Carmel women help treat blood disorders in Kenya

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By Jasmine Hsu

Carmel residents Carrie Starnes and Stacie Akins recently spent two weeks in Eldoret, Kenya, as part of a team aiding Kenyan doctors in treating blood diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of three Kenyan children have blood disorders, such as hemophilia. Hemophilia is a life-threatening disease in which the body lacks the proper blood clotting factors, making even a tiny cut expel large amounts of blood.

Being a Third-World nation, the people affected by hemophilia in Kenya don’t have access to proper medical care and treatment, which led the Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center to partner with the Indiana University School of Medicine and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, a medical school and hospital in Eldoret, in 2010 to identify and safely treat patients suffering from the disease.

The Indiana team of Starnes, Akins, Anne Greist and Jeanne Sagar travel twice a year to Eldoret.

“I usually go to the clinic with one or two of the doctors and do board rounds. We’ll do some lectures and typically have two or three clinics throughout the week,” Griest said. “When we’re not in clinics, we’ll go on rounds, have strategic planning meetings and we almost always have a kind of outreach where we go to an underserved area. We might go have an outreach clinic at a district hospital, do a home visit or do training sessions for local health care providers.”

Akins recalled a story during one of the house visits they made about a young man who had hemophilia. Because of the clotting, his knees were permanently bent at a 90 degree angle, making it impossible for him to straighten them and walk.

“We were able to get him a mobility cart, bring it over with us and deliver it to his home,” Akins said. “It’s a cart that you sit in and propel it with your hands, like a hand bicycle. They live in rural Kenya, so it’s very arduous for them to get to places. His father would carry him up to school, and his teachers would carry him around. Now, someone helps him up with his mobility cart and he goes to school on his own and he can come home to do things by himself.”

The team plans to visit again in the fall.

“This is something that is treatable, and we want to get health coverage for them through government programs rather than relying on donations,” Greist said. “Educating families on the importance of getting to hospitals, increasing awareness, getting information across to the local and national government levels and advocating for more assistance for treatment are what we are hoping to do.”

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