Imagine living out in Western Kenya, suffering from a urological disorder, without access to an affordable specialist. That may be difficult for many of us to picture; unfortunately, that is the reality for hundreds of people living in Kisumu, Kenya, and the surrounding province. With only one urologist in the entire catchment area of five to seven million people, patients regularly go untreated.
A team of three U.S.-based urologists, organized and accompanied by F. Bruce Cohen, CFO of United Therapies and Founder of the KNOCK Foundation, set about to change that by using their skills to help those in need. Despite an Icelandic volcano eruption that disrupted international air traffic, these men were determined to reach their destination, even if it meant shortening the trip by a few days. The team – the first visiting team of urological specialists to serve Kisumu’s only referral hospital, Nyanza Provincial General Hospital – made a lasting impact.
Radio announcements promoting the urologists’ visit drew nearly a hundred patients from as much as five hours away. The first step involved a screening to assess each individual’s needs and determine whether further care or surgery was needed. In Kisumu, patients are typically required to buy their own disposables and pay the cost of an operating room – something few can afford. But for a few days, the hospital agreed to waive operating room costs, while United Therapies donated essential medical supplies such as sutures, surgical scissors and gloves – making treatment accessible as never before.
The urologists, working in concert with a small team of Kenyan surgeons, conducted more than 20 surgeries, removing tumors, inserting stents and performing a few prostatectomies. One of the biggest successes involved the removal of an 11-pound tumor from a four-year old girl. According to Bruce Cohen, seeing the little girl cry the morning after her surgery was a special moment for everyone – marking a turning point in her life. For those patients whose surgeries could not be scheduled before the doctors had to leave, the KNOCK Foundation arranged to pay the operating room fees for their treatment at another time, by local staff.
Cohen said the trip was a life-changing experience for the team. He hopes to have an even greater impact in the future, and another mission is in the works for 2011, which will involve additional screenings and surgeries, the training of local medical professionals and school building for non-medical volunteers who decide to make the trip.
This kind of support from skilled and generous friends of the Millennium Cities has helped to identify a critical gap facing Kisumu in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, benefiting many in the process.