• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
an unexpected Christmas week . . .

an unexpected Christmas week . . .

2021 was my year to be off for Christmas. I worked the weekend before and was supposed to have 7 days off before returning to work New Year’s week. Every year we divide the team to allow all of our families to have a dedicated holiday time to breathe.

But, the Wednesday before one of our clinical officers tested positive for COVID, then another one, then our nutritionist, then two interns. . .and then two of the pediatric consultants, then our medical officer, and then two more clinical officers.

And my quiet week off turned into a potential crisis.

I walked into work on Tuesday with our PICU/Peds emergency medicine fellow Susan, two COs, and a skeleton team of new interns, and we organized ourselves. Susan would round in ICU first after we reviewed the babies together while our senior clinical officer rounded in Nursery, and I rounded on the floor babies, then I moved to the NICU to examine, run the list, run home to get chocolate or Christmas cookies for the team, and back in to re-round on the sickest babies, then back to PICU, then back to the floor, then back to NICU again.

We intubated babies, extubated babies, received prems, placed lines, taught, and double and triple checked our lists. My colleagues sent encouragement from home. One of our family medicine doctors took an extra call, Bob came in early from his vacation to help on Saturday, Susan took an extra call with me, and our medicine/pediatrics doctor that normally does medicine stepped in on Sunday when we one of the pediatrician’s antigen test was still positive.

The hardest moment of the week was probably at 6:20 am on Christmas when I was called to casualty because of a minibus (matatu) accident that involved 7 kids. We had just sat down to read the Christmas story before presents and Frank called me to run in. I had changed into my scrubs already, and Madeline looked at me pointedly and said “it’s okay mom, it’s where you need to be” as they placed their stockings to the side and waited until I made it back home 5 hours later.

It was a chaotic week, but what amazes me on this end, is how at the end of such potential chaos, we were still standing.

The interns had learned.

The babies had lived.

We sent NICU babies home on Christmas Day with celebration.

We pulled together as a team and all the amazing layers of our system worked and didn’t crack.

David and the girls weathered the week with well practiced patience and gave me an extra measure of grace.

I felt supported and cared for and the opposite of alone.

A friend who had lived in Kijabe a long time wrote that the only way we could have sustained ourselves over that week is if “God’s Spirit had given great strength and guidance,” and I think that is the case. He seems to do that every day here – we see big and small moments of providence carrying us, strengthening us, providing for our patients, giving us daily bread and moments of celebration even in the midst of crisis.

It was a Christmas we will talk about for years to come, and in the end, we were given a little glimpse of what the chaos of the first Christmas may have looked like – an unexpected baby at an inconvenient time, support and love from unexpected places, and tidings of peace and great joy in a world that was weary and chaotic.

Probably fitting for this year that I am writing my Christmas post in mid January, but I do wish you all eyes to see this as well. . .