KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City woman helped by a Canadian doctor when she was growing up in Kenya is organizing a 10-day medical camp in her native land to pay back some of that good fortune.
Grace Mbuthia, a 23-year-old nursing student at St. Luke's College of Health Sciences, is raising money and medical supplies for the camp in Kiamunyeki, Kenya, where she grew up. She has 12 nurses and two clinical officers lined up to work in the camp, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/JycMfg). Mbuthia and three volunteer nurses from Joplin will leave May 28.
"I'm excited because it's finally coming together, but nervous because it's the first mission and I don't know how it will go," she said.
Mbuthia said she wants to repay the kindness of a Canadian missionary who treated her heart problems for free when she was in the Kenyan equivalent of seventh grade.
Mbuthia had been passing out frequently, but doctors only prescribed painkillers and said her illness would go away.
One day, after she passed out for more than 10 minutes, her father, Pastor Stephen Mbuthia, took her to a doctor in Nakuru, who said she needed a cardiologist. But the family could not afford to pay for treatment, and the only cardiologists available were 70 miles away in Kijabe.
On the day when Mbuthia and her father finally went to Kijabe, some Canadian doctors were treating people for free. One of them was a cardiologist.
"They ran all kinds of tests on her," Stephen Mbuthia said, adding that the family did not pay a dime for the treatment.
The doctors said Mbuthia would outgrow the condition but would need medication in the meantime. She has never forgotten her family's gratitude.
"When you're young, you say you want to be a doctor and all that, but that incident was the spark that drew me to the medical profession," Mbuthia said. "I decided that whatever I wanted to do, I knew I'd do the same for somebody else."
Eight years ago, Mbuthia and the rest of her family followed her father to Ozark Christian College in Joplin. Mbuthia graduated from high school in 2006 and went on to Missouri Southern State University.
The family's life relatively uneventful until May 22, 2011, when their apartment was heavily damaged by a tornado that killed 161 people.
Pastor Cindy Wermuth of the Joplin Family Worship Center and her husband took in Mbuthia and her brother. Her sister moved to California. Her parents are in Kansas City.
Mbuthia moved to Kansas City in December to begin study at St. Luke's and soon after began thinking about a return to Kenya.
James Hauschildt, the academic dean at St. Luke's, said the college is proud of her "for undertaking such a wonderful journey."
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for her to learn and apply the medical, cultural and spiritual aspects of medical care within the context of another country's medical practices to benefit her learning," he said.
Mbuthia and the nurses from Joplin are paying for their own airline tickets. The money she is raising will pay for other costs. She also needs gloves, thermometers, glucose meters, specula and vitamins. St. Luke's Hospital will let her go through its warehouse to take a few things.
When the camp is over, the group plans to head to Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru.
In Kenya's public hospitals, people without insurance often are prevented from leaving the hospital until the bill is paid.
Mbuthia plans to use any leftover money to pay needy patients' bills.