Saturday, March 1, 2014

Touching People's Hearts With Home Surgery.



When stories are told of experts doing home surgery in some parts of Elgeyo Marakwet county, many who have not come across this find it hard to be convinced.

 It is hard to believe how somebody who has never been to any formal education class can do what professional surgeons come to master after excruciating long lecture hours and six years in medical school. To twist the puzzle further, these self made experts confidently do surgeries as delicate as head related ones.

Cheserek displays his tools of trade.
Dominic Cheserek, one such rare birds ushers me into is home in Tenden Shopping center, Marakwet west constituency. This is where he does all his ventures. A home surrounded with an impenetrable life fence, soft grass spreading all over the compound and a chilling breeze from the overlooking Cherangany hills provide a serene haven for his patients, who travel from as far as neighboring Trans-Nzoia, Uasin-ngishu and West Pokot Counties. He gets into the house and comes out with a, by the look of the hand that was carrying, heavy bag and empties its contents, his job paraphernalia, to a wooden table we had sat at below one of the well pruned shade trees in his breath taking compound. His tools of trade range from sharp blades, cotton wools, bandages, Surgery clips in many shapes and sizes, small shiny trays among others.

He says with the passing of time, traditional surgeons, famously known for their ‘award winning’ head surgeries have had to change their modus operandi. “Those would proceeded us didn’t have this modern surgery tools, they just used blacksmith knives which were sharpened on rough stones.

Cheserek’s journey to competence in home surgery started back in 1984 when he worked a a volunteer clinician at the then Kapsowar Mission Hospital in the other end of the constituency though he is originally from Marakwet East, where the whole know how rooted from.
“The missionaries used to pick volunteers to work at the hospital and I was lucky to be one” recalls Cheserek in a nostalgic mood.
Coming from the ‘Kachargum family’,  known of producing a line of renowned home surgeon from generation to generation, Cheserek took that virtue in life, blended in with the white man’s training and came out as one of the most relied on home surgeon in all the generations of his family.

“My grandfather was one of the best surgeons, one who did not even know what education is but did his work and did not err even once”  he says amid thunderous laughter, revealing his heavy pitched voice.

Cheserek explains how the virtue of being born with the prowess has distributed itself across the family in a funny way, skipping a traditional Marakwet age set called Kaberur. “My great grandfather had this talent then none of his boys had until my generation when I came into being” explains Cheserek with a tone full of humility, a blessing he hope will manipulate in one of the coming generations lest it disappears completely, just to be recorded in historical writing.

The white man’s knowledge became a silver lining in Cheserek’s cloud. He was posted to Kabetwa health center in Marakwet East by the mission in the year 1987 and got a chance to relocate to his ancestral land, a phenomenon which opened to him the pain and struggle his people were undergoing in seeking medical attention after bone fractures and head injuries.

In 1992, Cheserek resigned from the mission service and joined his kin in Marakwet East. In a bid to serve his people, he vied for Sambirir Ward council position which he narrowly lost but was nominated by the then ruling party KANU for the same position.

Way into our interview, a man interrupts. He looks disturbed, clearly evident by his frowning face and tone. Cheserek excuses himself for an aside with the man. I later, after our interview resumes, realize that the man had tooth decay and wanted it removed. It is here that I learned that he (Cheserek) too is a traditional dentist. “So many of my tooth patients have been healed and those with completely decaying ones, I remove them”, says Cheserek who charge Ksh300 for tooth removal, way below the normal dentist charges.

In 1997, after his tenure as a councilor, he opened a private clinic at Chesoi Township. He started off fortified with the wealth of knowledge and few surgery instruments he had been given as a present by the mission. In the rocky and hilly Marakwet East, cases of bone fractures and head injuries resulting from falling off the cliffs are very common. Within the first month, Cheserek had done a record ten head surgeries and couple of minor operations.

With an affordable fee ranging from Ksh1500 to 3000 depending on the extent of the injury and the technicality of the surgery, he has been able to pay his children school fees, bought few animals and even the land he is currently staying in, a home he migrated to two years ago in a bid to widen his service.
“Nowadays, I operate from here and Marakwet East depending on where work comes calling” he poses.

Cheserek has developed a good rapport with medical practitioners from nearby Kapcherop Health center and this has led to them working hand in hand. “The area health officer visits regularly to make sure that I do everything in a patient friendly surrounding, they also refer patients to me”. Cheserek also notes that the good relationship has enabled him access vital things like anesthesia, surgery materials and information on responsible practice.

Cheserek recalls vividly since the year 1988 when he did his first home surgery, not even one has ever botched or led to loss of life, a tale of a successfully traditional career.

His activities which even involve male circumcision and removing pieces of materials stuck in peoples’ noses and ears have had their share of challenges. “I have to be very careful as most pains are psychologically related to past injuries”, says Cheserek citing so many patients who come with head pains demanding to be operated on because they were hit sometimes back.

He also says he cannot touch delicate body organs like the heart, kidneys and other inner organs even though people with such complications come to him.

The sun disappears behind mt. Elgon that is the yonder western horizon and cold creeps in, so we end our chat with me convinced of having met an inspiration, a man who believes in grabbing an opportunity in life, improving it and using it for the best of ourselves and the people around us.