Muhuru Bay, Kenya - Mama Maria Hospital
Ingram Summer Project 2017: Designing a Medical Home Visit Model for Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease
Muhuru Bay, Kenya
For my summer project, I spent two months in Muhuru Bay, Kenya, working with Mama Maria Hospital to design a medical home visit model for patients with sickle cell disease. After having done two years of research in the sickle cell disease laboratory at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, I was interested in understanding sickle cell disease from a global health perspective. For the first part of my project, I conducted field research on sickle cell disease diagnosis and management. I visited over 40 families across the peninsula asking questions such as: What do you know about sickle cell disease? When were you diagnosed? What medications do you take? How do you manage your disease when it gets painful? Consistent with the research I had done beforehand, I found that many patients were poorly informed about their illness. They stated that they received little to no education from physicians they had visited about what their disease was, how to manage it at home, what medications to take, and what nutritional and behavioral changes would make life easier. Thus, I shifted my home visits to include information that addressed these concerns.
My home visit model included basic education on sickle cell disease and its inheritance pattern, environmental stressors that can worsen symptoms, recommended medication types and schedules, and nutritional and behavioral lifestyle changes that could ease the recurrence of pain. I additionally worked on creating a full medical portfolio for each patient. With the help of local physicians, I took blood pressure, respiratory rate, skin examinations, BMI, pulse rates, and daily nutritional intake for each patient. We also conducted exams for signs of stroke or blood clotting. This information was entered into a comprehensive medical record that the hospital can now consult to track the long-term health of their patients. On July 7th, I hosted a Sickle Cell Disease Day at Mama Maria to allow the families to meet each other and form a support group to aid in coping with their common disease.
Spending two months in Kenya and working on this project was a greater privilege than I could ever hope for. The village I stayed in and the people I worked with were some of the kindest, most humble and simple individuals I have met. Not only was this experience a great revelation as to the state of healthcare in extremely impoverished areas but also a chance to reflect on the resources we take for granted.