Yesterday I was in Nairobi to accompany a Serger who absolutely needed to be there for important reasons in spite of the unfortunate timing, and the juxtaposition of normal bustle with a tense inhale was palpable. Riot police in their camo, helmets with visors, boots and clubs lingered on the corners. But hundreds and thousands of people did what they always do: hustling down sidewalks, in and out of banks and shops, selling newspapers, attending meetings, boarding buses. We waited to cross a street as a brightly painted (Minion theme no less) bus pulled up with rowdy youths hanging out of the windows blowing whistles, shouting, singing, clapping, but that's all the protest we saw. Later on the news there was a photo of the same road, near the same time, a few blocks away, where police were using tear gas to disperse demonstrators, but we had no problems.
Which is a picture of Kenya in general. Mostly normal life, poised for disaster. The tense inhale means schools have shut down until January, except for seniors who take a grueling set of national exams. People have migrated and re-sorted themselves into tribal areas of safety, piling onto matatus to go stay with grandparents. All of the medical (doctor) interns and medical officers (like residents) have disappeared, leaving two junior clinical officer interns and a few consultants to stretch coverage for the whole hospital. On the other hand, I saw vendors spreading their used clothes out for sale on the roadside after a rain, boda drivers hustling for passengers, construction workers hammering on a roof, welders creating and fixing something. The poorest people stay put, and keep trying to make a day's wage for food. Only those who have fixed salaries withdraw to places of perceived safety.
And whoever we are, we're wondering, what will happen tomorrow?
According to the electoral commission chairman Chebukati, the show must go on. According to the Supreme Court where a last-minute appeal was filed to stop it, they wanted to hear the case but failed to get a quorum, so could not rule. According to the main opposition candidate, he's not participating but only asking his supporters to protest and not taking responsibility if things get out of hand. According to the police, they are ready to protect voters. According to the drivers tasked to deliver ballots, there are already burning-tire road blocks and threats of violence in opposition stronghold areas like Migori county which will make it impossible to get the polling stations ready in time. According to the Nairobi City Council, the gathering crowd in Uhuru park downtown who expect the opposition leader Odinga to appear and speak, have gathered illegally. According to the supporters of the incumbent, this is a constitutionally required step and the results will be valid. According to the watching world, that seems hard to believe.
Kenya, like America, has been increasingly polarized by power-grabbing men who play on fear to garner votes. Kenya, like America, is overwhelmingly populated by people who love and sacrifice for their families, enjoy their relationships, work hard to get ahead in life, keep their heads down and hope to remain unscathed by this passing storm.
Please pray for Kenya tomorrow. I honestly can't see a clear solution. Just ask God to show mercy to the vast silent majority and give people courage to resist the temptation to slip into violence. Ask God to bring evil into the light. Ask God to preserve the lives of the poor, the sick, the marginal people who just want a government that gives them justice.
someone whose life depends upon a just government supporting health care
the hospital gate, on the day of calm before the storm?
Best surprise: even though today was a last-minute declared holiday and all our trainees had departed, my fellow consultant Pediatrician showed up and we divided and conquered the work of our usual team of 12
Intern skill #1--straight pins and paper scraps, organizing lab reports and Xray requests on the files.
Intern skill #2--when your patient who is very very sick with probably TB has still not received the medications prescribed two days ago and the nurse going off her shift shrugs that she'll sign it out to the next shift, you go find pills in outpatient pharmacy and bring them back
Intern skill #3--getting our sickest patient on her OWN oxygen concentrator instead of splitting the flow to share with a half dozen others in hopes it will help. Pray for baby S. I don't know if she'll make it.
Scott is in for his third emergency surgery since morning.
All our teams have prepared to hunker down.
Thanks for standing with us.