October 12, 2016 Leave a comment
September 26, 2016 Leave a comment
About a month ago I had an attack while crossing the streets, I had to stop right there in the middle of oncoming traffic. It’s bad. You cannot move. You are not afraid of anything else, as the headache becomes everything. I almost did not come today, because I had a crisis last night, but my mother prayed for me all night. Recently the headaches have been frequent and intense, since I have no way of procuring treatment and medication without medical cover. I require approximately Kshs 10,000/ every time I visit the doctor to cover consultation and medication. My current source of income cannot support that.
I first had a seizure in 2003 while in primary school in Mtitu Wandei. I thank God that my father had a medical cover for us, so I was treated at either Pandya or Aga Khan Mombasa, I cannot really recall which. My mother would ensure that I had my medication and things remained relatively stable. When I joined High School, I would have a seizure maybe once or twice annually. However, things went terribly wrong when my O-Level results were released. I had failed. I was devastated and my father was very angry and disappointed. I am my parents’ first female child and they naturally want to see me doing well. My results had found me recovering from an appendicitis surgery. My mother suggested I go back to school to try again to better my results. I was admitted, this time at a school in Machakos, in form three with a fresh surgical wound. Subsequently, I spent approximately one and a half of those two additional years in high school, away being attended to medically in Mombasa. My final exams also found me out and I was brought in from hospital to do my examinations.
I failed again. Dad was livid. My medical alone had cost them approximately 5 million in my High School days. I attempted suicide by taking all my Migraine medication. I slipped into a comma that lasted a week. I was diagnosed as being in Psychological trauma, stress. My father and I went through a week of counselling at Mombasa Hospital. He mostly avoided me before and after this time, addressing me through my mother.
My mum suggested that I take a certificate course in IT. I joined the Kenya Polytechnic and moved to Nairobi to live with my Aunt in Kariobangi. I would sometimes faint in the house while with her. After my certificate course, which I now passed, my parents took me to Catholic University of East Africa to pursue a Diploma in IT. My dad was much friendlier. My self-esteem which had been really low, was boosted by his approval and my marks. During the six months that I was at the University, I only sought medical attention twice, for unrelated conditions. I did very well in my examinations.
I needed to go in for an evaluation at Aga Khan Hospital in Parklands. Up till this time, I had not had a particular doctor I was seeing. It was here that I met Dr. Sylvia Mbugua. It was she that finally diagnosed me with Migraines. She recommended an MRI and noticed the number of seizures that I had experienced. She also noted my mental distress. She managed me well. She recommended a tripartite medication that took into consideration and cancelled out the negative side effects, including possible barrenness, that could have resulted with me just taking one form of medication. She also warned me against taking Betapin which for me had the effects of making me high, in the way alcohol would and another drug Rizatriptan that induced suicidal thoughts. She recommended lifestyle changes in terms of diet and exercise which included drinking a lot of water. I could not drink especially wine, and not smoke. Manipulation of my hair into various styles affects me so I keep it short. Since I am no longer a student, and my current employer is new and does not offer medical cover I have been without medication between April and September. I now live alone with my sister in Nairobi, and enjoy my work. I hope that I can be able to go back to school, mainly so I can again have access to my father’s medical insurance which covers me as long as I am a student. I also pray that I can find Dr. Sylvia again so that she can continue to walk with me through this. She left Aga Khan hospital. I now mostly try to manage the Migraine attacks through my lifestyle.
photos and words by: NaMeD Afrika Studios
First published in The Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine – September 25, 2016
September 8, 2016 Leave a comment
I am 39 years old. I was diagnosed with High Blood Pressure by a doctor at the Webuye District Hospital.
It began one morning with a terrible headache, accompanied by intolerance to any kind of sound. All sound manifested as noise and I resisted the impulse to bang my head against hard surfaces. I was with my husband and he rushed me to hospital. They decided to check my blood pressure and it was at 210/110. The nurse who checked me, was uneasy about the result and she called in another nurse, who repeated the test. They had a hushed conversation between then and then the initial nurse left the room to come back minutes later with a doctor in her tail. He connected his machine and repeated the test and said to them “there is nothing wrong with your machine. The test is accurate.” He put a pill under my tongue, then one of the nurses injected me with what we were told was valium. It was now about 2pm in the afternoon.
They suggested admission but I resisted as my youngest child was 2 years old and needed me. I did not have a house help. I agreed however to come in daily for assessment and medication. My book was full of ‘patient refused admission’. They put me on Inderal for my blood pressure, Lasix to drain excess water in my system, and Ponstan Forte for the headache. Ponstan cost 300 shillings per tablet then. I don’t know if that was the real price or the chemist, to which we went to purchase my medication, was trying to exploit us. But the price was one of two reasons that helped me decide not to purchase it. The other was Dr. Ken’s advice. He was my husband’s close friend and a medical doctor. Dr. Ken talked to me about the dangers of addiction to pain medication, especially strong ones like the ones the hospital had prescribed for me.
I was asked by the hospital staff, after this and on subsequent attacks, about my family’s medical history. My maternal grandfather suffered a stroke just before I was born and was paralyzed by it on his left side. He too resisted medication. He was very fond of me. He lived 15 years after the stroke and then passed on. On my first attack a nurse heartlessly said to me that that was where I was headed. I rejected that heritage. One of my sisters also bleeds heavily during her pregnancies and suffers the swelling of her eyes. I also went through something similar during my last pregnancy, where I woke up once or twice to find my bedding soaked in blood. I did not seek medical attention for it, and my daughter was born healthy in September of 2011 by the grace of God. I was also asked if there was anything that would cause me undue stress. I told them even living in a police line was not a stress factor for me. I had a relatively good life.
One time I had an attack in the night when my husband was away on duty. We were still living in a police camp at that time, a fact I thank God for. My children were able to run to a neighbour’s house, my husband’s colleague named Koech, and he rushed me to hospital. My head was aching badly, and when they checked my pressure, it was extremely high. They tried to get me to agree to admission, but three of my four children were unwell and on medication. I had no help at home and my husband’s work hours could not be changed to fit into their prescribed schedules. I could not leave my children alone.
I was lucky again, Dr. Ken was at hand to cover for me. He told the doctor attending to me that he knew me, and that I would be faithful in taking my medication and also attending a daily clinic. They again injected me with valium to help with the pain, and put a pill under my tongue. I was later to find out that this pill is called Propranolol. Koech took me home. My pressure was still very high the next morning but the hospital did not detain me. I eventually stabilised. I remained on Inderal and Lasix for the next two years. The headaches seldom came, but when they did, I took Panadol.
In 2005, my husband was transferred to Malindi and because there were some challenges with regard to accommodation, and I also wanted my children to have some stability with regard to their education, I opted to go live with my mother in Kisumu. My mother is a Clinician so she monitored my blood pressure and made sure I took my medication. One April afternoon, I noticed that there was a crusade happening at a hall in Mamboleo, just opposite my mother’s clinic. I asked my mother to take my blood pressure, as I was going over to be healed. I was so tired of medication. She took it and it was high. I went over to the meeting which was being run by Pastor Muliri and Bishop Mark Kegohe. The Bishop announced that there was a healing grace. He called on those with various illnesses that were able to believe God for healing to get up. We were asked to lay our hands on the general area in which we sought healing. I didn’t put my hands on any part of my body. I just spoke to God from my heart; I told him blood was all over my body and so I could not touch a specific part. I asked Him to go to the place where the problem lay and restore it as He had intended for it to work at my creation. I was calm. I went home and my mother measured my blood pressure and it had gone down significantly.
I have never taken any medication since that day, 11years ago, and my BP has remained relatively stable. In terms of diet, my husband loves beef so we have to eat it daily, to the point where one of my sons cannot stand it. I also went off salt for about a year. A few times, I have had a terrible headache that necessitated my going to hospital, and it was during one of those times that I met Dr. Lusi. But I am generally well, all glory to God. I have come to believe that the only thing that can beat science is faith in God.
Photos by Nash of NaMeD Afrika Studios
First Published in The Standard’s Sunday Magazine on September 4, 2016
August 31, 2016 Leave a comment
There are many reasons to STOP PRAYING for them, genuine, just reasons. Ones that anyone would understand. Primarily, they don’t really think that its useful…and besides, why would Almighty God even stop to listen to someone of whom they think so little, as they do you? I mean, they have it more together. What could you possibly have to tell God on their behalf, that they would not do better on their own – or at least someone else they think is more suitable? They may cause you great harm even to stop you from praying…and gather enough around them to make them feel right about doing so.
God has given me many reasons why I should CONTINUE PRAYING for them. Its not for their applause really…never has been about that. But more about His intent…His True Heart…”For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17 NKJV and “The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 2:9 AMP. It got me thinking, that when I want anything else for someone God created, am desiring contrary to Him…and what does that make me if not an anti-Christ? Hmmm
So this morning He gave me, reminded me, of one more reason to pray for…my family, my friends,, my neighbors, my country, my world, my employer, my colleagues, and yes, even the ones who hate me so much, they would not want me mentioning their names lovingly before God. If I don’t, if I am the only one able to, or even willing to and I don’t, and anything happens to them that could have been prevented by my praying…heavy responsibility…but in His own words…” “I looked for someone to stand up for Me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for Me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one. So I’ll empty out My wrath on them, burn them to a crisp with My hot anger, serve them with the consequences of all they’ve done. Decree of God, the Master.”
Ezekiel 22:31-32 The Message (MSG)
August 23, 2016 1 Comment
Phyllis Wanja Kariuki
Age: Early 30s
In her own words:
I lost my first pregnancy at 15 weeks. I had begun bleeding, and doctor in Mandera, where I worked as a Logistics officer with Save the Children, Kenya, recommended two weeks bed-rest. I came back home to Nairobi and all went well. The day before my scheduled return to Mandera, my friend and I went shopping. I started feeling funny, like cramps and remembered that the doctor had permitted me to take regular painkillers for this, so I took a Panadol. I did not expect that there would be any adverse effects, and it helped. At night however, I woke up to the same cramps, intense pain. When I went to the toilet, some water came out. I did not understand what to make of this, as it was my first pregnancy. I was rushed to Nairobi hospital, and on getting there, they discovered that the amniotic fluid had leaked out. Their prognosis was not good. They suggested a termination of the pregnancy as it had only a 90% chance of being viable. I resisted this and sought a second opinion. I went to Aga Khan hospital. I was given the same story. The doctors there meet and make sure that by the time they are giving you your report, they have tested you, they have discussed it together and allow you to make the final decision based on their thorough analysis of the your case. I had stayed for so many hours, and since this was my second stop, I felt I had no other choice but concede.
It was a horrible experience. They started with the treatment, and I was discharged and moved on with my life. After six months I conceived again, and I still had issues. I started bleeding at 8 weeks. This time I was more cautious, and able to see the warning signs. I went to the nearest clinic, St. Bakita in Utawala, and was injected with Buscopan. They suggested I go for a scan. I went home and the next morning went to Agakhan for the scan. I was frightened of loosing my child. During the scan, the doctors were discussing the point of bleeding around a certain spot. But there was another spot and when I asked what that was, I was told it was another baby. I understood them the magnitude of what I was carrying and how careful I needed to be. After the scan at the ER, I was referred to Dr. Obura, a Gynaecologist. He looked at the results and gave me hope. He gave me medication to strengthen the wall of my uterus, and advised me to avoid strain.
At around 18 weeks I started spotting again, but this was not serious. Both at home and in the field in Mandera, I took very good care of myself. Mandera was less strenuous for me as I only had short distances to walk, and we are basically taken care of. I did not have to cook or do anything for myself. I stayed there for six weeks and then came back for R&R. At the airstrip, the flight attendant asked me how far along I was. She alerted me to the fact that I could not travel in a small aircraft beyond that point, and I understood that to mean that I would now be working from Nairobi. I worked for one more month before I started swelling. One of my colleagues, Eric Muthiani adviced me to have my blood pressure checked to rule it out as a cause for the swelling. My pressure was normally but now my feet begun to swell as well. It was during clinic test. I was to do a HCG test to determine my glucose level. It takes time, but they advised I change the clinic date as it was too late in the day. But I wanted to understand what was causing the swelling. The doctor insisted on a urine test. I had to do it twice for them to determine what the problem was. The doctor told me that my urine had a lot of protein in it, and suggested for additional tests to determine the functionality of my kidneys. This came out normal. They connected me to someone closer to home who would monitor my blood pressure daily, as they had noticed that it was fluctuating. I was to call the hospital daily to give them the readings.
This was on a Friday, but on Saturday, I was planning on going shopping for baby clothes so I did not go to check my pressure. I went in on Sunday, it turned out high. It read 170/100mmhg. The doctor recommended I go home and rest. I rested, and went back for another reading in the evening, this was even higher after then rest. I know High Blood Pressure is serious, but had no reference for people having it around me, and therefore did not see it endangering the pregnancies. The doctor recommended that I go into hospital immediately. I went home, got ready and then went to hospital. I was alarmed to find a team waiting for me on my arrival at the hospital. I was feeling fine, and wondered why they found this reception necessary. The scan showed that the blood was not flowing into the second baby as it should. I was admitted, but even then I thought it would just be for a night. At around 1am the doctor came to check on me and informed me that they would have to do an emergency Caesarian Section if my blood pressure did not go down. I had no idea that HBP could lead to one giving birth to pre-terms.
In the morning, a group of four doctors, took me to radiology for a scan. They sat around me and studied me. They told me they needed to do the emergency CS, in order to save my life and try save the lives of my babies. I therefore signed the consent and the CS was done at 3pm that day. This was on February 2, 2015. Everything went well. They did a spinal epidural, where I can see what is going on. They did a good job, they engaged me a lot. I heard my babies cry and I was excited. I was not able to see them immediately as they needed to be taken into the ICU, as they were a bit small. My daughter was 790grams and my son was 970grams. My son was a bit bigger. Everything was completed and I was taken to the ward. I wanted to go see my babies but I was not allowed then. It was too early, I was still numb. I saw my babies the following day.
It’s quite bad when you are in the ward, can hear other babies crying and you don’t have yours. You deal with a lot at that point, even the bills. I went to see the babies on February 3rd, around mid-day. I remember the nurses telling me that I needed breast milk, even if it was just two drops. Imagine there is no way I can be able to stimulate…you need the baby to stimulate it to produce milk. The nurse told me to be strong, calm down, focus on the babies, and try to express. There are other liquids they give the babies for feeding. I tried to express and nothing was coming out. By evening I had two drops and the staff was quite encouraging. The biggest trauma was when I saw the babies and how tiny they were, and wondered when they would ever grow to the size of the other newborns in the ward. I remember my daughter was the size of the 300mm soda bottle, she could be held in a hand. A nurse advised me to be strong and to take every single day at it comes. Her words remained with me through my darkest times.
The reality of the bills started hitting me. My insurance had been exhausted and my family began counselling me towards moving to a cheaper hospital. I was spending about Kshs 50,000 per baby per day in the ICU. On the 4th the doctor attending to the babies came to the ward. I sensed that something was wrong. The previous night, my son Jaden had been transfused. She started with the positive, telling me that my daughter Winnie was doing well, but the boy was struggling. I did not want to hear anymore. I told her to take me to them. She got somebody to take me to them in the ICU. I found them trying to resuscitate him. They did this while I watched. I told them to do all they could, within their power to make sure he was well. A male doctor assured me that they were. They kept encouraging me that girl was doing well. Unfortunately Jaden passed him while we were looking at each other. I felt like he was telling me ‘mum do something’ or ‘you are going to be okay just take care of my sister.’ Everything was done. I cried a lot. But I turned to the girl, and prayed to God ‘God I am going to walk out of this hospital with this one, and I know you can make it happen.’ I kept telling my close friend and colleague Jane the same. She was there for me through it all. I told her I was sure God would answer my prayer to the affirmative.
I did not want to mourn a lot because I needed to be strong for the girl. I had no choice. I remember the nurses counselling me and telling me, “this one was not yours, let go.” I could not let go the first day. It could hit me and I could cry, and then remember that this one was not mine but I had one surviving. I also remembered that the first time I came to this hospital, I had left without a baby, this time I had a chance to leave with one. I gave it all my energy, I did everything possible to get enough milk. I did not want stress to be a reason for not having milk for my baby. We paid a fee for the hospital to take care of my son’s remains as I did not have the energy to handle it. The hospital recommended some counselling, but most times I cannot and help me move on during dark times. I stayed for a while as they needed to monitor my pressure, but I was doing well. I was discharged on the 6th of February.
The bills were also increasing but my colleague encouraged me to focus on the baby as the money would somehow come. Miraculously everyday passed. When I was told to give a deposit of Kshs 600,000. I borrowed this. I did not care where it came from as long as I could save a life. The credit office kept calling me and one day I went there and just told them “you are ladies like me, and am sure some of you are even mothers. You call me every time. I know you are doing your job, but at some point try and engage someone. My baby is in these wards, meaning I have not running away. Meaning I cannot run away. At this time my baby was in ICU. She stayed there for two weeks, and luckily she was doing well. She had the oxygen tubes from the 2nd to the 7th then they removed them because she was able to breath on her own and her oxygen saturation was normal. We moved out of ICU to the normal HDU ward. She had a oxygen desaturation, so she was put back on oxygen. I remembered the nurses words about living a moment at a time. She had also told me about how much pre-term babies were affected by movement. Moving mine from 1st to 2nd floor had had this effect.
Proffesor Aketch, told me that they would put the baby on medication to strengthen the lungs, and this caused the sugars to rise up to 21 and its supposed to be between 6 and 8. It really stressed me. I tried to get information for myself, from Google. The pain of seeing my child on injections, tubes and the thought of them having to put down her sugars. I cried a lot, it was very painful to watch.
I started doing Kangaroo at 800grams while she was still at the ICU. She was very tiny. I remember the feeling of putting her against my chest, how nice it felt. It was the first time I was touching my baby and she was calm. Every time I was doing Kangaroo I was happy and not tense. I could sense how happy she was as she could pray. Whenever I arrived in the hospital in the morning, she would play as though she sense I was there. I would do at least two hours daily. I would split this between morning and evening. I sometimes extended depending on how available the baby was in between procedures. The nurses used to encourage us and I used to Google the importance of Kangaroo MotherCare. It improves oxygen saturation, helps in weight gain which was very important for me since I needed my baby to gain weight, and also the bonding thing. These three are the three things that made me keep at it. It really motivated me.
There is this powder they normally mix with the milk call suffactor that helps them to gain weight. Winnie’s body rejected this, so they needed to lower the quantity they put. She got an infection after getting it. Imagine this was her chance for boosting weight gain. I could look at other babies, and though we were told not to compare our babies. I was jealous. They had their own problems but not those challenging weight gain like mine. I never lost hope. I even encouraged others. We had a group and I was considered the experienced. We had a room and we would chat and I discovered that others had problems that made mine. For instance one lady told us how her cousin had triplets and stayed in hospital three weeks and then they suddenly died, one by one. This really challenged me, as I still had a baby. Every time I remember that situation I remember her. I realised how blessed I was. There were others who were crying, and I needed to motivate myself to care for my baby. These helped me get stronger daily.
It was my job to wake up in the morning like I was going to work, get to the hospital, express milk as I could not kangaroo with the milk as it would leak, and then kangaroo. The fact that our babies could not breast feed by themselves, they were too tiny for it. For Aga Khan, until the baby is 1800grams they are still kept in an incubator. After that they are put in a cot. The first time when I saw my baby in cloths it was really happy, it was exciting. I would tell the other mothers “am nearing the door”. In her first two months Winnie went through several lung treatments and two blood transfusions. I did Kangaroo for two months and increased the hours. I could do several 1 and a half hours sessions. I used to cry a lot when I had to leave her especially when she was under treatment. She went through two transfusions. These were the worst since I connected the death of my son with the transfusion he had undergone the night before he developed breathing complications that led to his death. From Google I learnt that transfusions sometimes cause complications in pre-terms.
Some of effects of Kangaroo on Winnie Wakanyi is that she is very close to me, she is also friendly and independent. She is still small bodywise though she weighs 8.3kilos, but this does not discourage me. I knew this would happen. The nurses taught us that when we went to the clinic and were asked the age of my baby…even now when I tell them that she is 1 year 5 months, I see the shock in their faces. I don’t explain unless I feel it’s necessary. One time a nurse responded by asking me if my child was picky about food. She is doing very well, I make sure that I don’t miss clinic. She has never been put on a special diet on her hope. She is now walking on her own and is really fast. I remember the nurses telling us to never compare our children’s milestones with another child’s. The pace does not really matter as long as they get there. As long as everything else is normal, they are good. For pre-terms, don’t mix yourself with pressures from outsides, its her time. If its kangaroo, her time is her time.
Photography: Nash of NaMeD Afrika Studios and from Family Files
First published on the Sunday Magazine, Sunday Standard, August 21, 2016 (shorter version)
August 11, 2016 Leave a comment
Sometimes, the devil throws stuff at you, but God allows you to walk on through to a lovely day. It may be a puncture, a broken heart, a betrayal or two by a friend, financial challenges, an illness, ministry, or work challenges, an eviction, a death – varying degrees of pain and discomfort; it does not have to be fixed the way you desire it to be. But you run to Him, cling on Him, realizing your need of Him…keep your toes and heels level as best as you can, your hand in His and keep walking. Its not yet over, until God says it is.
A broken heel, should never prevent you from getting home…and when you do, in spite of it, you realize that those broken heel days, are actually miracles in the making. I did.
`Thus says The LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.`