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A relative in Kenya

By Apollo - a relative of an AIDS victim in Kenya

It is 7.20am in the morning and the beautiful coastal town of Mombasa is cooler than usual. It is not hot neither is it cold. It is a uniquely good temperature for a town known for hot weather and therefore lovely place for touristic visiting. I have been to Mombasa before on a leisure journey and loved the town so much that I thought I should get another opportunity to visit the town in such a mood another time.


Saturday 2nd July 2004 wasn't to be a day of leisure for me! I arrived in Mombasa very exhausted, having traveled throughout the night on the rough and bumpy road from Nakuru to come and see sister in-law Pamella. She had been admitted at the Coast General Hospital for the past 14 days and my little sister who's taking care of her was getting concerned, for she thought proper medical care was not being taken as it should have been done. So she called me to travel down to see the situation for myself then consult together on the best line of treatment for our sister in- law who had been attacked by the enemy‚.


As I arrived in Mombasa that Saturday morning I didn't know what was awaiting me. I hadn‚t known the situation at the Coast General Hospital, but I also didn't know where it is situated. So I sought the assistance of a young Arab man whom I met at the Bus Office to show me direction of the hospital. But this young man asked me a question which startled me: "what are you going to do at Coast General?"‚ he asked. "I am going to see my sick sister in-law"‚, I replied. "What is she suffering from?", he asked again. Then I tried to explain the nature of the disease as it was told to me by
my little sister over the phone, not knowing that I was offending my companion. The young man told me, "You are the people who are encouraging promiscuity among the human race. In our community, we have decided to let these people take care of themselves the same way they did when they enjoyed life. They don't deserve care at all, if only that can make others change their behavior"‚ I was at a loss, and before I could seek his clarification of the statement, he pointed at the hospital gate for me at a distance then took off.


Reaching at the gate, I managed to convince the security to let me into the hospital, given that it was past 7.30am when the morning visits end, and headed straight to the Ward where Pamella was admitted. She was so weak and in a lot of pain and lay abandoned in a small isolation Room. But I thought I was fortunate, having arrived just when the doctors were starting their morning rounds, so I would be able to talk with the doctor and consult on the best way of assisting the patient: I was dead wrong. I first got a rude shock from the duty nurse. My attempt to say goodmorning‚ to her was offensive for she didn't even bother to look the direction from which the greeting was coming! She only managed to tell me to wait for the doctor who would be able to discuss the condition of the patient with me after finishing the rounds. The doctor took two hours seeing the patients in the ward and when he finally finished, he was too exhausted to listen to my stories‚. "Where is the patient? And what‚s she suffering from?"‚ he asked the assisting nurse who politely told him that the details of the patient's condition could only be known from the records. So they started searching‚ for the records. Unfortunately these records could not be found before the doctor left the ward. So for this reason, the doctor was not be able to give me the right information on the condition of the patient right away.


Instead, it took the authorities more than seven hours to get the records, and only after we reported the matter to the Matron were Pamella's records found bundled together with files for death cases. Then at 3.15pm, the duty nurse gave us the authority‚ to wheel the patient to the Private Wing where we thought more care on Pamella could be taken. So we transferred her to the Private Wing where we were well received. But they would not start any treatment on the spot but until the General Ward handed over the records to them. Two hours later, the records had not been released by the General Ward, and the duty nurse in the Private Wing therefore got fed up and wheeled her back to the General Ward.
Back at the General ward the patient would not be readmitted because, according to the records there, the patient had been discharged. So the duty nurse on the 3rd shift since my arrival at the hospital, advised me to start the process of admission afresh from the Casualty, but with a word of caution. ŒYou should know the condition of the patient before you insist on readmission‚, she told me. But I insisted that, "this lady has terrible headache and also too weak to go home as she pukes everything she (eats) takes in. So we feel that these problems be looked at and, if possible, be corrected before we take her home", I told her. "But what of if she cannot be cured"? the nurse continued before handing over the discharge note to me. It is at this point that I realised the medical staff in Ward 4 had made up their mind about my sister in-law that she would not survive and therefore there was no need of wasting resources on her. In their opinion, she was taking too long to die! The doctor on duty at the Casualty Section confirmed this to me when he said, "We do not want her to continue occupying a bed which can used by other patients not in a worse off condition as she is, so we won't admit her. You can care for her at home just the same we would do here", the doctor told me. As much as we were scared and frustrated, I called my sister, other cousins and Pamella's sister aside and prayed before telling them of the hospital's firm stand.


After consultations amongst ourselves, we decided that we would take her to the Agha Khan hospital to seek second opinoin on her prognosis and longevity before we took her back to the house to die‚. At Agha Khan, being a private hospital, the lady was examined well and put on treatment immediately and that was at around 6.30 PM after we had paid a deposit fee of ksh.40,000.00 for them to start examination and treatment. After a few days, she showed remarkable improvement and was recommended for discharge from which we had to pay another ksh.56,000.00 on her release from Agha Khan hospital.
My brothers and sisters, this disease is causing serious problems for us here at home. As thos was my first personal experience, it has changed my life and this made me to be talking to Pamella at least twice every week. And to hear her stories when she tells me that most of her neighbours and friends in Mombasa are no longer visiting her as they used to before she fell ill. Even the neighbours‚ children who used to visit her house frequently have cut links with her children. She laments how neighbors point fingers at her whenever she is out walking in her yard. Her best friends with whom they used to teach at same school and go to church are no longer close to her and she also has quit going to church altogether. Painfully, Pamela has also lost her teaching job due to government's weak policies on discrimination on HIV-AIDS patients. When I last talked to her, she pointed out how the parents no longer wants their children in her class and students also stopped attending her class due to her illness and that made the schoolboard terminate her services until she gets better healthwise. This has made her condition more worse that she now wants to move from Mombasa to stay with us in Nakuru but the worry is how to transfer her together with the children who are schooling in Mombasa who have also complained to her about their mistreatment at School as other children now fear to even play with them and even be around them at school. The other sad part of this situation is that recently, I learnt from little sister Chris that one of Pamella‚s sisters already took away some of her household belongings including her beautiful clothes saying that Pamella won‚t be there to use them any more. So the sister would rather have them for herself and family. Pamela tells me that what is killing her very fast is the fact that some members of her siblings see her as an outcast and just knowing that people are aware that she is dying and are talking about it openly with others is another thing causing to her psychological torture and pain.


We hear of the Retro-Viral drugs but these have not been made available and affordable to the ordinary people and especially the poor who cannot afford private medical care. Diet management in itself is a big problem because there isn't enough money to buy food recommended for her upkeep, so we have to send her food all the way from Nakuru. And sometimes this is not workable due to the distance involved (about 540 Km) from Nakuru to Mombasa.
What do we do in this kind of situation? And now, with hunger ravaging Africa and Kenya in particular, the cost of sustaining sick people will be more challenging than ever before. Prayer and nothing but serious prayer and appeal to God will enable us to move on with courage.
by Apollo

 

Sent via Email Aug 10, 2004 from Kenya.

 

A note from the HIV/AIDS Stories site manager

I have to say to you that it is stories like yours where l stumble to find the words, l cannot begin to find the words to express to you how sad it makes me feel to know that such discrimination, prejudice and lack of human kindness can exist in this world. Your story is unbelievable to those of us in the West yet l know it is spoken from your heart with much sorrow. So what words can l say to you, l am lost. This web site was created to hear the voices of those who have faced HIV and AIDS and in turn inspires and gives hope to others. So what hope can your story give to others when it is sure to make readers feel so very deeply towards what has happened......l hope that readers will contact you and share their prayers, support and love and l am sure that you will find this from around the world.
May l be the first to send this message to you and your sister in law Pamela and l hope that there are many more messages of love and support to follow!

Carolena Helderman
project manager
HIV/AIDS Positive Stories

 
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