Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day Three in Kibera is a wrap! :)

My name is Sarah, I'm a registered nurse who works in the United
States, and I am a first time volunteer with PINCC. I am hoping to
build on the excellent blog post that Tenay wrote on Monday about our
work in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. To say this week has been "eye
opening" is a huge understatement. It is challenging to work in an
environment with limited resources, yet continue to provide a high
standard of care. PINCC does an amazing job of stretching and
utilizing the resources that they do have. We reuse anything that can
safely be reused. Also, we do not have an autoclave large enough to
sterilize the many speculums that trainees and clinicians use when
screening approximately 35 patients each day. Therefore, there is a
very specific cleaning process that occurs to make sure that we are
thoroughly cleaning speculums and not infecting anyone.

Kibera slum is a difficult location to implement a cervical cancer
screening program. Kibera is home to an estimated 750,000 people (it
is almost impossible to accurately assess the population because
people come and go frequently) crammed into an area approximately the
size of Central Park in New York City. Many in the slum are still
unaware about what cervical cancer is, and the importance of being
screened. The women who have come to the clinic this week have been
very brave. Many of them come alone. The ones who do come often appear
anxious and state they are scared for the exam and/or finding out
their results. (Those who do not know their HIV status are also able
to have a rapid test to find out). The women who have precancerous
lesions on their cervix are usually able to have them removed the same
day. Women who discover that they are HIV positive receive counseling
and are educated about options they have for medical treatment.

Dr. Virginia Hanson, a gynecologist and our medical director this
week, has been performing the LEEP procedures. A LEEP procedure
removes dysplasias (pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix.) She told us
these are the most difficult LEEP procedures she has done in her 30+
years as a physician. In the United States, these lesions would have
been removed long before they had progressed to this point. But here
in Kibera, they are extensive and have grown close to the vaginal
wall, making removal much more challenging. Fortunately she has been
able to remove them before they progress to cancer. Unfortunately at
this time there is not a physician at Tabitha Clinic who PINCC is able
to train and certify in LEEP's, but the clinic will be working on
finding a physician who can be trained on a future PINCC trip. In the
meantime, PINCC is able to train the nurses, midwives, and clinical
officers in how to do Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA), Visual
Inspection with Lugol's Iodine, and cryotherapy.

The PINCC support staff and clinicians have remarked repeatedly how
impressed we all are with the trainees this week. They are Kenyan
nurses, nurse midwives, and clinical officers (similar to the role a
physician's assistant has in the U.S.) They are eager to learn and are
catching on quickly.

Certainly, it can be disheartening to see the difficulty that the
people of Kibera have in accessing health care or even staying healthy
in such extreme living conditions. Heart wrenching as well is seeing
cases of cervical cancer, which is an almost 100% preventable cancer.
(Dr. Virginia told me today that she only saw two cases of cervical
cancer while working as a gynecologist in the United States.) But, we
still have hope for the women of Kibera. We see the trainees who are
working very hard to learn how to do these screenings and continue to
advocate for women's health after PINCC leaves. They have learned much
these past three days and will attempt to learn as much as they can in
the next day and a half. After our team leaves, they will be expected
to continue doing as many cervical cancer screenings as possible
between now and when PINCC returns for further training in six months.

Thank you for your support of PINCC and we look forward to updating
you again later this week!

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