We recently had some friends, Bob and his sister Rosa, stay with us when they were in Kisumu for the weekend. We had met Bob this past summer when he coordinated with a YWAM team to do some work in Kisumu. One of the activities that the team completed was a mural in the children’s oncology ward at the government hospital, “Russia”. Rosa was in town from Holland and wanted to see the mural and artwork they had completed. We drove over late on a Sunday afternoon around 4:00 pm.
Prior to coming, some missionaries had spoke to us about Russia, the conditions, the staff, and the patients. It is important to note that in Kenya, there is socialized health care. This hospital, Russia, is a government run hospital. It was built in the 1970’s by the Russians and resembles that style of architecture. The true name of the hospital is not Russia, but all of the locals refer to it in this way. It is a very dark and cold place with little sunlight permeating the walls. At Russia, you can walk through the front door to any ward that you wish to visit. There is no sterilization policy, no sign in sheet, or record of your being there. The statistics of Russia are staggering, approximately 21% of people who come seeking emergency treatment live. There are no real ambulances or emergency staff to bring you to the hospital. Your family or a friend brings you in their car and will drop you off at the front door. The staff at the hospital is comprised of doctors and nurses in training. It is rare to see a Doctor who has actually finished medical school. The hospital is like a teaching hospital, where all of the staff is learning and very few are leading. Needless to say, if you can afford better care, you go to the private hospital in town.
Nothing really prepared me for what we were to see. To be honest, I do not really care for hospitals. They make me hot and queasy. The sight of a needle makes me want to faint. We entered the hospital and walked through what felt like a maze. We passed people sitting on benches in the hallway awaiting treatment. The smell of infection and antiseptic were in the air. We walked passed a small room where a man was having his arm set. We finally wound our way back to the children’s oncology ward. Please do not be misled, this ward may not match the image that you have in your head. It is not air-conditioned, there are no televisions in each room, and there are no private rooms. Each child shares a room with up to 4 other children. There is no private bathroom in the room or shower to wash off. In total the ward had three rooms, including the treatment room.
The hospital is a very cold and harsh looking place with little color and life. The children’s ward is really no different. The walls are a pale blue and white color. However, the mural that we went to see was such a contrast to the remainder of the hospital. The team created an underwater and mountainous mural on the walls and the solar system on the ceiling. It truly was incredible! A team of teenagers from around the world had converged through YWAM and created a beautiful picture of God’s creation. It was definitely worth the sweating and queasy feeling to see!
Bob recognized some of the children from this past summer in the ward and began conversing with them. Many of the children are brought to this ward in three-week increments to receive treatment. They then return home until the next treatment is scheduled. Due to many of the cancer drugs being donated through relief agencies, they often do not receive the treatment on the same program as would a child in the US or other more developed nations. Often times, their parents must return home to do work at some point during the three-week treatment at the hospital. Many of the children are without family for this amount of time.
We all began to converse and meet the children of the ward. Both Bob and Keith pulled out their cellphones as they visited with the children. Keith sat on a bench in the hallway next to a young girl who was a patient in this ward. She had just received a treatment and was sitting in the hallway with some of the other children. She was tired but immediately perked up at the sight of Keith’s telephone. He began to play a motorcycle game on his phone and her eyes lit up with excitement. He taught her how to play and held her hands against the phone to assist her. It was such a beautiful picture that I was brought to tears. She fell in love with Keith and his phone. They had bonded. Keith made sure to give a “gota” (a fist pound) to the remaining children who were too weak to join us in the hallway. The love that my husband showed children he had never met was so humbling. It was such a beautiful picture of our time here in Kenya so far. It is a new and exciting venture. All the while, we know that the Lord is holding our hands, directing our paths, and helping us conquer the obstacles in our way.
As I write this blog, it may appear sad to some or unjust that the children of Kisumu and the surrounding areas receive treatment in this manner. However, the creator of the universe holds those sweet children in his hand. He knows the number of hairs on their head; he created them in the their mother’s womb. The Lord spoke so many blessings into my heart on this visit and I know that he will continue to do so in the days ahead as we continue to visit “Russia.”