The Traveller’s Nightmare

What are the things that a traveller fears the most?

Well, high on my list is medical emergency particularly when I’m in a developing country like Kenya. On Sunday my nightmare became a reality.

How it began

I hadn’t felt well after returning from Soysambu. I got an early night, hoping it was just exhaustion from the long day and all the travelling. However, on waking on Sunday, I realised something was very wrong. My suspicion was the dreaded malaria. I decided I needed to see a doctor.

Being Sunday, the clinics were closed, so I found myself at Nairobi Women’s Hospital – Adams. It’s a private hospital with a decent reputation and a good list of facilities. However I soon discovered that it didn’t come close to Western standards. Some of the clinical practices I saw…well, a nurse in the UK would face a harsh disciplinary at the very least. Like puncturing an IV bag with a needle to draw up fluid for injection. Or using the same needle twice. Not washing hands. Not wearing gloves. But the doctor was fully qualified and spoke decent English and that was all I cared about at the time.

In hospital - a medical emergency in Nairobi

The medical verdict

Thankfully it turned out not to be malaria. Instead I had a severe kidney infection plus gastroenteritis. I was extremely dehydrated and my immune system wasn’t coping. I was admitted to the hospital. 4 bags of IV fluids plus two different IV antibiotics, painkillers, and zinc.In hospital - a medical emergency in Nairobi

The whole experience was rather disorienting and a bit scary. But thankfully I was feeling a lot better by Monday morning. The doctor wanted me to stay in the hospital because I’m still quite unwell, but I didn’t want to miss my flight home or my last night with the children at Future Stars. I was discharged on condition that I see a doctor as soon as I arrive back in the UK.

So I’m not exactly feeling great physically. However, I put that to one side to enjoy my final night in Kibera. I’ll blog that when I get a little more time. The hospital gave me (sold me) a bag full of medication. I didn’t really know what I was buying because, in Kenya, a prescription lists brand names of the drugs and obviously those vary around the world. I googled them when I got back to Ayany. One I certainly won’t be taking. The others are okay but not what we would use in the UK. I think, when I see the UK doctor, I will switch to some more familiar alternatives.

Reflecting on the experience

Anyway, that’s my first experience with a proper medical emergency in Kenya. I survived it. And I guess much of the nightmare is about the unknown.   Now that I know what to expect, I won’t be so fearful. There are a few more drugs I will add to the pharmacy I carry when I travel to Kenya though!

Gaining from a medical emergency

Oh, and of course I couldn’t help but make some more contacts. I talked to the doctor about Future Stars and what I’m doing there. He was very interested and suggested that he might be able to help. A few of the nurses also expressed interest. I already have a request to make of him. There’s a child at Future Stars who desperately needs to see a ‘proper’ doctor. I’m hoping this one will agree to waive the fees.  More about that in my next entry. For now, I must get on with the packing. I can’t believe I’m leaving for the airport in just two hours.

Hospital - health and illness and medical emergencies whilst travelling

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One comment

  1. It´s unsettling to hear that the practices at that hospital are so careless! What about those needles? That´s scary!
    I also got a severe kidney infection some years ago, but it was in Cambodia – I had a light urinary infection that I was unaware of (or rather, couldn´t get anything I´d use back home to treat it at the Cambodian stores) and it got out of hand when I contracted the dengue virus. I had a tough time before I finally realized it was bad enough to go to the hospital! I was quite impressed though – it was a private hospital in a rich quarter (it got covered by my travel insurance fortunately enough), but still – it was very clean, the doctor (he was Russian) was kind and checked on me often and I´ve seen him scolding the nurses for being careless a few times. The nurses on the other hand were nice to me and there was always someone on duty checking. They also let my now husband stay there and help take care of me (they didn´t give any food there). My doctor back home asked for some more exams to be done but in general said the treatment was accurate. Now I always take stuff for urinal infections with me and I like to think I am a bit more careful.

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