On Wednesday, Jane Kayaya fell from a chair, cracking her head on the cement floor.
After stitching at a hospital in Kitengela, her husband was left clinging on hope that he would get money to take her for a head scan to ascertain the magnitude of the injury.
This has been Ezekiel Barasa’s life for five years after tragedy after tragedy left his 34-year-old wife bedridden.
While the trained teacher’s speech is slurred, she smiles at the slightest opportunity as she - just like her husband - hopes for a better tomorrow. Her speech stutters, but she can communicate with people, a feat totally impossible a few months ago.
At the couple’s home inside the East Africa Portland Cement Village in Athi River, Kayaya can afford to sit but with help, otherwise she spends her days lying down.
Her condition is result of a near-death experience arising from obstructed labour that almost cost both her life and that of her baby, now three years old.
It all on October 27, 2015 when Kayaya went into labour. She was expecting her second born.
“At about 8pm I took her to a nearby private health facility in Makadara, Athi River; the time was nigh, and we were expecting a healthy baby,” says Barasa.
However, the labour took long even as medics kept reassuring the couple that all was well; by 2am the baby had not come.
“She had bled profusely so I decided to call a doctor from my place of work,” says Barasa.
He quickly organised for a transfer and she was moved to Nairobi West Hospital.
Kayaya was examined and the couple reassured that the delivery would be normal.
But hell would break loose as the expectant mother collapsed and had to be rushed to theatre for surgery, a procedure that ended at 10am. The new mother was put in ICU while her baby was placed in an incubator.
The newborn would come out of the incubator after 10 days while Kayaya stayed in the ICU for three more weeks before she regained consciousness. She however had to stay in hospital for two and a half more months.
“Things were not any rosier when we went home. Kayaya could not move and would scream in pain. On the first day we got home our neighbours demanded that I take her back to hospital, she was in a lot of pain,” says Barasa.
Kayaya was discharged after 13 days at the Aga Khan University Hospital, but things were not any better; the screaming continued non-stop.
The couple was forced to move to a new home within the Portland village because neighbours could not cope with the constant painful mourning by Kayaya.
Just as the situation was getting better, another tragedy struck. Towards the end of 2016, their three-year-old first born son who had been playing with a matchbox set their house on fire.
“Our house help was out shopping for groceries with our youngest. When the fire started, my wife was in the house with our three-year-old, who had locked the door from inside,” says Barasa.
Bedridden, and with her voice barely audible from months of fighting pain, Kayaya gave herself one push and fell from the bed to the floor. The curtain that was already on fire landed on the right side of her abdomen, leaving her with a burn.
Her left arm also got burnt. By the time neighbours broke the door to save the situation, the mother of two had serious burns.
The devastated father says, “We had to start another healing process even before the first one was complete.”
While Barasa believes prolonged labour could have been the cause of his wife’s predicament, doctors are uncertain because her clinical documents were destroyed in the house fire. Dr Maurine Mutua, a gynaecologist, says there could be other underlying factors. “There is need to interrogate whether she had eclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy, which could have triggered her condition,” she says.
Dr Mutua further argues that obstructed labour may not be a serious issue and leads mainly to fistula and swollen feet.
But says that delays could worsen the situation and this happens at different levels: while getting to the hospital and during decision making in hospital.
Dr Mutua adds that prevention of such cases should be in early preparation for delivery to avoid delays whether by the pregnant woman or within the facility itself. This could include attending the recommended antenatal care visits.
Meanwhile, as his wife recovered coupled with with regular hospital visits and physiotherapy sessions, Barasa was to be among a large number of staff retrenched by the cement manufacturer.
He has now stopped taking his wife to hospital for regular checkups. A physiotherapist who would come thrice a week also had to stop as the Sh1,000 per session turned out expensive. “Palliative care is difficult, right now we leave it to fate that she will be healed,” he says.
Barasa has since bought a motorcycle to earn a living to fend for his family. “The challenge is that I have to go home hourly to check on my wife as we cannot afford a house help,” he says. He hopes that his former employer can rehire him.