It is estimated that out of 40 million Kenyans, 12,000 are born with heart disease. Over 6,000 of these are in need of open heart surgery. The Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation saw the need to intervene for the less privileged because there is a great deficiency of medical services in this sector, considering that less than 300 surgeries are conducted in Kenya annually with the help of their families, well-wishers and established heart surgery programs. Many children either die or have poor quality of life. Dr. Mark Awori led his dedicated team in conducting a successful surgery. He says that the main drive for starting another program is the high numbers of children with deficiencies as the statistics tell us. The highest programs are also done at children’s hospitals and therefore the desire is to deliver the highest quality of care in the country. The team follows the guidelines of the word ‘TOUCHES’.
T – Totally, O – Outstanding, U – Universal, C – Children’s, HE – Heart, S – Surgery
Pharrell Ndino was the beneficiary of this life changing opportunity at 2 and ½ years. His mother, Jane Mwaura, says he was born healthy but after 2 weeks, he got a cold. She took him to hospital where he was treated. This was to be a norm for the rest of his 2 years because he kept contracting chest infections which the mother found strange. Finally, a doctor at the chest clinic referred her to have her son undergo an echo cardiogram test. The tests confirmed the cold truth which she was not prepared for. Pharrell had an atrial septum defect, which is the technical definition of a hole in the heart. The doctor realised that she could not afford treatment for this condition so he advised her to seek help from the Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation.
When Jane got in touch with the Foundation, the issue was taken up immediately and arrangements for the procedure were underway within a few weeks. It costs an average of Kshs. 750,000 to have cardiac surgery in Kenya and the Foundation plans to help more children along with other parallel projects. Dr. Awori and his team put Pharrell on a heart lung machine as they opened and closed his heart using his tissue. His heart was then restarted and after 2 days, he was strong enough to be discharged. Jane says she is forever grateful to the Foundation because she was in a predicament due to the high costs involved. She smiles as she places her hand on her son’s back “there is no heavy breathing and his airways are very clear, even his appetite has grown’’.”It would be important for Kenyans from all walks
of life to work together with institutions offering heart surgery to enable resources to be mobilized to help these children because 90 percent of them cannot afford surgery”, said Dr. Awori. “When you hear of any runs, walks and fundraisers, you should give something.” He further reiterates that it was a team effort and their philosophy is ‘SHARP’ as they deliver “TOUCHES”.
S – Sincere, H – Helpful, A – Available, R – Reliable ,P – Pleasant
- Mark Awori during an interview Pharrell and his mother, one week after the procedure
Hope for Elijah as Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation Gives a Hand
The sun’s rays shine on the wall in a room at the Child Development Centre, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital. Rachel Mula carries her nephew Elijah Maundu Kasina into the room and smiles and gestures relief at finally being able to sit down after a long, tedious trip. She agrees to talk about how she came to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital and how she has co-operated with them since. She was once married and worked as she lived with her husband, but has since been abandoned by him.
She recalls her sister, Elijah’s mother, with fondness that is evident, as tears roll down her cheeks as she talks. Her sister bled to death during Elijah’s birth so Rachel has taken care of him since 17th October, 2011. It was only natural, she felt, that she should take him in and care for him as if he were her own. But he was unable to drink milk so she took him to Machakos District Hospital. The hospital found no problem and soon he appeared to be all right. Meanwhile Rachel had to quit her job because of the increased duties of caring for a tiny infant. Four months later, she noticed that Elijah’s neck and body were weak. He also suffered severe convulsions and could not sleep. She therefore decided to go to Kenyatta National Hospital.
Meanwhile, her husband had noticed that Elijah had special needs and disappeared leaving her with their two daughters and Elijah to care of. When things became unbearable, her children sympathized with her and reluctantly agreed to live with their grandmother until she was able to find her way. Life became harder still for her as friends advised her to leave the baby in a matatu, dump or poison him. She finally felt driven to taking her own life rather than Elijah’s since she could see no other way. As she sat on her bed trying to pluck up courage to drink her poisonous concoction, she received a call from her doctor at Kenyatta. The doctor insisted that she should not miss her next appointment, for he had an extremely urgent issue to discuss. When she saw him, he told her to go to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital for more specialised care. Rachel visited the hospital, inquired about their services and whether they were in a position to help her. They took down her details and in March 2014, she received a call to go for an appointment. The Child Development Centre conducted different tests on Elijah, which included a brain test, consultation by a neuro-developmental specialist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist and finally a hearing test. After also examining his medical history, they found that his jaundice after birth affected the brain and caused quadriplegia meaning that he cannot use his hands and legs. He also tested positive for hearing loss graded as severe to profound. He was therefore in need of a wheel chair, corsets and hearing aids.
Rachel narrates how she has seen Elijah’s transformation after just two sessions with the Development Centre. “He could not sleep at all because of his congested chest but now he sleeps soundly”. Rachel was able to start working again by doing casual jobs because Elijah’s appetite has increased since then and naturally this involved food costs. She is so happy because she did not have any appetite before but now she is sure she has a reason to eat and live. She states that even her appearance has changed because now the great worry for Elijah has been lifted.
Elijah is happier and can now move his hands. ‘He could not move at all but now I can’t leave him alone because he might either fall or roll over his seat.’ She reiterates that all these changes have happened in one month. She has however had to replace napkins with pampers for use during the physiotherapy sessions which has not been easy. The drugs for suppressing the convulsions have also been a challenge to acquire regularly. A few months later, baby Elijah is visibly stronger as he is brought in for his therapy sessions. This day is different though, because it is the day he will leave the hospital on wheels rather than being carried. Rachel is overjoyed by this new advance. ‘I may not be able to repay you but God will bless you abundantly. Thank you all very much’.
ABOUT GERTRUDE’S HOSPITAL FOUNDATION
The Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation was established in 2010 and is the main vehicle for the Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital’s community outreach activities. The Foundation’s aim is to provide quality health care to needy children, who are located in hard to reach areas and children’s homes in various parts of the country, and rely on our free services at the main hospital, our outreach clinics and medical camps.