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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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Turkana dancing shrine where the wayward turned into stones



Some 30km on the north-west outskirts of Lodwar town, enroute to Lake Turkana, is Kalokol shrine.

The shrine, also referred to as Namorutunga by the locals, is believed to be home to the ancestors of the Turkana community, who lived over 4,000 years ago.

The Namorutunga shrine is considered one the greatest Turkana heritage sites and sacred place, and folklore has it that the ancestors were joined by their earthly god for a renowned traditional dance, Edong’a, which is performed at nightfall to celebrate their economic gains.

Elderly members of the community, both male and female, take part in the dance, which includes admiring their fattened bulls.

They also have to follow stern instructions from the lead dancer, lest a curse befalls them.

Among the instructions is caution against mocking the earthly god, including his dressing code and dancing style.

But in one of the dances at Namorutunga, the villagers are said to have defied the orders and ridiculed their god, with some of them fouling the air while he danced and they were turned into stones.

The smooth stones are in different positions; some standing, others believed to be running away and some lying on their bellies or squatting.

“These are our frozen ancestors who were transformed into stones after they ridiculed our god as he danced,” said Mr Titus Ekiru, a culture expert in Turkana County.

The stones evoke images of ancestors up to date and there are plans by the county government to market the site as a Turkana cultural and historical site and tourist destination.

“Whoever visits the site is expected to place four stones on top of the frozen ancestors to appease them and whoever takes away the smooth stones invites a curse,” Mr Ekiru said.

But the historical and cultural site is facing a threat from individuals who have been assembling the stones for building and construction purposes.

“This shrine forms our rich heritage and measures need to be put in place to protect the stones from being taken away by individuals who consider them a source of income,” said Mr Eroo Lotokoromoe, an elder at Namoturunga village.

According to the elder, the Turkana used to erect large stones in which they buried their dead but culture has since changed and they now bury their loved ones in coffins.

“The increased demand for stones for construction purposes is proving to be a major threat to the survival of this shrine and the current generation should sensitised on its values,” said Mr Lotokoromoe.

Lodwar town and its environs are experiencing rapid transformation with the mushrooming of high-rise buildings, whose building material are sourced from the Turkana basin, including Namorutunga village.


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Police retrieve bodies of five pupils



The bodies of five children who drowned in Murang’a County at the weekend have been retrieved. Two of them drowned in Kandara on Saturday while the other three drowned in Kiharu on Sunday.

In the Kandara incident, bodies of Silvan Chege, 11, and that of a girl, 16, were retrieved and moved to General Kago mortuary in Thika on Saturday.

Chege drowned as he tried to rescue the girl after she was swept away by the rising waters of Thika River.

He was a Standard Six pupil at Waitua Primary School.Kandara Sub-county police commander Paul Wambugu said the two drowned during an expedition.

In Kiharu, bodies of the three children who drowned in Mukungai River during a school swimming expedition, were retrieved on Monday.The three, aged between 11 and 13, were pupils at Weithaga Primary School.

By Standard

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Four in Briton’s murder case blame Saitoti



The lawyers of four police officers charged with the murder of British aristocrat Alexander Monsoon have claimed the deceased’s family exerted political influence to force their trial.

Naftali Chege, Charles Muganda, Ismael Baraka and John Pamba have been charged with the murder.Alexander, 28, the son of Lord Nicholas Monson, was arrested for allegedly smoking cannabis in the Diani Beach Resort in May 2012, and died at a hospital after falling ill at Diani police station.

A postmortem showed he died from blunt force to the back of the head and scrotum.The Monsoon family has maintained that their son was killed by police, while the four officers claimed he died of a drug overdose.The four were charged with the murder on May 19, 2012, at Diani.Yesterday, defence lawyer Daniel Wamotsa said the Monsoons approached the then Internal Security Minister George Saitoti (now deceased) to help them unravel the mysterious death of their son.

Institute investigationsMr Wamotsa told Judge Eric Ogola that Saitoti ordered then Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere to commence investigations and he (Iteere) in turn ordered inspector Mohamed Amin to institute investigations.

“The family of Alexander went to Saitoti to seek assistance and was referred to Iteere, who ordered police officer Mohamed Amin to investigate the matter. There was an element of exerting political pressure on the case,” said Wamotsa.

Wamotsa poked holes in the investigations report produced by Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) officer in charge of investigations Jeremiah Arodi, which implicated the four officers.

He said Alexander had died out of drug overdose and that his family tampered with the body in an attempt to divert attention by claiming that he died by an injury inflicted on the head at the police station.While testifying, Mr Arodi (pictured) said the four officers were culpable.

By Standard

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