Alex Kiprotich and Racheal Kimanthi
She was rushed to the Kenyatta National Hospital when her labour pains started in 2005, but little did she know that five years later today, she would still be in the ward.
Her story is heart rending. The expressions on her face speak of despair but her heart is incredibly warm. Every time a patient at Kenyatta National Hospital Maternity wing receives visitors, tears well in Nancy Wangeci’s eyes.
She went to the hospital when she was 27 years, now she is 32. If her father and brother, who abandoned her, were to visit her today, they might be left wondering if the girl lying on the bed at the corner of the maternity ward Wing 1A is Wangeci.
In the last five years, Wangeci’s speech has been affected after she was diagnosed with partial pre-eclampsia (brain damage) that causes her to stammer.
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She has also lost three lower incisors and in their place is a brown exposed gum. She lost the teeth when she fell in a bathroom at the hospital.
She has a father whom she says is a businessman, and a brother but they have abandoned her since they rushed her to the maternity wing in 2005, when she gave birth to a baby girl –Mercy after a pregnancy complication.
It would not be a big deal for Wangeci to go and look for her family members and even ask for forgiveness if there was anything she did that led to such resentment. But she cannot because she is suffering from parapletia-paralysis of the legs. She is too weak to walk.
Her state would be different if her family members had not abandoned her in her hours of need.
Father and son will not be seeing the girl who was always smartly dressed with well trimmed hair applied with gel that kept the hair curly and shiny. They will not see the girl whose dream was to become a doctor. Instead they will be welcomed with the sight of a daughter, a sister whose dark hair remains unkempt.
And because of five years of lying on the hospital’s hard mattress facing the ceiling, father and son will be shocked to be met by a sight similar to that of a man’s balding head when Wangeci turns her back.
She has lost a sizeable part of her hair. However, they will be happy to note that despite her circumstances, Wangeci still is beautiful, with a radiant smile, and a sense of humour.
Hospital staff and patients are puzzled about what made the family members abandon the jovial woman.
The hospital’s matron Philomena Balera remembers the day the patient was wheeled into the hospital on a stretcher.
"She was checked in by a dark, medium built man who wore jeans," she says as Wangeci interrupts, saying that was her brother.
"They brought me together with my father and that was the last time I saw them," says Wangeci, as she stares blankly at the ceiling — a sight she is so used to.
Did you have any disagreements with them, I ask.
"Not any I know. If my father hated me, he could not have taken me to school. My brother Duncan was my best friend and even when I got pregnant, he is the only one I confided in during the early stages before anyone else got to know," she says. She can no longer hold back the tear.
She continues, "I do not know why they don’t come to see me. I don’t know what I ever did for them to abandon me here and… it is just too sad. My own family!"
And to divert the emotions that is evidently welling up inside her, I ask her what her favourite radio programme is after I notice she has a transistor radio on her bedside. Perhaps the only company when the nurses are not around or to drown the laughter of visitors who have come to see other patients, to cushion herself from anger.
"I like listening to Classic’s Busted and the call-ins where people request to be hooked up with someone for love," she says, struggling to brighten her face.
"I listen to hook ups because I can’t imagine why one would profess love to someone he or she has never seen and busted because it shames people who are not faithful to their partners."
It amazes me how Wangeci remains jovial even in the thick of things.
The diversion is short-lived: "It really stresses me that I have been abandoned yet I did not choose to be sick. But I try most of the time to forget what is happening," she says.
She adds, "It is really painful when you are abandoned by your loved ones, but there is nothing I can do. My condition cannot allow me to go look for them, but I just lie on this bed."
The 32-year-old says the last time she was with her father he owned two shops, which sold vehicle spare parts along Kirinyaga Road, Nairobi.
"My father has shops that sell vehicle spare parts along Kirinyaga Road, and my brother used to help him. I do not know if he still has them," she says.
Wangeci says she is aware that nurses and social workers have tried several times to get in touch with him and convince him to visit her, but he has refused.
She says she cannot understand what made her brother abandon her also.
"My parents had issues. My father separated from my mother who died in 2005, but I cannot understand what went wrong for my brother to abandon me. I love him nevertheless and look forward to re-uniting with them," she says.
Ben Nyakundi, a social worker at the hospital, says they have tried to get in touch with the man Wangeci alleges to be her father but he became very hostile and threatened them.
He says they traced the man to a spare parts shop along Kirinyaga Road as Wangeci directed, but became vicious when they brought up the issue.
Nyakundi says because of lack of capacity, they have since given up tracking him. They are now looking for a nursing home that can take Wangeci in.
In a puzzling move, Duncan Mukuria, the man she says is her brother, and who filled the hospital’s admission forms for Wangeci, indicated she was orphaned, an allegation she denies.
"My mother died of TB, but my father is alive and doing business. I know my father had a problem with my late mum, but he is the one who paid my school fees," she says.
Balera says in 2008, she met one of Wangeci’s aunts who confirmed that the businessman was his father. But she did not return to hospital after she requested her to talk with other family members to come and take her home.
"That was the last time I heard of her. She has never returned to visit Wangeci. Maybe she thought the burden of taking care of her would fall on her," she says.
When this writer called Duncan’s phone number, he disconnected when asked about Wangeci despite confirming he was Duncan Mukuria.
"Hii ni wrong namba…mimi ni mkamba na huyo mtu unauliza ni Kikuyu," he said, before disconnecting the phone.
Wangeci suspects her pregnancy might have contributed to the resentment from her father who nevertheless rushed her to hospital when she developed complications.
"I thought as soon as doctors delivered my baby I would be fine and go back to the new life of motherhood while continuing with my studies," she says.
But her body became weak and it deteriorated. When doctors realised her condition was not improving fast, her child, Mercy, was taken to Kings Kids Village in Kasarani, Nairobi, to await her recovery. The director of the home Molly Stern confirmed they are housing the child.
During the child’s birthday, she is taken to hospital to spend time with her mother.
"She is now five years and I am still here. They often bring her to say hi, and she always wants to know when I would join her, and I know I will some day," says Wangeci, beaming her infectious smile.
Balera says the hospital is looking for community help and homes to absorb her because the hospital environment is not good for her.
"She has improved and I think the environment has affected her recovery. If we get a home for her, I am sure she would regain herself," she says.
She adds that the hospital is willing to waive her medical bill if that is what has scared Wangeci’s family from taking her.
Although abandoned by her family, Wangeci is yet to abandon hope.
"I still expect someone from my family will one day walk into this door. I know that time will surely come," she says.