Men only: Women who give lifecare to the very end

I was at the Tourist Hotel in Bungoma, not too long ago. Never mind the not-so-creative name of the place (sort of like naming your mongrel ‘Simba’, or ‘Rover’ if you’re English).

The two entities that own the place are Butico (Bungoma Teachers’ Co-operative) and Bonito.

‘Butico and Bonito,’ like a raunchy dancing couple from Bolivia or Bhutan.

Ignoring the Tourist Hotel’s offer of ‘spa and massage’ (being massaged by Luhya hands used to crushing flour and strangling fat jogoos is where I draw the line), I went out to look for ‘supplies’ at Khetia’s Supermarket.

There, I ran into a friendly nurse, let’s call her Truphosa Wanjala, who I ate lunch with, alongside her friend Jackie Matina*, also a nurse practitioner at the nearby Bungoma Lifecare Hospital.

And if you have to die, man, Jackie is the kinda nurse you want to hold your hand, and look into your eyes, as you slide to the Land Beyond Thunder and the Skies. Sure beats an Akorino in Bungoma with bad busaa breath, shouting at Heaven to let you in.

Jokes aside, since today is the last day of ‘Nurse Practitioners’ Month’ – we praise doctors but forget nurses as caregivers of life (and 90 per cent of nurses in Kenya are female) – today is their tale.

I met up with my two new caregiver friends the next day at Lifecare hosi, a Level Five referral facility set on a five-acre piece of land; and which I learned has a 110 bed capacity to cater for the 1,375,069 folks of Bungoma (how ‘bang on’ were our census guys, to count to the last 69)?

Making our way through the icy ICU unit, with its sterile and temperature-controlled environment, with advanced MRI machinery and standby specialists and still patients, I felt a chill. But it is a necessary working environment for women like Jackie and Truphosa.

Take the fact that it was World AIDS’ Day on Sunday, and that all huge hospitals in Kenya, including Bungoma’s Lifecare, have ‘hospice’ like facilities for the twilight days of our fellow Kenyans (and the odd foreigner).

We praise doctors but forget nurses as caregivers of life (Shutterstock)

Ever wondered what the nurse practitioners actually do for such a patient?

Truphosa did tell me, and ‘Men Only’ will now let you take a peep into this nursing experience.

Such a patient needs prednisolone to prevent multiple sclerosis, and a nurse massage to stop their blood coagulating. But then she needs to inject the patient immediately after massage with 10mg Konakion to prevent any life-threatening haemmorage as a result of the massage.

Feeding time for such a terminal patient presents a whole set of new challenges.

There is the can of Calcium Polystrene Sulfonate – designed to change potassium to calcium in the gut – flavoured to resonium (a coloured fine powder, with vanilla scent and sweet taste) to persuade the patient to swallow.

But this has to be given with a Combivent combination to stop OPD (Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in-between insulin isophane injections (10 daily) to lower blood sugar, and balanced with 10 humulin vials (of man-made hormones).

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Because of tummy motility in terminal patients — an un-paced parsing of food, like Kipchoge as an out-of-control hormone – the nurse has to administer six 10 mg metoclopramide injections.

But she still ends up taking care of lots of adult diapers daily, not to mention that it is nurse practitioners who apply the candid powder on the skin of these patients, as well as rubbing canesten cream in the groin areas.

And all for a gross pay of Sh120,000 a month, at the median 10-15 year experience.

Pretty practitioner Jackie is happy to say, as a newbie, she’s lucky to be earning about Sh80,000.

“I could even make, let’s see...,” she shuts one eye below her bob-cut bangs, ‘Sh200,000 by the year 2040.”

But then she becomes deathly serious as she says that it is a nurse’s sacred responsibility to give loving care to patients.

“It is often a woman at the start of all life as midwife,” the older Truphosa adds. “And at the end, it’s often a woman who gives you care at life’s end.”


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