Shahada’s story part 3, Written by Cabral Opiyo

In Shahada’s story so far, she details a journey of personal upheaval when her mother got diagnosed with kidney disease and bone marrow cancer alongside crippling back pains that left her unable to walk and needing a wheelchair to move around. Shahada moved in with her and forfeited the chance to be with her family daily to act as her mum’s primary caregiver attending radiotherapy and dialysis with her and making sure she was well taken care of. But her story does not end there; most caregivers have reached rock-bottom as their personal lives so closely entwined with their patient’s has unravelled, so did Shahada’s.

After being taken to hospital for a persistent cough and horrendous burns on the legs that were just short of fatal, her mother was in a bad place and Shahada’s faith was shaken. Her mum fell into a coma and they thought the worst and that’s the state their father found her in but since he couldn’t stay away from work indefinitely, he left his wife in that dire condition and went back to Lodwar. This fact went on to cause a load of friction because her mother felt that her father hadn’t been there for her in her worst moment when she awoke from her comma and found him absent.

When Shahada’s mother woke up from her coma, she had temporarily lost her memory and accused her daughter of wanting to kill her, accusations that demoralised the already fatigued young lady. Coupled with her bed sores from inactivity, her mum was paralyzed from the chest downwards and went into another bout of depression and refused to eat and speak.

“The NHIF cover was helping quite a bit with the chemotherapy but we got a rude shock when a review at Aga Khan brought forth devastating news, the drugs we had been using for chemo were outdated and were no longer used in any serious institution. I felt like the world was crashing around me because of all the effort we had put into the journey so far.”

Meanwhile, Shahada’s health was also poor since she was heavily pregnant, stressed and fatigued with mounting personal problems that only added to the mental load. Her most endearing characteristics are the only things that got her through those moments she adds with a sigh; she’s naturally compassionate and patient which helped her deal with her mother’s occasional mood swings and outbursts with no complaint. She bore the arguments and disagreements with her mum stolidly and mostly put herself in her mum’s shoes to understand her point of view.

She had to have a solid constitution because caregiving for someone with kidney disease and cancer is not easy. She had to train herself to clean and dress infected wounds to avoid paying three thousand bob a day for these services from a nurse, they simply could not afford it. She cleaned up when her mother had diarrhoea and vomited from the effect of the chemo drugs. She would wash and brush her mum’s teeth with no complaint and her perseverance was severely tested during this period by some of the activities she had to take part in.

Her mum’s skin had darkened severely, she was always cold and had lost an enormous amount of weight and it broke Shahada’s heart to see her beloved mother in that condition. When they tried to have her admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital for better care, they were told that the wards were all full and that they would have to wait for someone to die so a bed would be vacated. Even when they found her a bed, she was not taken care of properly, not fed and her medicine was not given to her on time. The rule of the jungle was law in that ward, they were advised to pay a nurse so her mother would be better taken care of. They were already running low on funds and therefore that was not an option, they pulled her out after two days of horrendous service that is an indictment on the state of the public Kenyan health industry.

Then disaster struck; her mother had a procedure on Thursday and the next day she started weakening severely and her blood wouldn’t clot. By then, they had done numerous blood drives and exhausted all their contacts asking for blood donations and it pained Shahada even more that she could not donate even though she was a match due to her pregnancy. The loss of blood continued through the weekend and all calls to other hospitals for blood were returned with no solution in sight, her mother was fading right before her eyes and there was nothing she could do about it.

At the hospital, the doctors were not optimistic either also due to the fact that her mother had not eaten in three days, Shahada found a surge of energy and demanded that she be fed via tubes otherwise her and her brother would not leave. The doctors took them round in circles the whole day on Sunday claiming there were no tubes and none were the right size either way.

At 7:30 p.m. her husband started acting up because he was to pick her and take her home, he issued an ultimatum that if she didn’t leave the hospital immediately, he would leave without her. When she met him in the parking lot, explained her mother’s situation and refused to leave, he deposited her bags next to her and drove off, but Shahada had bigger concerns in her mind than her childish husband.

Tubes were finally miraculously located at 10:30 p.m. but by that time her mother’s feet were stone cold, she could barely talk and her eyes were only half open. The doctor ushered Shahada and her brother out of the room, drew the curtains and a crash-cart was wheeled into the room speedily. A few minutes later, a dejected doctor exited the room and broke the news to Shahada and her brother that her mother had passed on.

Her brother slid soundlessly to the floor and Shahada stood in shock. Of all the people they had dealt with, Shahada and her brother were the only ones who believed that her mother would make it and yet she had passed on, it wasn’t tallying for Shahada and she refused to accept it.

Everything was going wrong in her life; she had lost her mother whom she had sacrificed so much to care for, her marriage was in tatters, she had neglected her child to be a caregiver, her health and finances were a mess and she had still lost her mother anyway.

Shahada gave birth to her daughter two days after her mother passed on, when the pain was still raw and her problems still hounded her. She had to check herself out of hospital because her husband was absent and go straight into organizing a funeral. Her in-laws and husband did not contribute or attend the funeral and Shahada knew that they had reached a parting of ways.

This was rock-bottom.

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