TeamSOP in Kenya 2017

Having just returned from another hugely successful humanitarian trip I’m now trying to put my experiences into words.

I’m going to start with a simple and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to you all for your support. Your contribution, be that words of encouragement, a packet of toothbrushes or financial have enabled us to provide care for over 1500 patients.

We have been quite overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received, and deeply touched by the donations either given anonymously or from people that have never met us. Thank you for taking this cause to your heart too, you know who you are.

Our trip was initially overshadowed by concerns of the tensions surrounding the general elections. However, the charity rearranged our itinerary to avoid any areas of potential conflict, and the expedition ran smoothly.

IMG_7863.JPGWe spent the first half of the trip in the southwest, working with the Massai. We travelled to some remote communities where malnutrition and infection rates were very high, especially amongst the children.

On one memorable day, when we were down to half a team due to a diarrhea and vomiting bug, I had one of my toughest cases.

This is the copy of a post from that day: 

‘Finding it hard to describe today, but this is how it started. Warning, don’t swipe if you’re squeamish. Such a poor community with domestic abuse, FGM, teen pregnancies, gynae issues and some serious infections. We saw 301 patients with half a team, in just half a day, with sweat pouring off us. Tough day in 35 degree heat.’

IMG_9288.JPGI am describing the case of a 7 year old boy. He was sitting on one of the benches waiting for treatment and was covered head to toe in large watery filled blisters, some of which had burst and had exposed raw, bleeding lesions. He looked as if he was covered in 60 – 70% burns and was shivering, despite the heat and was unable to stand.

I picked him up and took him through to our pharmacy area and laid him on the treatment table. The nurse and I carefully cut away his clothes and Massai beads. Some of his clothes were so intertwined with the wounds, that his skin came away as we undressed him.

We washed him first, applied an iodine ointment to the whole of his body, and then carefully dressed his wounds, virtually covering his whole body in bandaging. He was in obvious pain, and yet was so incredibly brave.

We arranged for a motorbike taxi to take him 40km cross-country on unmade roads to get him to hospital as fast as possible.

None of us had seen an infection like it, so we were pleased when the hospital recognized the condition as Scalded Skin Syndrome due to a severe Staphylococcal infection. This bacteria can live harmlessly on a healthy body, but in a young child suffering malnutrition and suppressed immunity, it had very quickly taken hold, probably via a small open cut. The consequences of no treatment for this child were life threatening, with a high risk of septicemia and endocarditis.

IMG_7972.JPGWhile we were in the Amboseli region, we spent a memorable day at the Rescue Centre, set up to rescue and protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The number of rescued girls had grown since my last trip 2 years ago, and it was so encouraging to see the Centre thriving, with the girls growing in confidence, social skills, and academic and sporting ability.

It was wonderful to spend a whole day with them, hearing of their progress, singing, dancing and performing with them and being convincingly smashed in volleyball.

The Emma’s Angel’s project continues to find sponsors for the girls, and if you would like to find out more about the Rescue Centre and what’s involved in sponsorship, click Osteopathy in Kenya. There is also a video of my presentation on FGM if you would like to know more about it, click on Video Guides.

IMG_8434.JPGWhilst working within the Massai communities, we treated many girls and women who had been cut. Their symptoms ranged from period pains, incontinence and pelvic congestion, to severe scarring, fistula, infertility and emotional trauma.

I treated one woman with severe abdominal pains and infertility. She had FGM done aged 10 and was married at 11. I took her to a private room to examine her and found a large caesarean type scar above her pubis. It turned out she’d had a growth removed from her Fallopian tube.

The scarring and adhesions from the FGM and the operation were extensive, holding the uterus in a sidebending/rotation pattern and causing congestion in the pelvis and a density of the tissues.

IMG_8522 2.JPGI treated the muscles of the pelvis, released the diaphragm and thoraco-lumbar fascia, worked deep into the scar tissue in the abdomen and used an internal manipulation of the cervix and uterus together to improve position, circulation and drainage.

I showed her some pelvic and low back mobilising stretches, self massage techniques and we chatted about the best positions and time of the month to maximise chances of conception.

It was truly wonderful to spend time helping this woman and I felt so fortunate to have the skills to do so. I pray I have done enough to stimulate the natural healing mechanism of the body to bring about change.

After the intense dry heat and dust storms of the Amboseli region, we travelled to the green, cool, lushness of Naivasha to treat Rose farm workers.

IMG_8457.JPGHere we encountered many cases of breathing and chest related conditions, from infections and asthma to allergies and shortness of breath, as the farm workers are exposed daily to high levels of pesticides and herbicides. There was also a high proportion of children suffering with fungal infections, such as Ring Worm and also parasitic worms in their gut. This is a clear indicator of general ill health, malnutrition and suppressed immunity.

IMG_8680.JPGAs you can see we treated such a wide variety of people and conditions, and travelled to many different locations. Full of challenging cases, fulfilled opportunities, speed learning, friendship, love, tears and laughter. These experiences constantly make me re-evaluate what Osteopathy is, how it can help, and pushing me to keep on digging deeper into this incredible profession.

I have been left with some extraordinary memories, patients pain and suffering imprinted in my mind forever. The transition home is always tough, as the contrast is so stark and the differences immeasurable. The adjustment back to our privileged lifestyle is hard.

IMG_4055.JPGI leave a little piece of me in Kenya each time.

Emma Wightman
Humanitarian Osteopath

For photos and a daily diary of the trip follow us on Facebook or Instagram



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