Our Child Went Missing

69433603_888739851485226_5182694137949847552_nMy Song of Praise today (EXTREMELY LONG TESTIMONY ALERT) : I have not slept much in the last two days. For different reasons, but last night it was because my heart and mind actively remained in a state of worship and praise. Let me share why:

Yesterday – early afternoon – my daughter Shukri left the house to take a walk. She needed time alone to clear stuff on her mind. Gio – my grandson – and I relaxed inside a duvet to watch a cartoon movie as we waited for her to return. I had been writing until around 5am, so i appreciated this time for a series of short power naps. My phone was on a charger beyond my reach so i temporarily ignored the text that came in but then it begun to ring. It was Shukri.

“Mami, please call me back!” I loaded my phone with units wondering what this was about.
“Mami, I have run into Aunty Kitty. She is crying. Leroy has been missing since Sunday. They have not found him and they don’t know what to do. Please come.”

I shot like ten rapid questions at her trying to understand what she was saying but what I now remember is saying “Ok I am on my way.”

I showered quickly – my friend Kitty is extremely keen on things like that🙃 – dressed and left. I had called her first, but she wept mostly and I cried with her before telling her that I was on my way. I started getting that ‘floating feeling’ and prayed “God, please lead me to Leroy so I give Kitty good news when I see her.”

I went to the road but our regular bodaboda (motorbike taxi) guys were not there. I flagged one down, but he wanted too much money for the distance I was going. All this while God kept me in His deep, perplexing peace. I talked to everyone i met on that road – asking if they may have seen him, describing him, telling them to bring him to where we stayed or to the police station if they saw him. I was feeling very light headed and a bit wobbly on my feet and I realized that my BP was getting dangerously high. From the back of my head I noticed a bodaboda heading the opposite direction and called out to him.

We agreed on the fare and I hopped on telling this stranger my mission as I did.
He said “Haiya, I saw him. On Sunday afternoon. He was headed towards Soweto – Kayole. He had on a grey track trouser and green shirt and he behaved as though he was a little out of his mind. I remember him.” (Leroy lives with autism)

Ok…what are the chances…God was already answering our prayers. We met with Kitty, hugged and cried a bit and then Denno the bodaboda guy (God bless him…please bless him) repeated his story. Kitty showed him Leroy’s photo and he confirmed that that was the child he had seen. They exchanged numbers…just in case, and we released him.

We held hands and prayed then decided to walk to Kayole – hmmmm none of us had any idea how far that was (actually I did but my brain was on autopilot…) – as we walked we talked to anyone we met, familiar or not. At one point we got to an apartment building whose caretaker is fondly nicknamed ‘Odiero’. I shared our story with him. A well-dressed man was seated next to him. They asked for our contact details just in case and promised to tell others as well. The well dressed gentleman said to us “We will look but you must also know that some Kenyans are not good people and may ha…” I stopped him there. ” I need for Mama Leroy to be strong…so I understand what you are saying, but we cannot listen to you.”
“But I am just saying so that you know. Some…” I stopped him. Said thanks to everyone and we – Kitty, Shukri and I went on our way. He who has ears…you know we meet well-meaning people like these in our individual pilgrims and sometimes, unfortunately, are them.

We got to where we currently live, and met with a group of pastors who are my immediate neighbors. They told us to go to Soweto Police station as that is where he would be if anyone found him. They also advised us not to ‘catch feelings’ if the police were rude to us – they would be just testing us to see if we genuinely cared. We agreed and took two bodabodas – one with Shukri and Kitty and the other with me (I am wide load – not able to share 🙈)

The ride over the sewage flooded Soweto bridge with its murky green waters brought terrifying thoughts 🥺that I quickly pushed back “God, I KNOW that You are leading us to Leroy. You will not let us down.”

We got to the police station and were warmly received and served by the police officers we found. They too assured us that he would be found. Kitty’s Mum had joined us. She had been searching all of the previous night and all of this day, everywhere including in hospitals. The police told us that if anyone had found him, he would most probably be at a children’s home. We passed by the now closed chief’s camp and begun our walk through the slums of Soweto, looking for Leroy, looking through the children’s homes. One after another, they wished us well but said he had not been by.

Finally we got to one called ‘By Grace’ now in Kayole. The lady received us as she continued to cut vegetables. We repeated Leroy’s details and she looked straight at me and said he had been brought in the morning by police. “You must be his mother – you look exactly the same.” I smiled and shook my head and pointed at Kitty’s retreating back…she was weeping again.

“I was not able to take him in because I was full but I want to assure you that he is well and safe.” She continued. ” I could tell that he was not a street child but a well cared for one who baths every day” she said smiling gently.

We thanked her and went to look in the two police locations she had pointed us towards: Komarock and Mihang’o. We had no idea where those were but if Leroy had found his way there, so would we. Outside the home though, we met a friendly “Mama mboga” (Lady vegetable seller). She strongly advised us to first of all pass by the DO’s office as that was where such cases were first reported. She almost physically hauled us into a matatu…God bless you dear angel.

We got to the DOs and linked arms as we walked to the reception of the small police post. Kitty kept telling me “We will find him here.”

We repeated our story to the kind looking female officer…and the two others with her in the booth. She smiled and turned and picked her phone talking as she did. I cannot for the life of me remember what she was saying…just that Leroy was safe. She called a lady who still happened to be in the compound. Susan Owuor Njuguna runs a children’s program called Elroi Hope Center (Leroy:Elroi – see our God!!! El Roi is also a Hebrew name for God – ‘The God Who Sees me”).

The officer introduced us to her and she smiled. Took out her phone and showed use a photo of our baby taken that morning. Ok…here we all broke down and wept as we went into a worship session to the One Who sees us. Kitty ran to the gate saying she would only let up when she saw Leroy. We talked a bit with Susan. She reassured us over Leroy’s well being and that we would go home with him that night.

We got into a very noisy matatu headed to Mihang’o to meet a lady called Maggie who would give us our child. She is a child officer in Komarock. We kept asking the conductor if we were there yet. While alighting the conductor gave further directions to the police station
Vukeni barabara na mupenye hako ka chum hiyo pande ingine. Tembeeni mpaka mwisho utaona kwa polisi.” before whistling sharply and banging the matatu with his hand and taking off. We laughed at this delightful way of showing us the way. ‘Ka chum…”  😂😅.An elderly light skinned lady smiled at us and repeated the instructions in proper Swahili – telling us basically to walk through a path on the opposite side of the road till its end.

It was now about 7pm…and we were at the edge of Kayole. With no idea where we were and how we would get back home…just knowing that we had to have Leroy with us when we did.

We called Maggie and she came to us and led us into the police station. We met with the Child Officer attached to this station – Nduta – who had was already well on her way home before she was called back to assist us in releasing Leroy. They verified Kitty’s relationship with Leroy and then went to get him. Here Kitty broke and wept. And we all joined her when Leroy walked in. He too was in tears. Quietly, gently. We lifted up praise and the police must have taken a photo then.

Back home Leroy’s Nanny and little sisters met us with tearful hugs and we sung along 70201976_888728864819658_5975010660830937088_o.jpgwith a neighbor and praised God. He is worthy. He is Worthy.

We are so grateful for the destiny helpers He sent to protect Leroy on the two nights he was alone, and yesterday (For all who prayed, were kind to him, kept him for us, may you experience The God of Leroy in very special ways in your lives. To Soweto Police, Tassia Police Post, Buruburu Police Station, Kayole Police Station, DO’s Office Kayole, By Grace Children’s Home Kayole, And ESPECIALLY TO Missing Child Kenya, Child officers Maggie (Komarock) and Nduta (Kayole), Susan Owuor Njuguna (Elroi) and the Askari’s who sheltered him Monday night, as well as Denno the bodaboda angel who pointed us to look towards Kayole, to Shukri and Nancy… May God raise you and yours up to Himself to shower you with His Glory in every way. Thank you. Thank You ABBA.).

Truly grateful to Nancy, Sammy and their family for coming to take us home🙌…that’s how we did it and for everyone who prayed, called, searched with us, encouraged us…God bless you.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

#ComeUpHereAndSee #OurAllseeingHope#IHaveAnotherReasonToPraiseTheLORD

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33 and 77

The numbers 33 and 77 have been appearing enough times in my life, since perhaps April for me to notice them.

77 was particularly special for me when Daddy was at his worst in ICU. I would come in early, and sit in with him while waiting for the rest of the family to come. I would listen to the different sounds, Daddy’s breathing, the different beeps of the machines he was connected to, then inevitably God would cause my eyes to turn to the numbers on the monitor. EVERY time I saw the number 77, I knew God was in control. He would whisper to me “My Heart is Perfect towards you Vip.” I would relax…and journal my thoughts. Its been the same since…no matter how rough things got, God would somehow find a way of sending 77 my way – “My Heart is Perfect towards you, Vip.

This morning, I turn on my laptop. 33 shouts at me. Its been a challenging weekend for my family health-wise, but also, mainly victorious in Christ. First, my grandson Gio woke up from his nap on Saturday evening and drank a quarter of a bottle of Dettol Antiseptic. As we were handling this, I get a call from a number I did not know, “Are you Shukurani’s mother?” Those calls…

Apparently, my baby had fainted at her place of work. I got money from my hairdresser friend in order to take a motorbike (bodaboda) to meet the caller, a lady called Eunice (God bless her). When I got to the Health Center at Nyayo Estate where she was, I was met by a lady called Juliet, who hugged me though I did not immediately recognize her. I penned her down for hospital staff, and thought the worst. But I could hear Shukri’s voice shouting “No, No!” and the doctor and nurses around her trying to calm her down.The receptionist was asking me for the consultation fee and I just looked at her and said, I didn’t have it but wanted to see my daughter. I was met by the sight of her bleeding face, and noted also she had thrown up. Well lets just say several stitches, tests, injections, scans later we were finally home at 11:45pm. Hypertension kicked in on me…Sunday morning we were again first in the clinic. For Shukri not me. She was fine. Doing a lot better. Gio was fine, playing. Then yesterday there was me – Fatigue, Hypertension and two teeth aching. Finally in the evening, Dr. Simon calls me in for an injection to help me go through the night. Thank God for friendships.

So back to 33…I put my laptop on this morning and my yahoo and facebook are both reading 33. I wonder what that means for me today…and I Google this even as I ask God to speak to me. “Vip it is accomplished. It is finished.” I rest…

Eunice means ‘Good Victory’, Juliet means ‘Youthful’ and Simon means ‘hear, listen.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Station 007 line 23 – My 2017 Voting Experience

My election story: Was woken up by whistles and vuvuzelas at 2:30am, so I prayed and was on the line, with my entire household, including Gio, by 4:30am. At around 5:45am the administration of the polling center decided that the gate, in front of which we had been lining up for hours, would not be used and we had to go round almost a kilometer and a half to enter the school by an alternative gate. I saw here, the manifestation of the last being the first and first being last 🙂
 
I finally got in, and spent quite some time looking for my line. As the lines were not arranged in order, I got to walking almost every spot of the station. I saw God in this too…dedicated it to Him. I finally found my line, 23, and settled to chatting with those in adjustment lines. My line and 7 others were to enter a building by a single door; whenever the security allowed for people to enter, we knew there was progress by the screams of the women in front, and the violent surge forward. It seems like, no, it was factual that the eight lines ‘dissolved’ into a tight bottleneck closer to the entrance, where it was survival for the fittest. Occasionally a pole would emerge from inside the room, a security person trying to beat people into order but the crowd roared back so they gave up on them…at least for a while.
 
Anyway, we gradually surged forward until I was now a part of the bottle-neck. I found out first hand why the women screamed at this point. Somehow God kept me in His Peace despite the pushing, shoving and lifting…at some point I felt someone trying to pry my rings from my fingers, addressed them from midair and, then removed them and kept them safely away. A woman cried out and the young people literally carried her to the front. A young man pushing on my right asked me why I wasn’t crying. I said to him in broken kiswahili “Sina Pums” meaning, I had no breath to spare. An elderly woman, perhaps a few years older than me, squashed and sweating profusely on my left gasped at me “Siwezi toka…” She just wanted out. I told her to hold on as we were almost in. I wondered about my advise even as I spoke out. There was nothing in me that even remotely considered getting out of this situation without first voting. It wasn’t really about those that I had chosen to vote for, I had no vested interest in them really…but it was more about Kenya, and loving her…quaint…
 
I noticed after about five minutes more of being pushed, lifted, shoved in all directions so that I felt I would snap at the middle that the woman was no longer moving. Her head hung to her chest. Then, I made noise. A policeman had found his way right behind me and I turned somehow to him and said to him “Help this lady, please. She is in a crisis.” The youth around me took up my cry and somehow a way was made. It seems they noticed then that I was not young either, so they also ushered me forward. The lady was received by police officers at the door, and I stood on my own, trying to clear the blackness that was drawing me to the ground.
 
A voice urged me forward…and I obeyed, not really sure that I would make the next step. The IEBC staff on my line were fast, efficient and friendly. They recognized my plight and shared their water with me, allowed me to cast my ballot and then sat me down to somehow get it together. There were no first-aid personnel. I beckoned the officer who seemed in charge and asked him to go take care of the women in the line…he complied saying he would inform the security at the door.
 
As I left the station – I noticed that the eight lines were orderly, quiet, dignified, with security personnel forming a barricade at the door. I hope the other lady is feeling better too.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

Races Lost

Calla Lily - Series 2 - 01“Mami, have you seen the body the neighbors have been staring out since morning?” Shukri greeted me one afternoon in March. “People are saying he committed suicide, but others think he was killed.” I was tired. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. We had just gotten home after a shoot and several interviews, and I just wanted something to eat and a place to retire and worry about whether or not this article would be published, how I would manage food and rent and how to keep the landlord and his caretaker from calling me – without sinning. But I put on my sandals and went back out. I walked the about 100 meters to where a police truck was now parked, and several uniformed and un-uniformed officers were milling about. One of them, a lady greeted me, with a hug. I remembered her from a child’s right issue that had taken us to the Post recently. She, her colleague and I had accompanied the minor to hospital in the dead of the night, for first aid before we surrendered her to their care.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Ina kaa huyu muyu amejinyonga.” She said pointing towards the unfinished tinned accommodation a few feet from where I was. “Si ukuje uone kama ni mutu unajua?” She wanted me to go see if was someone I knew. Sleep had been difficult in coming so I declined her offer thankfully when her colleague asked if I had a bed-sheet I no longer needed in my house. They needed it to carry the body into the waiting car. I scooted as fast as my 100 kgs could carry me back to my house and came back about five minutes later. By this time, curious neighbors were gathering around the scene but the officers kept them away but insisted I go see the man. “You never know.” Said one.

He was unknown to me, and from the identity card found in his back pocket, just a few months older than my son. My heart broke as I looked at his peaceful, oddly frozen face, with a neat cut – presumably from a rope, across his adam’s apple. The brain is merciful, because I cannot remember much more, except that his body sounded embalmed as it hit the back of the police car. One other item was found on his person – a medical card indicating that he had just had his first doze of ARVs. I went home and prayed for those he loved, and those that loved him…and for those I love, and those that love me…that none would ever feel so alone that they would choose to end their lives. That there would always be someone that cared.

So today afternoon, Leroy rushes into my bedroom just as am about to get into prayer and bible study. Our neighbor needed us urgently. Either a thief or a snake. I again left the house wondering how I was going to be useful in either situation. But again, it seemed as though my feet had two brains of their own. I found my neighbor handling the issue of the snake – I didn’t even want to see it. She insisted I go check on the thief. He husband was already there, with one other man. I went hoping to convince them to take the alleged thief to the police post, as opposed to killing him in my other neighbors’ plot. The young man had stolen some metal building materials, some things that looked like old chimneys, and a set of nearly rusty sufurias. Ok, this was going to be serious since my neighbors had had their water piping materials stolen and another apparently a gate or something. I asked God again, what my role was there. I noticed that the men were uncomfortable talking to the young man in my presence and at one point my neighbor’s husband closed the gate between me and them and then descended on the young man with slaps. I called him out and talked to him calmly, about what would be the right thing to do. He went back in, and came out shortly after and went back to his plot, to deal with the snake issue.

Before he left, he had called the owner of the paraphernalia, and continued to interrogate the man loudly. Another man had joined them. He knew the young man, in fact, he described him as a hard working builder that he had hired from time to time. The young man changed his initial story that he had been hired to pick the wares up, to the truth, that he was hungry, that his house in the Soweto Slums had been locked and that he had not been able to find any work to do in the past week. He said he had never stolen before and loudly begged for mercy. My heart broke.

Then came the owner of the paraphernalia with a friend and a rock. I asked him not to kill the man. He ignored me and rushed in. He came up about three minutes later, sweating, and shared his frustration. He had been robbed too many times, he lost his gate, all his clothes from the line, he was tired and this guy would pay for it. Other men came to see what was going on, and the interesting thing is that they stood afar, not willing to get involved. They commented on the affair, “that is hunger, that is hunger.” They should not kill him, they should discipline him and then let him go. I prayed, God why are you allowing me here? I do not want to witness this man dying. I called the owner of the paraphernalia, he was my neighbor. I asked him to just check, the man may be innocent…to take him to the post and check out the story about someone else sending the man for this things. He said it was alright. He went in and then asked the man to carry the things he had stolen back into his compound. He had by this time, confiscated the man’s identity card. The man carried the things into the compound and then dashed out. He ran, he ran, he ran…he run into two women, and told them he was running from a mob that wanted to kill him. I don’t think anyone, not even the one who he had robbed was sad he got away. In fact they locked up and went back to their days as though nothing had happened.

I looked around at the men and women as they dispersed…I saw their pain, and their perspective of this particular situation. It spoke of things that united us all – the hunger, homelessness, the pain, the fatigue…the despair. We go through the motions of living, hoping that someone, God mainly, would decode the language of the stream of our unshed tears, and free us. If we could all run…run, run away…it would be understood. God was in that place. He is everywhere, but in this place…about 75 meters from where the body had been found a few weeks ago, God had come and dispensed His Justice.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

“Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you” 1 Samuel 12:23

Called To Be Me

I love Romans 12:1-2. It has been, along with Colossians 2:16-23, Isaiah 54 and Proverbs 3:3-8, among the key scriptures that God has used as an extension of His Rod and Staff in guiding me through the narrow way in the past while. God The Artist. He did not create us to be like others but to honour Him by living to allow a transformation that would make us each, uniquely like Him.

Perhaps others struggle with conforming, as I am. A visiting friend shared with me some of the things she had heard said about me and my walk with God, that you can imagine, were less than complimenting. In her view. But as she said them, I gave thanks, understanding what God had deliberately called me from, and that He had been Faithful in working me to be different in some aspects that though offensive to some, honored Him. It was a good visit. She shared with my daughter and I, her own journey and after praying with us left us with a quote purportedly articulated by a servant of God; she said to us

“Someone had to be me – and unfortunately or fortunately for me (and others), I was called to be me.”

That settled it, one day at a time. God has lent me His Breath and His Time for SPECIFIC purposes. Every time I buy into someone else’ assignment and ditch my own, even if I succeed in these and gain the applause of men, I am simply wasting time and breath. God’s Time and Breath. He will call me to account, as all good lenders do, and what I did that wasn’t what He sent me to do, will be burnt with fire. I understood from this, that a major part of Heaven’s resourcing for the good works that God has laid for us to do, is Time and Breath. Exactly the amount of time and breath I need to do His given assignment.

So, whatever He has called you to be, a writer, banker, doctor, accountant, pastor, parent, spouse, intercessor, prophet, encourager, be that, waitress, house help, with all the Excellence of Heaven. He will come calling for fruit.  It may look simple, even shabby to another whose assignment and calling is more pleasing to the senses, but remember this; only I am called to be me. And God will call me to account for it. Therefore, be un-offendable and diligent as you spend His Time and breath His Breath.
Shalom

Our Twins Came Pre-Term

Tears and Triumphs Through The Muhami’s Journey with their sons

IMG_3078.JPG

Sam: I am a 43 year old Auditor working for the National Treasury. Mercy, 38 years and I have been married since December 11, 2004. We have four children; Dennis who is 10, Cynthia, and then the twins Alex and Felix. We experienced no challenges in our first two pregnancies. I attended pre-natal clinics with Mercy and even went to the labour ward for the birth of our second child Cynthia. When Mercy fell pregnant a third time, we thought it would be as easy. At the 7 weeks clinic, we were told that it was one baby, but the sixth month scan revealed that she was carrying twin boys. It was then that we started attending Gynaecologist Dr. Kagema’s clinic. We saw him twice or thrice before Mercy went into premature labour at 7 months. He was the one who prepared us for the possibility that the babies would be born early, and administered an injection that was intended to strengthen the lungs of the baby. We were to go for another but Mercy went into labour.

Mercy: I have never smoked, drunk alcohol, I had no issues with blood pressure and my husband is very supportive and nonviolent. When I was young, I had asked God that when it was time to name my father, He would allow me to have twins so I could name him and my eldest brother at the same time. This was before I got married. I was there for ecstatic when a scan revealed that I would be having twin boys.  My father had died while we were still young, and my eldest brother, who is about 20 years older than I, had taken us through school. I never missed a day of school due to fees.

I started experiencing a pain on my right side, and the doctor said my small frame was being taxed by the twins within me. We had been to Dr. Kagema’s on June 22, 2013. He had told me that everything was progressing well with my pregnancy. So when I started having cramps the next day from around 10am, Sam and I were convinced it was not labour. We finally decided to go to hospital at 4pm. I had dilated 7cms already and had they delayed more, I would have had the twins naturally. I was in theatre at 10pm when I delivered them. Actually I opted for it since the babies were so tiny and I did not want to loose either of them through the birth process. They scored high during the birth, they cried well and Alex weighed 1650 grams while Felix weighed 1480 grams. They actually brought them to me soon after birth for a short while before I was wheeled to the ward and then to nursery. The next day, I was in a lot of pain from the operated area so I was not able to see them. Sam however came and told me they were well. I had no reason not to believe him. I was to find out later that Felix was admitted straight into the ICU. He reduced to less than 1000 grames and Alex to 1200grams. Neither of them were able to feed.

Sam: When I first visited them I was informed that the children were very sick. I was also advised not to share this information with my wife since she was still in extreme pain from the operation the previous day.

Mercy: The next day, however, I felt I needed to see them. I steeled myself against the pain, and walked the distance to the nursery. I was told that they were in the ICU as they were critically ill. They took me to see Felix first. I was horrified. He was tiny, and in respiratory distress, each breath lifted him off the bed. I fainted. I did not see Alex that day. The resuscitated me and took me to the ward. I wept and was not able to talk to my visitors. I didn’t think I would ever be able to look at my babies again. After some hours I gathered courage and went and saw Alex. He was helpless and in an incubator. I was advised to express milk, and I tried but could not since I was stressed up. I looked at the other mothers in there. They seemed to have their act together, and easily expressed, and fed their children.

Sam: They prescribed and administered Surfactant for the development of the lungs. It normally costs Kshs, 60,000 for a 10 ml bottle of which they only use 7ml. We asked the staff to keep the remainder for a parent who was not able to afford it for their child.  I would visit daily. The children were on I.V.s. Mercy is strong, and would diligently express milk for them as they were not able to suckle on their own. Preterm babies, cannot like other babies, suckle, breath and swallow simultaneously and risk chocking or even dying if they try. She would divide the expressed milk between the children according to the doctors recommendations. They started with 1 ml each through N.G. tubes.

Mercy: They would feed after every three hours. I had to go to the nursery despite the fact that my wound had not yet healed. To check if they had digested the milk we would stick a syringe into the N.G. tubes, and pull it back. If something was drawn from the child it would mean that they were not digesting well. Alex despite being the bigger of the two was admitted into ICU on his fourth day as he had lost weight due to his inability to digest food.

They need also to make smaller diapers for preterms. The smallest pampers almost covered their entire bodies. Huggies had a smaller one that fitted better but was still way too big.

Sam: The back and forth between the ward and the ICU every three hours was depressing for my strong wife. The doctors tested the babies’ blood constantly to see if infections had set in, in order to treat these.

IMG_3128.JPGMercy: KNH has about one nurse to 50 babies so we have to be involved. I would wake up and go clean my babies from that day. I forgot about my wound and have no idea to-date exactly when it healed. They had administered Surfactant to Felix and he was breathing more normally now. Since he was in ICU, the nurses would clean him but I still was the one to feed him. Alex on the other hand had not been able to digest food for four days, and was admitted into the ICU as well. After two weeks, a Professor recommended that he be taken to theatre the next day and be put on a central line. I was depressed. He was the bigger baby, and the one on whom I had hope and now he was scheduled for theatre.  I talked to another mother about this and she discouraged me saying that most babies died during the process of this procedure. I wept again. I made three calls to my brother, to my cousin and to my friend and didn’t say anything just cried and disconnected.  I then called my Aunt Nancy who is a nurse. She came to see me. She told me that God was able to do a miracle if I prayed. I asked God not to allow the operation but to heal Alex. I did not sleep that night but talked to God about Alex.

The next morning I determined to feed Alex which was not procedural before surgery. The nurses tried to stop me but the doctor finally allowed me to exercise my faith. I began with 2ml, then 5ml, and then 7ml. By the next morning he was taking and digesting all of 10mls. The doctor was amazed and in short, he did not go to theatre. He was fed and eventually put on 600gms. Putting on even 100gms for a pre-term baby is a miracle. I was also Kangarooing Alex, he was jaundiced and was also put under blue light.

Both my babies needed transfusions and my husband and brothers in law had donated blood for them. Bureaucracy made it sometimes complicated for them to be transfused. I remember one day just going mad and going to the nurses station when I discovered that they had not been. I made a scene and they ended up giving them the blood.

IMG_3041.JPGAfter a week Felix was discharged from ICU. One day I was feeding him in the nursery and the nurses came and asked for him. He was throwing his hands and feet. One nurse shouted something like ‘Apnea’. I did not know what that meant. I went back to the nursery after 3 hours and found so many doctors around him. One of them was telling the others that he hoped I would not walk in when I did. My baby was purple. I was shocked. I called my husband, my pastor and my cousin who is an elder. I would call, cry and disconnect. I run to the nurses room and hid under a bed. I cried bitterly calling out to God. He heard me. The now late Nurse Judy came for me. She simply said “Mercy, toka chini ya kitanda. Mtoto ameamka.” Felix was in ICU attached to a machine. His SPO2 – flow of oxygen was almost 100. This was a good sign. He was doing fine. My cousin had been at a Gospel outreach Pastor’s forum when I called. He interrupted his colleagues and they prayed for me without knowing what was the matter.

After this I could go the ICU and find the readings at 70, but as I stood there, they would rise steadily to 100. One mother noticed this and asked if I practised magic, I told her it was simply the power of prayer. I prayed a lot. I sang, and I cried.

One day my friend Grace’ baby who had been stronger than mine died. Not just hers, but three babies around Felix. I was not able to feed him that day. The other mothers were holding me and crying and calling me. Every three hours, a baby would die. They were taken to the Sluice Room. When we came in for feeding we knew whose it was by either checking into that room first or if a nurse called a mother aside to sit with them.

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I cried a lot during my time in hospital. I was known as ‘mama wa kulia, na kuomba na kuimba’. One time our couples’ fellowship – Precious Couples visited me. The women just came and cried with me. The nurses were shocked at this. The next day one of them pulled me aside and on confirming I was Christian, read to me from Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” My now late mother coincidentally visited me at this time, on the insistence of my brothers who were concerned that I could not stop crying. She was 78 years then, a mother of 10 children. She told me that Kikuyu customs did not allow for tears to fall on nursing breasts. I don’t think this is true but it worked – I never cried after this; well not as much anyway.  My brothers have never let me forget this.

After this, whenever I was with my babies, I would talk to them telling them that they would survive their beginnings. I would create time between the feeding schedules that lasted one hour for each child to do KMC. My husband was only able to support me in this when the babies came home for hygiene reasons.  I was vigilant about accessing my babies to what they needed to survive.

Before we were discharged, the doctors ensured that the twins were able to suckle. Finally August 9, 2013 came round. I was called by a doctor and told I could go home. I was ecstatic. I just wanted to be home and sleep on a mattress. We were sleeping in the Mothers Mess where we shared beds or mattress on the floor by now. I just wanted to sleep in my own bed.  I could hardly wait for my husband, my sister Purity and my friend Nancy to get there.

Sam: I paid for most of the general drugs and test while NHIF paid about Kshs 500,000/ to cover their time in hospital. We are not rich but have never lacked for anything. God provides. For instance they were able to use Huggies throughout.

We had chosen Kenyatta National Hospital for the delivery because we had faith in the doctors there, and that the hospital was more than adequately equipped for any eventuality. It proved a good choice but I also think we also played a role; parents must follow the instructions of medical personnel. Upon their discharge for instance, the nurses demanded total hygiene on and around the children. Their room had to be disinfected and the nursing cups washed and handled only by my wife and myself. They were to have no visitors initially as their immunity was low. This was really hard to effect.

Mercy: I would plead with Sam sometimes to allow friends and relatives to see the children. Some came from really far away to see them but he was firm; especially when Felix got an infection two weeks later, and we had to be readmitted for a week. Some people took real offence.

When Felix got sick two weeks later and we had to go back, I was devastated. I refused to pack but somehow when we got to hospital, our things were all packed. He was put in the isolation room, diagnosed with mild pneumonia. Shortly afterwards another baby was brought in diagnosed with menegitis. I cried then but was told the kind of menegitis this baby had was not infectious. I was concerned also about Alex. How would he feed without me? Sam and the nurses assured me that Sam would be able to handle Alex. Still they would fight over the milk I expressed.

Sam: When one twin gets sick at this stage both are admitted along with their mother, so it gets really costly. The sick that is not sick gets exposed to infections and may end up unwell too. To avoid this, I requested to keep Alex with me, and signed him out into my custody. This meant I had to be at KNH thrice daily to get breast milk for him; at 6am, lunch time and evening. The milk needed to be warm. One time, I was flagged down by a police man for over-speeding at night. Alex had been crying and I had his milk. I told the police man to take my car and allow me to get food to my two month old son whose mother was in hospital. The policeman had compassion on me and released me. Sometimes the nurses in hospital wanted to keep the expressed milk for Felix, as he was their priority. We would literally tug over this.  Alex on the other hand would through fits throughout the night.

Mercy: Felix was discharged a week later, and thankfully the twins have never been admitted since.

Sam: We were grateful for the care of Drs. Miriam Karanja, Kihara, and Opondo of KNH, but met and have been seeing Dr Ngugi Maina at Kasarani’s Josma Medical Center. Since we were afraid of infections and hardly took the twins out in the sun, Felix got rickets at 7 months. Thankfully these were treated. He had to go through physiotherapy  and at some point had straps on his legs. He just begun walking on May 20, this year at the age of 3. Alex had started at 14 months and experienced normal milestones. We learnt from our doctors to never measure our children against the achievements of another child, not even each other.

Mercy: Felix also spoke later, and is now learning to form sentences.

Sam: The twins are both poor feeders. Mercy, who is a qualified accountant, has stayed indoors voluntarily since 2013. We try to feed them as many times as possible. They have even been on appetizers from time to time. One would wake up at night and then wake the others. We started taking shifts sleeping so we could face the next day.

IMG_3045.JPGThey are fraternal twins. They love being together but fight a lot too. Alex who is older is domineering and manipulative. He is also friendly and remembers faces and names of those he meets. Felix is a worshipper. He loves dance and music. He persistent, determined, focused and strong willed. He is a fighter. Alex fluctuates in his weight whereas Felix keeps the weight he has gained.

We keep two house girls; remember the two older ones are still babies themselves. We had our househelp Cugu who has been with us for 9 years, but needed a new one so we could handle especially the mornings. Initially for the first two months we did not sleep. Our other children understood why we gave most attention to the twins. Mercy’s elder sister Purity was really supportive and lived with us for 9 months.

Mercy: It was hard for Robert and Cynthia initially with me being away for two months in hospital with the babies, and their father trying to cope between home, office and hospital. He would bring them to the hospital to see me from time to time.

Sam: I have a very understanding boss who is also a parent. Understanding my challenges, he would allow me to work on flex time. I needed to be available for all hospital visits and emergencies.

Mercy: Back at home a week later, we were now even more paranoid about infections.  We would not take them out of the house. Felix developed Rickets. We found a good nutritionist and were given some powder from the UN called Prampinot I think, and another medicine.

Until they were three years, my life has been a whirlwind. I had physiotherapy with Felix and would cry when they massaged him. He finally began walking at the age of three and is now stringing words together to form a sentence. I can now think about engaging in income generation outside the house.

Sam: We have actually been able to get away twice on our own without the children. For three days each time. It is important for me that my wife is happy and rested.

Mercy: Sam has supported me throughout this journey. We are grateful to God, to the staff at KNH, to our siblings , our pastors, and the very many visitors who came and who sometimes did not get to see me. I was touched by the plight of many of the mothers of preterms. Some were married but were never visited by their husbands. Some of their husbands would encourage them to abandon their babies there – hence the presence of so many KNH babies. Some mothers loose all their babies, like one who remains childless as all her three babies have been preterm. One time a mother stole her own child out of ICU presumably to go throw it away.

On the children’s first birthday we went back to celebrate with the mothers then at the nursery. We had noticed in our time there that they had a shortage of heaters so we gifted them with a few, and brought cake for the nurses. It really encouraged the mothers there to see Alex and Felix. I remembered while there I had wished that I could have a mother come back and just say “Mimi nilikua hapa and these are my babies”.

Pre-term children can survive and thrive. I know one who is now studying at JKUAT, and one who was born in KNH at 900grams and is now a doctor there. Once they overcome, they perform well and are like other children. As a parent, the words you say over your children stick to them. Be careful therefore. Never give up on them – even when the doctors do.

Sam: In the last three years, we have lost four people who stood with us during this ordeal. My father, my eldest sister who even lived with us for a while, My mother and my mum- in law. Its been difficult but we know to be strong. My late mother in law told us at the very beginning that she knew the boys would be well enough to visit her fun and she could see them in her mind’s eye running around. This prophesy has come to pass, many times.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

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Keratoconus: Esther Thairu’s Story

As told to Vip Ogola by Esther, her father Stephen Thairu and their good Samaritan Mr. Kamal Sanghani

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Esther: I was young, 2 years old. I had eye trouble and started going to hospital for eye drops. I could see maybe, 30 centimeters and my eyes would pain. The doctors told me it was treatable. It reached a point where I was told I would go in for an operation. I was not afraid even when I saw the razors. I thought it would be painful but it wasn’t. I was anaesthetized and I woke up seeing better. I was in hospital for four days, three of those with my eyes bandaged.

Stephen: Esther was born in Loitokitok. She started having problems with her eyes at the age of two years. She would wake up and find her eyes clogged shut with pus. This happened annually between April and August and we suspected it had something to do with the cold weather. We took her to the district hospital there and she was told she had allergies that would resolve themselves by the time she was eight years old. She was given medication for this.

Esther Thairu.JPGEsther: I do very well in school. I am now 13 years old, and apart from academics, I play football.

Stephen: We moved to Githurai and Esther joined Mercies Academy where she is currently in Standard 6, having dropped back a year due to her medical challenges. Since she was a bright student she caught the attention of her teachers. Teacher Teresia noticed her problems with her eyes and advised us to change to Lions Hospital in Loresho. In the initial year of her treatment, they kept changing drugs. Her right eye was in terrible shape and needed urgent surgery. The left one was also in bad shape. The cost of surgery would be Kshs 350,000/ and they were not taking NHIF. I was confused. I was advised to take her to KNH due to the more manageable costs. On examining her, they concluded that her eyes were badly off. They only perform surgeries once as year so they referred her back to Lions for more urgent attention. We found that the costs there would be the same. I talked to my employer who suggested that we sell my father’s land to offset the costs. She talked to Mr. Kamal Sanghani of the Rotary club about my case and they referred us to Dr. S.P. Amin. We had to wait until he was available.

Kamal: Dr. Amin is in the Board of Lions. He was my contact. I would talk to him and then talk to Stephen. The doctors of Lions are good friends of mine. My family agreed that we would sponsor Esther. We did not know her then, and we have since sponsored three others.  One of the Rotarians told me about her. It took time but Stephen was both patient and persistent keeping me on my toes. Initially it was difficult to get a Cornea. We did not loose home. My mother insisted pushed me from the home front. Since we were working on a tight budget, we agreed that she goes to Lions four or five times. She is a bright student so we wanted to see her excel. There were so many issues and at one point I almost lost my temper with the hospital. Finally we received a Cornea for her from India.

Stephen: They started with her right eye. Then after two months they did Cross linking. She was in a private ward at the hospital and was the only child admitted there at that time.

Esther: I did not go to school. I was told not to by the doctor as it was possible to play a bad game and hurt my eyes. I also needed to avoid dust. I stayed home with Mum and really missed Shule.

Stephen: We had to go to hospital every Saturday after for check-up as she was on medication.

Esther: They would change my specks, I think twice between the first and second operations.

Stephen: They needed to do this to adapt to her strengthening eyesight.

Esther: After I did my first operation, Mr. Francis Mwangi my teacher at my school, Mercies School in Guthurai 44, put me to sit in front of the class. He then moved me to the back of the class to see if I had improved after two week. I had. Fellow students were also supportive in helping me catch up with them, especially Peter Mutuku. I am in Standard 6.

Stephen: She is supposed to be in standard 7 but she lost a lot of time that year and was not able to do her exams.

Esther: My grades are good. I get 350+. At the cross linking the doctors told me that I would go through pain for the night. I stayed indoors for three days with Mum. I am the first of three children and the only daughter of my parents. My mother sells vegetables and my father digs for a living. They gave me eye-drops to put after every two hours.  I was told I could go to school after a week. This was in March 2015. Since that time I have only had my specs changed once. I am in no pain and I can see relatively well.

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