P.E.I. doctor on a mission

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

Mary MacKay comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 9, 2015

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.

©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY

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.”