I have been working as a locum for the MOD for a few years now but have mainly stayed around my local bases in Dorset. I have always been an adventurous type and have travelled widely but was overcome with excitement when Cheryl called me to let me know that there was the opportunity to work a six week placement for the British Army in Kenya.
The following few weeks was a mad panic making sure all my jabs were up to date and picking up Malaria tablets. Because of the rural location it is well worth getting rabies jabs and yellow fever, even though the yellow fever isn’t strictly needed. Different GP practices charge different amounts for these though, so it is worth shopping around.
Despite my excitement, the thought of coming here really didn’t sink in until a couple of days before when I realised that I had packed for a one week holiday rather than a six week work assignment! I was able to have a good chat with the current doctor here, however, so was advised that the only medical kit I needed to bring was my stethoscope.
Thankfully you do not need to go through the hassle of getting a visa in advance. When you arrive at Nairobi airport you can get one on arrival for £30. In fact, the immigration queue for those needing visas is shorter and quicker than the queue for if you get one in advance!
Immediately on arrival I was met by my driver Sammy who took me on the 3 hour drive to Nanyuki. Unfortunately I slept most of the drive so missed the beautiful scenery. He took me straight to the medical centre on camp, which having just arrived meant I was unshaven and half asleep, but no one seemed to mind. A quick cup of coffee and I was straight into induction including a tour of the camp, procedures for casevac and a briefing on the local snakes and spiders. I was then taken to MT for a quick driving test. Despite my tiredness I still (somehow) passed and was given the keys to my own Land Rover.
I was then taken to my accommodation. I had been teased by my friends that I would be in a dorm of 20+ soldiers so was relieved to find that I was being put up in the private residence of the other doctor off camp.
My second day I was able to start seeing patients and spent the afternoon at the airstrip playing in a helicopter!
Nanyuki itself is a lovely little town. If you haven’t travelled in Africa before though, prepare for a bit of culture shock. The Highway Code is a unknown concept here so keep your wits about you! There are plenty of small shops selling everything from traditional weaving to iPads, and every time you park up someone will try and sell you something. Everything is quite cheap, however. As I am writing this I am sat at the local country club where my excellent three course lunch cost me less than £4 including drinks. This afternoon I am off to the local market. There is a big British presence in Nanyuki, so the market sells everything from tourist nik-naks to clothes in western sizes.
Nanyuki is at quite a high altitude, so be prepared to feel very tired for your first few days, but now I feel refreshed, excited and looking forward to my first on-call!