• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
on my hospital family. . .

on my hospital family. . .

Every year at thanksgiving, I  find myself pondering the big and little things that make our life possible – the spirit of the first Thanksgiving was that of gratitude for making it though a terribly harsh winter – of celebrating with the people that had made survival possible. One of fellowship and reaching out, of a shared meal after a shared struggle.

I missed the thanksgiving day post trying as we planned for a thanksgiving feast with friends and colleagues from Kenya and beyond, but here, in the spirit of thanksgiving, are a few pictures of the people who we have had shared meals with after shared struggles, with gratitude for their place in our life at the hospital. . .

My pediatrics consultant colleagues: Ima, Sarah, Esther, and Anne. New team members and old, but together we take care of the children in Kijabe.  I am so grateful to have such down to earth, visionary, doctor mamas to work with. We push each other, support each other, challenge each other, and move care forward for the children in Kenya. Fighting, crying, and rejoicing together as kids who were impossibly sick go home well.  This week, all of us were sick, but we kept pushing, just a little bit beyond what we could do (or a lot) and made it through the week.  Sarah and Ima have been with me from the beginning. Anne and Esther just finished residency last year.


The pediatric Clinical Officers: When we came to Kijabe Bob, Lilian, and Elizabeth were the only clinical officers on the pediatric team. Since then we have added 8 more people. They love children, are passionate about their care, hold our team together, and are some of my dearest, dearest friends. They are in and out of our home, endless support in long hours at the hospital, and their move to 24/7 coverage of patients has been a milestone in our advancement of care for kids in Kijabe and my sanity. Any visitor who has come to Kijabe will say they are literal lifesavers and I couldn’t agree more.

Evelyn: Evelyn is my boss in medical education and has graciously welcomed me to help with the internship program. She has also become a wise sounding board and amazing friend. She is patient with my sometimes impossible questions and some nights when we find ourselves the only 2 people showing up for Bible study, we have wrestled with concepts from Joshua and Hebrews and the application of faith to life with me in ways that have broadened and strengthened my view of life and the gospel.


The Pediatric Nursing staff: Sarah and Agnes and Misoi and Wanjiru and Margaret and Joshua and Felix and Rachel and Maureen and Faith and Catherine and Nancy and so many others have become friends and teachers in the past few years – in long nights in the hospital on call and in moments of peace as we step back and look and patients improving under our care. They have stared at monitors with me,  fought side by side in codes and recoveries and constant movement in the course of a busy day. We have rearranged wards, planned together, taught the interns, and cried with mothers.  Some of my favorite moments are the rare ones where we sit together and share tea for a few minutes and talk about life and how we can make things better. They are rockstars – balancing more patients and responsibilities than should be humanly possible with grace and deftness, and I am so grateful for them.

The Interns: I know I talk about them a lot – but it is so amazing to see clinicians go from the first day and scared of infants and surgery . and deliveries to competent, caring, brilliant care givers over the course of the year. On call every third day for 365 solid days, they embody commitment and strength – and as they work through what kind of clinician they want to become, I love walking with them, hearing about where they have come from and their dreams for the future, teaching them how to care for babies and not be afraid of their fragility, and be a light and force of change for healthcare in Kenya. . .One more group is about to graduate, and another 14 are about to come. I can’t wait to watch their careers and say I knew them on that very first day. . .

As I wrote this, I realized how many of the people in this post are strikingly similar to the post on transitions. The transition of this life also makes much of the joy possible.  New, phenomenal people coming into my life, changing me irrevocably. Some stay. Some go.  But all of them carry transformative power in my life and practice of medicine.

This is my current team  (not meaning to neglect the pediatric surgeons and physiotherapists and neurosurgeons  that also walk with us daily but I have less pictures of them).  Who knows what it will look like in 1 year, or 5 years, but for right now, I look forward to changing another small piece of the world with them tomorrow.

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