By Kathrine Kuhlmann, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
I first joined the FAME team a little over a year ago as the Communications and Marketing Coordinator and, let me tell you, this is an extraordinary place. I know what you’re thinking: it’s my job to say that. The thing is, FAME makes my job incredibly easy. I get to share the stories of compassion, of lives saved, of hard work, and of the miracles that I see on campus every day. I also get to interact with our incredible patients and community. I get to know the dad who stayed with his son in our inpatient ward for months and we still greet one another when we see each other in town. I get to photograph a young Maasai woman who speaks neither Swahili nor English, but has survived Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis and is now giggling with me looking at her image, happy and healthy. I get to share a meal with a mama who took in a child from our maternity ward when his mother passed away and celebrate with her when he’s beginning to crawl! I get to cry tears of joy with a father whose 13-year-old son can finally, for the first time, get consistent care for his epilepsy and begin to learn what it’s like to live a life with an effective treatment plan. I get to hear stories of tragedy and triumph, of sadness and strength, of death and life, and I get to share those stories with you.
There are certain sounds that echo through the halls that I’ll never forget from my time at FAME: the metronome-like consistency of a patient monitor matching pace with the heart of a critical patient, the sigh of relief and absolute bliss after a healthy delivery, the wailing of a mother who lost a piece of her heart unexpectedly in the emergency room, the laughter of a child who has recovered from his skin grafting and finally gets to go home, the stillness of campus after a long day. Working in the health sector is a daily challenge filled with these moments of both joy and sorrow, with incredibly tangible results: either the patient leaves healthy or they don’t. However, I’ve been grateful to see how, independent of the outcome, the FAME team uses each case as an opportunity to learn, to understand, and to build their treatment capacity.
Working at FAME has had a massive impact on me, and not just that I can keep up with a clinical conversation without Googling every other word or that I can see bodily fluids without spewing my own, but an impact on how I approach community development. I have never seen a hospital, in US or abroad, which is so attentive to each individual patient, acting out of genuine empathy. I’ve also never met a team so eager to learn from challenging circumstances, new patients, or specialty volunteers. During my time on the Karatu campus, I’ve gotten to work with our 157 member awe-inspiring, genuine, and selfless local staff and over 60 incredibly thoughtful, kind, and skilled international volunteers and I’ve learned countless lessons from them all. I’ve learned how to be an effective teacher, how to approach each day with joy and gratitude, how to make a hat out of a cloth napkin, how to hold on to hope, how to make the perfect chapatti and beans, how to be a good story teller, and, most importantly, how to be a life-long learner. To the staff, the administration, and the volunteers, thank you. Thank you for being my family, for loving the community of Karatu so well, and for making me a better person through it all. With all my heart, thank you.