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August 31, 2016 Leave a comment
By Vip Ogola
Petite, Sicily Wangari Mugo walks comfortably into her living room. It is difficult to imagine her ever being unwell. She is straddling the last of her three children, 15 month old Shammah Waiguru on her hip. She hugs us and then sits. Her house manager Sarah comes in for Waiguru and we get right into the interview. “When Sharon, my second child was born through C-Section, my husband had to travel internationally after two weeks. My house manager at that time left suddenly. I am a perfectionist, so I got up, and kept my house in perfect order. I didn’t feel it then, but this marked the beginning of my journey.”
Her journey with multiple slipped discs began in July 2012 when she was first diagnosed of the condition. “I had back pains that would come and go. I also felt tired all the time and numb sometimes. But I thought it had something to do with women’s issues, having had surgery thrice, once to extract fibroids, and twice to have my daughters. I did not take it seriously, even when they referred me to Dr. Gakuo. I was busy. And a woman.” Wangari has been a Financial Advisor with PanAfrican Life for ten years. She is passionate about her job which involves visiting clients and giving insurance advice “I love my job and my supportive employer. I would target ten meetings a day, and make it through.”
Some conditions cannot simply be ignored away. One October morning Wangari got up to get ready for two crucial meetings. “I struggled out of bed trying to ignore the pain. I went to the bathroom but when I bent over to pick up the soap, it was too painful to try. I screamed without meaning to, and my husband heard but I made as if I was okay. This morning’s meetings were too important to me. I struggled through dressing up and even drove to pick up my colleague near City Carbannas for the meeting on Mombasa road. But I could not pretend anymore, I was weak and in pain and I left, allowing my colleague to go on with the meeting. I knew I just had to go to hospital, via my meeting with Muthoni.” Muthoni, her friend, had been recently widowed, and needed advice on how to follow up with her husband’s insurance issues.
“I could not let Muthoni down. She needed people around her, and I did not want her to think I was using illness as an excuse for not being there for her.” She noticed her legs numbing as she drove. Her lower back was aflame. She parked at a Petrol Station near Bellevue and sat waiting for this wave of discomfort to subside. She was unable to reach her husband who was at a work meeting. None of her friends was close enough to reach her. Remembering Muthoni, she prayed she would not disappoint her and set out again. At the City Council parking opposite Barclays Plaza her distress drew the attention of an elderly man. He helped her out of the car, and out of the parking area. “I was glad I had not worn my usual high heels.” She convinced him that she was strong enough to cross the road, and took the lift to the second floor of her office building. She made it, courageously, through her long lunch hour meeting with Muthoni. Two male colleagues walked in on her anguish and rushed her to Menelik Hospital on Ngong Road. She was admitted on arrival. “By this time my vision was blurred and I slipped into unconsciousness at some point. I appreciated that the hospital prioritized my health not payment.”
“My colleague contacted my husband and waited until he arrived. I was admitted for 14 days that time. I underwent the second of three MRIs in this journey, and several other tests. They stretched me out on the bed, with things that looked like stones, which pulled my legs. I was told that the idea was to stretch out my vertebrae so that the flesh that was lodged between my discs would be released. It was extremely uncomfortable. I did not leave my bed, even to go to the bathroom for seven days” Her trauma increased on her second day when an elderly woman was wheeled in from surgery, for a spinal condition similar to hers. The woman regaled her with tales of her journey, the necessity for surgery and the amount of medication she was on. Wangari laughs. “We put ourselves through more that we are going through when we allow our minds to dwell on the worst case scenario. I was terrified. I decided the following morning to make positive declarations over my life. I prayed. I reminded God, like King Hezekiah in the Bible, of my life, how I had served Him and helped those who needed my help. And I began to feel better. It got so that when I was released from the stretching thing on my bed, I would now serve her, doing things like serving her medication.”
Upon discharge, she still had to go for follow up for about a week, and as her outpatient insurance was exhausted, to pay cash. About Kenya Shillings two thousand per session. This involved massage, continuous traction and buying medication. She was soon able to go back to work, sometimes. Her husband would send a driver to get her there and bring her home, but there were days she had to take the matatu. The medications were very strong and many times she passed her destination and had to be dropped off on her way back. She can no longer wear high heeled shoes for more than a few minutes, go to work and hold down the fort as she used to. Her employer and her clients have been supportive. She cannot hold or play with her really young children as she is discouraged from carrying anything heavier than two kilos. “I often had relapses when I carried my children. They now understand, one is in Standard 2 and the other in Pre-unit. It’s just this one…” she says smiling at the baby on her lap. “But God has given me grace.” She loves hosting, but now allows guests to serve themselves.
Her pregnancy with Shammah was nothing short of a miracle. She had to go off her strong medication for the entire duration and although the pain was severe, it never got her admitted. In fact, she only succumbed after his six month “and it wasn’t as serious as the other ones. I fell in the bath tub and relapsed. My house manager stayed with him while I was admitted and had the task of introducing him to solids. This is when I discovered Dr. Ruto of Kenyatta National Hospital Doctors Plaza. He is a gifted Physiotherapist and affordable too. I wish I had known him from the beginning.” She has also received dedicated support from her neighbour Dr. Stella Bosire of Avenue Hospital, Embakasi as well as her Gynacoelogist Dr. Yamal of Medi Plaza in Parklands.
“I am so grateful to God, to my parents, my in-laws, and church members at House of Grace Embakasi led by Pastors Dodzweit and Mary Achera for their support through this journey. I have made it this far because of their love and support. My husband Mugo Kariuki, has been priceless. He has prayed for me, declared God’s Word into my life, and taken on the roles, regarding the children so I could recover.”
email@example.com Dr. Stella Bosire on Herniated disk with Radiculopathy
Photography by: Nash of NaMeD Afrika Studios
First published in the Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine on Sunday, August 28, 2016
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.`
March 17, 2016 Leave a comment
December 19, 2015 Leave a comment