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American doctor trains Nakuru nurses to manage respiratory defects in babies



As she steps into the ultra-modern Margaret Kenyatta Mother Baby Wing at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital, Dr Nora Switchenko could easily pass for a foreign visitor who is in the facility to donate gifts to newly born babies.

The American doctor warmly exchanges pleasantries with patients, subordinate staff and nurses at the hospital.

But Dr Switchenko is not an average visitor at the referral hospital that delivers more than 1,200 babies monthly.

The 35-year-old is a neonatal paediatrician from Uttah State the US.

“I am here to train nurses on a special technology dubbed bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to improve the care of newly born babies with respiratory problems,” says Dr Switchenko.

The bubble CPAP delivery system is a non-invasive ventilation strategy for newborns with infant respiratory distress syndrome.

It is one of the methods by which continuous positive airway pressure is delivered to a spontaneously breathing newborn to maintain lung volumes during respiration.

Dr Switchenko says that babies with respiratory problems are born with underdeveloped lungs and the CPAP device helps them keep their lungs open for delivery of oxygen.

Her training is paying dividends as the new device is increasingly becoming the life-saving machine that nurses use to resuscitate babies with respiratory disorders.

The new system offers safe, efficient and cost-effective treatment of respiratory difficulties in neonates. Mothers can now walk home smiling as they cuddle their babies.

“Underweight babies are coping well, thanks to the CPAP technology,” she explained.

The youthful doctor who works at the Intensive Care Unit back at home is now a symbol of hope to many mothers who deliver underweight babies with respiratory distress.

Dr Switchenko knows how it feels to see a baby on CPAP machine since her first born daughter weighed 1.2 kilograms and was put on CPAP machine.

“I know what mothers go through. I was terrified when I gave birth to an underweight baby. She had tubes wrapped around her face while some were sticking out of her tummy,” said Dr Switchenko.

“The baby brings immense joy to me. She inspires me to make that possible for all underweight babies to grow healthy,” she added.

Dr Switchenko has put in 10 years in medical studies.

She studied for four years at Oregon Health Science University and did three years as residence paediatrician before taking a three-year specialised training in neonatology at University of Uttah.

“I can’t imagine of a better patient than a baby, I enjoy taking care of the babies because I want to give them the best start in life journey,” said Dr Switchenko.

She says working as neonatal paediatrician has made her the best person she can ever imagine in the field of medicine.

She describes the nurses in Nakuru as spectacular as they are easily identifying babies that need help.

“The nurses here have developed a hawk-eye, identifying babies who need special attention immediately after birth. They are doing a great job, their resilience is amazing,” said Dr Switchenko.

Ms Wilder Juma, a nurse at new born unit, says she has learnt a lot from Dr Switchenko.

“She has taught me how to handle the machine and this is knowledge that I did not get at the nursing school,” she said.

Ms Catherine Ngina says she has mastered the use of CPAP machine.

“I can handle a baby with respiratory problems. I know it is possible to save that life with the CPAP machine,” said Ms Ngina.

Ms Peris Mwangi said that the training comes at a time when the hospital is witnessing an increased number of expectant mothers from neighbouring counties.

“I am now well prepared to handle babies with respiratory challenges,” said Ms Mwangi.

 Dr Switchenko says the workload is quite enormous.

“The spirit of never giving up to save life of tiny babies by these wonderful and hardworking nurses is something that keeps me going,” she added.

She says her mission is to ensure the nurses grasp the operation of CPAP and help babies thrive while on the machine.

She says some of the most rewarding aspects working as a neonatal paediatrician is helping a baby overcome breathing distress.

“When the mother takes over the baby from the CPAP machine and leaves the hospital smiling, that makes me happy,” she said.

However, like any medical field, she has encountered challenges.

“One of the biggest challenge is to come to work with the same spirit and hope and continue making the system better when a baby dies.

She says when the pain of managing a sick baby is overwhelming, she relies on the great team of nurses she works with.

“The people who work in new born unit become a family and support each other in hard times,” she says.

She says her most memorable moment working in Nakuru is when she sees nurses embrace the CPAP technology.

“I am proud to be part of the team that has made this technology work in Nakuru.”

She advises students who are interested in becoming neonatologists to prepare well.

“They must be ready to work hard and examine as many babies as possible when they are in new born unit,” she added.

She says a better doctor understands the team he or she is work with. She says to improve health services in Kenya, more nurses and doctors must be employed.

“The successful treatment of a patient is not a one-man show, it is a collective responsibility of the entire team,” she concludes.


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PHOTO: Kenyan teacher makes heads turn as he meets Donald Trump in The Oval Office




WASHINGTON DC -A Kenyan teacher who has won the hearts of many with his humility met President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at the White House on Monday.

Peter Tabichi, the educator from Nakuru County who won Sh100 million after clinching the 2019 Global Teacher Prize, is in the US for a number of engagements, including addressing the 2019 United Nations General Assembly in New York.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Tabichi’s  dedication, hard work, and belief in his student’s talent has led his poorly resourced school in Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.

“Peter, you inspire us all! Thank you for your commitment to your students,” she tweeted.

She wrote: This morning, President met with Peter Tabichi, the recipient of the 2019 Global Teacher Prize! Peter is a science teacher who gives away 80% of his monthly income to help the poor in his home country of Kenya.

Teacher Peter Tabichi shakes hands with Kenyan-born US based journalist BMJ Muriithi when they met in Washington DC Monday. FILE PHOTO

While being hosted in the Oval Office is generally considered a great honor, not everyone thought that President Trump deserved to be in the presence of Teacher Tabichi.

Heatherdb13 tweeted: “Congratulations Mr Tabichi! I’m sure you deserve this incredible honour! I wish it could have been bestowed upon you by someone with integrity, morals and a soul.”

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Rare zebra excites visitors in the Mara



A photographer at a camp in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve was in for a surprise when he came across an incredibly rare, “blacker” newly born Zebra.

Mr Antony Tira – A renowned tour guide-cum photographer – at Matira bush camp, spotted and photographed the black dotted foul and posted it on the camp’s Facebook page attracting a lot of social media attention.

“At first I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of migration. I was confused when I first saw it,” Mr Tira told the Nation.

He said on closer examination, he realised that what he was seeing was actually a zebra with melanin disorder. It was hardly a week old, it appeared weak and very different from the others for it has not stripes and was stuck close to a female adult zebra, probably its mother.

The discovery caused stampede in the reserve with tour drivers and photographers, hurriedly taking tourists to the lookout area in the game reserve near the Mara River for the rare find that has remained the top story in the Mara for the last three days.

The tourists have been taking extra clips of this rare holiday experience.

Hundreds of tour vans surrounded the already scared foul, and, according to Mr Felix Migoya the Mara tour guides and drivers association secretary, it created “an additional wonder” for international tourists who are in the reserve to for the last moments of the wildebeest migration.

The zebra has a rather amazing dark colour due to a genetic abnormality linked to the amount of melanin, affecting the pigmentation of the fur.

According to a wildlife specialist at Matira Camp Parmale Lemein, there has never been any recorded case in the Mara of such a rare zebra.

But he was quick to point out that none of the Zebras with such condition in other parks in Africa, according to research, has survived for more than six months after birth.

Due to other abnormalities of this nature, some scientists claim that zebra stripes are formed from the inhibition of melanin and that the “default” colour of a zebra is black. In other words, a zebra is black with white stripes.

Zebras stripes, according to researchers, work to ward off hordes of biting flies that the animals come in contact with on a daily basis and without the protection, such Zebras may be vulnerable.

Animals with albinism have been documented in a variety of other species including giraffes, penguins, orangutans and mice.

A few years ago at the Serengeti a zebra with blonde, rather than black stripes, was spotted and photographed. It was said to have much less melanin than typical zebras.

Until now, very few blonde zebras have been seen in the wild, although there are a few dozen living on a private reserve in Mount Kenya National Park.

Interestingly, the blonde male zebras at this private reserve behave like “stallions with harems”, according to Ren Larison, a biologist at the University of California.

However, while mating is not an issue for zebras with partial albinism, they could face other challenges.

A recent study suggested that zebras evolved black and white stripes to ward off biting flies, and without this colouring, blonde zebras could be susceptible.


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Retailers’ big dilemma as D-Day for old generation Sh1,000 banknote nears



Supermarkets and entities that receive large volumes of cash everyday are in a Catch-22 situation on how to deal with sales on the last day of trading with the old Sh1,000 note.

Two weeks to the deadline, retailers now want the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to give them the way forward on how to deal with the ongoing demonetisation of the old-generation Sh1,000 note, which will cease to be legal tender on September 30.


They say they may be forced to reject the old currency days before the deadline so that they are not caught up with large volumes of cash that will become worthless overnight.

Naivas chief executive officer Willy Kimani told the Nation in an interview that, besides fake cash, the biggest concern for retailers is how to deal with the old notes they will collect on the last day given that supermarkets receive a lot of cash.

“The biggest concern for us is deadline day. We may be forced to stop accepting old notes earlier,” Mr Kimani said, adding that retailers have invested heavily in training their staff on differentiating fake from genuine cash.

Mr Kimani said only one of his stores was hit by the fake-currency syndicate in the initial days of rolling out the new-generation notes but it was immediately reported. He said cashiers have been trained and it is their responsibility to ensure that they do not get conned.

CBK did not respond to our inquiries on what supermarkets are expected to do. It has however put up a mobile-based SMS campaign reminding consumers to ensure they return the old Sh1,000 notes before the deadline.


Nakumatt Holdings’ administrator Peter Kahi says the retailer has trained its employees to detect fake currency and has not received any fake-cash incident in any of its branches.

To deal with the last-day nightmare, Kahi says he plans to bank all the cash collected on September 30 so that the retailer is not left with valueless money the following day.

This comes at a time when fake new-generation banknotes have hit the financial market weeks to the September 30 deadline as imitators rush to beat the Central Bank at its own game. Investigations by the Nation revealed that the counterfeiters are getting better with every revision.

The fake money syndicate, which began in Murang’a, has spread its tentacles into Nairobi and Kiambu counties, taking advantage of traders’ naivety.

It was hoped that the introduction of new notes would disrupt the multibillion currency counterfeits business and the fraudsters’ agility at imitating the new notes in a short span of time is bound to be a big blow to efforts to rid the country of dirty and fake money.

Small traders and those running M-Pesa shops have been the easy targets of the counterfeiters, who have now come up with fake versions of the new Sh100, Sh500 and the Sh1,000 notes.


In July, police in Kandara, Murang’a County, arrested two men and a woman who were found with fake money in two separate incidents.

In one incident, a man and a woman were nabbed making rounds in Kandara, conning mobile money transfer agents with fake new-generation currency.

Kandara OCPD Paul Wambugu said the two had conned an agent at Naaro shopping centre where they deposited Sh7,000 and later at Kaburugi where they tried to deposit Sh10,000 only for the attendant to realise that the money was fake.

Almost every week, the DCI through its Twitter handle, reports one incident or the other of fake-money arrests, but the most counterfeited are Kenya shillings and US dollars.

Last week, detectives seized over Sh2.7 million in fake currency in Ngurubani, Mwea East from a bonnet of a Mazda Demio driven by 33-year-old Job Arwa Omondi. Detectives also confiscated assorted bottles of chemicals believed to be used in processing the fake old Sh1,000 notes.

On the same day, over Sh200 million in fake US Dollars, Euros and Pounds was confiscated in Kileleshwa by officers acting on a tip-off. One suspect, 27-year-old Bobby Kariuki Kimani, was arrested.

Another fake currency syndicate was busted in Bungoma last week involving DCI officers, showing how deep the syndicate is, after a senior police officer was arrested with Sh4.3 million in fake foreign currency.


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