Christina Cahalan

CITY: Pokot
FOCUS: Healthcare
PROJECT: Pharmacist at Ortum Mission Hospital
PROJECT GOAL: Provide quality medications as well as patient instruction at the Mission Hospital

Chris came to MKLM with her husband Kevin from Kenner, LA. Born in Ireland and raised in England, she is a certified nurse and midwife. Immediately before becoming a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Chris worked as a chaplain for fifteen years at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. She ministered to patients awaiting surgery, visited new patients to assess their spiritual needs, and did crisis ministry with patients, staff, and families. Chris worked in Malta for 14 months as a midwife and also worked as a public health nurse for two years in Honduras where she met and married her husband, Kevin Cahalan. During the first five years of their marriage they lived in four different countries (Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and the U.S.) and had four children. As a stay-at-home mom, she also was a foster parent to eight other children in Louisiana. She was also very involved in her parish.

Currently Chris and her husband Kevin live and work at the Ortum Mission Hospital in the Diocese of Kitale, Kenya. Ortum is very remote, and the hospital serves the Pokot people in the area. It was established by Holy Rosary Sisters fifty years ago and faces numerous challenges including water shortages, limited electricity, and consistent difficulty to fund its services. The Pokot community lives in extreme poverty, making it almost impossible for them to pay for the services they receive.

One of the current challenges of the hospital is that up until Chris’s arrival there was only one pharmacist on staff. As a result that pharmacist went three years without a vacation, even for weekends! Chris’s initial work was training with the pharmacist. Presently she now makes it possible for there to be a team of two—helping to ensure rotation and adequate rest time. In addition Chris participates in instructing patients in the proper use of their medications. She is also assisting in statistical work on the pharmacy stock use as well as reviewing the storing and supply of the medicines at the hospital store.

In addition to her hospital responsibilities, Chris and Kevin have set up a small library in their home for the children in the area. They have books in Kiswahili and in English, as all children learn both languages in school.

Chris’ medical skills, paired with her long experience caring for and counseling patients, make her a valuable team member at the hospital.