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Kenya: Opiyo’s story and RMF’s Lwala Community Health Center

July 23, 2010 - Kenya

by Jonathan White and James Nardella

Real Medicine’s Ochieng’ Memorial Lwala Community Health Center in Kenya is a community-based health care project that is managed and supported in partnership with the Lwala Community Alliance, a U.S. based humanitarian organization.  The mission of the clinic is to meet the holistic health needs of all members of the Lwala Community, including its poorest.

Whenever possible it addresses health problems at their roots through community health interventions.  It aims to provide excellent community-based health care, not to become a tertiary care facility.  The health center is part of a larger effort to achieve holistic health and development in Lwala, including educational and economic development.

The primary beneficiaries of the Lwala Community Health Center’s work are children, pregnant women, HIV infected persons and the elderly. Prior to the establishment of the clinic, there was no immediate access to primary health care or HIV/AIDS testing and care.

For this reason, the Lwala health intervention has focused on primary care for children, access to medicines (particularly vaccines and antimalarials), HIV testing and care, public health outreach and safe maternity.

Opiyo’s story

Like many areas of East Africa, malaria is endemic in the lowlands of Lwala, Kenya near Lake Victoria.  Children under age 5 are at the greatest risk of dying.  Opiyo, 6 months old, was near death when he arrived after dark the Lwala Clinic.  His racing heart and panting lungs were trying hard to push oxygen and anemic blood through his small body. Fluids, a transfusion, and malaria medicine were desperately needed.  Unfortunately Opiyo’s dehydrated body prevented the clinical officer, a visiting Pediatrician, and Milton Ochieng, MD from getting an intravenous line started.  Opiyo and mother, Milton and Fred Ochieng, and driver Joseph “Boy” piled into the Real Medicine funded 4 wheel drive ambulance and quickly headed for Kisii Provincial Hospital, one hour away.  Again the emergency room staff could not gain standard intravenous access.

Dr. Milton’s recent intensive care experience in St. Louis kept him from giving up.  After explaining a risky jugular vein IV insertion to Opiyo’s mother, obtaining consent, and saying a short prayer, Milton proceeded to insert a jugular line, blood was started, and Opiyo was on the road to recovery.  The many parents of other sick children in the jammed emergency department had watched the drama, and sighed with relief and awe for Opiyo.

For more information about the Lwala clinic in Kenya:

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