In the Fall and Winter of 2016, Nurse Laura Kyriss was placed by the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CCMB) at Mutomo Mission Hospital in Mutomo, Kenya as a medical volunteer.

After initially being called to South Sudan, given escalating dangers in the region, the CMMB decided it was too dangerous for her to go and so she was rerouted to Kenya.

Mutomo Mission Hospital is located in a very rural, poor part of Kenya about 5 hours from Nairobi by car.

“While I was disappointed to miss volunteering in the hospital in South Sudan,” Laura said, “I decided to take the leap and trust that God had a better plan for me and realized Kenya was where I was supposed to be.”

Laura landed in Nairobi after 48 hours of travel, and she was immediately struck with that “I’m not in Kansas anymore” feeling. After spending two weeks in Nairobi while her nursing license was being sorted out, she was taken to Mutomo and that feeling only intensified. The drive to Mutomo can be challenging; in the rainy season the roads are virtually impassible.

When she first went to Mutomo, it was dry and the roads were full of women and children herding donkeys carrying jerry cans of water.

The lack of access to clean water is one of the biggest problems that this part of Kenya faces, as having little to no clean drinking water causes so many problems. Another challenge is education: many children cannot stay in school as they need to help their families with work and family duties. There is also a huge lack of access to basic medical care.

Laura spent her time working on the maternity ward, where her duties ranged from antepartum care, the actual labor and delivery, and postpartum care.

In places like Kenya, nurses are responsible for many things that are not in a nurse’s scope of practice in the US.

“Nurses really practice more as a nurse midwife in Kenya, which was exciting for me as I aspired to become a nurse midwife,” Laura said. She also found this daunting and worried she wouldn’t be able to do much good.

Nurses in Mutomo attend to women in labor, deliver their baby, administer the newborn routine medications, give the baby an assessment to make sure it looks healthy and take the baby’s weight and measurements. They are also responsible for newborn resuscitation if needed.

Laura found the resuscitation of babies outdated and not effective, given very limited supplies and medications that were desperately needed for these babies.

“It broke my heart to see babies struggling to breath when I knew with the right equipment, the baby would be so much more comfortable and able to survive,” Laura said.

With the help of the Kenya CMMB staff, she taught a newborn resuscitation class for resource limited settings called Helping Babies Breathe. She was able to go to 6 different facilities throughout the county and teach over 50 nurses and other clinicians these vital skills and techniques. This is where she truly felt that she was able to make a difference.

“Sustainable change is only going to be made through education and giving local healthcare workers tools they need,” Laura said, and this informed her vision for scaling aid going forward.

During her time in Kenya, she also noticed a huge problem with postpartum hemorrhage and the morbidity and mortality associated with it.

With money Laura raised from contributors, Laura bought nonpneumatic anti shock garments (which help slow bleeding and prevent the woman from going into shock until the woman can be transferred to a facility that can address the cause of the postpartum hemorrhage) for the Mutomo Mission and several surrounding facilities.

“These reusable garments placed at health centers in areas that lack access to an operating room or blood supply to transfuse, this helps buy some time until transport can be arranged to a facility that can handle the situation,” Laura said.

To date, (after a lot of red tape and delays) she was able to buy 12 of these garments which recently arrived in Kenya.

She hopes to incorporate a training session with the distribution of these garments on basic management of postpartum hemorrhage, as this will help many women survive.

When it came time for her to leave Kenya, it was bittersweet. She was ready to come home to see her family and friends and enjoy a hot shower with running water and reliable electricity, but so sad to leave her new friends and the beautiful country.

During her time in Mutomo, she learned and grew so much as a nurse and as a person.

“I hope to be able to take a long-term placement when I am done with school and feel, as a certified nurse midwife, I can bring more knowledge and skills to help mothers and babies in places like Mutomo, and leave things just a little bit better,” Laura said.

Nurses like Laura were the inspiration for the creation of Nurses With Global Impact, and sharing her story will be our honor on May 11 at the United Nations, when we celebrate nurses making a difference around the world.

We look forward to continuing to following and supporting Laura’s professional and spiritual journey for many years to come.

– Deb