Measles, Medics and Mayhem

I’ve been quiet this week because it’s been rather chaotic around our house.  Last Tuesday we got word that Innocent (our nephew, who we take care of) was admitted to the hospital by his boarding school because of malaria.  After two days he was released and taken back to school, and Fred went to see him on Friday, which, incidentally was also Parents’ Day for this term.  Fred was intending to go on to his hometown to check on his grandmother, but instead I got a text message that he was returning home and bringing Innocent with him.  He had found Innocent still very sick, feverish and lethargic, and decided that Inno should come to our house where we could keep an eye on him.  The matron in charge of Inno hadn’t been giving the boy his medicine for malaria properly and Fred was concerned.

When they arrived Friday night, Inno was beginning to show a rash and by Saturday it was full-blown all over his body…clearly measles.  We heard that there had been an outbreak of measles on the Kenyan side of the border (where Inno’s school is), so we figure he must have been exposed to a measles case either in the hospital or at school.  Because the measles followed so closely on the heels of malaria, Inno’s immune system wasn’t so much up to the challenge.  He couldn’t keep anything in his stomach, so by Sunday afternoon we were worried about dehydration and Fred took him to the hospital here for admission.

Oh my word.  We definitely, definitely made the right decision not to give birth here.  First of all, Fred comes in with a sick, measles-covered little boy, and the admitting nurse’s first and most insistent question is “Where do you live?”  Now, obviously they want to avoid an outbreak here in town, but shouldn’t patient care come first?  Fred requested a private room, rather than the dormitory style general ward, and they insisted that the private room is reserved for staff use only.  Fortunately, we are friends with the hospital administrator, so Fred made a phone call along the lines of “Hello Mr. Magati, is this how you run your hospital?” and the admitting nurse quickly changed her tune.

Fred had requested a private room so that Innocent wouldn’t be staying alone, since no one checks on non-emergency patients during the night.  Pretty scary situation for a six-year-old and his parents.  Also, the hospital doesn’t provide food or water (for drinking, bathing or flushing purposes), so we had to bring food, drinking water, a blanket, a basin for Inno to vomit into (apparently he was just supposed to puke on himself) and several other things.  One thing that you really wouldn’t anticipate having to provide to the hospital is something to clean the site of the needle for the IV!  Innocent stopped the nurse from putting the needle in, asking if they were going to wipe his hand first, and the answer was no, they weren’t planning on it, so we brought baby wipes (which we conveniently happen to have around) and antiseptic hand wash for the nurses to use.

We were so frustrated over the two days that Innocent was admitted.  He was improving consistently, but the hospital staff were both rude and inept.  Fred has worked in a hospital before, and understands quite a lot about what medicines should be given and what dose for how long, and it’s a good thing.  One medicine that was finished in two doses within 24 hours they tried to start him on again on the second day and again on the morning of the third day.  We have some friends who are nursing students who work at the hospital, and they got in trouble for coming to check on Innocent outside of the set times for rounds.  Every time a “doctor” (there are no actual medical doctors who work here, just “clinical officers” who call themselves doctors) came to see Innocent, they asked for the umpteenth time where the boy lives before inquiring about anything else, and telling the American medical students that are visiting that the parent is uncooperative, apparently assuming that Fred doesn’t speak any English. 

Fred brought Inno home between his morning and evening treatments to eat and rest and watch TV, because otherwise he’d be spending the twelve hours between treatments alone staring at the ceiling of his hospital room. That way I could watch him while Fred got some work done at the office. Yesterday Innocent was released, he’s looking heaps better and almost 100% recovered, except for a little nagging cough. We’re really grateful that Innocent and Samuel are both healthy and strong.

They have a slogan in many of the hospitals and nursing schools here: “We treat, God heals.”  I’m beginning to think that slogan isn’t such a good idea to drum into the medical professionals’ minds, because it almost seems to become an excuse for poor patient care.  Any kind of customer service or attention to patients’ rights is non-existent, and the only people who seem to care if a patient dies are the family members of the patient.  Those family members who have nothing explained to them about what medicines or treatment the patient is undergoing, who are required to provide the patient’s food and amenities, but only during certain strictly-enforced visiting hours, who are insulted or ignored by the “doctors,” and who have zero recourse for complaint unless they happen to know someone important.  If the patient dies, it must have been God’s will and have nothing to do with the standard of care the patient received.

All I know is that next time one of our boys is sick enough to need a hospital, we’re hiring a car and going to one of the good hospitals in Kenya where they believe that God heals, but He sometimes uses doctors along the way.

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4 thoughts on “Measles, Medics and Mayhem”

  1. Poor Inno! Glad he has you know how I felt leaving you at Newberg Hospital when you broke your leg…and you were an adult. Did Samuel get his measles vaccination?

  2. Yikes! That sounds like a nightmare. Glad that he is doing loads better, and that the rest of the fam is health as well! SO glad you didn't deliver there!

  3. The MMR vaccine doesn't happen until 9 months, although here they often do it at 6 months since measles is an actual threat. At 3 months, since he's still exclusively breast-feeding, he's piggy-backing on my immune system. Since I've been immunized for measles, we were okay.

    Lex – You're absolutely right. Ugh.

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