George S. Osborne College of Audiology
Doctor of Audiology Program (Residential)
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Kenya Trip 2009
On February 25 four Audiology students and two faculty members from Salus University George S. Osborne College of Audiology left the United States for the experience of a lifetime in Nairobi, Kenya, where they are on a hearing and ear health care mission for two weeks.
The students, Kimberly Basilio ’11, Dana Luzon ’10, Busisiwe Merritt ’11 and Lauren De Julia ’11, accompanied Dr. Yell Inverso, Assistant Professor and Adjunct Instructor, Dr. Tomi Browne.
Dr. Browne has volunteered for a number of years with the Nyumbani Children’s Home in Nairobi, providing ear and hearing health care to children with HIV who live in the poorest areas of Nairobi. The group will be setting up a hearing clinic for Nyumbani, in addition to performing hearing exams and ear care exams/treatments.
Though their schedule is full and electricity is somewhat erratic, making email an adventure, we have received some emails (Dana Luzon and Dr. Inverso) and photos (Dr. Browne) from the group. The full story will be in the March 20 University newsletter.
In the years since Dr. Browne began going to Nyumbani (Swahili for “home”), the organization has grown to include Lea Toto (Swahili for “To raise the child”) and Nyumbani Village, a self-sustaining village opened recently outside of Nairobi where orphans and elders of the AIDS pandemic live together in the houses of the village (www.nyumbai.org). Her experiences in Kenya caused Dr. Browne to form a non-profit group, HEARt of the Village, whose philosophy and programs emphasize the link between good hearing and quality of life, providing sustainable audiological services, and education of both the local community and future audiologists. (www.heartofthevillage.org).
(Karibuni Kenya is “Welcome to Kenya” in Swahili)
Greetings from Nyumbani!
Sun 3/1/2009 1:36 AM
We made it to Nyumbani safe and sound. We arrived Friday night around midnight and went straight to sleep. When we awoke the next morning to the sounds of laughing children we were in a whole new world. The Nyumbani children's villiage is made up of 105 children ages 2-22 100% of which are HIV positive. Each of the groups children live in little cottages with a house mother. This is a gated, guarded community considered middle class. Our goal is to set up a permanent audiology clinic here as well as see children from outside this community who will be bused in throughout the weeks we are here. We started bright and early Saturday morning setting up the clinic with the children as our little helpers. Our first day we saw 30 children and many different types of pathologies. As this is only phase 1 of our adventure, our next step will be deciding intervention for each of the children. I assure you that we are in a safe place and this is the experience of a lifetime! I am both humbled and honored to be a part of this mission and I promise to keep you updated as we go along. Today is Sunday and the children put on a church service that I hear is quite an experience. I will promise to write a much as I can.
Excerpts from some of Dr. Inverso’s emails:
So, I don't know why there is a movie called Out of Africa - I never want to leave; I love it here. . . The weather is so pretty, perfect dry and warm - with cool mornings, nights, and a lovely breeze.
. . .The kids are so warm, you would never know that they are sick, that they are HIV positive and that they have lost so many of their friends. They walk up and just want love, attention, and of course, lollipops! . . .
This is a really special place. . . . . .The clinic is hard but good. So far out of over 50 kids, about five of them have had healthy ears; almost all of them have perforated ear drums, ear infections, or hard core hearing loss. We have not seen the worst of it yet. . .The girls are holding up ok, they are working really hard...we all are.
. . I have been doing all of the wax removal- my back is breaking and I am getting really good at doing it without any of the equipment that I think of as essential - like a headlamp, magnification, or suction. . .
. . .So, yesterday we started working with the children from Leo Toto program. Nyumbani has several programs, Nyumbani Children's Home, where we are staying, is just one of them. The others are the Village, where we are headed on Thursday to test the children and the "grandparents." There is one adult, usually one grandparent (women mainly, as most of the men have passed on from AIDS) and then about 13 children in each house. The middle generation is now gone. Leo Toto is outreach for children living in the poorest areas of Kenya to get ARVs and to get some medical and schooling treatment for those with HIV. . .
. . .They came in yesterday by bus, they sent us 10 kids in the morning that they suspected had the worst hearing problems, and then another 10 in the afternoon. We did full evaluations. I did lots of wax removal, and then we took ear mold impressions for those kids with chronic middle ear problems that cannot be solved. We did find a few kids with permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
. . .This one little boy kept me up all night. I helped one of the girls test him because she was confused by her results. We did conditioned play audiometry, of course a simple not perfect version, but it was something. The boy had poor motor control; his file - brought by the one nurse in the village - showed that he had had meningitis a year ago. At that time his speech stopped. The mother was only concerned about the speech, as she was sure that his hearing was fine. We tested; we got nothing. I was only able to get a head turn to speech at 85 dB and that is pretty darn loud! Well, we sat her down, with a translator and the nurse and explained that he had bilateral ear infections, AND that we felt that the meningitis had damaged his hearing organ and it was not temporary. She would not believe us; she just shrugged it off. Later we learned that any form of sickness is seen as a demon living in the person and often people with a chronic illness are tortured. . .
. . .Even with all this, there is also a great deal of love and a lot of faith. More faith than I often see in the US. The kids have the best manners, they never throw a fit, they never talk back, they are so respectful. I think we could learn a lot from them in that regard. There is no spoiled here, if you know what I mean. . .
If you ever have the opportunity to come and do anything like this, I highly recommend it. . . I am so glad that we are on a sustainable mission. . .
. . . I have to jump in the shower to get clean before not being clean for a few days. We have to get off to sleep to get to Kitui first thing in the morning. I just wanted to tell you all, share the joy that we had tonight. It was Family Dinner night. What this means is: Dancing, Chicken and Chips (fries), pineapple and get this... SODA!! That is a big ol’ deal here! I had so much fun, the kids danced to popular music, and some of their own local music as well. Yes, we have video, don't you worry! They were so cute, so funny, and such great little dancers!!!
The joy and the love in that room was amazing. I have pink icing all over my pants, but I don't care! I can't wait to show you all of my pictures! Each and every one of you will want to come out here! Another accomplishment: remember I told you the kids from LeaToto were late? We saw and tested and treated 24 kids in three hours! We are on fire! We have a great system and the ladies are wonderful! We are all working so hard, but it is all worth it!
Love and Peace
Tue 3/10/2009 4:01 AM
We are returning home in a few days and this has been the experience of a life time. The total number of children and adults tested came out to 319!! We identified many pathologies along the way and our next step will be deciding treatment and rehabilitation plans for each them. Our most recent trip was to the Nyumbani villiage in Kitui, about a 5 hour drive from where we are staying. In this village, there are 40 grandparents taking care of their biological grandchildren as well as 10 or so other orphans in the homes that were built there. These orphans and grandparents are all affected but not infected with HIV. In 2 days we tested over 150 people there. I do feel that we have a lot of work to do when we get home but it is well worth it. I feel we showed how important audiologic care is in these children's overall progression and how it could lead to more serious problems if left untreated. We are all looking forward to a safe journey home and I hope all is well with all of you back at Salus.
Kwa heri Kenya*
This is most likely my last email from Kenya - for this trip. Tonight was a very emotional night. I think I told you that last week there were a group of Rotary people here from England and on their last night they threw a family dinner. I believe I explained that it was food but mainly dancing and singing and all around good time.
Well, tonight was our farewell/thank you party. It was wonderful. We were told last minute that we had to come up with some entertainment and we put together a lovely slide show. Laura did most of the work and it was fantastic. There were pictures from all of our cameras, the kids really liked seeing themselves up there, sort of like they were on TV - it was the first time that they had seen anything projected...Tomi brought a used, really nice, large projector for them to use for movies etc. It was really fun to see all the shots up on the big wall.
Then the dancing! We did our Salus Dancer's routine, not practiced but a whole lot of fun. The night was almost perfect. Sad, as the kids were emotional about us leaving and we of course, were emotional (me a full on mess, blubbering idiot) about missing them.
A certificate was given to each of us - by a child who we were especially close with, or a person who really wanted to present it. Sister Mary, along with Faith, presented mine. . . the sentiment and the memory. . .I will treasure it :)
Today was the most relaxing day we have had thus far. It was odd actually, and we all realized just how tired we are. The adrenaline has been keeping us going thus far. I have said this before: Nyumbani has become a home away from home. It feels like we have been here forever; I just can't imagine that it is time for us to go home tomorrow. By the time some of you read this, I will be in my last day here.
As this whole experience - well this first chapter of this experience - draws to a close, I think of several things. First, I think about what a wonderful place, magical even (more so than Disney World could ever hope to be), Nyumbani is, and how blessed I am to now be a part of the family here. I also think about how each of the children here has changed me. . . I have learned so much about audiology, about middle and outer ear pathology and I must admit- I am really sharp on my cerumen management and removal skills - especially without any real supplies besides a partially lit curet!
I wish I could transport all of you here - that way I would not have to miss you AND I would not have to leave. I am forever grateful for this experience and how hard our students worked equally and honestly, to ensure the hearing healthcare, the smiles, and the well being of the people we have seen here in Kenya.
I am signing off now, to look at the moon and the stars that are so very clear here in the sky. I will first say goodnight to you, then I will say goodnight to the moon which I have become so acquainted with here
Asante sana (thank you very much) for reading,