COLORLESS VIOLENCE

We have no future as a people if we do not stop having violence (paraphrased from Edward Bond)

There are many things I have believed all my life. Like If it rains while still sunny, monkeys and hyenas are getting married in a beautiful jungle wedding.  If you cross the outstretched legs of your elders as they warm around the fireplace, you will never give birth. They are truths I held dear until I grew up and realized my clan and their clans played me. I however hold grudges against my elder sister Immaculate. That lassie told me that I have large-sized feet because I hated washing them. Who lies to their baby sisters like that? I am yet to execute a revenge.

I have been enlisting the services of the committee of experts in my head for most of my adulting and they are yet to give me a befitting course of action. I called her out to my whole family in the last get together. I wanted them to realize that behind that calm demeanor lay a not-so-immaculate wicked heart. They did not. They all burst out in peals of laughter that would put excited teenagers to shame. Labelled her creative. She even told dad that she had said so to help me love water because for most part of my childhood, bathing and I were sworn enemies.

I will tell ogre stories to her children you wait and see. They will hear it from me.

When dating and love and the whatnots of restless hearts came in, we were told that there are certain calibers of men that treated their women well. We were not taught to find them or to be found by them on the basis of their characters, no. We were to base this elusive gold through tribes, sub tribes, clans and race.

Stereotypes were painted in our hearts and agile minds that a man was indeed as good as their surname or lack thereof. Coupled with happily-ever-after-infused telenovelas, the reality of pain and pleasure of love was lost on us.

I had been mulling over how untrue all these things have been when I knocked on the Duty Room’s door to meet Mildred*. Mildred is a nurse in my new work station. It was New Year’s Day and normal people were either making resolutions or having their time with families. Nursing is not a job that allows anyone to be normal. We were therefore being on duty.

I had spent the New Year’s Eve at a street party and there ensued a stampede which saw my ankle half sprained. I wanted Mildred to please take my shift as I went home to cool my heels down.

That is when I saw her. Her milky white skin was flushed on both cheeks. Her lower eyelids colored in tiny dark streaks of the mascara she wore. Her lips smudged and minute traces of purple lipstick clung on. Her eyes, though winning at a smile were worn out like a tired headline. Verdict; she has been crying. In comes Catherine, deducer of the obvious and master of apparent observations.

Tenderly placing the stethoscope I held in my hand on the table, I asked Mildred what was happening. She ignored me and went back to furiously write a letter she was engrossed on. I felt pity for that piece of paper because the strength with which she wrote made me conclude, again that that paper had hurt her.

After realizing I was not going anywhere, she looked at me and said, “Catherine I can’t take your shift because I must go home to see my children before something happens to them.”

She said it with such a finality that my curiosity was piqued. She opened up.

Mildred has been living with her partner and father of her children for the past five years. He has been beating the living lights out of her as well as being an emotional, sexual and the in-betweens abuser. He is the most charismatic man to the rest of the world but a jerk at home. He makes her go on diets to be plump or slim depending on his present fantasy. This man had been arrested and charged over five times in the period they stayed together due to battery in its different forms. Restraining orders had been broken time and again. Twice he has been in remand but Mildred went and bailed him out. You read that right. He beat her, got arrested, she bails him out. That has been the cycle she had been through.

Why you ask? Because of the same reason every victim defends their abusers –control.

She showed me copies of doctor’s assessments after she was sexually abused by this same guy. She hoped, with time, that she will make herself good enough for him but in the meantime she wanted time off to go be with her children. She was drafting a letter, therefore, to the manager asking for an emergency leave.

I was perplexed. Not because she had bailed him out but because she is a White woman in a White country which is thousand degrees up on the civilization thermometer. With coercive control being a crime in this country of the Queen, I was appalled by the presence of such inhumane treatment and silenced intimate partner violence. Gobsmacked because my truth of White men treat women betterthan my African brothers was shattered right there in my eyes.

My truth that White men only mistreat Black women was ripped at the centre. She showed me scars on her back from whips this man has used on her when he felt that she needed ‘disciplining.’ A cold chill that had nothing to do with the wintry weather outside made its way down my back.

That first day of 2020 taught me how tasteless and utterly colorless violence against intimate partners is. I went back to the many taunts from a few friends that I am better off marrying a Mzungu as they treat people well. How ignorant that statement is.

Treating your partner right, respecting them, wishing them well has nothing to do with race. Take that and run with it. Race is what we see on the outside. Perhaps the westernization of most of our television love stories has made us assume that the rain of abuse only pours in Africa. N to the O.

Violence is a torrential storm sweeping across all colors, shapes and forms. Violence knows not your surname. Abuse does not respect melanin or lack of it. At this juncture, Mildred is just another sister girl going through the patches I have had to go through. Mildred is a girl held mentally captive by her abuser just like many victims are. She is a girl not taught and not able to be taught by her current system, how to value herself and move out of a potentially fatal situation. I cry for her. Not because he will be back in her life but because she will let him in.

She is a girl whose story stings my heart in different new ways. It is not about where one comes from ethnically speaking. This is all about one’s virtues as a level-headed human being. An evil person is evil whether they come deeply spiced and tenderly marinated from an island in the Caribbean or Canada. A good person is good whether Taiwanese or Togolese. Goodness and evil transverse the globe in varying shades of melanin. It is your happy day to accept this plain truth. Actually, use this as your New Year’s entrance song. Wrap it on your elegant neck. Cuddle it to sleep. That, #TeamPhoenix is all the motivation speech I will throw at you this year. No promises though. Ha ha.

 I no longer wonder why victims stick with their abusers. The element of control by the perpetrators is played with surgical precision. Abuse, essentially, is not so much the physical as the mental hemisphere from which it emanates. Violence is about control. The battery, insults and assaults serve to buttress the emotional and mental regime of captivity.

There must be something more than the physical walking out of an abusive relationship. If not there, one tends to keep stumbling over the same outgrowths of misery then blame it on life being thoroughly unfair to them.

Like Mark Manson I pose, how special do you think you are that life suddenly decides to focus on making you sad all the time?

#TeamPhoenix, Tweni tweni has not even had a cuppa tea so here is my Beautiful New Year Wishes to you!

SCRATCH THE SURFACE

I held the sun in my hand,
but it felt cold.
Not like the flaming ball of Orange in the sky
but like a globe of ice.

It is a little past noon and the meeting has just been called to order. Scott is the facilitator.  We do not know his surname. Nobody knows anyone’s surname here.  I even doubt his name is Scott. People are comfortable not knowing much about one another in this group. It is my third time here and everyone is looking expectantly at me. I had to attend this group therapy because my supervisor said I either attend it or I face the sack. I do not want to be jobless so here I am.

“Hello, I am Catherine and I am an angry person,” I unreservedly declare.

“Hi Catherine,’’ the six people in the humid room reply in a boring monotone.

They are; three almost-gentlemen whose names I can’t recall, two ladies and a ferret. The animal is owned by Scott. He says it helps him focus. I think he just loves animals but won’t admit it. He excitedly talks about anger. He is not angry. I am confusion itself.

He starts preaching about how antisocial we are. Not because of the anger but because we are too passionate. What a paradox. We have always been that way even before the discovery of the global village. Hello mother, I am not angry, I am very passionate. Ha ha.

Everyone nods in agreement but I couldn’t be bothered. I am pissed off. I miss my phone and a strong Wi-Fi connection. I want to tell my hundreds of followers how boring this meeting is. I am not ready to form friendships or any real life connections as Scottie is suggesting. I call him Scottie. Not to his face but on my mind he is Scottie the Ferretie.

I hate when I have to talk about my feelings. I am a bubbly person but below the surface that Scottie and his band of feel-Happy artists want to scratch is a cauldron of smoldering anger. And a deep desire for release.

There are many things I am angry about. Today, I am mad at Mary and her malicious self. Mary is a girl I should not have called. But I did. Follow me.

It had been a normal Friday evening. The traffic in Nairobi city coughed like and sputtered. The touts slapped the thighs of the loud Matatus and Facebook was still Instagram for old people. I am old-ish. As I scrolled through photos of extremely good-looking men on Facebook, my notifications badge blinked red with a message. I have always replied to them and so I decided why not.

It was a lady asking for my phone number because well, she had something very important to tell me. I encouraged her to share in my inbox but I think she thought I am part of those Russian spies or something. She wouldn’t. She was adamant too that all it took was her talking to me on the phone. She graciously gave me her number.

A few days later, after twiddling and doodling with the number, I decided to give it a buzz. A buzz. Mm, I admire people who speak like that.

“Yo Boris, give me a buzz later. Cheers.”

“Cheers, mate”, Johnson tells Boris.

So I buzzed. I was ready with a wise-ass line. I wanted to tell the owner of the meek “Hello” at the end of the line that it still wasn’t safe to talk. That we could go to the heart of Chalbi desert with my eyes blindfolded and after using three planes, one rickety Chevy and a camel to throw off anyone keen enough to follow me.

That or maybe, it is time we met in a Library on the same aisle and talk to each other while reading different books and never eyeing each other because spies might be listening in on our little chat. We may have to run for our lives soon.

I did not do it. After introductions and her vote of thanks for my auspicious call to her, she dropped the bombshell. Literally.

“How is Jim? Do you think I can trust him?” She eagerly waited.

Now, Jim and I had been married for a while before I realized the trouble I was enshrouded in and walked away. This was when I was waiting and praying to the gods of marriages to touch my husband and return him to me.

It was one of my most vulnerable points in life. Maybe not quite because no good deed goes unpunished but this was it. I was hurting and a new girl was asking me how to handle my soon to be ex-husband. Satan is not short of surprises and innuendos.

Mary laughed in my silence. She giggled. I realized the meek voice was meant to throw me off-balance because instead of a bird learning to fly, I heard the chirp of a vulture used to the hunt.

“Catherine, I want you to know I came to your wedding and I have your man. He has even visited me and I love him very much,” She cheerfully announced. After the dark angel on my left shoulder finished laughing at the white angel on my right shoulder, I replied in the most honorable ways.

“Jim is a great man and you can trust him. Also thanks for letting me know about your plans. If there is nothing else, I wish you a good day.” I hung up before that maniacal laugh from Mary the hunky dory got the better of me. I needed to hung up and block her on all platforms. It was nauseating.

I was angry. Angry that my dear husband had gone to such great extents to make sure that I was not only hurt but shattered.

I should have shared with the group. I should have told them how agonizing It felt to be replaced that fast. But I did not. I kept telling myself stories as the group members spilled their guts out. All I wanted to do was sign the attendance register then grab my phone and start interacting with hollow profile holders on social media.

My new found drug was sunshine laced posts and comments on social media. I liked how it used to numb the pain.

This meeting was outliving its usefulness. Scottie the Ferretie wanted us to recite the 12 steps heavily borrowed from Alcoholic Anonymous. I was not amused. Nothing in this room was a source of amusement apart from that brown ferret with piercing eyes.

I have been thinking lately about why women hurt other women. I have asked myself that question a million and one times. I have been wondering what Mary hoped to achieve or did achieve by hitting below the belt with me. Was it all worth it at the end? I would be disappointed for her sake if it wasn’t.

I have learnt to sell nothing short of happiness in spite of a cloud of dark. My journey, like that of many other men and women may have been scribbled with the right amount of agony but we triumphed. We faced our fears and did something anyway. Scared of the rising sun but opening the curtains nonetheless.

People, in a nutshell, will always do whatever they want to do and there is nothing we can do to stop them. I could hate people if I wanted to. Maybe label them in colorful words It is in your best interest to know that sometimes when it rains it pours. You may think you have seen it all and then boom! It gets worse. But It gets better too. It does. As soon as the storm passes, we will safely anchor the ship and have a party.

IT HURTS STILL

Light at the end of the tunnel can simply mean an oncoming train.

Life will not always make sense. It is there to be lived either way. Not the chirping of the birds or the aroma of good food will have hidden meaning. It is all part of this maze we live in. Life, painful as it may be for some or pleasurable for the others, is not what you make it as some would want us to believe. Life just is. It does not care about your perspective. It will happen because that is what life does–happen.

I would love to stand in front of an eager crowd and feed them hope. I would love to stand and punch the air with fists of victory over every little and big fight I have allegedly won in my life. Maybe be this iron lady who prances like a foal in a paddock because she was there,saw and conquered. Probably sing songs of freedom to a wild audience that will sway to my tune like a tribe of over-caffeinated monkeys.

However I will not because I am not a very good liar. I suffer short term memory loss and I would have to write down every lie I bellow through the microphones so that I may remember them all.

Truth is, it still hurts. It hurts that I invested so much of my time and resources trying to build a marriage that was authored on some sinking sand. It breaks my heart. Every. Single. Day. Well, there is a hint of hyperbole there but it is the truth nonetheless. It may not bother me all the time because I am busy being a nurse and a semi-manager of some sorts. You do get what I mean, however,don’t you?

Time and again I hate myself. I look at all I may have done had I not willingly entered a pit that I knew was too deep for me to climb out of. I knew it. That is the problem with most abusive relationships. The victim always, always know what the perpetrator is capable of but they somehow go ahead with it.

It is what I constantly call the impeccable art of self-destruction. My issues, to bore you, were not to do with my marriage per se. I like that phrase “per se.” It is a very Kenyan phrase. We use it in all situations and subsequently murder the Queen’s language. We are amazing. Not amazing Per se but… ha ha see what I did there? You are welcome!

I am deflecting , thank you for stating that. My issues stemmed from anger against those who took my childhood away from me. That was the most simple, perhaps too simple, an explanation I got from my shrink when I asked her why I was so good at screwing myself. I chose a man who I knew would hurt me so that I could continue with my incessant fights with this thing called life. I have always had to fight for things and I thought, albeit unconsciously, that even with marriage, I could fight and change, ergo, my man. When that did not work as I had envisioned, I had to go back to the drawing board.

Some people tell me I was extremely lucky to walk away and finalize the divorce. Others say I was very lucky to move on. These are opinions of people who are not me so allow me to tell you what I think. Fortunate to not have had a baby. By default or by design.

It is all well-preserved hogwash. Balderdash. Shut up world.

I do not feel lucky. I did not, for Chrissake, walk down the aisle so that I could walk right up. We all accept that marriages end but no girl wishes hers to be the one that does. So yes, I may not feel as jammy as I get labelled.

Do not get this twisted, given another chance, I would definitely get that divorce and sooner than I did. I would still look at the man I once called mine and say enough is enough. I am alluding to the fact that fortunate is not how I see myself. Stories of picture-perfect couples I call friends do not help the matter. It is not strange to find myself sad at weddings and crying at christenings. I remember what I do not have. I must say it. Oh I am sorry if you expected a shell of a woman. No. I see things. I think about them and I definitely wish many things would not be or would be and such other self-tormenting thoughts.

Turns out I still succeed at breaking my own heart. I should now get an award . ha ha.

The truth still, is that I let all these feelings of unfulfilled wishes wash over me. I let every dark emotion course through my veins like the poison it is. I have allowed hard times to weigh me down properly until they can’t anymore.

As a matter of fact I remember crying the other day and naming every drop of tear that fell from my eyes. I called one strength, the other wisdom, another compassion, understanding, one more discernment. I had a love tear, a hope tear and a better-day tear. I also allowed the river of anger to stream freely from my eyes . Anger pulled with it fear and fear balanced its legs on my lower eyelids before making small rivulets down my chubby cheeks. The session lasted shorter than I had hoped for.

if you try to gloss over the truth or massage it, more often than not you arrive at erroneous conclusions. That is my truth. I have learnt to wear my unspoken with aplomb. I have learnt that I will hurt even years from today. I will hurt even when IO get married again and even if that marriage will turn out to be what God authored, hurt I will.

Hurting will not escape me when friends seem to be so happy in their marriages, whether on camera or privately. Pain, Like a ghost in the night, will visit me when I remember some four years I spent teaching a fish how to climb a tree. Misery will engulf me when friends post photos of their babies and I am left to wonder kwani what did I do wrong? Yeah, I will ask God many questions too. God and myself.

Mostly myself because well, Papa God answers to no man.

I will want to deactivate all my social media accounts or perhaps go and live in the heart of China where social media is rumors and suggestions. I will feel all these and more.

However, I will still chart my way forward. I will believe that I am human and to not make dumb moves is to be robotic. I am not. To be low is human as Christ had a moment where He too wished to not drink from the cup that was his shameful death by crucifixion. this is where most of us go wrong. The journey to love is both pain and pleasure. You have no choice but to take them both.

We must learn to accept that life does not owe us happiness.

If that is so then, we must allow life to happen and appreciate the good with the bad. God, after creating people, He handed everyone their own small hell to handle. You will never outrun your hell. You will not out-smoke or out-drink or out-whatever-terrible-things-you-do. In fact, you won’t out-sex your hell.

Have fun with it. Embrace it because that is the only way to be human. You will appreciate your journey once you have faced that little piece of pain and risen in spite of it. Like demons, which i will address in the next Lifestyle topic, create a circus for your pain and join in. Control the strings and let the pain dance to your tune.

You own the pain. It does not own you.

Thank you for passing by.

GREATLY UNINSPIRING

No sassy quote can describe the sound of loneliness as it carries your heart.

This is the last time I am typing this paragraph. I have offered burnt offerings to the gods of my forefathers hoping that just this once, I write half a page. Writing is supposed to be meteoric for me but lately it has been a constant skid in the mud and a painful drag on earthen floor. As earthen as my grandma’s hut.

I have been an average female who has refused to let go of what defined her when she was still starting in her career. I have refused to move on. Moving on is a sexy idea. What with feminists preaching self-love and the internet saying how cool it is to be a new person. New mindset and if you please, a new wardrobe. Unfortunately, what I lack in flexibility I cannot even compensate in fashion. I am as old as a cat. Why a cat? I think cats don’t have nine lives. They are just old.

I finally received the complete judgment of the judge who laid a final verdict on my marriage. She wrote in such exaggerated legal jargon that I wondered if that was my story summarized in a few words. The words cut through the blackest of spaces. And I am very black to be fair.

As much as possible, I am supposed to be happy and relieved. Happy or relieved.Both.However there is an unceasing gnaw of ache in my spirit. I keep going back in my mind to days I spent as a happily married girl-or what I imagined was happy. I especially keep rewinding the month of August before I walked down the aisle in September. Sometimes the voices in my head suggest time travel.

I recall days the choir of lassies invaded my privacy and candidly reminded me that I was a means to some end. I ignored them and labelled them envious. In positively glowing ways exactly as I would have loved to see them in hell at that time.

All signs indicated that getting married to my then fiancé was a terrible idea. For starters, he was yet to make peace with his demons. Talking of which, you can’t escape your demons. I enrolled mine in a circus and we are having the time of our life. They are the eye of the fire in my life. I stare at it and no, it won’t blink.

There is a certain shame one feels when they realize that the castle they built was made of eggshells. There is an undeniable loss when one realizes every dream they had was actually a dream. I have been wanting to scream and shout at the son of my former mother in law. I swear I had a few wonderfully crafted things to tell him. Words that cut across me like a network of dry riverbeds. I wanted to talk to him on a bright dawn just before the sun slit through the curtains.

It was the suggestion of the Demon-In-Chief in my head to remind him that he was the first tree in my forest yet he burnt it.The Deputy Demon said he burnt it down because it was never his forest.It was my uncanny ability to make terrible decisions. I had to choose whether to wallow in the cesspit of pity or learn the lesson and hope to make more creative mistakes in future.

I have not stopped to preach to myself that I will be alright someday. I have not lied to the girl in me that someday it won’t hurt. I know that it will hurt. Especially when I look at the judgment and the Decree from the court. There is abusive marriage and there is something about seeing the details on paper.

I asked my lawyer if he was sure that that was my story. He sadly reminded me the day I went to make an Initial statement. You see, divorce must be factual. You must be able to prove to the law that you have grounds for it.That was when I hated my life a little bit. Do not get me wrong, I am grand. However I can be a wee bit daft too.

I typed the exact things that had been happening in my otherwise perfect home and I broke down staring at the screen. As the cursor left space after space after every diabolic atrocity nobody should do to another human being; especially a human being they walked with down the aisle, my heart ripped open. Small rivulets of thirsty blood spilled out. Small tributaries of anguish welled up and overflowed in the form of tears. Unhappy tears that dripped drop after drop on the desk of my solicitor. I asked for a lawyer, not a therapist. It seemed like I needed both.

So with the inevitable sheet of pain lying idly on my desk, I had to choose.

I made the choice to embrace that part of my story. To stare at it and wink sometimes. To hug it to my warm bosom and then throw it off a cliff. There is no prison greater as the one in one’s mind. The moment we break the chains and set sail towards Island Freedom, no gates of captivity can contain us.

It pays to be at perfect harmony with the ghosts of one’s mistakes. The heart may be fragile and coated with a thin layer of hurt but it is all we have sometimes. Much as I hated looking at the full judgment, I had to surrender myself to the emotions it brings.

I decided to give in to the pain and brokenness this particular writing would bring me.To dive into the darkness emanating from a strike of the pen and a dropping of the gavel. To actually take a walk into the bottom pit. It is only by going dark can one see the rays of light. When we hit the rock bottom of desperation, anxiety and foreboding, we can see so many pathways to the top.

I have become good at feeling bad. I have allowed negativity to latch and suck onto my soul like a baby unquenched at the mother’s breast. That is how I am able to walk into positivity. Not because I believed in myself but because I did not. I do not win at self-motivation and maybe that is what someone wants to hear. That they are perfectly fine feeling terrible. That they are perfectly dandy even if hours and hours of psychotherapy have not helped to ease the pain.

That it was not meant to work like some pixie dust. It was meant to be grilling and as long as they are putting in the work, we shall all be alright. Probably not fully but we will not sit and stare at our wounds forever.

Getting out of bed and doing something other than count the number of tiles in the room, going to work and actually loving it, waking up to meet some much needed friends and going out in the bright sunshine or wintry night; these have become my absolute tiny victories. I have found solace in the written word. It is funny how it leaves me when it is out there. It is hellishly liberating.

Words are the sauce with which to serve a perfectly ruined lunch.

THESE TABLETS

you are about to exceed the limits of my medication

Linda is an 88 year old lady with a hump on her back. I initially stared when she first was brought by Rose, her daughter, to our Renal unit. I know I should not have stared I know but these my eyes! Humped she might be but her humor was as straight as a roundabout. She joked that what God denied her in shape compensated in her buttery mouth.

Linda had been attending a medical outpatient clinic somewhere in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi. The consultant she had been seeing had declared her to have a myriad of age-related problems. These are Rose’s words not mine. Hypertension to Diabetes to Arthritis and an array of others that I have forgotten to remember.

The events leading to their visit on that sunny Thursday afternoon was a more recent hospitalization at yet another well-to-do private hospital. Interestingly, the same consultant saw her at this hospital with a severe case of headache, irretractable vomiting and diagnosed her with End Stage Renal Disease and acute hemodialysis was started.

Later, Rose and her mother were to learn that that was just the beginning to a lifelong visit to renal unit. Given the close proximity of our Unit to the interior parts of central Kenya where this family lives, they came to book a slot for this fine lady. Linda had a prescription of about fifteen medications and supplements most of which counteracted with each other. I remember calling Doctor K with palpable anguish in my voice.

He is our renal pharmacist. He has become a darling to all the patients on hemodialysis. He has helped many manage their medications with a rationale behind each and every tablet. He came and I could see the look of dismay as he went through the prescription that dear old Linda was on.

Mom and daughter were initially skeptical seeing that it is a consultant who had been dealing with them in a major private hospital but here we were, in a government owned facility, with some young-ish lad wearing a white lab coat telling them that we had to get rid of some of these impossibly expensive drugs. It has been five months and the blood parameters of Linda have greatly improved painting a vivid picture of adequate dialysis. A fete impossible to achieve if the medication regime is a display of rumors and suggestions.

#TeamPhoenix that brings me to the gist of our #KidneyWednesday today. In our Kenyan setup, rarely does End Stage Renal Disease happen overnight. Moreso in the elderly, and those with Diabetes Mellitus and/or hypertension, End Stage Renal Disease does not come upon us like a thief in the night. Linda did not suddenly develop renal failure. It was a case of omission from the doctor attending her. He had omitted telling her that she was in the early stages of renal disease and therefore refer her to a nephrologist early enough.

The medications that a renal patient uses must be carefully examined by a clinical renal pharmacist. Most of the drugs used to treat hypertension will more often than not raise Potassium levels . Now ,in a Patient with end stage renal disease, high Potassium levels is the last thing you want to deal with. Some of them will cause fluid retention in the body. In end stage renal disease, fluid retention in the lungs, heart and other areas of the body is the last thing you want to handle.

Renal Pharmacology is a very ignored area as far as management of renal patients go. That coupled with our lack of regulation of public chemists place our patients at dire risks of renal emergencies and deterioration of the disease. #TeamPhoenix, We learnt that the only thing we can do with chronic kidney disease is slow its progression, right? Please tell me you remember that lesson…

In our endevour to slow the disease progression, we alleviate the sting of complications and help the patients live lives that are as close to normal as possible. Unless we do not really mean what we say, these tablets must be evaluated to give them a clean bill of health. These tablets must come with renal instructions. Pharmacists at the chemist must at least ask the customer about their kidney health. You as the mwananchi must learn to ask the pharmacist if the drug you want to buy is safe for you or someone suffering kidney disease.

Learn to ask because there are always safer options.

As the Nephrology nurses, we can only do so much in terms of dialysis. We need a robust support from the Pharmacists and the general medicine-buying-culture in Kenya to achieve some sort of milestones in our ardent fight against Chronic Kidney Disease. There are many classes of anti hypertensives and not all are to be used in a patient on dialysis. The same applies to anti-diabetics. I must say I am proud of Doctor K. He manages to explain to the patients the WHY before changing the drugs for the patients. That is a character lacking in many of our doctors and nurses in Kenya.

Not many medics teach before treating. That to a great extent, explain the huge percentage of non-compliance to treatment modalities. It is futile to tell people to follow some way without explaining why they need to follow it. I am an avid advocate of public health education so this touches my heart.

It is your health and that of your loved ones. Please ask questions as far as medications go.

Thank you for passing by.

THE DISEASE BURDEN

“I am a prime example of the way kidney disease strikes silently,” Sean Elliot

Despite being one of the top ten common claimers of life,chronic kidney disease still struggles to receive visibility in Kenya.It is worthwhile to note hat the poverty of statistical data has not stopped the Global Burden of Disease (2015) study from ruling that5-10 million people die annually due to kidney disease.”The common lack of awareness and frequently poor access to laboratory services ,such numbers underestimate the true burden posed by kidney disease,”concludes WHO.

Mine is not to bore you with lengthy academic papers.Let us make that a little digestible to us.When we talk of disease burden especially with End stage renal disease,we need to be awake to some of the struggles of daily living in the life of a patient.

What I have had to grapple with and most renal nurses I am sure is the constant poly-pharmacy. A renal patient of dialysis will most likely have medicine to lower their Phosphorous level while adding their Calcium level,medicine to add the level of blood,medicine to lower the blood pressure,medicine to regulate blood sugar ,medicine for the heart,medicine for nerves and the list can’t be exhausted.The problem is the utter intimidating nature of all these tablets one person is expected to take and remember to take.

It is overwhelming even to think about it. I am a nurse and the idea of swallowing medication or receiving it in any other form makes me cringe. The families are faced with the constant fact of buying these drugs month in month out and it is not a wonder to see most of our patients going without them.

Just like the infamous American heath system,the Kenyan one is perpetually making a patient choose between treatment and food. Between taking children to school and proper healthcare.This should never be the case in a country that indeed loves her people.

The good old NHIF can and should pay for these essential drugs but the drugs are always conveniently missing from the hospital pharmacy.Maybe I need to say it again. There is a mismatched relationship between low income status in Kenya and the prevalence of end stage renal disease. Perhaps because the rich are able to deter the progression of the illness at its early stages.

Perhaps because the haves can access better and timely medical care as compared to the have nots. It has become a death wish to be below the poverty line in Kenya.It is a rich man’s country.

I can’t stop the activist in me now,can I?

Let us go back to our topic…

I implore you as #TeamPhoenix to be so kind as to check on those among us with kidney disease and are on dialysis. They too are part of this daunting team. It is financially and emotionally exhausting. This is compounded by the fact that they may not ask for your help for fear of being a constant bother. Most die in silence if not saying all is well.

All is not well.It is not when someone has to prepare two meals at every mealtime. One for the rest of the family and one for the patient. It is especially difficult when that meal is not easy to come by.

Yet they have drugs to buy and laboratory tests to take and a dialysis session to attend to.

That is where I advocate for a renal counselors and social services care contact persons in every renal unit.We need a safe place where the caregivers and the patients can express their challenges.The nephrology nurses can only do so many dialysis sessions.We need help. I believe there is help out there. If not for anything else,for availability of all these medicines without which the quality and length of time of patients on dialysis is reduced. Let us stop unnecessary and premature deaths.

And to you my #TeamPhoenix,do not expect a sufferer of kidney disease to ask you for help. Offer it anyway. Please help. That is the only way we can beat the burden of end stage renal disease. It does not matter what you do. Probably buy a week supply of drugs, maybe find out their dietary needs and provide that for a day or two, there is something all of us can do.

This Nephrology nurse will keep writing to tell you about it.

As always, having you read is my honor.

THE HOSPITAL OF HEARTS

She did not know what made her more sad

I am a good girl. I know that is what most bad girls say but believe you me on the one-to-ten scale of badness, I rank between 4.5 and 6.That is grand. A few people have talked about it too. Even written about it.Okay, not anything publish-able but I wish I could show you my text messages from a few years ago. Oh, I keep them for reference. Because people no longer tell me cute things about myself.Meanies.

Having fed myself with that positive outlook of who I am, I walked out of a marriage. It was a typical day. The wind blew, dogs barked and Kiambu constituents still sung #KabaKabogo and Chelsea was still the best football club in the English premier League.

Because it was a quintessential Kenyan day, I envisioned my husband fighting for me. I dreamt of beautifully crafted apologies. I looked forward to a “ let’s meet and talk about this.” Is this where I sing ndivyo sivyo by Professor Jay?

A day became two. Before that could give birth to a third, he sent a message in the most magnificent sarcastic manner.

“Seems like you left. Send me a thousand bob to sort something here”

Yes. That simple. I was gone with everything to my name but my dear hubby wanted some cash. Because I had become his Mother Teresa wanna-be, I quickly applied for a KCB-MPESA loan and sent the money. I also started the conversation of why I left. I must have missed the part where nobody asked.

Our relationship was wrought with so many irreconcilable differences that I excused and explained his disinterest in his wife. When I look back I laugh because he lost interest in me as soon as he put a ring to my finger. Stark reality I had to face. Probably I needed to breathe.

After a few more days of him not talking to me and me praying that he does, he talked.Goodness!You should have seen me hop from my mattress on the floor in a studio apartment in the outskirts of Thika town to my phone which lay on the old wooden floor charging.

The message was however to ask for more money. He called me so many sweet things and said how he’d never know what to do without me.By the way why do people like that line? Can’t y’all see it is a joke? That notwithstanding, our sick relationship of I-am-broke-send-me-money-I-love-you continued for a few more weeks. If I had no cash I would get gas lighted and told how horrible I was for leaving.

If I dared tell him exactly why I left he would dismiss it by telling me he was broke and needed to be busy looking for money not listening to my petty things. He would remind me I am his wife and that was enough for me to know I was important to him. I thought I was going mad.

Why I sent cash despite sinking deeper and deeper in debts? Because I wanted his attention. His birdy, fleeting attention. I had no idea I was actually helping raise his child with another girl.

I thrive in open communication and it was hard to mother this thirty something old boy. It was challenging to have an adult conversation. Not once did he address the elephant in the room.  I wanted was him to say he knew what was wrong and was willing to discuss it finally. But he couldn’t. He was socially sick and I was his hospital. The hospital.

I had tried so many times to sit his fine bum down and discuss our glaring differences. I remember this evening I was dog-tired from a 72-hour shift. It was a boring Sunday just like any other day since I said I DID. I had been at school on Thursday, working at night, Friday at school, work at night and Saturday at work in another place.

I am a nurse and nurses must eat. That may or may not involve crazy shifts in the name of some extra coin. Why I had to do that? Story for another day.

Where were we?

So I asked him to meet at our favorite (turns out it was his favorite) place along Kiambu road. Now here is a knackered girl who’d want nothing besides sleeping but she’s such a dedicated Proverbs 31 girl that she feels her marriage should come first. Remember my story of seeking counseling? He is the reason I sought help. I wanted to be a better wife for him. I wanted to solve my anger issues and murderous rage. I really wanted to be better, or so I thought. We were to meet at 4 p.m. since he had gone to church.

Dude was a wonderful youth leader or something like that in his, sorry, our church. I was this close to becoming a pastor’s wife. Never mind we met at a not so Jesus-friendly place.

Long story short, he showed up at 1037pm drunk and smelling like he had been marinated in a tub of exotic perfume. In another world, I could have asked for the contacts of the girls. For the perfume’s sake you know. I love smelling like midsummer afternoon. The lucky angels had even left me a few lipstick smudges on his tweed jacket as evidence. Girls can be so thoughtful!

After a few more days of hoping and waiting. After a few more sunrises of fearful premonitions, I made the mistake of telling him we needed to discuss our marriage. I sent an unnecessary paragraph complete with references arguing my point of why I wanted us to work things out but I first needed him to realize what was ailing us. After a daylong pensive wait, he replied.

Wait for it….

“Send me fare and I will come.”

My countrymen and women, daughters and sons of my forefathers, you people of the clan that I come from, how did we get here? It suddenly became crystal clear, all the jigsaw puzzle pieces finally fit!

He never loved me or wanted me and he was very elated that I left. My world couldn’t have been more calamitous. Me leaving was a blessing in disguise. All the horrors he took me through in the short time we were together was geared towards this moment. This was the hilt of mission accomplishment. This, friends of God, was betrayal on steroids.

I suddenly snapped and told him it was fine if he did not think we were important. Just like the sick narcissist he was, he asked me if he thought I was unimportant when he took me down the aisle.Man, I felt gas-lighted and a little hateful towards myself. He was not going to discuss the marriage and I had two options; either go back and persevere because happy are the meek because they will inherit the earth; or realize my value as a person and gently close the door. I slammed it shut though.

I am not famous for sticking to the plans I make.

That was the most trying period of my dramatic life. I hated myself. I ate, then starved myself, then ate. I worked too like crazy until I got afraid I could drop down dead. There are days I shut myself in the tiny house on my occasional one day off and cried myself to sleep, then cried to wake up then cried to fall asleep and the cycle continued.

I wanted to know what was wrong with me.I remembered my hours of counseling and the pieces of wood in my eyes started dropping one after the other. No longer could he manipulate me to going back. He had tried it.He was actually VERY good at guilt-tripping me.My therapists could not understand why I stood him. Why I even replied to his messages.

This is where I tell you that I have no idea. That is as motivational as I will get on this one.

I neglected myself too. Wasn’t it for my job, I did not think I had a reason to wake up every morning.

I prayed for death too. I wanted to die but I knew if I tried suicide for the third time, it might actually go through and I could die. Maybe because I had learnt new and quicker medications to stop a heart in school. By the way who thought taking me to nursing school was a brilliant idea? I will be back…

Maybe, but maybe because just like a child who can’t really blow out one candle on his birthday cake, there was a flicker of hope in me that refused to be snuffed out. This solitary star that looked as if it was to be swallowed up by the sulky clouds but it defiantly maintained its shine. Refusing to leave, Daring the clouds to do their worst. One of my friends lived in Thika town and knew the hell I was going through. I remember many dark dawns and even darker twilights where she would bang on my door to make sure I was at least out of bed.

Evenings she would come and sit on my microscopic couch and simply look at me until I was brave enough to get out of my makeshift bed

Yet he still sent text messages, yet I still replied with apologies. I have no idea what I kept apologizing for. I badly wanted to go back on some days.

That is what I like telling people, a victim of abuse has no idea why they get attached to their abusers. I no longer ask why people don’t just walk out of abusive relationships. I do not ask. I mean, you may expect me to be strong having undergone counseling and stuff but I was a beautiful mess of wet tissues.

That was a whole paragraph of motivational speech. I swear I am getting good at this.Hehe.

If there is a time I needed a friend, it was that time. I took up another hobby too. Writing. I wrote sunshine-filled posts on Facebook while balancing another rivulet of tears. I cracked jokes. I sent friend requests, I encouraged people. I listened to strangers. I held peoples’ hands. I became the Empress of rainbows and light. Yet I wanted the pain to stop so so bad. I longed for days without tears. Yet in my darkness, I became a light. That sentence is cute. Go ahead, quote me.Ha ha.

There is nothing as hurtful as building then watch what you build crumble right in front of your eyes as if hit by a Tsunami.

I realized I was not a great girl. But I was good. I was not perfect. But I was enough. Enough for me. Enough to heal me. Enough to be strong again. Enough to say goodbye. Enough for the surprises the future held and most significantly, enough to withstand the shame of a marriage that ended as soon as it begun. I wasn’t as good as I thought. I just became good at feeling bad.

When I did, I filed for divorce and even then, I had to face the magistrate all by myself because my loving husband couldn’t be bothered with such trivialities. But he could afford a few insults to keep me going. I had to relive the horrors of my few months to the court as I shook and trembled from the ice inside my soul. Every ground for divorce, a hot knife into my chest.

 Time, they say makes you forget the pain. No, time makes you forget something else—love. Time obscures what love is and what it is not. Time makes you tired of small talk. Time makes you focused as if you are a man on an impossible mission. Time, friends is not a healer of wounds, it reopens healing ones. But like the phoenix that we are, we stare at the open wounds and know that scar tissue will form again if we wrap it up. We get afraid and do it anyway. We are scared but do something anyway.