Saturday, April 4, 2009


As they say, "All good things must come to an end!" Though my African journey has done just that, my life changing journey will never end. I knew when I started this journey my life would never be the same. However, I really had no idea the impact four weeks in Africa would have on my life, my thoughts, nor my outlook on our American life style. There isn't a day that goes by that I am no reminded of Africa. Reminded of the smiling, beautiful people, the poverty and filth, the beauty of the lush green mountain landscape, the large number native animals, and most of all the amazing resilience for life the Africans have.

AS I look out my back door I am also reminded of climbing majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro. Realizing Mt. Kilimanjaro is twice as high, twice as impressive, twice as grand. Understanding all the topography, I also ask myself, "What were you thinking?" It all goes back to that attribute I inherited and have seemed to have passed on. The attribute of, "Don't tell me, I can't do it, because I will prove you wrong!" Good Luck, Tiffany & TJ, all I can say is YOU GO & GIVE EM HELL!
Going to Africa truly was and will continue to be, "A Life Changing Journey." When I started my blog, it was a way for me to journal this amazing experience. Not only for myself, but for my children, grandchildren, and my husband. I never dreamed my blog would capture the attention and interests of so many friends, co-workers, family members and even total strangers. What started as my journey became the journey of so many. I have to chuckle when some one says to me, " I have read your blog, you are so inspiring and amazing!" I take it all as a compliment and I'm honored that I have touched and or inspired so many. After all inspiring someone was on my Bucket List, so I can check that off as done.
I simply want to say thank you for following my journey, thank you for being there in spirit, and thank you for putting me in your thoughts and your prayers. To my family, I love you all so very much. Thanks for supporting this crazy idea, even if you were unsure and nervous about my safety. Though this experience is over and I will end my blog with this post, I have made a personal goal to go on a humanitarian mission every year. My thinking is, "Learn like you'll live forever, but live like you'll die tomorrow!" China or the Philippines here I come, and just think a new chapter in my life, not to mention a new blog for so many to read.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Faces of Africa

The many faces of Africa will forever be embedded in my mind. Of the fifteen hundred photos I took, these are several of my favorites. I looked for the unusual opportunities to shoot these beautiful people. Their eyes speak volumes of hardship, sadness, joy, love, and life itself. When looking at these photos I can smell the smells of Africa, hear the foreign language along with the broken English, the laughter of children, and feel the love they had for us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Team February 2009

Team February 2009
L-R Back row ~~ Lynn-Dentist, Mary-AILC In Country Director Kenya, Norma-Dental assistant/housewife, Deb-Hematec and Sales Rep, Ashley-CNA, Leslie-Veterinarian, Mike CEO of Pier 49 Pizza, George-Plumbing contractor, Shosho -Founder of AILC, Marilyn-Midwife, Jill- ICU Nurse, Sana-Co-Founder of AILC, Lauri-ER Nurse, Emily-Insurance Agent/Student, Christine-Physical Therapist, Jody-Clinic Nurse, Kay-Middle School Student.
What an awesome team we were and will forever be.....
Last night Team February 2009, had a "Picture Party--Dip Party." It is a tradition when each team returns home, a few weeks later each member brings the photos they took along with a copy of a CD of them to share. Also each member brings a dip of their choice for everyone to enjoy. It was funny in Africa is sort of started as a challenge to see who had the best dip recipe. Knowing that everyone would be thinking of chips and dips, I chose to make a fruit dip, and took huge fresh strawberries for dipping. After all who doesn't like fresh sweet strawberries, especially if you can dip them for added calories....

Everyone was also amazed at my photos. The AILC Organization wants to redo their brochures, their video, and their visual aids for public speaking, using my photos. WOW! I am a little shocked, somewhat honored, yet a bit protective about my photos. The founders, Shosho and Sana, just keep saying, "Oh my what an eye you have for photography!" Sana, also laughed and commented, I remember you lugging all that camera equipment everyday, but now I am so glad you did.

It was nice to see everyone last night. Shosho hugged me and commented, "You clean up pretty nice." I took that as a compliment, and thought to myself, boy I must have looked a sight in Africa! I guess we were all pretty "plain" in Africa and seeing each other all day and most of the night just "plain" it is quite a shock to see each other when we get back to America all dressed up, hair neatly done, make-up on and smelling so nice!

One team member from our expedition said to me at our Picture Party; "I hardly could tell that is you Lauri, without your ball cap and your camera fanny pack!" That's pretty bad that we feel we have to do so much with our hair and faces here at home. Yet, while in Africa we had so much love and appreciation for one another and yet, we were just plain ole plain.

It's kind of sad that we judge others worth and status in society by their outward appearance, their make-up, expensive clothes and a stylish hair do. When what we should judge is the genuine person on the inside, along with the passion, and compassion they exhibit each and everyday!
Before our mission I know each member of Team 2009 had different expectations and visions of Africa. However, I truly feel after our two weeks in the poverty of the country this poem sums the feelings of the entire team. I, myself, hope that the touch of my hand, the compassion in my voice, and the hugs from my heart will always bring a ray of hope and happiness in the lives of those women and children ten-thousand miles away.

Human Touch
Ti's the human touch in this world that counts
The touch of your hand and mine.
That means far more to the fainting heart
Than shelter, bread, or wine.
For shelter is over when the night is gone
And bread only lasts a couple of days.
But, the touch of a hand and the sound of a voice
Sing deep in the soul always.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wisdom Beyond Years!

A few days ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with My Little Buddy Brykn. It was so much fun as I have really only got to see him once since I got back from Africa and that was at the airport. From the minute I picked him up from daycare, we both had big smiles on our faces. However, there's is just one problem, Brykn still wants to know where his elephant is.... We played all day, inside and outside with all his toys. I explained to Brykn the kids in Africa don't have toys. His reply was "No toys, me will give em some of mine." Wouldn't it be so nice if we all had wisdom beyond our years, and we were all so willing to give to others without hesitation like a two and half year old. Brykn again made me smile when I was showing him a few of the 1251 photos I had taken in Africa. As he sat looking at one particular photo of two African children, he replied, "Oh my gosh that kid is black, him is so cute, me want to play with him!"
I am convinced the world would be a better place if we lived and loved like children do. As children see no barriers, have no prejudices, and consider another child, a child just like themselves.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making a Small Differnce

These are the most recent contacts with Shosho and Sana, the founders of AILC. So nice to know I made a difference, though I feel it was a very, very small difference. My humanitarian efforts each day in East Africa sort of reminded me of the Starfish Story.
"The Starfish Story"
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The young boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”
My Rafiki (freind) Lauri;

I can't tell you how good it was to see you in my inbox! I must admit it was a bit difficult dropping you off at the Kenyatta airport and watching you all getting all you luggage checked in.
You are an amazing woman Lauri! Over and over again I marveled at the beautiful, adventurous, strong woman that you are and how blessed we are as an organization to have a part of you with us. This LIFE CHANGING experience will never end and neither will the lasting friendship that we have kindled over the past few weeks.

Sana and I re-entered the world of abundance with excitement on our wings to round up our little flock and get all our pictures together but especially to get all our hearts connected back together again.

Thank you Lauri for being a part of us and for all you did while you were in Africa. I remember walking down the hall of the hotel in Nakuru with my arm around you and feeling of your strong character and emotional stability. I felt so thankful to know you and for the privilege to walk beside you for a moment in Africa serving those beautiful people.

Hope all is well with your family. I loved meeting all of them. Can't wait to see you.
Call me if you get a free minute. I miss you!!

Living the work;
Love, Shosho
Africa Is Life Changing
Hi My Dear Lauri:

What a woman of courage and adventure. I don’t think I know of another person that could pack more into three weeks than you did. I can only imagine as you lay your head down on your soft pillow here in America the memories that flood your heart.

Thanks for your email and your Welcome Home it meant the world to me. We know the hard transition it is to return and fit back into the routines that call us each day. I find that family helps in this re-entry. I went with my daughter on Friday to a Kid’s Fest at the Sandy Expo Center and my mind was spinning as I walked past all the safety and awareness programs that they were teaching the children. Even the practical demonstration on buckling up when they are in a car caused me to stop and think of the children I had just left behind in Africa that walk everywhere they go. My daughter looked over at me and said this must be hard, and I said it gives me a deep appreciation for what my granddaughter has and a commitment deeply within my heart for the lost child in Africa.

Thank you for your steadiness in your service each and every day. It was your skills in medical that helps us through the trying experience of the young child. Mike talked often with me about how you went into such a discipline life saving mode that day. Your years of training no doubt came together when you carried that baby through the field to the clinic.
I also love the relationship that you formed with the women in crocheting and quilting. How they loved you being in there with them and sharing with one another. You always seemed to light up as you were coming out of that building, and I know they felt your love very strongly. Your hands and heart have many levels and I felt you give it ALL every day.

Love your heart so,

Monday, February 23, 2009

We Are So Blessed!

On the last leg of the twenty-two hour flight, I found myself thinking so much about the last three weeks. I had so many emotions, so many photos in my mind that will never be erased, not to mention so many butterflies in my stomach. I just kept thinking over and over again, "WE ARE SO BLESSED!" I was also thinking how sad it is that we take so much for granite, waste so much and simply have life so, so good. We Americans seem to have everything, and we're always wanting more, yet we appreciate very little. The Africans have nothing, want just the basics, yet they appreciate so very much.

Coming in to Salt Lake, I remember seeing the Wasatch Mountains and thinking, "I am home." I was so excited to see my family, that I, wearing my T-shirt that says " I Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro" ran to the waiting area waving my flag. They were a blessed sight. Buck and TJ had grins from ear to ear, Mom was crying with joy. Brykn, came running and jumped in my arms, saying "you home from Asrica!" Tiff, was so glad to see me and whispered in my ear, I Love You Mom!" What a welcome doesn't get any better than that!!!

Yesterday, was my first shift back at MV-ER, it was so nice to be back with those co-workers who I care so much about. Everyone wanted to hear all about my adventure. It was funny as everyone had been following my blog daily. Kathy Sparrow, called me on the phone just to say, you're truly a woman. I and so many admire for your bravery to follow your dreams, your willingness to learn phone technology just to keep us all in the loop, and to do it all with some very unordinary health issues. I love that I have so many friends in many different areas of MVH, and to hear Kathy's compliments was very touching. Dr. Egbert gave me a high five and said, " Great Job, but what will we do now for daily entertainment?" It was so fun to pull up the blog and see what you were doing each day! Though I have yet seen all my friends in the ER I will this week, I can't wait to share my life changing journey with each of them.

Now that I am back I have chosen to transfer all my journal notes and many photos into my blog. However, I will be putting them in chronological order, so if you choose to read all about "My Life Changing Journey," you can do so by starting on January 27, 2009 with the Party, Party entry.
Thank you to all who prayed for me, text & e-mailed me and those who followed my journey through my blog. I love ya all. A special thanks to my best friend, my daughter, Tiffany who made sure my blog was updated daily and put all the photos on the blog. Love ya Tiff. I am so thankful for such a great family and the best friends and co-workers ever.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Strangers, Roomates, & Freinds

Before going to Africa, I had met two of the fifteen team members. Emily and Ashley were part of the group who climbed Kings Peak last summer.

The other twelve I had never met until we got together to pack our humanitarian supplies. It was at that time that I met a stranger by the name of Marilyn Stewart. She was a nurse mid-wife and a case manager for the LDS Church.

There were so many differences between us. She has two masters degrees, I most definitely don't. She is LDS, I am not. She is sixty-five years old, I am fifty-five. She has six children, I have two. She is divorced, I am married. She had been to Africa before; I had not even really been out of the country. However, the first night in Kenya at the gross hotel, Shosho paired team members up. Marilyn and I became roommates from then on. As we sat on our beds we talked and giggled like a couple of young school girls. Marilyn told me all about her family, her job and why she wanted to return to Africa. I in return did the same. We both seemed to have so many differences, but yet so many similarities.

It was in the hotel in Nakuru, that we really became close, as there was one room for two people not a big deal, but there was also only one FULL sized bed for two people. It was a good thing we were both so tired that we were both glad to sleep closely on that full sized bed.

I will always have so many fond memories of the days and nights I spent with Marilyn in Africa. I got such a kick out of the faces she would pull at the thought of eating another PB&J sandwich. I cringed at the sound of her gasping when she was taking a cold and I mean cold shower. After being a mid-wife for forty years, she ran around naked a lot. She said she had seen enough women's parts, that it didn't bother her. ( I suppose she didn't think it bothered me either, after all if you have seen on butt, you've seen them all!) I will never forget her trying to ban-aid the window in the hotel shut so the mosquitoes didn't come in. There she stood on the bed in her garments with twenty ban-aids on the window. Needless to say it didn't work. So together we "Jimmy Rigged" it shut with my camera electrical cord.

Though Marilyn and I started out as strangers, ended up being roommates, and it two weeks, in a third world country we became really good friends.

St. Catherine's School

Our last day at St. Catherine's School was unlike any day I have ever spent in a classroom in the USA. We spent the day teaching ALL school aged children about HIV, though I am convinced those children probably knew more than we did. HIV is so wide spread in Africa, that twelve million school aged children have lost one if not both parents to AIDS. Women also account for sixty-five percent of adults living with this deadly viral disease. HIV, is the leading cause of death in Africa. While teaching there was not one child who had not been affect by AIDS, either in their family or a village member. Many children are raising their siblings as their parents have died from this deadly disease. While teaching my heart ached for these innocent children, as they never really have a chance to be a kid, as the kids in the US do. No matter where one lives, life at times doesn't seem fair, however, fairness in the US really has a different meaning than in Africa.

After teaching I had an opportunity to tell the smaller children all about my Lil' Buddy and how much I love him, just as their Grandmothers love them. Before going to Africa I choose to buy books to donated to children who might not have any. The best part was Brykn went with me to pick out the books. I thought a variety might be nice, but Brykn wanted ones with horses on them, imagine that. As I presented the books to the children, not one child had ever seen a horse, boots, or a cowboy hat. Funny that is Brykn's daily wardrobe, because as he says, " me is a cowboy." It was fun to have Brykn's help me with this project, and it was fun to see the smiles on the faces of children a world away.

These children love school, and were so cute as they sang "One Little, Two Little Three Little Kenyans." actions included. I had taken Smarties to share with the children, some held on to them for dear life, while other ate them like they it was candy!

From Mom: This afternoon we went back to St. Catherine's School to finish up some of the projects that we started a week ago. We also did age appropriate HIV teaching, which is so prevalent in Africa. After the teaching, I was able to show all the children under 12 Brykn's picture and tell them how much I love him. I then gave the kids the books that he helped me pick out, of course, they had horses on them. I got to explain how Brykn has his own horse and wears his boots, and cowboy hat. They giggled and loved his picture and the books. I miss you all and yes, I am excited to get home. Love ya!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Service

February 15, 2009....This was our second Sunday to attend church at the Fountain of God Church, in an extremely poor village near Navashi. Pastor Joel, a friend of Mary's, officiates over the services and he takes his commitment very serious. When I decided to go to Africa, I was determined to experience it all, and this included attending church. However, little did I know these church services would encompass singing, beating drums, dancing, and praising the Lord for three and half hours. OH MY!!
Pastor Joel, who preaches in Swahili to the congregation, also has an interpreter to translate in English. Pastor Joel, blessed, blessed, and reblessed everything and everyone. A quote we all got a kick out of was, "You must give or be taken." What that meant no one was really sure. There were so many times the group was asked to stand and praise the Lord a bit similar to the Catholic Church. Like the Catholic Church there was of of course an offering basket.
Pastor Joel, explained to us they only have the sacrament four times a year and only on special occasions. However, because we were there it was considered a special occasion so they broke out the bread and wine. As the bread was passed around you had to break your own piece of bread, and even though it was cheap wine, never the less it was wine in those little silver cups. YES... after three hours I need a good stiff drink, I just wishing, however the cup was a bit bigger. I wondered how all the Mormons would handle the situation, but they handled it with grace and drank it all down. Why some even had a smirk on their faces. Afterwards they all joked about the fact that God, would forgive them, because after all Pastor Joel, had blessed the wine at least ten times.
This church service was nothing like I had ever seen before. Pastor Joel, was all dressed up in a suit, yet so many of the villagers had no shoes and were dressed in rags. The children ran in and out of the tin church and a goat and donkey even wanted to join the worshiping.
On the bus ride back to the lodge, I started laughing and all I could think was oh hell, give me one of those half-assed, long winded Mormons any day of the week. I was glad I went to church and was able to experience it, but I really don't want to go back anytime soon!
From Mom: Well, today was the second Sunday we went to Fountain of God Church. I was hesitant about going and considered staying at the lodge, but decided to go to church with the group. Three and half hours later the Pastor shut up. Oh my! He blessed and re-blessed everything! Then, the congregation would stand and beat the drums until I thought I was going to scream. There was so many "Amens!" and "Praise the Lords!"
The church is in the center of a VERY poor village and is just a little shack with bench's and dirt floors. Today, in the middle of the service, a goat came to the open door and started baaing as if to say, "Okay, enough!" But, the Pastor just kept right on going. This is for Andie and Kristina...Okay, so give me a half-assed, long winded, Mormon any day of the week!!!!
From Andie: So, I can expect you in church with me on Sunday? Maybe we can see what Dr. Vizmeg is doing, he might could go with us. Ha Ha!
From Kristina: I knew it wouldn't be long before you were on board with us! This post made my day! Love ya, Kristina.
From Mom: I'll be there as long as I can bring a goat! With Love and miss you all!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where's the Maytag?

Every woman, and I suppose and a few men, in America hate doing the laundry. However, we Americans have it made with our multi setting Maytag, washers and dryers. In Africa a Maytag washer consists of a tub of cold water and foot power, your own foot power. As far as those multiple setting you can choose from, well it just depends on your own leg power and how tired you are. Then there is the rinse and spin cycle, it also depends just how many times you want to rinse and wring and rinse and wring out your laundry. As for that matching Maytag dryer with several settings, there is none. You have to hang it on a makeshift clothes line out in the dust or "Jimmy Rig" a line from bed post to bed post in your room. Then one hopes it will dry within two days. I shared a room with six others from the team, and we always had underwear, socks, bras and "TG's" (temple garments as they call them) hanging everywhere.
Wash day and stomping on my laundry sort of reminded me of Lucy & Ethel stomping on the grapes for wine. Lucy and Ethel at least had a finished product they could enjoy. My laundry was not any cleaner after I stomped on it, but it did smell better! As for most of my clothes I left them there for someone who doesn't have clothes, as they don't mind if they aren't spotlessly clean, or neatly pressed.

African Traffic Jam!~~Molo's Mountain Village

Traffic jams in the US, are simple compared to the ones in Africa. Sitting on I-15 is a piece of cake compared to sitting on a two lane highway/dirt road in Africa. In Africa, traffic jams cause road rage at its best. Coming back from Molo, there was a police check point, where officer took a gentleman's license away. Oh hell this caused a major traffic jam and caused people to lose patience. There were people driving off steep embankments, some of who I thought would roll for sure. Others were driving in the bar pit, and driving four a breast, weaving in and out of cars, buses and trucks. All in an effort to get past the police check point and to get where they were going a little faster. I really wanted to yell out the window, "CHILL OUT, and we'll all be better off. After an hour of this mayhem, we were moving again and everyone seemed to get where they were going.

I wondered how Africans would drive here, and what they would think of our system. Obviously they'd be confused as the steering is on the right side of the car and they drive on the wrong side of the road. One thing is for sure they couldn't drive or act they way they do in Africa or they'd be sitting in the slammer!
Molo's Mountain Village

From Nakuru to Molo was a two hour ride, but I really enjoyed the sights and finally the road was paved, well was for the most part. The mountain village above Molo was very green, the fields well groomed, and the sky a crystal blue, with an elevation of 8800 feet. As the villagers saw the bus coming they ran to the church where we would be doing the medical, dental and vision screening. These people were extremely grateful for any thing we could did and most all left saying "Praise the Lord you helped me." Unlike the village above Nakuru, not one person got upset, angry or anxious. Over all they also seemed healthier than those in the other villages. The children were had the prettiest, whitest, teeth. They also laughed, smiled and were happy about everything, they as they don't any other world but their own small village.

Here in the US, we have such a complex medical record system, and you must sign a release form to get any of your own medical information. Also every thing is documented in detail, not only for the you as the patient, but to protect any health care professional. However, in Africa each individual carries their own medical record. It is a small piece of card stock with very little in formation on it.

My interpreter for the day in Molo was a young mother of three little boys. Joyce spoke very good English, she had a great sense of humor and was a very attractive women. Each village we went to I was amazed at the commitment of the interpreters to their people. Joyce was so enthusiastic about the day and was sad we did not have more villagers to see. Me on the other hand I was a little relived, as this gave me time to take some great photos of these gracious people.

While in Molo, we seen no tragic things. However, just two days before we came there had been a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline rollover, spilling gasoline all over. Hundreds of Africans ran trying to get free gas, when one of them lite a cigarette causing a massive explosion. The explosion killed several hundred, and burned countless others. The fire was so hot they had a mass grave for over two hundred fifty people, who were essentially cremated. We wondered if we would see any mild burns, or those who might have inhaled fumes, but we did not.

The day in Molo was very pleasant and we were finished by about three in the afternoon. We then had time to place a few games with the village children. These kids had never played Tag, London Bridges, Baseball, or jumped rope. Some of the kids got the hang of the games and some preferred to sit on the side lines and watch.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bargain Hunting & The Long Drop

From Mom: On our way to Molo, Kenya today we went through the downtown area. When the locals see a bus, they come running to sell the tourists anything they can, hats, blankets, jewelery, and such. They sell it right through the windows and they are persistent. They start prices high and then everyone jews them down. One of the sellers, commented to me "I am falling like a monkey from a tree!" He didn't know he had just met the one of the Queens of Bargain Shopping, a family trait we are proud of. It really is bargain hunting at its best!


From Mom: Here's the photo of the day, the normal bathroom in all the villages, called a "long drop," thus the name fits. As it is just a hole in the floor, with NO flushing capabilities. It's kind of tricky to hold the HOVER position, hold up your pant legs up so they don't get s--t on them, get your pants pulled down and then not pee in your shoes, down your legs, or on your pants! One also has to hold on to your camera and hold your breath all in unison. And hopefully you have remember to get some TP, or your digging through your pockets to find a tissue you've already wiped your nose on........ I decided you have to be pretty talented to do of the above and not fall in!!! Not to mention the smell is SOOOOOO bad. Oh how nice a toilet seat will be, even if it has slivers.
From Andie: Gosh the Birdseye Motel even has a better bathroom than that! You do have to share your bed, but at least it's with a relative! We will have to start calling you "bulls-eye." Just think of all the things you have learned on this trip. Ha Ha. Love and miss you. Andie

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Whirlwind of Emotions

Our second day above Nakuru, was unpleasant from the start, as we all were dreading the long, hot, and rough bus ride. We also knew there would be several hundred villagers waiting for us to arrive. Therefore, we were not surprised at the masses when we pulled into the village church. We quickly set-up and started see people as soon as we could. My interpreter, Peter, who spoke excellent English was there waiting to help me. All the interpreters were fantastic and gave of their time to help their people. About two hours into the medical screening and treatment a young mother with a three month old baby sat down in front of me. My first thoughts were this mother needed some education and guidance about caring for her baby. This young mother had her baby dressed and wrapped in seven layers. I explained to her that she was keeping her baby to hot and she need to take some of the clothing off. After which I ask her what I could do to help them. Through Peter, I learned the baby had ringworm as so many of children in Africa do. I ask to see the ringworm, thinking the mother was speaking of one or two small patches of ringworm. I was shocked to see this baby girl named, Lisa's trunk covered in ringworm. Some were old scars, some new semi healed patches and many were open, weeping, bleeding patches. This truly was the worse case of ringworm I've ever seen. Little Lisa had a sort of weak cry, but had been nursing and did not look dehydrated even though she had a low grade temperature. I treated her with Tylenol, de-wormer and antifungal cream mixed with Neo-sporin. I also gave the mother de-wormer and gave both a months worth of vitamins. I then instructed the mother if she was still feverish and acted worse in a few hours she needed to go to the hospital. After wrapping the baby in a blanket the mother left and I saw the next patient.

Only an hour later I heard a woman screaming, as I jumped to my feet and ran to the woman I saw it was Lisa and her mother. Lisa was unresponsive and lay lifeless in her mothers arm. Grabbing Lisa out of her mother arms, I ask for transportation to the nearest hospital. However, I was instructed the hospital was just next door. With Lisa in my arms I ran through a dense grassy field, over two barb wire fences, and through a patch of stinging nettle to get to the so called hospital. Once inside I ask for an IV set-up, they did have an IV cathlon, but no tourniquet, no fluids, and no resuscitation drugs. This so called hospital was so poorly equipped. I just kept thinking we at Mountain View ER throw away more in a day than this place had on hand. After doing CRP for three-four minutes, I said enough. Lisa died in my arms, while everyone else was on the floor screaming. I held Lisa for the next few minutes singing a lullaby to her and for me. After wrapping the baby in a women African scarf, I walked out of the hospital. I was so frustrated with the lack of supplies, the lack of knowledge, and what I considered a lack of compassion on the part of the staff of two. Later I learned that Lisa was born HIV+, and had been a very ill baby since her birth. Lisa was buried on the family's small piece of property that day, wrapped in the scarf I'd cradled her in. This death hit the entire AILC team hard, but it hit me very hard as I had done the initial assessment, and then CPR on this child. The HIV+ did explain her chronic illnesses, her poor immune system, the massive ringworm, her weak cry and possibly her early death.

Since that day high on a mountain in Africa, I have lived and relived that day. I have ask myself over and over, "Did I miss something, and could I have done something different?" However, I have come to the conclusion that I was suppose to be there in that mountain village on that day for Lisa and her family.

Over the past thirty five years I have learned that there are certain qualities, attributes, and belief's that define each and every nurse, and I am no exception. I strongly believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, love and compassion. I also made a promise to myself thirty five years ago, that no one should die alone. I have embraced that promise and held many hands of patients, strangers, and family as they have taken their last breath. However, I never dreamed this promise would follow me to Africa.

An hour after Lisa's death, I picked myself up and brushed myself off and went back to work. There were still several hundred people who needed to be seen and they were getting restless. One of the first patients I saw after composing myself was a petite ten year old girl, with smile from ear to ear. Lucy, was a beautiful girl who for some reason thought I was funny. She laughed and giggled at everything I said and did. Though all she had was itchy eyes and only wanted some de-wormer she was such a breath of fresh air for me. I so hope she gets out of the village and is able to fulfill her life's dreams and isn't sentenced to a life of back breaking labor.

With only an hour of clinic time left, the villagers who had not yet been seen became restless and began pushing, shoving and demanding to be seen. It was a bit like "Defending the Alamo" as we were confined in a one room shack with no way out. One of the two men in the group was trying to maintain order, but he was having little success in doing so. We all came up with a plan to work as fast as possible, and if they broke down the doorway to let them take everything we had. The sad thing is they were willing to kill each other and us for a Tums and Tylenol.

After the hour past, we literally ran to the bus leaving people untreated. I had decided that if we were suppose treat people in this village the next day I was not coming. As my safety and sanity were more important and I had dealt with a whirlwind of emotions for two days.

2/12/09From Mom:
Oh what a sad, busy, and wild day. There were about 600-700 people waiting for us at the mountain village above Nakuru. The day started busy and just got worse. After about three hours I saw a three month old baby girl that was covered with ring worm and very ill. The mother had the child wrapped in six layers. After treating the child and instructing the mother how to take care of the baby, they left. One hour later the baby arrested. I did CPR on the child and the baby died in my arms. A very bad day. After seeing 1300 people in 2 days there were still over 200 left to see. They became very upset they were not going to see a "doctor" and started pushing and shoving nearly trampling a three year old to death. It was an exhausting day. I was so glad to lay my head on my pillow in a full sized bed next to a stranger.

The brightest part of my day was a 10 year old girl who thought I was funny. She laughed at everything I did. She was a beautiful little girl who has a very dim future. Love you all.

From Andi: I'm sorry you had to have that happen to you. What a dark part of your trip you will always have to remember. But, how lucky for that baby to have passed to her Heavenly Father from the arms of an angel. I love you. And, I miss you a lot. And, I know how that girl at the clinic feels because when I am with you all I want to do laugh. Keep your chin up and your bra tight. Maybe by the time you get home, we could put our asses together and we could be one heck of a Mormon. Love ya.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

High Above Nakuru

On the seventh day of our humanitarian mission we found ourselves at a Mountain Village high above Nakuru, Kenya. The drive there, however, was a bit much. The village sixty miles from Nakura, and a steep drive with the elevation of the village at 9000 feet. Though the road was horrible, the view was very nice. The people in Africa use every inch of dirt to grow what ever they can. Sadly, they have no farm equipment so all the labor is done by using very large shovels, hoes and pitchforks. And once again all the labor is done by the women of the village. Surprisingly the fields and the crops look well groomed and healthy. The African people grow and use a large amount of cabbage, so many of the field looked like they could be home to Peter Cottontail.
Again all the children must wear uniform in order to go to school. The school colors in this village were lavender, and it just so happened I had wore my lavender pullover. They all cheered as I got off the bus and wanted me to come and go to school with them.

Once we were at the village, the sight from the bus was a bit overwhelming as there were about six hundred villagers waiting for us and it was only nine in the morning. After setting up a make shift clinic, in an old building near the church, we were off and running. So many children with ringworm, scalp fungus, itchy watery eyes. Along with adults with acid reflux, arthritis, and back pain. The medical aspect of this humanitarian mission was extremely hard for me, as I felt as if I was trying to put a little bitty band-aid on a massive huge laceration. Though the organization had taken several thousand dollars in medications, they were so very generic. We had access to Tylenol, Motrin, Vitamins, De-wormer, Septra, cough medicines and antifungal cream. Yes, more than anyone in Africa has, but far from the resources I am so use to. There was no Respiratory Department, no Radiology department, and no way to consult with another physician. The nearest hospital is sixty miles away in Nakuru, yet few if any have the money or the means to travel to the hospital. These people all think that since you are white and from America, you are a doctor, not to mention they think you can cure anything and everything!
Though our day was long and tiring, the boys of the village made me laugh. Boys are boys the world over, as they were looking in the windows pulling faces at us. The laughter of children is so refreshing no matter where you are.
After leaving the village in good spirits, those spirits were soon dampened with the ninty mintue wild ride back to the hotel. But, soon we were at what Africa would call a 4-STAR hotel"the Cool River Inn, America would call it a dive. After arriving at the hotel, Sana and Shosho paired up team members to room together. However, there was one small surprise!! In each room there was only on full sized bed. Nothing like sleeping, very cozy with someone you've only known for a week in a full bed with a mosquito net around it. Marilyn, and I, had been room mates from the first day, so we volunteered to bunk together. The room was so small, the floor dirty, the shower didn't work and the mosquitoes were coming through an open window. Marilyn and I made the most of it as we talked, laughed and giggled like a couple of little girls.

From Mom: Wow what a day. When it was all said and done, we saw 500+ people in the medical clinic and another 60 in the dental clinic. The people were lined up as we pulled in. Lots of coughs, malaria, typhoid, and goiters. The village we went to today was in the mountains of Nakuru. We will be going back there again tomorrow. We are staying in a dive hotel in Nakuru, we have to bunk with a partner in a full bed! Yes, today was hectic, but no more crazy than a bad day at Mountain View ER since we are so limited on what we can do. It is hard, as I think of possible diagnosis and what really needs to be done. For all of you at Mountain View, Jill, Val Richards ex has joined us on this trip. I am getting very tired of African food and as soon as I get to the States, I am getting a huge cheeseburger and fries with a 44 oz. Diet Pepsi. Miss you all, but having a great time.

From Tiffany: Wow! I bet you are beat. And, I bet sleeping in the dive with a buddy (hey, bra-less I bet!) doesn't lend to a good night's sleep. Do you want me to bring you a Pepsi to the airport?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


While at St. Catherine's I soon learned all women like to be pampered and treated like DIVA'S. I had taken nail polish to make them all feel pretty, and what a blast. I must have painted thirty women's finger and toe nails. It was funny the whole time I was on my knees on the dirt floor, touching dry, dirty, stinky, African feet I was thinking of Andi. Andi has a fetish about feet, oh boy she would have freaked out with these feet. After everyone was beautiful, or SMART in their language, they all strutted about the room with a smile from ear to ear. I wondered how they would react to lipstick, perfume, hair embellishments, and a hot bubble bath! Oh the things we all take for granite.
It truly was a wonderful, wonderful day spent with new friends, with women just being women. My ladies gave me far more than I gave them. I will cherish always the laughter, the conversations, and the friendships I made in two short days.

2/10/09 From Mom: I spent the day with women quilting and painting toenails and fingernails. They loved it! The are just a group of women laughing, gossiping and bragging about their kids. I took a photo of Brykn and showed them all. They smiled and said, "Oh, so cute!" Also did half day of medical screening. Its so hard for us as I wonder if we are just putting a band-aid on a big problem. But, I also think if we make them feel better for a day or so, I suppose we have made a difference. We are going to Molo, a city 2 hours away. We are expecting to see 600-700 people each day for the next three days. I miss you all and I miss my bath tub. Love ya.
From Tiffany: I bet today was a lot of fun. Had they ever seen fingernail polish?
From Mom: All is great. We are on our way to Molo. No, they had not seen fingernail polish before. It was fun to see their faces, their reaction was that it was smart and beautiful. It brought smiles to their faces. Funny how all women like pampering and how we all like to look pretty. It was a wonderful day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What No Cows!

I learned in Africa cows are valued and define wealth, though most of the cows I saw in Africa wouldn't be considered to valued in the US. Most all the cows were very thin and didn't have to much life in them. There are so many cows of different breeds just wondering the streets, tied to front of a store and herded along the highways. So many people in Africa go without food and water so they can graze their cows. The cows are worshiped and rarely sacrificed (butchered) and if they are every ounce is used. From the blood that is mixed with milk and drank, to the hide that is used for a mattress. Even the tail that is used as a fly swatter.

My conversation with Elizabeth and the other women, I'm sure left an impression in their minds of my wealth or lack of it. They all acted as if they felt so sorry for me, as I had not even one cow. I however, feel so sorry for them as I have seen what they have and how they live.

From Mom: It's day 14, and I am doing good. A bit tired, but good. The food here has got my stomach upset a bit and I think I have lost a pound or two. YES!

My day that I called, "the visiting teachers" was fun. A group of village women who are friends sewing and laughing. I told them I have a bunch of bra-less buddies and some half ass Mormon best friends!!!!

Elizabeth, one of the women, asked me how many cows I had as cows are a sign of wealth. When I told the woman I have no cows, they were amazed. But, more amazed at the fact that we have two horses and two dogs. They all laughed at our animals. I think they think we are very poor without cows. Love to all. Lauri, Mom and Grandma.

From Kristina: Hope your stomach feels better. They probably think you are one weird lady, no cows, bra-less friends, and Mormons who have half an ass. Wow, you are strange! Nonetheless, I'm glad I'm part of your strange life! Lots of love, Kristina

From Mom: Tell Andi I'm doing good. However, the group doesn't know how to take my jokes about the Mormons. They think I'm serious. And, tell Grandma I tried to call. Love you.
From Kristina: You ought to invite them to your baptism in Teresa's pool! I think they would really understand then! LOL! Kris

Women Being Women

One of the things I most enjoyed while at St. Catherine's school was spending time with the women from surrounding villages. Several of the women have children who go to the school, while others simply wanted to spend time with other women and walked twenty miles to do so. I was so tickled to see, women are just women no matter what language one speaks, no matter the color of their skin, nor their economical status. They all want what is best for their children and are willing to do what ever it takes to ensure they have a good education.

The women came in our make shift relief society room, it didn't matter that there were no chairs, a nice floor, or any treats to share. They sat on the dirt floor, never went to the long-drop or got a drink of water. We all laughed, giggled, shared story of our homes, and our families. It was touching for me to see women ten thousand miles from the US, so proud of their children and grandchildren.
They are talented women with so much to share with each other. Several wanted to make quilts, so I pulled out several pre-cut 12X12 blocks and offered to teach them a pattern I had done before. I was so proud of myself, and I thought it looked very nice. However, they didn't agree with me as they said, "it needs more color." They wanted each block different and colorful, and so pattern, so that is what we did.
Others in the group made bags out of plastic bags that at cut into stripes, the ladies then crochet them and sell them for a very small fee. Just as in the US, "Necessity is the motherhood of invention!" The only difference is in Africa everything is a necessity.
One of cutest little ladies in the group of Nancy, a small petite woman who also had elephantiasis She was thrilled to make a hat on the loom. Though I am sure standing on her legs was painful, sure finished an orange hat to give to her daughter, of who she was so proud of.
I was a bit amazed by the common American names all the ladies had. I don't really know what I expected their names to be, but no Mary, Margaret, Joyce, Susan and such. My ladies, however, had never heard my name and said it was very difficult to say. So they called me "Mtani" meaning familiar friend in Swahili, Elizabeth said that was my new name. I considered it an honor and when I go back in a couple years I hope I am still their familiar friend.

Very few of these women have the luxury of a sewing machine, fabric or notions nor have any of them seen a fabric store. They use rags for cloth, and they protect their needles, buttons, and crochet hooks as if they were gold!

This is my sewing, crocheting group for the day.

This is Ester, the woman who is so determined to make sure her children get an education. She is in the AILC video. Love you.

From Mom: Well, today was a great day. I got to work with the women of several villages. We crocheted bags from plastic bags. Don't worry, they are new bags we brought. It's a pretty cool idea. The women then sell the bags so they can pay for their children's education. Elizabeth has been coming to St. Catherine's school for the past four years. She speaks very good English and has fifteen children, six of them attend St Catherine's. All the women had many questions about America and Obama, and hey were also interested about my family and my grandson. Okay, I had to boast about my Lil' Buddy. I will take photos of him tomorrow.

Today, I also tested people's eyes for reading glasses. It was fun to see people's faces light when they could see their Bibles or thread a needle.

I also spent some time in the medical clinic. There was a lady with elephantiasis and a man with a huge tumor on his face. I took some pictures so I could show the ER Docs. I miss everyone, love ya!

From Kristina: Sounds like there is so much to be done there. What a great woman you are to go and help these people! Stay safe, can't wait to hear all your stories. Love, Kris.

From Tiffany: Way to go, Mom! Look at what a wonderful impact you are having on the world!

African Cement Work

Our first day at St. Catherine's School & Girls Boarding School was a welcomed sight, especially after being at Athi Village for two days. St. Catherine's was build and opened about five years ago, however the Girls Boarding School has only been open for two years. The school sits on six acres in the hills over looking Lake Navsiaha. It is owned and operated by AILC and is currently home for ten boarding girls ages 15-17 years old. These girls live in a dorm type complex, a very sparse dorm at that. They go to school with bible studies starting at 5:00am six days a week. Their day ends at 8:00pm again with bible study. The parents must pay for school and boarding, with the exception of two girls who are sponsored by AILC. These two girls are sponsored because of their extreme intelligence, their determination to succeed, and their desire to help their fellow country man. I was so impressed with these girls attitude towards their elders, the enthusiasm they have for learning, and the lofty goals they have for themselves and their families.

There are eight large cement buildings at St. Catherine's, where school aged children from three to eighteen attended school daily. Though there are no boys who board, there are ten very bright, very energetic, very good looking young men who have the privilege of attending school at St. Catherine's. There are also children in several different levels of their educations learning as much as they can. It is different than school in the US, as these children must pass the test in order to move up. In many classes you see an eight year old in with the four year olds. All the students have a great respect for their teachers and stand as the teacher enters the classroom. The students never speak off, and when called up on they stand in respect before giving speaking. WOW!!! No one would ever see that in the US. In the US you would see a student flipping a teacher off, before they would stand! The students in Africa have a love for learning and I am convinced that all teenagers need to spend a month in Africa. Possibly they would come back with a new out look on life, their self entitlement, and more respect for others.

My first day at St. Catherine's was spent doing construction, yes construction as I wanted to experience it all. So with that in mind I headed for my first lesson about "African Cement Work." First, off I was looking for the cement mixer, not one. Second, where is the scaffolding, it's an old fifty gallon barrel. Third, where is the hose so we can mix the cement? Grab two five gallon buckets and trolley the water from a deep rain water well. All I could think as the process was being explained to me was Oh, Hell would Steve get a kick out of this!! With my first lessons learned it was okay let's dig in. First the dirt and sand must be haul from a pit five miles away. Then it is four wheel barrows of dirt/sand to one bag cement. It is mixed on the dirt floor of the building, being built. A well is made in the center of the pile and water is added in so specific ratio. Now the fun begins you take your trowel and with a quick flick of the wrist you throw it on the wall. Michael the job foreman, said I was a natural, oh my please don't tell anyone. After the entire wall is covered with this so called cement then you scrap it back off using a large African level. This process is repeated FOUR times! The last coat is then troweled using a long wooden trowel. The wall ends up being semi smooth and actually sets up pretty good. I really wanted to write my name down in the corner, but Michael said absolutely NOT! My day doing construction was long, back breaking, and interesting to say the least. I was amazed at the lack of tools, the lack of technology, but impressed with the skills they have, and to use what they have in order make it all work.


From Mom: Well, it's Saturday and I've gone about 10 days. Today we all got our first look at St. Catherine's School, the school AILC built and supports. Each child must pay to attend, wear a uniform, and go 6 days a week. I have decided that American children have everything and value nothing. However, the children here in Africa have nothing and value everything! Today I and 2 others helped a mason finish a wall in a new classroom. Oh boy, it was almost like going back 50-75 years--they are so far behind the USA. The kids are so cute and not as poor. I will try to call tomorrow. Love you.