Malaria or a Middle Seat: Day 1 in Kenya


Kenya—Today, after 48 hours, I arrived in Kenya. It’s really quite a long story and I’m jet lagged, but needless to say, the flight attendant told us, an hour and a half into our Detroit to Amsterdam flight that we needed to turn back around and go to Detroit due to mechanical problems. Ruling out safety problems helped me breathe easier, but knowing we’d miss our connection to Nairobi in Amsterdam caused concern.

We waited in line and longer for the next flight, arrived in Amsterdam only to wait in longer lines, all to find out we weren’t going to make it to Nairobi in time to join our team on the flight to Kisumu, which would cause us to miss half of our trip. But wait! There were two middle seats. So Cooper Munroe (of The Motherhood) and I snatched them up and boarded the flight.

I don’t know if I was overly exhausted. Or maybe I was just used to choosing my seats, but my mind turned to my middle seat and focused on my future inability to sleep during the flight. I was so tired in that moment and starting to wonder if the trip was worth it when I remembered I hadn’t taken my malaria pill for the day.

In an instant, my mind shifted to the real reason for heading to Africa, which had nothing to do with landing at a specific time or which seat on the airplane I sat in. It had to do with Kenyans. Women. Global issues, including the very illness I was about to take a pill to help me avoid… malaria, which so many struggle from and many die from. I was humbled and suddenly remembered how lucky I was to have my health and the ability to help raise awareness let alone be on a flight to Kenya with a seat at all, regardless of where that seat was located or how much sleep I’d get over the next week. What an amazing thng to visit with mothers halfway around the world!

We safely arrived, immediately caught another flight, and then spent the day in a remote village outside of Kisumu in western Kenya. Our group went on house visits where women, men, and children were tested and some diagnosed with HIV.

I visited a hospital and saw women who recently had had c-sections who, after only a couple of days in recovery, would walk sometimes long distances home, alone, with their baby.

This is the recovery room. The blue things hanging from the ceiling are mosquito nets.

I saw teeny children some with pneumonia with IVs in their heads and others on oxygen tanks, fighting malaria, tummies extended, breathing rapidly. I was told that only a few years back this very village didn’t have such luxuries. By luxuries, they meant heart monitors and oxygen tanks. I thought back to when my now 8-year-old was laid up in the hospital for a week while the infectious disease specialist performed more than 2o0 tests to diagnose him. Those tests, the diagnosis, and its treatment were things I was so grateful for, but today, realized I took for granted.

I looked into a scared mom’s eyes and wanted to scream out that it would be OK. I wanted to give her a hug that I knew the feeling of being scared and helpful when watching a child struggle to live. I struggled with the urge to break down at the enormity of fixing global health issues and with breaking out in song that is doing something about it, giving mothers around the world hope!

What is your “middle seat”? What do you get so focused on in your daily life that keeps you from taking actions, however simple, that will really make all the difference in those areas that matter most to you?

Take a moment, click here to enter your name and email address, and sign a petition to help fight global health issues in Africa. You can make a difference from the comfort of your own home and without spending a dime!

Photo credit (home visit, 2nd photo): Morgana Wingard,

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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