I know I have been preoccupied for sometime. And as much as it breaks my heart, I won’t apologize for being one, not-very-conscientious homo sapiens.
Fine, sorry. I am one, not-very-conscientious homo sapiens.
Last year, sometime in late June, I got a call from Gwas. Stop with the faces. I also don’t know why he thinks the best abbreviation for Gwada is Gwas. What a sucker! Anyway, he called to inform me of his malaise. He’d gone to his schools dispensary but five days down the line he was retrograding. They said it was a ‘mere’ varicella (lay people stay with me, that’s just a fancy name for chicken pox) and that if he took the drugs as was prescribed, just like any other person he’d get better. Am not like any other person!’ He retorted. Call it pride. But what you ignorant folks don’t know is; any other person is not a 23year old who has seen both his kidneys fail, broke their arm, bitten by a snake, injected the wrong medication becoming temporarily lame among other incidents. So yeah, he ain’t like any other person because his immunity is quite delicate.
Sitting for his end semester exam, he had one paper left which was due Monday. It was Friday. So I thought, why not persevere with his current medication and hang on until he was done then go home once and for all? Unlike mum who insisted he drops everything and leave; enyewe uchungu wa mwana ajuaye ni mzazi! I just didn’t want anything to jeopardize his studies like it has been in the previous years. See, am not a bad sister. I’m just not the greatest there ever was.
Our old man intervened and requested they take him to Aga Khan but his school’s nursing team kept persisting eti they take him to Sisters of sijui what nursing home! No offense, but really, it wasn’t like they’re offering free treatment yawa. I mean, who goes to an upscale restaurant when they got less dough than a pizza hut? It makes me sick in my stomach just to imagine his situation and being driven left right and centre. Luckily, the following day he managed to leave and met dad halfway. Mwalimu says he was bad. I can’t help but wonder how a parent feels meeting their kid in town lying down in the dust almost unconscious. I bet he almost didn’t recognize him!
That was in Kisii. In dad’s company, he was rushed to Sony Medical Centre and was given an immediate refer to Aga Khan Kisumu. Do you ever come across a speeding ambulance that every vehicle has to pave way for? Once upon a time that was my brother! He secured an admission but two days later he deteriorated and was taken to Intensive Care Unit. Even in the ICU, he wasn’t getting any better. So he was isolated as the doctors feared for the other patients. I knew things were bad when one time I asked mum how he was doing but she outrightly ignored and instead asked when my attachment was due.
That same week, I finished my paper and flew to Kisumu. Literally. I had never been that scared of meeting my mum. I sat impatiently at the waiting bay contemplating which questions to ask. How are you? How’s Gwas? How are you guys holding up? They weren’t making any sense. Especially because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. So I kept my eyes fixed on the TV and the news of Nkaissery’s sudden demise was doing very little to reduce my anxiety.
‘Sharon!’ She needed not to call again. I knew that voice. ‘Mum!’ I was shocked. She looked as though she’d spent the whole night out in the cold. Her eyes were blood red and swollen. She was pale. I wanted to ask something. Not sure what but something that had nothing to do with sickness and sleep, but before I could say a thing, she let out her arms and hugged me for the longest time I could remember. That embrace was warm but at the same time I felt something cold. Fear perhaps. I’d never seen her emotionally struck since Tony. She had these silent sobs that betrayed her strength and tears started falling from her cheeks on to my neck. I never wanted that hug to end. I just wanted us to remain until I’d convinced her that everything will be alright. I failed. I was too engrossed and had already joined her in crying. Realizing I too was in tears, she let go and led away.
Halfway through, in a bid to break the long silence… ‘Umeskia Nkaissery ameaga?’ ‘Mmh.’ And then back to silence. As we approached the gate, she broke down again. ‘Gwas is very sick!’ I didn’t respond. My eyes gave me away. She was preparing me for what was coming. Those words kept replaying in my head so much so that I could feel my legs shaking as we approached the check point. She was allowed without any struggle, probably because she’d become a common figure after those few days she was there. I was screened and asked to leave my bag. I obeyed. Having no time for chit chats I ran after mum who was almost disappearing from my vicinity leaving the guard raving on and on about people and policies something something.
The hospital was so quiet. Usually, this is always a good thing but on this day I wished it were different. I wished it was one of those visitation you heard a mother asking their child in a loud voice to stop playing around. Or a nurse calling for the next patient to check in. Not even the sound of people walking up and down in the corridors. Nothing! And it made me more nervous I could feel my heart begging to leave my chest. ‘Gwas is in that room,’ she continued with the updates. It was way before visiting hours and the fact that they let us through the ward gate didn’t feel like a privilege but rather an I-know-your-case-is-critical-no-need-for-formalities kind of curtsy. Even without mum’s ‘ huyu ni msichana wangu’ free pass, the look they gave us was enough to tell there was no way they were going to keep us from getting in.
If you think the silence at the reception was deafening, I don’t know what you’d call the one at the ICU. The only people in the hallway besides us were the nurses in their uniforms and crocs.
‘Mum, we can’t allow your son any more visitors, si you know how he is!’
‘She’s family. His sister!’
He agreed. Shingo upande though. ‘She’s got 5 minutes!’ The room was big. No, it was huge; it’s equivalent in MTRH would occupy like fifty patients. Gwas was at the furthest. Unlike the first two patients he was in an enclosed glass wall room. I was lost in scrutiny I didn’t even notice mum washing her hands and was already in gloves and mask. I followed suit and as I was about to enter the nurse ordered that I shouldn’t leave the door open. Something about air getting out and some infection bla bla bla…I just did what I was told. Five minutes was too less a time I wasn’t going to waste it understanding medicine!
I finally came to terms with what my mum had been referring to as bad; and tell you what, bad with regards to Gwas’s situation was underrated. He was baaaaaaaaad! I hope am not breaking any code of conduct here but his condition was nothing like anything I’ve ever seen in my life! I almost went frenzy! No exaggeration. His head was almost twice it’s normal size (not fat, swollen) He had these red bumps everywhere that not even calamine lotion could hide. Inside his ears, nose, on the lips, eyes, and all over his head (trust me you do not need a vivid description!). I got goosebumps from just looking. He was covered from neck to toe and was wired to some noisy machines who’s pipes disappeared somewhere on the chest and thighs under the sheet.
‘You’re just going to stare without saying hi?’ Mum wondered out loudly waking him up. His eyes were red and tinier than last I checked. ‘Hey!’ I said under the mask. He blinked for a second in response and stared back right at me, as if waiting for another question. But what was there to ask when all the answers laid right in front of me? He looked so different that had I been brought in blindfold I’d say it isn’t him.
I was itching to know what was going on under the sheets. (Guys guys guys… c’mon! Get your heads out of the gutter, this is serious). So mum helped uncover and I saw his chest. It was a replica of the face. Two pipes ran from either side of his chest to the monitor and his lungs had irregular rhythms that indicated difficulty in breathing, which explained the oxygen tube.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t continue looking. The view was so disturbing that my goosebumps had goosebumps. I buried my face in my hands and wished it was me on that bed and not him. So much pain for a single soul. Why does it always have to be him! I was angry. Angry at the world. Angry at God, at the devil. So much angry I could feel it heating my blood. Tears welled my eyes.
‘She shouldn’t cry in there!’ Yayee nurse! Take me slowly… ‘She’s praying,’ mum defended. I was a hairs breath close to being kicked out. So I wiped off the tears with the tip of my fingers and pulled an Aria Stark.
My people, it’d take a book if I was to tell you how I don’t recall mum ever sleeping during this time coz she spent her nights praying, begging, crying even…for Gwas to get better. How Gwas had to spend four more days in Intensive Care. How his only kidney was resisting medication and was 70% close to failing and all the dialysis he had to go through in a bid to revive it. Or how some nurse injected him the wrong medication while in hospital and had to go for surgery that saw his transfer to Nairobi Hospital.
Gwas (pictured above) recuperated and he’s currently back to school despite the scars and everything. Brother thank you for kicking lethargy outta your system one more time. And to our friends, family and everyone out there who financially, spiritually, emotionally or physically supported us through those dark moments of 2017, as my Luhya bestie likes to put it… Mbarikiwe hadi mshangae.
Also, to those who contributed and never got a thank you message afterwards, apologies. My phone and I had a fallout and connection became a nuisance. We’re yet to recover the full amount. In fact we haven’t even reached half the amount we stated because it shot up when he got readmitted in Nairobi. We’ve not also not been able to hold a harambee because as I am made to understand our request still awaits approval and the rest, brothers and sisters, is beyond my comprehension. As if that is not enough, the pay bill we were using was revoked because it expired and if we were to start another collection we might be forced to open another one, don’t be alarmed.
It’s still a long journey but I know we got this and God got us. We can do it!
If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it – tweet it!