Day-end of our visit to Lwala was marked by a feeling of gratitude by the many healthcare workers when they were able to see first-hand how Health eVillages is all about providing support to allow organizations to deliver on their own vision. To that end, Health eVillages made a $20,000 grant to the Lwala Community Alliance (LCA) for a new cell tower that will improve connectivity between LCA clinicians in rural Kenya. With this grant, LCA clinicians working in rural communities in Migori County, Kenya, will be able to communicate and consult directly with doctors at the LCA Hospital in Lwala to help them make critical decisions in the field for their patients. LCA programs focus both on treatment at the Lwala Community Hospital and prevention through health education and outreach in the surrounding communities. As we were getting into our vehicle to be transported back to the small airport hours away, we were able to see the construction of the tech equipment that will activate the internet service. The many smiles from the healthcare workers will be forever etched in our minds as they now prepare to communicate in ways that will help them to advance healthcare to more than 20,000 people.
As we traveled the four-hour car ride from Lwala to Nairobi and then on to Kijabe, I had ample time to digest the events of the day and could not help but to reflect on the stark reality that someone’s location of birth, in essence, defines their lot in life. If we forget about the poor and those in need, then who among us would be willing to trade places? The level of consciousness becomes even more apparent when you see first-hand the many volunteers whose internal sense of being tells them – we can do more – we must do more – and we will do more. Why should anyone be denied the basic rights for healthcare, food to eat, and a safe place to live just because they were born poor? Why should a poor person be treated any differently than someone who is rich? Why is it we have this notion that living in poverty is indicative of someone’s inability to understand – to speak – to dream?
Fortunately, and for the many disadvantaged, there are individuals out there – like our good friend, Dr. Mark Newton from Vanderbilt University, who with his wonderful wife, Sue and their five children, have committed to spending more than 40 weeks each year in poor countries like Kijabe, Kenya to answer that age old call that “to those who much have been given, much is expected back”. As I spend the day with Mark touring the 100-year-old Kijabe Hospital, I felt the pain of watching a young women who after years of receiving substandard care, found her way to the renowned Hospital to seek medical care for a 20kg (45 lbs) tumor that had taken over her very life to the extent that her very existence was defined by this gigantic mass. Mary had been carrying that tumor for more than six years – it surrounded her entire facial and chest area to the point that it was impossible to determine where her head was located and the only possible visible clue was to locate her eyes. She would not be able to afford much of the cost associated with the 10-hour surgery, however, that did not matter to Dr. Newton nor the visiting neurosurgeon who assisted in this very delicate surgery. What matter most to them was that this was a life – a young woman with so much potential – a wife – a daughter – who deserved the same hope and chance to experience more minutes, more hours and more days. I was invited to visit her just hours after enduring a very long and tedious surgery. While in the hospital room, her husband had many questions for Dr. Newton many of them satisfactory answered by using the Physicians Interactive medical app. Mark was able to visually show the family what was involved in the previous-day surgery. Mary looked somewhat confused – perhaps in the moment of silence she was trying to envision what she now looked like with the removal of this enormous weight that had dominated her body for nearly 2,000 days. Using the Physicians Interactive-provided iPad, we employed the camera feature so Mary could see for herself that the tumor was gone. I shall never forget the look in her eyes when she first saw herself realizing that the physical pain she now endured translated into her being able to explore a future where people would no longer stare at her for what she was not, but would see the true beauty for who she truly is. Her gentle smile gestured as we left the room will remind me forever that individual’s like Dr. Newton are sent to us because everything in life must eventually have balance.
As we were leaving Mary’s room, we bumped into one of Dr. Newton’s anesthesiologist’s nurses. As Mark made the introduction, the Nurse embraced me and conveyed her thank you for the Omnio/Skyscape medical app and mobile device which was provided though the Health eVillages program. She shared with me the story of how a few months ago she was preparing a young child for back surgery and found that all of the baby’s veins had collapsed and in order for this baby to go through surgery, she needed to insert an IV and could not locate a vein. So, she accessed our medical app – typed in Pediatric I.V. Insertion – and up popped a diagram of a child with a visual description of where she would be able to insert an I.V. One such area was a vein in the cranial area which she had not realized was a possibility. She quickly inserted the I.V. and the child was able to go through surgery with no complications. She wanted me to know that this child may not have been alive today had she not had accessed this digital resource.
As we said our goodbyes, I asked Mark why someone of his talent would leave the comfort of an enriched life to spend each day in a community where tomorrow brings the same stories – the same pain – and the same anguish. His response was a defining moment for me – “Donato, these people did not ask to be poor – they did not choose to be here – and they should not be treated any different than anyone else”. Health eVillages is all about advancing Collaborative IQ – it’s about supporting programs that are already in place – it’s about empowering great leaders like Dr. Mark Newton and his wonderful staff – it’s about saving lives – one patient at a time because no one chooses to be in pain.
You can help! For every $200.00 raised – we can save the life of a mother and her child by supporting the Safe Baby Program which uses many resources including the Physicians Interactive medical app to educate mothers of the opportunity to get connected to the Lwala Community Health Center Maternity Program. You can make a donation here. Thank you.
Donato J. Tramuto
CEO & Chairman
Physicians Interactive Holdings