A Makeshift Ambulance Tale of Survival

Last Tuesday during our week in Kenya we headed out to the Pokot lowlands in our Land Rover over incredibly bumpy dirt roads for six hours. That’s right, our destination, Alalae, was SIX hours driving off the nearest paved road, and from the nearest District Hospital. Just to give you an idea of the state of the roads, the trip was around 180 kilometers, about 110 miles.

About an hour into our drive, we came upon a group of people surrounding a woman sitting on the ground holding a very sick child. We pulled over and jumped out. The child was incredibly ill, his skin felt feverish and waxy. Although he was breathing and sometimes coughing feebly, his eyes had rolled back in his head, and he was mostly unconscious. We tried to get him to drink the water we had with us, but he later threw up most of it.

We had already traveled one hour over very bad roads and had a long journey ahead of us, but this child was clearly going to die if he did not receive medical attention soon. And so, we loaded the boy, his father, mother, and grandmother into the vehicle and sped off back the way we had come. As we pulled away the women in the group screamed prayers to Yesu (Jesus) and lifted their hands in thanks to us.

Mother and baby being loaded into our vehicle.

Micheal drove as fast as he dared over the rough winding road back up to the highlands. It was probably one of the most intense hours of my life. I plead with God to spare the life of this child, I raged at myself for not being able to do more despite all my fancy education, I cursed a world where children died of preventable diseases for lack of clean water and ambulances. Finally, I just sat and prayed with wide eyes and a heavy heart. At one point, we thought the child had stopped breathing, and I started to mentally prepare myself to preform CPR, but a slight cough and flutter of the eyelids slightly eased our worries.

Finally we reached the hospital and ran with the boy until we found a doctor who gave the boy a shot and found another doctor to put him on an IV. The doctors told us that the boy had arrived in time and would survive.

A group of doctors trying to find the boy’s vein to administer the IV.

The doctor giving the boy liquids through an IV.

The boy’s parents and grandmother were the only barefoot adults in the hospital and were clearly overwhelmed by everything around them. While the man may have been to a town before, the women most probably had not. Paved roads, large buildings, and indoor plumbing were just not part of their worlds. We stayed with them until everything was settled and gave them some money for all of the hospital bills before setting off on our journey a second time.

Later, we heard the entire story about the boy. His parents and other villagers had been walking with him for a full day before we found them on the side of the road. At that point, the group had started to give up on him. Michael told us the lowland Pokot (the nomads) do not bury or carry their dead with them. In fact the word for death in their language literally means “we left him/her there.” The women had started to cry out about his death, which means that the group might have soon left him in the bush to die alone.

Although we assumed that the boy had malaria, he was later diagnosed with meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord which is fatal in children if the proper antibiotics are not received. He is still currently in the hospital and has not yet made a full recovery. Please keep him and the other Pokot children in your prayers.

The boy and his mother after receiving the IV.

David and the grandmother waiting in the hospital.

Update: To read more about Daylight Center and School, which we were visiting during this trip, click here.

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2 responses to “A Makeshift Ambulance Tale of Survival

  1. Hi Faith and David,
    So very glad you came upon this family. It had to be emotionally draining. I wish the parents in my office that are so against vaccinating their children could read this. We are sooooooooo blessed to have free vaccines (yes, even against meningitis) available in the USA. You would be surprised to see how many parents do not vaccinate their children. Okay, I have come down off my soapbox. A big hug to you both!

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