Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Two Nights of Shock and Horror at Coptic Hospital in Nairobi

I had been attending a UKA Board meeting, and on my way back home, on the trainon everyone's lips was the sad news of Prince's passing. I was sad and shocked because some of his music had inspired me, particularly 'Purple Rain'.

As soon as I got home I switched the TV on to follow up on the story. As I plugged my phone in to charge, mWhatsapp crashed with incoming messages and calls. My heart was startled.Within a few minutes, my brother, 'Lopo' called on the land line and asked if I had heard the news that my other brother, 'Bishar', was in hospital unconscious? 
This shocked me because Bishar had just posted on his Facebook page that morning and was actively exchanging normal gags with friendthroughout the day on social media. His last social media posting was at 14:53 on April 21st - actually just a few hours before he took ill,

"I decided since the sun was taking longer to come out and shine, let me come out, shine and make a change in someone's life. Thanks for the opportunity". 

My first instinct was to get info from those on the ground back in Kenya. I rang my brother Evans, who was at the hospital along with my sister Vicky, brother-in-law Lawrence, and my sister Irene.

Bishar was at one of his meetings that evening and he felt hot and sweaty so he asked to step outside in the fresh air. His friends report that while outside in the fresh air, he threw up and lost balance (staggered). They decided to rush him to the nearest hospital, Coptic, which was closest.One of his closest friend, James Mureithi actually used Bishars’ car to drive him there and they were joined by another great friend, Carol Kiriethe. They called my brother, Evans to alert him that Bishar was at the hospital.

I was getting very anxious and a bit agitated back in my home in Essex as I felt desperate and increasingly got frustrated as the hospital staff dragged their feet. His blood pressure was over 250 and they wanted payment before they could admit and attend to him accordingly. At least we have the NHS here in the UK but in Kenya you have to pay for everything. Evans arrived accompanied by Wanjiru, 'Shiro', who used her card to pay for some of the deposit. The
deposit required was Ksh. 50,000 (roughly £400)but Shiro paid Ksh.30,000. On arrival,they ,spoke with Bishar coherent and they reassured him he was in safe hands, ‘doctors’.

I was asking every question and making suggestions over the phone - head scan, etc. They then told me that a head scan showed very slight swelling on the brain. My immediate concern was a neurosurgeon to look at the scan and recommend treatment as an emergency. Time was of the essence here and if Bishar was to have a chance to pull through, there could be no margin for error or time wasting. 

I was advised by those on the ground in Kenya with Bishar that he has been admitted in the HDU( high dependency unit ) and they had decided to sedate him so they could stabilise his blood pressure, but then later they moved him to ICU. 

I could not sleep on Thursday night. I sent a message around for friends to pray for his speedy recovery ... 'Praying for my kid bro. He's unwell and is in hospital. Let's cover him with love, light and divine healing'. This was on the 22nd April. 

I kept on ringing relatives who were at the hospital wishing Bishar a quick recovery. The last they were told was that they were sedating him but now they were fearful he's in a coma and on a life-support machine, but the doctors were hopeful that his blood pressure would be stabilised??. I began to wonder - what is it that the doctors were not telling us? It's more than 12hrs. since his head scan and everyone seems to be very confused at the conflicting reports. 
I decided I would fly to be at my brother’s bedside as he battles whatever is happening to him. I know him as a fighter and so many times when I face challenges in life, he's always reminded me that tomorrow is a new day and he urges me to put up a fight. 
At Coptic Hospital, Nairobi, my family are being tossed up and down with information. A neurosurgeon needs to asses my brother’s condition - I urge them to insist. The hospital staff lie that the surgeon is within the building and he's on his way to see him. It's getting late and chances of my brother surviving are decreasing by the second. My sister Melvin decided to ask her friend if they knew a neurosurgeon and they mentioDr. N who is the resident doctor but he was unavailable. We decide to bring in a different neurosurgeon so I get on Google to search and get on the phones, and I manage to speak to one who advises me to move swiftly. The hospital staff at Coptic discouraged us by saying that only the resident neurosurgeon could see my brother. But where is your resident neurosurgeon for god’s sake!!! He's just about somewhere within the building, we are told. My family, with the help of my sister Vicky and Evans, manage to somehow 'bulldoze' a neurosurgeon in who on permission sees my bro and the news is not good. He tells us his condition was 50/50, but more on the negative side and he said he would let the resident neurosurgeon, Dr N, attend to him and notify us (family). I think he just didn't want to be the bearer of such sad news. Afterwards, I manage to trace Dr. Ns' number and I try all means to reach him but in vain. 
The truth of the matter is that he's not anywhere near or within that hospital. So often it is life’s frustrations that destabilise us.
Within an hour of this, Evans sends me a notification from the hospital staff demanding for the outstanding deposit and payment for that day. Those people are heartless. 

My sister Jane asks the doctors and staff if my bro was responding to medication. One staff member lets her tongue loosen and says they don’t switch off the machine suddenly; they do it gradually and adds that the family should come in the following day, Saturday, at 12 noon for a report. Jane is shocked by her words but she is quickly reassured that everything will be ok. Where are the medical ethics here? What happened when they sedated my brother? where has the talk of switching life support machine on come from!

Everyone is exhausted at this point. One thing we are holding onto is Bishars life. We had hope and faith that he would pull through. We so wanted him to open his eyes.
One Bible verse that I quickly turn to is from Psalms 62
    “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him”.
These are meant to be comforting words but at that point in time, the restless anxious chatter in my head was unbearable.
manage to speak with my cousin, Philemon, and I beg him to tell me every detail. I start by asking him if Bishar is on oxygen, what medication are they giving him. Has he had another head scan? etc. By now, I have my air ticket to fly to Nairobi. We decided as a family we would move him to either Nairobi Hospital, Marter or a private wing in Kenyatta Hospital. I was already liaising with a neurosurgeon and also looking into getting a private one to fly to Kenya. When I was told Bishar had suffered a stroke, in my mind I started to have a plan of care for him. He'd be in hospital for a while and when he wakes from the coma he'll struggle with speech and coordination but as a wheelchair user myself I believed we could have a satisfactory support plan in place for him as he recovered. I knew he would need a wheelchairthen a walking stick, etc. until he had made a maximum recovery. I got speaking to people who had survived the kind of stroke we were being told Bishar had suffered and the more stories of success I heard the more optimistic I became. I wasn't going to write my kid brother off on a report that that my kid brother had slipped into a coma. We were going to fight this together. We are a strong family that are always there for one another and I knew we would rally around Bishar and boost him.     

Saturday 23rd April was a hazy day that brought darkness to us. 
My uncle Peps and cousin Philemon were among the first to arrive to visit Bishar at the ICU. Uncle Peps saw him and gave a positive feedback to my dad. Bishars blood pressure had been stabilised and his body was warm to touch. My cousin told me he felt there was some circulation in his organs as he saw the urine bag was filling as it hadn't on Friday. Good News! I made several phone calls to Kenya and the family were streaming in to visit, as you do when you have a loved one admitted to hospital.  On Saturday morning I am lucky to get Dr. N on the phone and I pour out my every frustration to him and I express my disappointment at the shocking quality of care given to my brother. Dr. N did not sound sympathetic or even bothered and he asked me to call him after an hour. Where were the medical ethics here? I asked myself. I quickly remind myself that I am to react and speak from a position of compassion, and strength, with God my rock; otherwise I will blurt out unhelpfully when the pressure is on. I know my behaviour sometimes is unrepresentative of my heart, and as much as I like to operate from within the fortress who is God, a place of safety and assurance – I found it difficult in that instance.

My sister Irene tells me she got in to visit with Bishar and held his hand to talk to him and just massage his arm. She was shocked when she felt no pulse and she quickly alerted Uncle Peps who was in the room with her. I called Irene and when my brother-in-law, Arthur answered the call, my heart sank. All he said was 'Where are you? Come quickly! Bishar has left us. Come quickly, he's gone!' I remember him choking over the phone holding back tears. I quickly hang up because that's not the report I wanted to hear. After a few minutes, I rang Philemon and I demanded one answer from him -I asked is it good news or bad? He replied 'Bad. I felt overcome with grief but still unable to accept what I was hearing.

I rang my sister Jane on the phone and she was wailing and asking God many questions. I cut her off and then received a text from my dad, ‘Cancel your journey. He is dead'. My heart sank, I felt dizzy and sick. I didn't know where to look. I felt like all my insides would all come out. Bishar had succumbed on this Saturday 23rd April at noon -the exact time that Jane was advised they would be given the family a full report. I spoke to Evans, who was devastated too and totally broken. Evans was the last person to speak with Bishar as they reassured him he would get well. He was alert and communicating before the sedation. Evans told us that when Bishar was sedated, he started to sing a Hymn as he slipped away, 
Kaa nami ni usiku sana (Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;)
Usiniache gizani bwana (The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.)
Msaada wako haukomi (When other helpers fail and comforts flee,)
Nili pekee yangukaa nami (Help of the helpless, O abide with me.)
 His favourite Hymn and his ringtone. These were the last words he ever uttered on this earth.

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Saturday, 7 March 2015

International Women's Day - Double Discrimination.

In, ‘ The Myth of Women's Inferiority' Daniel Gaido states, "One of the conspicuous features of capitalism, and of class society in general, is the inequality of the sexes. Men are the masters in economic, cultural, political and intellectual life, while women play a subordinate and even submissive role. Only in recent years have women come out of the kitchens and nurseries to challenge men’s monopoly. But the essential inequality still remains".

Today as women celebrated international women's day, most differently abled (disabled) women are battling a serious double dose of discrimination, 'female with a disability' this continues to 'justify' a low education level that  results in rates of employment and low wages, increase in sexual and physical violence, limited access to fighting for justice and to health services and facilities.

Every single woman has a role to play in society, and I am tempted to say that some women's roles are greater with a higher calling - As a differently abled (disabled) woman, this comes with complications, criticism, belittling and so often being thought to deserve 'not the best' in life. The majority of us are still battling double discrimination - two minority identities 'female with a disability'

Yes, I may be a 'female with a disability' but I make it happen in life. I have dreams, aspirations, etcetera. I know first hand what it means to live at the corner of disability and womanhood. I know what it feels like to suffer discrimination and encounter barriers in life. Yet so many women like myself are rising up with resilience, strength, and enormous potential to make it happen in life.


We often speak of having dreams, they say to be successful one must have a dream ... I believe in making the dream a reality - turn that dream to reality, make it happen.

As a woman who is differently abled (physically challenged) I have learned to set realistic goals.

1. Identify - once you identify your dream, let your mind crave it, believe in your dream, start to visualise the end goal and have belief that you can achieve it. It was difficult for me to identify but once I knew my life's purpose - I am now able to set goals related to my dreams. It is important to set goals. I am able to discover what I specifically want to create in my life that serves to bring me joy while serving others in some capacity.

2. Find ways to make it happen - you may need a time frame for certain dreams, dreaming alone is not enough, how do you go about achieving it? ..I am never afraid to ask for assistance . E.g BPF .. Create awareness of polio and PPS....

3. Put methods/ into practice - it may get tricky but persistence is key... It's like setting out on a journey .. to get to your destination, you have to take a step to start moving. Stay stagnant it gets you nowhere.

When 'Ms. Doubt' sets in, I call on my 'miss affirmation' that helps me get rid of self-doubt that mostly would set me back or cause me to give up on the dream. Positive Affirmations help me not to lose focus on the vision 'we become what we think' so think positive.

4. As you focus and start to achieve and as it 'starts to happen', don’t be carried away .. Pride comes before a fall. Avoid methods/means that will compromise your character. Be honest. Be trustworthy. Don't exchange success with your integrity. A good name is better than riches and you can still achieve your dream, you can make it happen without engaging means that would hurt others at the expense of your dreams. Do things for all the right reasons and not the wrong ones. Keep a humble spirit and always to be grateful.


 To make it happen in life, you need to be true to yourself, be ready to take responsibility to change your life for the better. Commit, sacrifice, and discipline yourself to making a positive change in your life.

I have realised that for me to be a useful friend, mother, sister, athlete, manager, ambassador, etc, I need to Invest in myself through personal and formal education and I do not take this lightly because it's my life!
Myself and other women with disabilities world wide, including my friend Hannah Wanja from Kenya are asking themselves these questions;
Are women homogenous? Are women with disabilities victims of circumstances or are they agents of social, economic and political change? Do we have women with disabilities on the tables of decision making or are they on the menu?
Are challenges facing women with disabilities cross cutting across the globe but are there solutions to some of these pertinent challenges facing women with disabilities?

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Sunday, 22 June 2014

From Mud Hut to MBE!!!

It's not everyday that your name appears in the London Gazette. It only happens when you have the great privilege of being named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List when you receive an award. I got an M.B.E last Saturday, 14th June, 2014, and to say I feel deeply honoured would be an understatement. I still can't believe it! I found out over a month ago when I received a letter from the Cabinet Office asking me if I would accept the award. I had to ask if he thought it was really me they meant to address the letter to. It was real. Honestly trying to keep such a secret was really, really hard. I didn't even tell my son Tim in case he told his friends and it leaked out. Anyway, I am so proud and can't wait for the official ceremony to have it presented to me. That will be a day to remembe r for ever! It just goes to show that even someone from a humble background like my own can achieve. I am blessed!!

Last week the British Polio Fellowship held their road show in London and I did a session on fitness for wheelchair users and others. It went down well and it was nice to see the enthusiasm of the audience. I really appreciate my role as an ambassador for  the BPF and to spread the message about polio and the people who have survived it, 120,000 in the UK alone. A lot of that number still suffer from Post Polio Syndrome and the late effects of polio, and there is a lot needs to be done to give them the help and support they need. Imagine how many people in the world are suffering in countries where ignorance is rife? My main message is a very simple one - END POLIO NOW!

I also spent an evening in the Houses of Parliament as guest speaker for one of the charities I support, RESULTS UK, a great project that lobbies our MPs to try and end world poverty. Other speakers included; Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS UK, Annette Brooke MP, and Mark Dybul, director, Global Fund to fight AIDS,TB, and Malaria. I spoke about the challenges facing children with disabilities and other marginalised groups in developing countries, e.g the fact that children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children, the barriers created by discrimination and the lack of properly trained teachers and accessible schools.

         "It's a huge honour and blessing to be named in Her Majesty's Birthday Honours to be a Member Of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Mbe) for services to disability sport and charity work This recognition is not just for me but for all of us especially those that have given me opportunities to give back to society."

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Around the World in ..... 6 Days!!!

Jules Verne once wrote a book called,'Around the World in 80 Days'. Well, I've just done it in 6! Let me tell you how it happened.

On Friday 31st may, I was invited to attend a breakfast meeting with Sir Emeka Offor by Rotary International  and amongst the organizers were Judith Diment  and Nayan Patel who was particularly so keen for me to participate at the meeting. Sir Emeka is Rotary's Polio Ambassador in Nigeria and is totally committed to eradicating polio in Nigeria. I am not normally an early morning person but on this occasion I went along because I too want to see polio totally eradicated from the whole world and I was interested to hear what is being done. Also, as an Ambassador myself for the British Polio Fellowship I am always keen to hear the experiences of others. I spoke briefly about my own experience then we had a frank exchange of views and ideas. It was a very interesting meeting and I was glad I had made the effort to attend. I must admit my enthusiasm for another breakfast meeting the next day was full of curiosity when the invitation was given, but after discussing with Norman about looking after our son Tim when I returned home he said I should go because he understands my passion on and interest in any matters relating to polio. Well, he was right but not even in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined what did happen. Sir Emeka invited me along with Manoj Soma and Gautam Lewis, who in my opinion is a encyclopaedia on crutches - as his special guests to attend the 105th Rotary International convention in Australia. I said I would love to. When is it? I was expecting him to say in a few weeks time but instead he said we would fly out with British Airways at 9.30 that night! Wow! I phoned Norman to ask him if I could go and he gave me his full support so I headed back to Harlow to pack.

After rushing to pack a few things I left again at 2.30pm saying a tearful farewell to my sweetheart son Tim, but he seemed more interested in playing with his mates so off I went. I've been to Australia once before so I knew I was in for a long flight. The crew on the plane were fantastic and did everything they could to make my journey a comfortable one. We had a brief stopover in Singapore and finally arrived in Sydney on Monday morning and were driven to our hotel, Holiday Inn in Old Harbour. I was totally exhausted but very excited had time to refresh and off we went to Sydney Olympic park to the rotary house of Friendship to view different stalls and meet Rotarians from all over the World. 

On Tuesday we went to the conference in the Olympic Park and I spoke at a breakfast meeting which was so humbling to be in the company of main donors of polio eradication. A bit overwhelming. It was nice to meet up again with Ade Adepitan, who shared his experience as a polio survivo then  Sir Emeka was given the opportunity to stand on the podium and make a special announcement - Yes, ladies and gentlemen he donated $ One million towards the eradication of Polio. Now this was overwhelming! . I also met a lot of Rotarians I've met down the years in my role as a public speaker spreading awareness of polio and related issues such as the late effects of polio and PPS (post polio sydrome)  that most polio survivors are struggling with. Again, that evening  I fell into bed exhausted but very happy. I have to admit I wasn't too happy when Norman and Tim rang to see how I was but he's very understanding and didn't take offence at my snappy response- he's used to it.

On Wednesday we paid a visit to the Rotary house of Friendship  and wandered around the numerous displays and stands. I was particularly intrigued by one that had an actual iron lung, something we never had in Kenya. I was also excited to see the End  Polio Now Torch that is due to go around the whole world. I can't wait to carry it when it arrives here in the UK. I had the immense privilege of carrying the Paralympic Torch in 2012 as a Paralympian but I will be even more proud to carry the Polio Torch because it is symbolic of the total eradication of polio from our world. Can't wait.

Most evenings on this amazing visit to Sydney, Sir Emeka did not wait  for us to be friendly - he showed us how by inviting us as a group to share dinner with himself and his outstanding staff. Sir Emeka is rich in love and generosity and he lives by example and his deeds clearly show that there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up and creating opportunities to enrich lives! I definitely would like to learn more from this man by the grace of God, how he does it - I suppose there isn't a fomula! 
 Thursday we began the long flight home and I finally got back home on Friday morning. The journey of a lifetime. I will use this blog to say a HUGE thank you to Sir Emeka Offor and his staff  both at Chrome Group and Sir Emeka Offor Foundation for providing me with the opportunity and I am really looking forward to working with them again in the near future.

So, jet lagged and back to reality. A busy week lies ahead. Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, then doing a talk on fitness for the British polio Fellowship on Thursday.I am not rich in monetary terms but God is good to me and I thank him for all he lets me do and the great people He brings my way ...
And to sum up this blog let us remind our selves of the need to eradicate polio and the support the polio survivors who struggle with the late effects of the disease need!
Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Wherever there is a human being,there is an opportunity for a kindness.
Instead of waiting for people to be friendly, show them how.

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