by Alannah Flanick, Flying Kites Health Ambassador
It’s hard to believe I arrived in Kenya only a few weeks ago. I’ve experienced so much already, it feels like I’ve been here for months! Already, I have ventured around Nairobi with the other ambassadors, visited the gorgeous Tribe hotel, where Flying Kites has previously hosted a fundraiser, taken medical inventory of the house, created first aid posters for the matrons, witnessed the success of the Cervical Cancer Screening Day at the Njabini Clinic, attended a Kenyan school ceremony, ridden around on several motorbikes and purchased deliciously fresh produce from Njabini market.
My most significant journey of late was last Monday, where I went with one of our kids and Auntie Grace, the health matron, to Kijabe, the large hospital near Njabini. We ventured to Kijabe for a check-up and in the end, the experience left me feeling simultaneously reassured and heartbroken. The ride to the hospital took about two hours, bus and car transfers included. That was somewhat worrisome in the event that emergency could strike, but it was a rather pleasant experience all things considered.
When we got to Kijabe, we checked in and waited in the sitting area, were called, waited in the special clinic, were seen, waited again and then finally saw the doctor. Although waiting so long was somewhat tiresome, it was not unexpected as there were MANY people gathered together, most watching the movie the hospital so nicely played on all of its televisions, hoping their name would soon be called for their appointment. It was during this waiting time that I was both impressed and disheartened.
There were doctors everywhere, running around like in every American hospital I’ve been to, ready for any emergency situation to strike and carrying themselves with the most official and professional demeanor. The hospital was large and clean with different wards for each specialty and the resources were more than fully stocked. The fact that so much was available and that doctors seemed ready at a moment’s notice was wonderful; before arriving, I just was not sure what to expect.
While I was busy taking in the vast array of care available and informative posters plastered on each wall, I could not help but lose focus due to an unbelievable number of people outside the HIV clinic, adults and children alike. The crowd ranged from seemingly healthy newborn babies to elderly people with open wounds and swelling to teenagers so severely muscle depleted they needed to be lifted before lying down. Quickly, the implications of living with HIV/AIDS became so real and so clear. I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness.
The Flying Kites kids are so lucky. They are cared for by doting doctors with their medical histories seemingly memorized. Although the appointment was not carried out in English, I could tell that much thought was placed into each question and the answers were carefully evaluated and elaborated upon if the answer was not sufficient. The juxtaposition between our kids, who have been so well taken care of, healthy and happy enough to tell of their life’s experiences, and those that simply have more limited resources, was glaring. Had these teenagers been seen earlier, maybe they would have been healthy and happy too.
During our visit to Kijabe, I realized just how much Flying Kites, with the help of all its supporters and fundraisers, has given to its children. They have restored childhoods, complete with the rightful level of health, nurturing, and lighthearted fun, and specifically for their kids living with HIV, they’ve provided the ability to enjoy life without facing the serious implications of living with such a frightening and complicated disease.