It’s hard to believe we are writing yet again about a strike, but it’s true. In fact, it’s a big reason we haven’t been keeping up with updates recently. It’s been overwhelming to even know where to start. We’re trying to catch up and fill you in on the past few months.
For over two months, the nurses at most government hospitals in Kenya have been on strike again. The first week our numbers at the hospital didn’t increase too much, but HOLY MOLY we are drowning now. The whole situation is so complicated and there is no simple answer for a way forward.
Patients are showing up really late when they are already extremely sick. This has resulted in 14 maternal deaths since January! Those numbers are unheard of. In my entire career in the US, I only ever knew of one maternal death. This is 14 in only 7 months! Our maternity staff have poured themselves out over and over again, allowing themselves to grieve with each family. I am so incredibly proud of them. They are working overtime, trying to keep up with our crazy increase in patient numbers. The team spirit is amazing. I don’t know how they do it. It’s has taken it’s toll, though. Everyone is fried. Tears flow freely on our unit. Some of the midwives have decided that they can’t cope with being in medicine anymore. Our staff chaplain at the hospital has really stepped in to provide care for our staff, but you can imagine… the whole hospital is feeling the effects of this strike, so he is also incredibly busy. I’m begging you to pray for our precious team of doctors and midwives. We need supernatural strength and unity right now.
In addition to the maternal deaths we have had a truly unbelievable number of neonatal deaths, too. I don’t have those actual numbers, but it’s been around 10 per month. You can imagine the emotional strain that we feel when it just keeps happening over and over and over again. One morning last week, I came into work to learn of 3 fetal deaths overnight. And we had 2 the day before. It is simply overwhelming. These Kenyan women are not getting the care they need and it is heartbreaking. Many of these women have experienced loss upon loss. The effects of this strike are MAJOR. So many people are dying from lack of access to healthcare.
On a positive note, we were able to send 5 of our midwives to a 3 day training on bereavement care. You should see them in action now, providing the most compassionate, gentle care to these mothers. Mothers are having the opportunity to hold their babies, take pictures, share their babies with friends and family – things that were unheard of a year ago. For a school project, Mia chose to make a bereavement room for the hospital. It’s a small room on our unit that was previously just a storage closet. She cleaned the whole room out and painted it, made curtains, (couch is still to come), made a brochure to give grieving parents and we are ordering a photo printer to be able to give photos to the parents. Unfortunately we are using the room all the time right now, but we are so thankful to have this special nook to be able to help parents in their time of grief.
Will you please take time to really pray for the country of Kenya right now… for the medical workers, for our patients who are the ones who continue to pay the price. Pray for our family, too. Of course, this is also deeply affecting us and our fellow missionary friends. I think when we finally have time to step back we will realize how incredibly hard it has been. For now we are pressing on, thankful to be working in Kijabe Hospital sharing the love of Jesus alongside an incredible team of Kenyans.
Allyson for all of us