Ronda Kelso: A Good Lawyer, and a Good Nurse, Changing Lives

Ronda Kelso: A Good Lawyer, and a Good Nurse, Changing Lives

By Burg Simpson
April 27, 2020
5 min read

Ronda Kelso, a trial attorney with the Burg Simpson law firm, spends most of her workweek in a shiny new office building located in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. But in February of this year, Ronda, who also maintains an active nurse’s license, found herself being jostled about in a bus as the driver avoided crankshaft depth potholes and armed escorts guided her through rural roads Kenya. Ronda had just flown from Phoenix to East Africa to volunteer at a makeshift rural medical clinic just a few hours north of Nairobi.

Ronda accepted an invitation from a former colleague at Children’s Hospital in Phoenix to volunteer her nursing skills. She was asked to participate in a mission with an organization called Covenant Medical Outreach (CMO), and her journey allowed her to provide basic medical care to those in need. CMO works to establish sustainable medical care for underprivileged populations in rural Kenya and returns to these same sites each year to further ongoing services in collaboration with local medical professionals. Volunteer physicians, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, pastors, and laypeople provide physical examinations, vitamins, and necessary medication.

Ronda volunteered as a part of a medical team which consisted of about 20 people: 5 physicians (cardiologist, 2 ER physicians, and 2 pediatricians), one Physician Assistant, two Nurse Practitioners (dermatology and cardiology) and 5 nurses (high-risk O/B, pediatric, post-partum, and ER), a pastor, and various support staff. The team began the first two-day clinic on Monday, in a rudimentary one-room church that was constructed primarily of metal. The next two-day clinic was held in a metal classroom building at a local orphanage/boarding school, and on Friday, they spent the morning visiting elderly patients at their homes and bringing medical supplies and food staples to those who were unable to walk the clinics. On Friday afternoon, the team made their way to a boarding school that caters to the needs of children with special needs.

Ronda said, “The sights, smells, and sounds of rural Kenya are unforgettable. As we traveled each morning to the clinic, we passed by lush greenery that grows in the deep red soil that is home to the domestic cows, sheep, and goats who graze on the side of the road. We were able to assist families and children ranging in age from 7 months to 100 years. Many of the young men we tended to were “diggers” in the fields, and many of the young women were “weeders” who removed the coarse vegetation from the sides of the roads that could not be consumed by the livestock. We also saw four critically ill patients for whom transportation to the local hospital was required – it took several hours for transport to arrive.”

Ronda and the volunteer team brought 11 suitcases of medications/vitamins and supplies from the U.S. to Kenya, not really knowing what they would see and hoping they brought the proper items to handle whatever walked through the door. They had a pocket-EKG, a portable ultrasound, and IV fluids. They brought oral and IV antibiotics, sterile instruments for small procedures and lots of worm pills and vitamins. They carried sunglasses, reading glasses, toothbrushes, hand sanitizers, and a few educational handouts. They ran pregnancy tests, and spoke to their patients about HIV transmission prevention, and provided instruction on well-baby care, hypertension, and stress reduction.

Ronda said that a typical patient evaluation included questions such as:

“When was your last worm pill? Have you ever seen a doctor? How long has your condition been present? Answers to those questions included – had a worm pill a few months ago at school – I forgot how long ago it was; I have never seen a doctor; rash has been here since the beginning of the wet season. Sometimes questions had to be rephrased through our Swahili interpreters – especially for the elderly patients as something was lost in translation. Most of the children spoke some English, their tribal language, and Swahili – but not well enough to provide medical interpretation. The church had an interpreter for each of the 20 of us. We learned how to say, hello, welcome, thank you, it is good, and chew it now (the worm pills were chewable) in Swahili” International gestures such as a hug, a bow or a handshake were often offered as gratitude for seeing the patients.

Ronda has since returned home to Arizona now and is now back in her office in Phoenix.  While working with Covenant Medical Outreach, she and her team treated over 900 patients, bringing medical care, and compassion. Of her time in East Africa, Ronda said, “It was a privilege to have experienced such a journey and an honor to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of so many.”

See the video here.

About Ronda Kelso

Ronda M. Kelso practiced law for five years with another law firm prior to joining Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, PC in 2017 after a hiatus in a national defense firm. Prior to practicing law, Ms. Kelso was a certified pediatric nurse. Ms. Kelso entered the legal field after working with children, as a nurse consultant to hospitals, physicians and individual clients and families with regard to medical malpractice claims.

Ms. Kelso has experience working closely with clients who have been injured as a result of medical negligence. She received her undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, B.S., Nursing, magna cum laude, and her law degree from California Western School of Law in downtown San Diego. Ronda enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.


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