Last year, Christopher Mullen, CUREkids Coordinator at CURE Uganda, spent two days at CURE Kenya. This is what he observed.
On a windswept hillside overlooking Rift Valley, you will find a place of joy where children are healed and hope is restored, a place that will challenge preconceived notions of what a hospital should feel like. When most think of hospitals, there is an idea of pain, suffering, misery, and boredom. It’s the last destination no one would want their child to go. CURE Kenya, an orthopaedic paediatric hospital, challenges that. Their goal is to heal children and to make it possible for them to walk and run, and to have a higher quality of life.
Upon arriving at CURE Kenya, you are met with crisp mountain air and a bright, multi-coloured playground. As you enter the hospital, the bright colours continue on the walls and a light show on the ceiling. The aroma from the kitchen greets you, and the smell of vegetables and cooking meats fills the air.
Leaving the allure of the kitchen and heading towards the ward, you pass by the playroom where there is a great deal of laughter and smiles. As you move down the hallway and look through small square windows, you see a large circular table in the centre of the room, the perfect size for a child to sit. In the corner, there is a fleet of tricycles awaiting their riders. On the bookcases, in the closets, and under the benches, you will find a plethora of toys, books, puzzles, and stuffed animals.
The main ward is made up of four sections with six beds each. They are lettered A – D, and there are additional E and F sections along with a section for adults and families who would like more privacy.
Just before 6 a.m., the ward starts waking up. The nursing staff obtains the vitals of the patients. This is soon followed by morning rounds, which is a time for medical staff to check up on the patients to see how they are doing and make a plan for the day. As ward round ends, a cook from the kitchen brings breakfast through; patients and caregivers receive a tall stack of bread with eggs and a cup of tea.
Soon, you can begin to hear the sounds of the daily staff meetings. Every morning, the staff meets at 8 o’clock for devotions, which starts with songs, reading the Bible, discussing the day’s topic, and praying for the day ahead.
As the morning devotion winds down, the Operating Room (OR) staff have called for the first patients of the day. They soon enter the OR wing, and travel down a hallway before coming to a red line with the word STOP. The patients switch shoes, and proceed to the waiting room where they are cleared for surgery. Their nurse prays for them, and they are taken through double doors.
As patients make their way to the operating table, they look around at the nurses and anaesthesia team who do their best to make them feel comfortable. They joke with them and even do a little dance to bring a smile, in an otherwise scary situation. As a patient drifts off to sleep, the scrub tech returns, the instruments are laid out, and the staff is soon joined by the surgeon. The room goes quiet and still for a moment as they bow their heads and a prayer is said. Then, the surgery begins. You can hear music playing from a laptop, which soon becomes drowned out by the sound of chiselling, drilling, and cutting. Soon, the most dreaded and scariest part of the hospital visit is completed and the patient is moved to the post-anaesthesia care unit (PACU). The patient then wakes up and is taken down a hallway where he/she is met by a parent or guardian. The patients then are taken back to bed, or they go to the high dependency unit (HDU).
By midmorning, the playroom is full of children. The table in the centre of the room begins to fill up with avid colourers and artists. Others focus on putting together puzzles. It’s also “rush hour” in the playroom as several patients on large tricycles pull and push pedals with their arms. The room is just wide enough for them to get around the table. A member of the Spiritual Team helps direct traffic insisting everyone goes counter clockwise. She soon becomes busy painting flowers on a cast. A playful five-year-old watches intently over her shoulder as her friend’s cast is painted. With no cast of her own, she asks to be painted. She spends the rest of the day running around with an orange design proudly displayed on her forehead.
With the bright afternoon sun hitting the playground, patients soon flock there. Patients sit on their swings and blow bubbles at one another. Those without casts soon flock to the playhouse with tunnels to crawl through, a bridge to cross, and a tower to slide down. In the corner, there are balancing bars and stairs with a couple kids sitting on top of them playing catch with a beach ball.
In the late afternoon, after wrangling all the children from the playground, the Spiritual Team moves into the ward. They set up and lead a church service for parents and patients. It opens with songs of praise and parents soon share testimonies, and the Spiritual Team shares stories from the Bible. The service ends with a time of prayer.
As the day winds down, the day shift leaves and the night crew comes. The patients have dinner, and they start to wind down after an energetic day. Eventually, with their parents already asleep, they, too, turn in for the night.
There are few places with an atmosphere like CURE Kenya. The children on the ward are joyful; they are joyful because they are being treated by the staff in a way that would make a person in a cast with pins sticking out of their leg happy.
The staff—from the surgeons to the volunteers—didn’t just go through the motions of doing their jobs, but they chose to love the patients they were serving. They could easily do the surgeries, check vitals, clean the ward, and feed the patients without love, but instead they do something special and unordinary: they choose to love. They choose to care for their patients, and not just on a physical level, but on an emotional level as well. They show scared little children that they are safe, that they are valued, and that they are cared for.
The actions, behaviour and personality of CURE Kenya can be summed up with this quote by Mother Teresa.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”