last night in the joint ICU. . .(aka, the night I climbed a fence)
A text came through at 2 am on my call night – “resuscitation in the pediatric HDU.” I was up in seconds, adrenaline through my veins, and ran to the hospital under the domed night sky. When I reached the back door of the hospital, it was locked. Usually a guard lets me in quickly, and I sprint past him to the sick child that requires my attention. But that night, no guard appeared.
I quickly went through my options as I thought of my team waiting for me. . . field? too far. Bang on the door? Not helping. Over the fence and through the construction site? Well. . . best out of three.
I ran to the side where the new cafeteria is being constructed, bent down the chain link fence and hoisted myself over. My flashlight went out, and I shook my head and walked carefully step by step through the mud and the broken tiles and hoped against hope I didn’t fall in a ditch or a hole. I wasn’t sure where my path was taking me, but I hoped it would be to an open door in the hospital.
Carefully and quickly, I hummed the psalm “lamp to my feet and light to my path,’ and squealed a prayer of relief when I squeezed through the mbati (sheet metal) fence and saw the door to the nursery.
What I saw when I finally arrived was amazing. The nurses and our clinical officer were working with skill and precision. The child had received two doses of epinephrine, was intubated, and had a strong pulse back. Without me, the code had gone like clockwork – each person with their job, their training. And the child was alive.
Five years ago, that resuscitation would have been impossible. That night, they let me catch my breath from my daring adventure and told me the 27 steps they had completed to save this child’s life.
We kept breathing for the baby and worked to set up the ventilator in the ICU that we have shared with the adult team for the past 7 years. An hour later, we maneuvered the baby cot the 1500 feet around corners and down and up the hallways to the waiting team. I was nostalgic as we walked, because the next time I am on call, we will have a dedicated pediatric ICU. . .it was the last time I would make that walk with a child in Kijabe.
A culmination of the vision of so many that have come before me, we will move our ventilators down to the new children’s wing next Monday. Five nurses have spent the last 3 years completing pediatric critical care training, and we will join them to open only the 4th dedicated pediatric ICU in the country – and the first outside of Nairobi.
As I caught my breath and reflected on the perfect code our team had completed while I scrambled over a fence and through a construction site, I know we are ready.
For, in what many would say are impossible odds, He continues to be lamp to our feet and a light to our path as we care for these precious children in Kenya.