Heartland crew to provide healthcare to Kenyans

Heartland medical team headed to Kenya
Updated: Apr. 8, 2018 at 6:46 PM CDT
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PERRY COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - A team of nurses and surgeons from southeast Missouri are preparing to take a trip to Kenya to help with healthcare needs.

Perry County Memorial Hospital Surgical Technician Michael Toeniskoetter along with CRNA Tressa Neely and RN Tammy Pleimann are finalizing their plans to travel to Kenya to help out with some needed healthcare in the country.

They are the GYN/Women's healthcare team, one of many teams as part of Kenya Relief which is an organization that offers a surgery center, an outpatient clinic, an orphanage and a school in Kenya.

"They bring in teams from the U.S. and from around the world every year," Toeniskoetter said. "I believe over 20 teams a year to help treat surgical cases like ENT, which is your ears, nose, and throat. GYN is women's healthcare and also treating general surgery as well. They see over 10,000 patients a year there so there is a lot of need in that area."

Toeniskoetter feels that medical cases here in the United States are for the most part simple as compared to those in Kenya.

"Cases that are so simple here that you can go to Walgreens or CVS to buy something over the counter, or we can even call general practitioner doctors and say hey, I'm not feeling good - Can you call me an antibiotic? Toeniskoetter explained. "Cases like that over there where there is no access to doctors or just basic healthcare can turn into these life-threatening cases."

For Pleimann, this is her first trip to Kenya along with Toeniskoetter. They both feel excited for this opportunity to help those that are in need there.

"You have to have a deep love for your patients no matter where they're at," Pleimann said. "I feel like I'm so excited to go because I'm probably going to leave my heart there and not want to come home."

For Neely, this is her fifth trip and she has made it a point to repeatedly go back over to Kenya anytime she can.

"I left my heart there," Neely said. "My first trip coming home was a realization that I am so spiritually poor and materially rich. Kenya, that's the opposite. They are spiritually rich and materially poor."

Neely has four children there that she helps take care of. She said that instead of giving back to them, they end up giving back to her more.

"They expect for me to come over there and bring their backpacks for them for school," Neely added. "They plan for me. We write letters back and forth and anticipate each other's visit. It's my kids over there that draw me back. I miss them so bad when I come home. So that is my heart."

Toeniskoetter said he roughly sees an average of 60-100 patients a week at the hospital in Perry County. There in Migori Kenya, he expects there to be roughly 300 patients in just three days.

"The most poverty that we will have ever seen will be in Kenya," Toeniskoetter said. "A lot of the patients, I believe the statistic is 1 out of every 2 will have HIV or AIDS that we will be treating over there. Also, the orphanage is filled with kids that have that but most of them are there because their parents died of HIV or AIDS so they don't have anywhere to go."

Neely said these are going to be challenging cases that are rarely seen in America.

"It's not the little things. You're treating things that would never get that far in America. You see them and as healthcare providers, we have never witnessed, (shocked face) we are like whoa! We are talking goiters, we are talking cancerous growths, dealing with big fibroid tumors that the females that have been living with for years. They have no access to healthcare."

For this crew, they feel it's their responsibility to help those in need out, wherever they may reside.

"What other purpose is there for us to be on Earth if we can't help people," Toeniskoetter expressed. "I've worked in surgery for many years and I have a skill set which will be useful over there."

The team also spoke about how they are not just helping them, they are teaching them to become self-sufficient and help their own people as well.

"We work alongside Kenyan healthcare workers," Neely explained. "So we teach them what we learn in America that they have no access to. We teach them what we know and then they, in turn, teach it. So it's our way of, not just going over there and giving, but giving back continuously. It's not a handout, it's helping them to grow."

The team plans on going to Kenya in August and spend over a week there. They did start a Go Fund Me page to help with travel expenses which go directly to the Kenya Relief Organization.

Funds from that organization has helped the people of Kenya in a variety of ways including upgrades to their medical equipment, medicine, water and more.

"I honestly just want to go and help," Toeniskoetter said. "It will be almost a band-aid to the problem that exists in the world, but for somebody, it will change their life and it may keep them living."

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