This Friday, just a day before the infamous Valentine’s Day, I’m a man in pain. Today at 8:39 am, Tabitha Wairimu called to inform me that her daughter, Caroline Muthoni passed away on Monday at 3am at Kenyatta National Hospital. The question most will ask is, “who is Caroline Muthoni?”
On January 5th 2015, I went to Kenyatta National Hospital to get some immunization shots. There was no queue in the private wing of the hospital so the activity did not take long. I was done within an hour and swiftly moved to the stage to catch a bus back to the city centre. While boarding the bus, I noticed a mother holding the hand of a young girl. Looking closely, the young girl had a huge scar on her neck adjacent to the jaw. Instantly I felt that young girl’s pain and decided to sit next to her and her mother.
I introduced myself and told the mum that I would like to pray for her daughter. She ignored me at first probably because she thought I was one of the numerous impostors that prawl the city of Nairobi using the name of God in vain to benefit their selfish appetites. Unperturbed by her non responsiveness, I continued to reach out to her and showed her my national ID, my work ID and even handed her my business card hoping to disarm her. After 20 minutes, she relaxed and allowed me to pray for the girl.
The late Caroline Muthoni was 17-years-old. Sarcoma (Cancer of the bone), attacked her in March 2014 at just a tender age of 16. The killer disease had ravaged her so much she looked barely 10. It started as a tooth ache but aggressively spread. She had wounds in her mouth therefore she couldn’t eat well. The side effects of radiotherapy had caused rashes on her skin.
Her neck had been left deformed after undergoing two surgeries which had also deformed her mouth and to the point that she was drooling uncontrollably. The mum was overwhelmed and it was evident from the desperate look on her face that the disease and all its ramifications had taken its toll. Theirs was a desperate commute from a friend’s house to Kenyatta hospital for radiotherapy treatment. A journey that was repeated daily in the desperate hope that one day the doctor would give them the report that Muthoni was all better and that she would no longer need the painful radiotherapy treatment…but that was a day that would never come.
On February 2nd, the world commemorated cancer day. As the 3rd leading cause of death in this nation, this disease knows no age, color, tribe or race. KTN did a feature titled ‘the painful wait.’ We saw how Kenyans are struggling to contain this painful menace. Some could not wait any longer therefore they had to seek alternative treatment methods like open air surgery without proper medical equipment, traditional medicine among many other unspeakably desperate remedies.
Earlier this month, President Kenyatta signed a deal for an ambitious 38 billion shilling plan for every county to have a cancer diagnostic centre. Of the Sh38 billion, Sh21 billion will be dedicated to cancer patients according to James Macharia, the Cabinet Secretary for Health.
The ambitious plan has run into a hitch supposedly because the egos of little pseudo gods called governors have not been sufficiently massaged. Our governors have declined to sign the necessary agreements on the grounds that they were not consulted in the process leading up to the deal.
Consultation my foot!
What is the priority of these governors? Instead of rallying behind the national government, they want to be a stumbling block. The governors seem to have forgotten the oncology department at Kenyatta has discouraging queues.
Do the governors know that we only have two radio therapy machines at Kenyatta National Hospital? Do they know that the earliest therapy session date that people who go to Kenyatta National Hospital today can be booked for is in 2016? Yet all that our governors seem to be concerned with is their ‘pesa mashinani’ call and the right to fly flags on their guzzlers. If they have not been faithful with the little money they have been given, why should they demand for more?
They seem to be comfortable in their ivory towers because when their children get sick, they have enough health insurance and money acquired from God-knows-where and savings to give them quality medical attention abroad. That’s why they can conspire to sabotage such an ambitious plan by impeding its immediate implementation by the national government.
Caroline Muthoni will be laid to rest on Monday, 16th February 2015 in Kigumo, Kingona location, Muranga County. We have lost a young girl at a tender age. This girl has died with all her dreams and ambitions. Maybe she held the key to unlocking AIDS vaccine or to making significant advances in other fields of study…this we shall never know. Maybe she was going to be the first female president of Kenya. But all that has been extinguished at a tender age of 17. The mother is not only battling the loss of her daughter, she has to settle debts of over a million shillings incurred during the course of her daughter’s treatment.
I want to make a call to Kenyans of good will to stand with Tabitha. Let’s ease her burden in whatever little way we can.
Her number is +254718340592
Follow the writer @DannishOdongo