P.E.I. doctor on a mission

Mary MacKay
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Dr. Barry Fleming will soon be walking the halls in a different hospital half a world away in a rural mission hospital not far from Mikinduri, Kenya.

Dr. Barry Fleming heads to Kenya as part of a Mikinduri Children of Hope medical team

Dressed in white medical garb, with a stethoscope as a standard neck adornment and a beeping pager in his pocket calling his attention, it’s a typical day on call at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown for Dr. Barry Fleming.

What a difference a week will make.

This Charlottetown general surgeon will be leaving soon for a two-and-a-half-week volunteer placement at a rural hospital in Kenya through the P.E.I.-based Mikinduri Children of Hope Foundation (MCOH).

Fleming, his wife, Mary, and six others will be on the ground working firsthand with medical staff there to assist patients at Chaaria, which is a small Catholic mission hospital in the Mikinduri region.

This is not the first time the Flemings have ventured afar on a medical mission akin to this.

They, in fact, met at a Catholic mission hospital in Nigeria in the early 1980s when he was on a three-year CUSO posting and Mary, who was a nurse and midwife, was with a similar organization based in her home country of Ireland.

“The very first caesarean section I had to do the baby was just delivered when the lights went out. There was more than one occasion when you had to finish what you were doing by flashlight,” Fleming remembers.

The couple’s upcoming 2015 journey was fostered by an experience that their daughter, Nora Fleming, had with last year’s medical, vision and dental mission with MCOH

“She was really taken by the poverty, but no matter what people had they made the best of it . . . ,” her father says.

“They had taken pictures of some of the children they’d given soccer jerseys to and it was like you had given them a Lotto 6/49 (prize). . . . We get so used to having an abundance of everything here . . . .”

Dr. Bepe Gaido is a brother with the Italian order that runs the Kenyan hospital, which treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.

“When we had patients from our (previous mission) clinics that needed treatment in a hospital, that’s where we would send them if we could (accommodate their medical needs there),” says MCOH president Ted Grant.

MCOH has established a partnership with the hospital to provide support in accessing supplies and medical equipment.

“Last week we packed eight suitcases of medical supplies. (Items) that are still good, there’s nothing wrong with it. Some of it is tubing for an operating room, it’s just that it’s been discarded from our local hospital,” Grant says.

“In fact we have two bags that came from a nurse who went last year who sent us (supplies) from Saskatoon.”

The Flemings will be following in the medical footsteps of professionals from P.E.I. and other parts of Canada who have been part of prior MCOH teams.

“I’ve often thought of my time in Nigeria — what did I do? I was only there for three years — it was pretty minimal in the scale of things, but I least had an exposure to what goes on in another country, their health-care system as well as made some friends and contacts there,” Fleming says.

“(It makes) you realize the things we think are valuable and important in our lives are exactly the same there: health for your family, the kids get a good education and have some opportunities in life. I guess maybe most of us don’t recognize what a privilege it is to have been born in Canada at this point in time. We live in a great country, but we sometimes forget that.”

Organizations: MCOH, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hope Foundation

Geographic location: Kenya, Charlottetown, Nigeria Ireland Canada Saskatoon

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Recent comments

  • Nancy Zahavich
    February 12, 2015 - 18:31

    Dr.Fleming I wanted to make mention of the write up that appeared in Monday's Guardian , the Features Section , Dr.Fleming and his wife Mary, who will be leaving Charlottetown, for a 2 1/2 week volunteer placement at a small rural hospital in Kenya. They are two of Prince Edward Island's finest. They are such a loving , caring couple , who will make a great difference to the lives of the people they will be coming into contact with. We on the Island are so fortunate to have them working in our own medical system for so many years and thank them for those years of dedicated service. I want to wish a safe journey for them, and will look forward to their return to our humble island. Nancy Zahavich Winsloe Feb 11,2015

  • Susan Birt
    February 10, 2015 - 20:30

    What a loss...even for a short time...to the people of PEI...what a boon for Kenya!! Dr. Flemming is a most caring, compassionate and capable physician that I have come to know, and to be cared for by. Compared to the schedule he kept at the QEH and his office practice, Kenya, I'm sure will be a modest pace. Sad but true. Wishing you and Mary all the best in the future. We will all surely miss you! Come Home soon!

  • Wilhelmina Stevenson
    February 09, 2015 - 20:15

    You're a wonderful, caring, compassionate Doctor. I will be praying for you and your wife as you journey to Kenya, to do what you do best and from the heart, heal, care and help others.

  • Heather Dunsford
    February 09, 2015 - 15:21

    What a wonderful thing you are doing Dr. Fleming , I am a catholic as well and would love to do this in the near further. I worked in the lab at the QEH for 35 years and now retired so hey it's time to something to help the less fortunate. Good luck and be safe

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    February 09, 2015 - 14:25

    I pray you have a safe journey. Thank you for effort. We need more doctors willing to spend more time. The need is great. While we are in a resource rich country our government squanders it like there is no tomorrow. May God bless your trip.

  • Billy MacDonald
    February 09, 2015 - 13:51

    Barry is an incredible man, doctor, father and husband. Wishing him a safe and meaningful journey.