With recent diseases like Ebola spreading across the globe, the last thing someone would want to do is travel to a foreign country. However, for local nurse anesthetist Shannon Smith, traveling to Africa was on the top of her to-do list.
Smith marked her fourth trip to the continent from July 31 to Aug. 17 with a health organization called Kenya Relief. Smith assisted doctors in Migori, Kenya with obstetric and gynecological procedures that she was used to practicing at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Manchester, Ky.
“I don’t think there’s anything that can really prepare you for the differences in health care between here and there. It’s totally an eye opening, soul awakening experience that changes who you are once you’re there,” said Smith.
The clinic has two operating rooms that provide space for four surgeries at a time. The clinic also has the capabilities to perform simple X-rays and laboratory testing.
Kenya Relief provides 22 medical teams which stay for 10-day periods. Each team has a specialty such as dentistry, cataract surgery, ear/nose/throat specialty medicine, pediatrics and general medicine.
Also on-site with the clinic is an orphanage with 140 children that take care of farm animals and pets. Smith’s son, Bradley Venable, is a Pineville native and veterinarian in Fort Walton, Fla. and also attended the trip to perform veterinary procedures for the animals at the orphanage.
“In Migori there’s no doctor, no emergency room, no nothing and if you don’t have money there you don’t get treated. There’s no health care rights or privileges,” said Smith.
One of Smith’s first trips included working with surgeons from Harvard University and University of Massachusetts that took state-of-the-art medical equipment to Migori to perform ear/nose/throat surgeries. The teams take their equipment and minimal personal belongings on an overnight flight and an 8-hour bus ride to the compound where they stay in Migori.
“Personally and professionally, this has taught me that if you are finding yourself bored or discontent then you are focusing too much time on yourself. You need to take that energy and time and focus it on the rest of the world and the people in it,” said Smith.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.