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What doctor’s strike has done to Murang'a farmer's family

By Njoroge Kinuthia | Published Tue, January 10th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 9th 2017 at 22:43 GMT +3
Some of the late Newton Mwangi’s children lay a wreath at his grave during the burial in Murang’a County on Friday. [Photo: Courtesy]

A coffee plantation on a steep one-acre farm in Murang'a County was his final resting place.

Newton Mwangi, who died on Monday last week after only four days of illness, was buried on Friday.

"Let no one speculate about the cause his death. He died a natural death; at God's appointed time," remarked one of the speakers during his funeral.

Mr Mwangi, a hard-working peasant farmer, toiled from dawn to dusk to feed his family of seven children and keep them in school. Two of the children sat KCSE exams last year and another one is supposed to join secondary school this week.

As the mourners sang "this world is not my home", my wife stared with teary eyes at the brown casket and the picture of the man — her elder brother — wearing a baseball cap and a smile on his face atop the coffin. I could almost read her mind.

"Kenyans take this strike for granted. It's only those who are sick or have ailing relatives who understand its full impact," she told me, complaining that the Government and doctors were not doing enough to end the work boycott.

Mwangi was a believer in President Uhuru Kenyatta's government. He was full of praise for his Government which he called "serikali ya vijana" (government for the youth).

Wait and see how he will tackle this problem, he would say.

When he fell ill, Mwangi was rushed to Othaya Level Four Hospital, a public facility in Nyeri where he was given some medicine. He was then told to seek admission at a private facility as public hospitals were not taking in patients due to the ongoing strike. He was taken to various private hospitals in both Nyeri and Murag'a counties but all were filled to the rafters with patients; there was not even one bed left.

Out of desperation, he was taken back home where he was assured of a bed. But my wife asked that he be brought to Nairobi and we booked him into a private hospital on January 1. Up to this time, the cause of his illness, which left his stomach bloated and gave him occasional blackouts, had not been established.

Doctors ordered tests to establish the cause of the ailment. Blood tests, urine tests and scans which were done late into the evening all returned nothing. The next day he was taken to Upper Hill for a CT scan where he passed on while undergoing the procedure.

But before he died, he warned that he was on his final leg. As he was being wheeled into the facility, he told my wife: "I am going to leave you."

"No, you won't," she protested. "You will be fine and we will go home together."

"It is you who will go home. I am going my way, alone," he responded.

The cause of his ailment was discovered too late to save his life. Blood clots were lodged too close to the heart in the pulmonary artery, and while he was being scanned, they found their way into the organ and triggered his death, the doctor said.

My wife called me screaming at the top of her voice: "He is gone," she said. "I am on my way home. I will tell you the entire story later." She did.

"It is too painful for someone to die under your watch."

My wife still believes his brother's life could have been saved had the strike been resolved on time.

As Mwangi's body was being lowered into the grave, the person standing close to me whispered into my ear: "I hear the doctors have rejected Uhuru's offer."

This means more deaths, more pain, more screams and funerals.

When the Government and doctors finally reach a deal, will Mwangi and hundreds of others like him ever come back to life? What about their children, who will cater for them or they too are just statistics or collateral damage?