AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant Report: Migori, Kenya
Over four days, our team along with local staff screened and examined roughly 400 Kenyans.
Cody B. Jeu, MD, University of Illinois- Chicago
During a relative lull of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2022, I was lucky enough to be able to be a member of the Kenya Relief Organization ENT Surgical mission to Migori, Kenya. While the organization has mission trips one to two times per month, there are only two ENT trips a year. I was joined by fellow Academy members Raj H. Mehta, MD, Lisa A. Brown, MD, and Robert T. Cristel, MD, all University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) affiliated members for what has become an annual UIC mission.
After a few days travel, we finally arrived at the Kenya Relief compound that houses the operational staff, an award-winning school and orphanage, and the clinical and surgical areas. There were close to 100 children and organization members welcoming us with song and dance, personalized signs, and pure excitement; a welcoming I will not soon forget. After some orientation and introductions, both in practices as well as delicious local Kenyan cuisine of ugali and sukuma wiki, we were ready to start our work.
Over four days, our team along with local staff screened and examined roughly 400 Kenyans. Some of these patients came from the local town, some came six+ hours on foot, and others traveled days to be seen. Some had been previously screened but were unable to complete their care and were waiting for the next ENT trip. Patients were assessed with ultrasound and basic lab work, including thyroid function labs. We completed 50 procedures under general anesthesia over two and a half operative days, including thyroidectomy, nasal polypectomy, keloid scar excision, various neck mass excisions including an unexpected chylocele, and pediatric adenoidectomy. These procedures are aimed at alleviating the physical symptoms primarily; however there exists a significant societal impact of removing a thyroid goiter or other disfiguring neck mass.
It was eye-opening seeing these patients with goiters that are at baseline double the size of those seen back in the United States. We operated alongside local staff of nurses, scrub techs, and surgical assists and shared practices from our respective trainings. The real treat of the entire trip, however, was postoperative rounds the morning after. Seeing these patients after removing their disfiguring mass, whatever it was, beaming with newfound confidence and appreciation made any challenge thus far completely worth it.
One particular child, Adrian, stood out to me. He was running around the clinic as happy as could be but quite obviously mouth breathing 100% of the time, as he had been for years. I evaluated him and performed an adenoidectomy the next day. Later on that day, as I was going to see another patient, I saw Adrian run across the yard just as energetic as the day before, only this time his mouth was closed. He was back in his normal clothes and enjoying life just two hours after waking from anesthesia as if it never happened; only he was breathing better than ever.
I would like to thank the AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Efforts Committee for their contribution to this life-changing experience.