take up your cross and walk with me
so said this man from Galilee
The time is 1700hrs and I can not wait to finish the last session of dialysis on our patients.My colleagues are Beth and Ruth. Trained Nephrology Nurses.We make a fine team.We of the famous Girls’ Club.Okay,such a club exists not it but it felt good to say that it does.
You must agree with me some words beg to be used and those are just but a few.We have five Hemodialysis machines yet our patients are always more than ten in a day.To include those emergencies from our in patient wards.We have been receiving excessive patient bookings.Our Renal unit,being the second in this blessed County has called unto all and sundry.You do not know the prevalence of Chronic kidney failure until you work in a Renal Unit.
“Caty…” She called out to me as I adjusted the oxygen rate on the cylinder.She always replaced e with a y when calling me.I am Catherine but because I come laced with urban politesse and middle-class hubris,everyone calls me Cate.Who has the time or patience to say Catherine? Catherine sounds old and I am not old.I am Oldish.Catherine sounds like some Catholic Nun and I already left the Catholic faith.Catherine,is tiresome.
Cate ,however is nice and easy to roll off the tongue.Cate is how aged wine smells.Cate is what you would say on an easy Sunday morning.Cate,people,is new world order name.
Mary lay on the examination couch hungry for Oxygen.She had missed two weeks of Hemodialysis and her lungs was not happy about it.Her heart too and the rhythm on the cardiac monitor could have said so.If only we had one at Gitugu level 5 hospital.I remembered how she and I met.I remembered slotting to dialyse her earlier than her due date after one of our machines failed.I recalled how she constantly called our Unit after discharge to find out if we had found a permanent slot for her.
Mary had come to Gitugu Renal Unit as a referral from the Lab technologist.Joseph had brought the lab results to the unit himself that fateful May afternoon.I liked Joseph.He did not have the self-satisfaction of those merely diligent nor the aloofness of the purely academic ,though he had both these attributes in ample measure.
Joseph could not just post lab results.He could even get the doctor himself if it so warranted.I always teased that he was born to be a nurse.He told me he was the Nurses’s backup.I believed him.
The Potassium level was 7.6mmol/l,among other worrisome values.He asked me to please see the patient.I panicked and asked whether the patient was even alive.He used his curled lips to point to the waiting bay.
I was met by the most imposing moon-face I have ever seen on one person.Marys face was as round as a globe and it glistened in the hot Gitugu sun.She was clearly fluid overloaded.Hours later,after binding Potassium and liaising with the Doctor Resident to plan for an acute catheter insertion,Mary talked to me.
She had been undergoing radiotherapy at Texas Cancer centre and had missed about three sessions when she felt ill and had to come to Gitugu hospital.She had not passed urine for three days and she believed it was related to the Cervical Cancer stage 3 she was suffering from.
Let me say Mary took up dialysis so well and she told me words I choose to never forget,”Caty,you saved my life..”
Therefore seeing her on the couch was a stab in my heart.She had not had a dialysis session for two weeks because she could not raise enough money to have a new catheter inserted since NHIF did not cater for that procedure.So she chose to wait at home.This information was relayed by the husband who was as shaken as the two children that waited in the bay.Linda and Jones.
The urgent and important thing was to get a vein and initiate yet another round of Potassium binding.The results were heart stopping.As the doctor on call finally managed to get another access,Mary heaved her last.She never finished her sentence.
Linda,her daughter, later updated her WhatsApp status thanking the medics who handled her mum.She felt we did our best.She was sad at the loss but somehow hoped the mum would be free from the agony she had had to endure from watching her body fade out and attack her.She hoped Mary would rest.I hoped so too…
The curtains closed.Another round of it is well.No talk of making NHIF an all inclusive package.Mary was not a politician,hence we won’t talk of declaring Cancer a National disaster.No hashtags about the demon that is cancer.A loud silence on the effects of cancer on all body organs.A terrifying lull on the benefits NHIF can accord her members.
Scam after scam rock the Ministry of Health and again all we hear are beautifully written tough-sounding monologues.We can not even pay for catheter insertion in nhif to save our souls.Yet billions are lost daily into the pockets of a few well-seasoned thives in suits.
Palpable muteness on the empowerment of all Kenyans with knowledge on Kidney Failure.Kidney failure is claiming many a beautiful souls.But let us wait until it claims a few more ‘important’ persons then we can initiate the conversation.
Take up your cross indeed.Mine is in the form of pan of losing dear patients.
The grass is yet to grow on Mary’s fresh tomb.