Monday mornings are always a bit insane in the clinic - lots and
lots of mothers lined up, sitting on benches to wait with their
sick babies. Everyone holds on through the weekend with their sick
little ones, eager for the clinic to open on Monday. After less
than 10 minutes in the clinic, I had to put in an emergency IV and
start resuscitating a little one.
Our day went beyond the usual Monday chaos with some added
craziness. The nurses at the hospital were on strike. Health care
workers striking is not good for patients, but it too-often seems
to be the only way they can make the hospital administration meet
their very reasonable demands for appropriate drugs, gloves, and
A peaceful protest cannot last very long here, sadly, as
demonstrated by the
horrific crackdown of the police on school children protesting the
destruction of their playground last week. Sure enough, the
Kenya police showed up today in riot gear and decided to disperse
the nurses using tear gas. Insane. The tear gas came in all through
the hospital buildings and clinics, making everyone wheeze and
cough and gasp even in areas relatively far away from the
In our busy clinic, we didn't know what was happening at first.
Your throat begins to burn, your lungs are closing up and wheezing,
and you can't stop sneezing and crying. Tear gas is horrible.
And very, very bad for sick babies. So, that was a disaster to sort
out as I tried to keep breathing well enough to make sure everyone
was ok and get the sickest little ones moved to where the gas was
thinner. Our babies already come in breathing too-fast with their
pneumonias and fevers. Tear gas was the last thing we needed.
On top of all of this, the main washing machine at the hospital
had broken down over the weekend. This doesn't sound like such a
big deal, except that we had no clean linens or scrubs or gowns.
This basically shut down all of our surgeries for the day, and made
things more complicated for dealing with really sick patients who
needed new beds in units that were closing down for lack of linens.
Plus, many more patients needed gowns to replace clothing
contaminated by tear gas or would have benefited from wet clothes
to hold over faces.
BUT, not a single patient of mine died today, and so in my book
it was not a bad day. Bad days are days when children die. This was
just a crazy one.