the theme of the day (again)--and i literally dry heaved up the mountain and puked the way down. good times. there was a point that i prayed that someone in the states was praying for me--so that i could get through. that was the 1st time ive ever cried out for someone else to pray for me--due to exhaustion. so--if from around 7 to midnight on sat night--you thought of me and prayed--thank you. it was heard :)

the summit was unreal--cold and full of God's splendor. when i think about the Lord--i think of His beauty and then...the ALL-powerful aspect that is somewhat unsafe. that is what the mountain embodied. majesty, splendor, glory, creation YET dangerous. i felt ALIVE.

a valuable lesson was learned: you CAN, in fact, push through sickness and accomplish a task. im so accustomed to home: you feel sick, you lay down. that was not an option. it was awesome to see that the body can keep going as long as the mind is on board. im pretty proud of myself :)

the hike down took 1.5 days and my favorite part was through a bamboo forest where i hoped to see---but didn't--elephants. i saw fresh tracks, HUGE piles of poop, but no elephant. maybe it was the Lord protection. all in all...HE is good, faithful, and the keeper of my steps.

that brings me to today--my 1st day with amputees. we had 3 guys come in from all around kenya. they have been walking on the LEGS knee for 1+ years but all need new sockets--the aspect that holds the residual limb--due to weight gain. as i met with peter, kenneth ,and joseph today, i heard how they lost their legs and each one shared how the Lord has used this to reveal Himself. i am humbled to serve these faithful men.

i am currently teaching a therapist, michael, to evaluate and gait train amputees. he is eager to learn and we get along well. your prayers are being by day. i feel them...and for that, i am overwhelmed with gratitude.

please continue to pray for the amputees to arrive safely, for God honoring relationships between us and the AIC CURE workers, and most importantly--that the Lord's work would take place.

you are loved,


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The task ahead....

is a BIG one :) today is the day to begin my hike to mt. kenya. im both nervous and excited...seeing as i live at sea level. i am going to put in this entry, then pack, then leave at 9 am (noon texas time). oh but wait...i failed to mention....i have porters (carry bags) and people to cook for me. i have NO idea how this works--just that it will be me, karen, and a team of men to help with everything. how fun?! please pray that i can hike with altitude being the limiting factor, that we are safe, that we have fun, and MOST OF ALL...that i see an elephant!!! :)

the last few days have been pretty unreal working in the hospital. im telling you--these kids are light years tougher than americans--and they are disciplined. they sit when told to...and dont move. they do everything i ask...which as you can rare when working with prediatrics. so much of my day is spent showing the therapists how to use the tools they already have. its pretty amazing to see all the equipment donated...but they have NO idea what to do with it. im having a blast putting braces on kiddos and showing them how to walk with them!!

This week we had our 1st amputee--a 15 y/o boy who lost his leg 7 years ago and has never been fit for a prosthetic limb. He was extremely shy but seemed excited when I explained that if he does his exercises and wraps his leg every day--he will be able to have a new leg in 2 weeks when he returns. He smiled. He was not a patient we were expecting...but I am so glad he came. I am looking forward to showing him the initial phases of gait training. These kids are stoic---beyond measure. We asked him his address---and he doesnt have one. He is an IDP (internally displaced person) within Kenya due to the recent "crisis". Basically, he was driven off his families land (shamba) during the tribal wars. Im telling you---those stories change COMPLETELY when you have a face to go with them.

Yesterday was tough--as my day ended with shadowing an OT in the hydrocephalus/ burn ward. As we were walking into the room, a german PT named Marinka mentioned to me that these children are from the church burning. The church burning took place when some Kikuyu people (a tribe) were being burned off their land by the Luo (an opposing tribe)--so the parents and their children took refuge in a church thinking NO ONE would burn down a church. WRONG. 50 people perished and these 4 children in the burn ward---survived. I could barely stand there as i was fighting back tears. Innocent children--burned from head to toe--yet smiling and looking forward to PT. unreal.

Next week--up to 6 amputees are coming from all around Kenya. Please pray for their safe arrival as roads are not the safest here. I am really looking forward to putting all my preparation to use.

Oh and in other news--i am learning phrases and words in swahili and LOVING IT!! it is a really neat language with an accent similar to spanish.

Oh and one last story--I was walking home on Wed after a long day of work and in my own world. and sometimes, i forget where i am when im tired. anyways, i hear this strange sound--then look up in the trees--and there is a monkey. yes friends, a REAL, LIVE MONKEY. then i remembered....I AM INDEED IN AFRICA!!!



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Traveling Mercies

Greetings from Kijabe, Kenya!! I am battling a stomach flu-like thing right now but other than that-- I am great! Please pray that this sickness will pass soon. It hit me around 11:15 am this AM thus I am home blogging right now in between trying to sleep it off. This morning I went to the children's hospital and worked with a few kids and assisted with a seriel casting for a child with club foot. Some people speak English but most of the children and families from rural areas speak primarilty Swahili. I am learning a few words a day which is pretty funny.

I want to recap my days thus far. Lets take it back to the 9th—where we boarded a flight at 17:30 headed for London Heathrow. A cramped flight to say the least—but I sat next to a nice Italian man that was fun to coversate with. We must have stood in the back of the plane for a good 1.5 hours just talking about life, comparing/contrasting Italian and Spanish, and stretching our cramped legs. 10 hrs is a LONG time in the sky. Anywho, that flight landed in London at 8:30 in order to catch our 10:30 to Nairobi. All would have been well EXCEPT we made it all the way to customs/security…and I could NOT find my passport anywhere. WORST CASE SCENARIO. I had what was as close to a panic attack as I have ever felt. I tore my bag apart, which was filled to the brim, all the while the line is steadily moving. I could barely hear and I could feel my body temp rising steadily. Then it hit me…the last time I remember seeing it was on the plane. I prayed and I ran. The BA people were less than helpful…and I was in no state for conversation. I knew that I wanted back on that plane before they moved it. I finally found a woman who let me on…and I sprinted to my seat, tore through the seat pocket, and there it was. THANK YOU LORD. You are indeed faithful to the faithless. We quickly made it through security as I white-knuckled my passport. I still can not believe that happened.

Anyways, the flight to Nairobi was 8 hrs and I slept the entire way with 4 seats to my lonesome. Thank you again Jesus. After my adrenaline had kicked it with the incident…I was whipped. I slept the majority of the way, woke up to eat, and watch Juno. The airport in Nairobi was a culture shock. A tad scary if Im honest. The whole place is scary, to be honest. If I had never seen movies such as Hotel Ruwanda or Blood Diamond…I would be ok. Its hard to get those images out at this point. Silly, I know as none of those took place in Kenya. Anyways, our luggage all arrived-> thank you Lord. We were picked up by a driver and taken to the Smiths apartment. They have been missionaries in Kenya somewhere around 25 years. Pretty awesome people who have done amazing things. We all crashed there for 2 nights and got acclimated. The first night we arrived around 9:30 and just crashed. Then woke up and went to church. It was a 15 min walk to the African Inland Mission (AIM) where we walked into a church unlike anything I have seen. It was so neat to sit in the presence of other believers speaking in other languages yet we sang in English as well. The message was in English which was great. He taught about resisting temptation—using the strength of Christ. He said that faith is believing in the dark what the Lord had promised in the light. That is what I took away. My favorite part was listening to people sing in Swahili. So neat. Their voices carried unlike any other. After church, we were invited for chai and cookies seeing as we were new…and stook out a bit. After tea, we walked to an Ethiopian restaurant which was awesome. Very different from anything I have ever experienced. We ate outdoors and the place was beautiful. I actually liked a few of the dishes…problem is i will never remember the name of the food I liked. I guess ill just ask for the orange stuff. It rocked. I tried the meats but find that I am not much on foreign meats…at all.

Then we headed to the house for rest. We quickly decided to go to the Masai market to shop for a bit. I walked with mrs smith and she showed me where the recent “crisis” took place. It was rather earie…walking on the exact street where war took place 2 months ago. Something interesting about Kenyans is they all welcome you to Kenya then tell you how safe it is now. Its like they know they survive on tourism. Crazy. I bought a few things at the market. Had a blast overall. Kenyans are just as bad as Mexicans in nagging you to buy anything and everything. I found them to be easier to haggle with…maybe because they speak English and are a tad desperate due to the crisis. It was fun, all in all.

That brings me to 5/12/2008—we woke up this AM, had breakfast and headed out to every hardware store in Nairobi. It took all morning and we did not find what we needed…but I had fun just running around and looking. This place is pretty amazing. As we headed out of Nairobi to Kijabe—we passed what I thought to be quintessential Africa. Shanties and dukas…or stores. Seeing those babies running around everywhere barefoot…stirs my heart. The drive was beautiful although I left the window open the entire time in order to escape sickness. We stopped at the Great Rift Valley ledge so we could take pics…of course, we were swarmed with people selling nothing I wanted. They would NOT understand why we would not want to buy something. You have to be firm and direct with them…but can you really blame a man for trying to sell an elephant…to feed his family. Arriving at Kijabe was a bit tiring…so I napped for 2 solid hours with the windows open. Katie and I are sharing a room with bunk beds. Its nice. Felt good to unpack all my stuff and put the suitcase away. This afternoon we walked up to AIC CURE and met the staff. I love the fact that I will be able to work with peds.