Saturday, March 27, 2010

My First Safari

As I alluded to in my previous blog, my friends Brandy and Deb took me on safari the 2nd week of their visit here. We had so much fun and it was definitely an amazing experience! I was expecting it to be fun, but I had no idea how incredible it would be to see so much of God’s creation and to see all of these animals in their natural habitat. Also, it provided a great time of relaxation and fellowship for all of us.

We started out our safari at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is a private game park that sits at the base of Mt. Kenya. We stayed at a place called Sweetwaters, where all the accommodations were permanent tents, complete with toilets and showers. It was fun! At Sweetwaters, we saw rhinos, chimpanzees, lots of antelope and water buck, buffalo, zebras and lions. Our driver, Francis, who was with us the entire week, was very knowledgeable and was able to find us lots of animals. He would tell us he could “smell a lion” – of course this was right after he had gotten off his CB radio with another driver who had spotted one.

From Ol Pejeta, we traveled about 5 hours over very bumpy roads to Lake Nakuru, famous home to thousands of flamingoes. We stayed at a very nice place there and were able to see the flamingoes up close, as well as 2 leopards (unheard of per our driver) and more rhinos and antelope. Also, there were monkeys that greeted us in the parking lot and tried to get in our van.

From there, we traveled another 4-5 hours (again over bumpy roads – what else do you expect, this is Africa) to Maasai Mara, perhaps the best known game park in Kenya. It extends into Tanzania, where it becomes Serengheti National Park. This was probably my favorite one. We stayed at a camp called Sekenani, which is not fenced in. So, at night, we could hear elephants and see giraffe. We also had several baboons running over and around our tent at night. It felt like we were truly living in the wild. Not to worry, though. There were Maasai guards with spears posted around the camp to fend off any truly dangerous animals. We also went to an authentic Maasai village one day – the village consisted of one family, which consisted of one father, 11 wives, 52 children, and 300 cows. What a culture shift! It was very muddy as it had been raining quite a bit. We were able to go into one of their homes – hardly room even to move around. We were also treated to an exhibition of traditional dance. It amazed me how different it was from the rest of Kenya, or at least the parts I’ve experienced so far.

We were so fortunate to have a great 5 days on safari. We saw all of the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, and Buffalo) and there wasn’t a single animal we wanted to see that we didn’t. Francis told us that were very lucky as not every safari experience is like that.

We then made our way back to Nairobi, stopping on the way at a school that some of Deb’s relatives (through marriage) have started for very poor children. It was a great way to end our time. Saying goodbye was hard, but I am so thankful for the 2 weeks were able to spend together.

Deb in our tent at Sweetwaters

Mother and baby white rhinos

Giraffe at sunset
Just the scenery was beautiful, especially with the clouds andthe sun shining through
The 3 Stooges (Cape buffalo)


Brandy, Deb and me at the airport in Eldoret

The last week of February, I had my first official visitors! Deb and Brandy are good friends of mine from residency and are both practicing OB/GYN’s in Indianapolis. It was such a blessing to have them here. We had all been looking forward to it for months.

I had scheduled several surgeries for the week they were here in Kapsowar. Not all the patients showed up for surgery, but we had others show up in their place. In total, we did several tubal ligations, 3 vaginal hysterectomies, and a hysterectomy on a woman we thought might have ovarian cancer – it turned out to be a Krukenberg tumor (a cancer of the stomach that metastasizes to the ovaries). One of her ovaries weighed about 15 pounds!

One of our most interesting cases was a woman who came in with a fetal demise. She had had 3 prior C-sections, but with Deb and Brandy’s urging, we decided to let her labor to deliver this baby. The baby delivered easily, but I received a phone call from the nurses that after almost an hour, her placenta had still not yet delivered. Brandy and I headed into the hospital and attempted to extract the placenta. She had the most contracted pelvis I have ever felt (Brandy later concurred) and I could barely get my hand up to her uterus. I struggled for a long time to get the placenta. I looked at Brandy (my former mentor) and I could tell she was thinking “Come on Christina, what’s the problem?”. When my arm finally couldn’t do anymore, I turned to her and said “Wanna give it a try?” She was happy to oblige. She soon realized why I was struggling so much. We both had come to the same conclusion – she likely had a placenta accreta, a condition where the placenta is abnormally stuck to the uterus. This can lead to life-threatening hemorrhage. After struggling for several minutes, we decided she needed to go to theatre, possibly for a hysterectomy. When we got to theatre, her bleeding had started to increase and we decided to quickly attempt a D&C (scraping out the uterus) and if that didn’t work, to proceed with a hysterectomy. We were able to get the placenta out without doing a hysterectomy, but later decided we didn’t know that we really did her any favors, as any future pregnancy could be life-threatening. She was counseled at length about this and decided to have her tubes tied.

Besides the blessing that it was to have 2 other OB/GYN’s here to consult on various cases, it was so wonderful to have my friends here for encouragement and fellowship. It was also really great to show people from home this place I have come to love and the work that God is doing here. I pray that it was a worthwhile time for them. Their first night, we had dinner at Ednah’s (my house helper) house. It was a great cultural experience for them – both having dinner in an authentic Kenyan home and walking back in the rain. We had a great time getting to see Kapsowar and even though I was sick during part of the time, they were adventurous on their own – hiking down to the river and back up the long tarmac road (see my blog about my first long walk in Kapsowar) while getting drenched in the rain.

They spent a total of one week here in Kapsowar and while I didn’t want them to leave, the next week we went on safari, so that was something to look forward to. I appreciate so much their willingness to use their vacation time to come here and serve and I appreciate those who sent things with them to encourage me! I love my St. Vincent family!

Brandy and I operating together
The 3 of us with Laura Rhodes

Deb and Brandy with Michal and her husband, William, wearingthe gifts they received