Tales from the Bush: Deana Miller

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of traveling to Africa to do something that would benefit those less fortunate than myself. And for the longest time, I was unsure what I could possibly do to help. After finishing grad school, receiving my degree in Occupational Therapy, I decided it was the perfect time to make the long awaited journey to Africa to see what I could do to help out.

Originally, a friend and I arranged to spend 4 weeks volunteering at the Rift Valley Children’s Village. We thought that we would only be able to visit the FAME clinic due to our busy schedules at the Children’s Village. We were very fortunate that things worked out and we were both able to join the remarkable FAME team. We accompanied 18 other FAME staff and volunteers as we traveled to Laghangareri for the first of 24 mobile clinics. I was unsure what to expect, but extremely excited and curious about the mission.

I was stunned on the second day of clinic when what seemed like hundreds of people were lined up seeking medical treatment when we arrived early that morning, and even more showed up on each of the following days. I was astonished by the stories I heard of how far and for how long many of these sick individuals had traveled to obtain medical care. One elderly woman asked us if she could sit down to rest for a little while, she had traveled for 2 days to get to the mobile clinic. It amazed me how these individuals who in many cases are very frail and sick are able to travel such extreme distances to get the medical care they needed. In many cases it was not only a sick parent, but also one or several sick children that made the treacherous journey.

On this same day, an older man was brought in by a community leader, by truck because he was unable to walk. The man suffered from paralysis below the waist following a sickness approximately 2 years ago that continues to persist and now also suffers with severe decubitus ulcers on his buttock and opposite hip. They were some of the worst ulcers I have seen. His wounds were treated at the clinic and he was started on antibiotics. Things were then set up to check on him at the end of the week, and arranged for him to be seen at the FAME clinic. I was able to help transport him back to his boma (mud hut). I was stunned by the condition this man was living in; he had to lay on a piece of cardboard on the dirt floor with a thin blanket covering it, and his blankets were filthy and soiled. We provided him with a foam cushion to help with comfort and positioning. I helped to educate the family through a translator, instructing them on proper positioning, wound care, and hygiene. They were also provided with the materials for dressing changes until he was seen at the clinic. With very few resources and limited knowledge of the language, this intervention and patient/family education was lot different than it would have been done in different circumstances. Despite the limited resources, it amazed me how resourceful all the medical professionals were and the incredible things that could be done in “the bush” to help these individuals.

As I begin my career as an Occupational Therapist I will now take with me something very special, something that will stay with me forever. Dr. Frank and his team are incredible; they make such a huge impact on so many lives. Joining the FAME mobile clinic was such a life changing experience that I am so glad I was able to be part of and I hope that I am able to be part of something so special again someday soon.