I had been attending a UKA Board meeting, and on my way back home, on the train, on 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, my ‘Whatsapp’ 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 friends throughout 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 mention Dr. 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.
I 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 wheelchair, then 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 yangu, kaa 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.
JOIN ME IN PART TWO OF THIS BLOG !! TO FOLLOW SOON.
Labels: coma, Coptic hospital Nairobi, doctors, God, health minister kenya, Kenya, life, neurosurgeon, psalms, stroke, UN human rights