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I am a believer in pursuing one's passion and enabling others to realize their potential. Working with women and girls is my passion.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reflections: a year later by God’s grace

“If the only prayer you said was thank you that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart
Today is exactly a year since I became immobilized and started a journey to recovery. The journey started in Yei South Sudan where I was working then as shared in previous post. By the time I arrived in Nairobi I was so exhausted that all I wanted was to go to my house and sleep. However, my friend encouraged me to go to hospital immediately and be sure that the first aid I had received was okay. My brother Jose, my sister in law Patricia and niece Bakhita had come to pick me from the airport. We proceeded to Agha Kan University hospital emergency. On arrival and giving the brief history about what had transpired I could see the skeptical look on the faces of the medics “this was done in South Sudan? Okay let us do another X-ray”. After X-Rays the attending doctor could not hide his surprise. “Well it seems they have done a pretty good job of reduction”. My non-medical definition of reduction was the process of putting back the bones together. That had been done at the Yei Medical centre under anesthesia before they put back plaster and immobilized the leg from the knee.
At the hospital

I was on 2 crutches for about 3 months
I understood the skepticism. With the recovery from long period of war, getting quality medical services in many parts of South Sudan is a challenge. I still get amazed at the level of care I received at the Yei Medical centre. At Agha Kan the doctors confirmed the previous diagnosis of a fracture and torn tendons. They further advised I report back the following Monday since I would need to go through surgery. On Monday the doctor calmly explained the process and I looked at his face and asked him “why are you saying this so calmly, you are talking of putting screws and metal plate in my body…” I could not understand why he was treating it like ‘normal’ but with time I started seeing it as normal. I could not comprehend what he was really saying past the “metal and screws” so I asked him to speak with a doctor friend on phone to explain and my friend would explain later on. She did not do a better job “Sophie, it is like let’s say wood that has been split so put screws to hold it together and plate to…” Okay. Doctors!! I must admit later on looking at the x-rays the leg looked (looks) like some carpentry work!

Next step: using one crutch and making steps
The surgery went well and I received a lot of love from friends and families who visited me. After I was discharged from hospital I started a long journey spending hours in bed or on the coach.  The day after being discharged from hospital I woke up feeling upbeat. Finally the swelling on my lower leg had reduced and I could now make out the toes. I took breakfast then took the medication. After a few minutes I started feeling wheezy and called my sister in law Patricia who was staying with me. Within a short time I was feeling faint, and out of breath. Luckily at that particular moment, my brother Martin walked into the house and they quickly took me to the car to go back to hospital. That is the only moment during the whole recovery process that I felt very scared. I felt I was dying. I was in pain and panting. The journey from Kassarani to Agha Kan would have been too long so we rushed into the Neema Hospital for first aid and they suspected allergy to some codeine chemical in the medication.  I knew I had allergic reaction to codeine but I had not been keen on the same, neither had I realized that Betapyn tablets had that. I was stabilized and we proceeded to Agha Kan.

That was a scary day spent again in Hospital going through various tests to rule out possible causes including blood clot and other scary possibilities. My friends Rahma, Mercy and Antony together with my brothers and sisters camped at the hospital. They actually made a hotel out of the room getting snacks to eat. We were a jolly lot the hospital could have wondered if we liked that environment better. Tests were done and monitored every hour and by evening the doctors were confident that it was a reaction to the medication hence I was not admitted. That experience scared me and for a while I would get occasional panic attacks.
Back at home it was now a journey to recovery.

I learnt so many lessons during that time. I will seek share some of them in the coming week.
A year later, on my feet. Grateful to have learnt many lessons and appreciating the gift of life

As I celebrate one year of God’s grace I am happy to look back and see how far I have come. I should stop asking my surgeon during appointments when I will be discharged from the clinic…but I am likely to ask again when I go for my appointment on Monday. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reflecting on a year that was: He will make a way

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way; He works in ways we cannot see ; He will make a way for me” Song by Don Moen
The probability theory is one that we learnt in school and apply every day. Sometimes the odds are against you. You reason out using logic and it seems there will not be a way out. Other times small actions make a big difference and we only realize so when looking back. When I woke up sluggishly and only warmed the water instead of boiling it was not a thought out action. As I shared in the last post I slid and fell on water. Sometimes wonder, what would have happened if the water was boiling hot.  And I was in that pool of water, scalding? That did not happen, and I believe in Godly interventions, and that was one of them.

As I sat in the car outside the hospital in pain and wondering on the next step I was thinking about home and my family. I was not sure how or what to tell them. At that moment I was more worried about how they would react and feel helpless so I postponed informing them. My friends and colleagues had made some calls and we were trying out to see what the best way forward is.  I applaud Christine for being calm and thinking in crisis, and from the word go it was about “where can we get an x-ray; how do we get her to Nairobi”.  The Yei Medical clinic was one place we were assured of Xrays. The alternative private clinic was miles away and on rough road and I was not in a position to travel further. By the time the medical personnel arrived the pain was unbearable and the leg was swollen. I now know that skin is elastic if it did not burst from the pressure.

I still shudder when I recall the process of being taken out of the car, to the bed; from the bed to the Xray room; from Xray room back to bed. That was the most painful moment of that journey. Sometimes before or after the Xray I decided it was a high time I alerted my family and a few friends. I called our youngest brother, Jose and gave him the task of assuring others that I was okay. (…because I was not...). What mattered was that I was in good caring company as my friends and colleagues tried to map the way forward.

At that time there was nothing to make me think this was more than a severe sprain on the ankle. When the X-rays were out, the doctor calmly informed me I had some fractured bones and I then knew there was something called fibula bone and other terminologies that did not make sense.  The reduction process was done and I came to, feeling groggy and cold. The whole leg had been immobilized but within a short time the pain was back.  By that time my friends and colleagues had made steps and I had been booked for a flight to Nairobi. The Eagle Air that operated from Yei to Entebbe operated on Tuesdays and Saturdays and bookings needed to be done about two weeks prior. The day was Thursday and but somehow I got the last seat!
I spent that night in hospital with Christine in the next bed. That was one of the interesting things, since there were few patients in hospital, they did not have restrictions on guests. The following day I went back to the house in preparation for travel on Saturday. Those two days were long and hazy. The pain was intense and we decided I take Betapyn tablets to ease the pain since the injections and pain killers given at the hospital seemed not to be working.  I was to later find out Betapyn was not to be in my prescriptions anymore.

The journey from Yei via Entebbe to Nairobi was the longest I have had. I also got a taste of the life that people with physical impairments face. My two wooden crutches and immobilized leg were quite conspicuous and I got some good Samaritans wishing me well. I particular remember one lady at the Entebbe airport who encouraged and declared “you will be on your feet young lady, you will not be confined to that wheel chair.” Another one asked if she could pray with me. An image of a role play that is done at the Alabastron open day struck me. There are many people suffering emotional wounds but since we cannot see them, we do not empathize or help them. While I appreciated the kind gestures and was greatly encouraged, I knew there are many other people who had emotional pains and wished someone would speak to them, smile at them, and give encouraging words.
My family members were waiting for me at the Nairobi at the JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport). When they called wondering if we have landed since it had been almost one hour after scheduled landing time, I told them “I am in Mombasa”. They thought I was joking. And I suspect silently wondered “is she that sick that she thinks this is Mombasa, or she went to Mombasa?”

Yes we had landed in Mombasa. The flight had been slightly delayed in Entebbe. Ten minutes before landing the captain informed us that we were actually going round (in circles he should have added) at Athi River as there were debris being cleared at the run way. When we were finally cleared to land the plane descended to the ground and just before the wheels hit the ground it started going up. Nobody spoke. Nobody screamed. We were all silent. May be too shocked to talk or scream. We could not see outside due to very heavy fog. The captain later informed us that we were heading to Mombasa. The flight could not land due to poor visibility. Neither could it attempt again as we had already spent time in the air so low on fuel.

With all the pain, we landed in Mombasa instead of Nairobi. But we got back to Nairobi, and God continued making a way for me in more ways than I can write. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflecting on a year that was: A journey not planned for

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly." Neil Gaiman
“The day I shall never forget” was a common title for essays in primary school. Usually this would entail some fictional story about some great holiday that one had or some major scary occurrence. I wonder why I never ventured to writing fictional novels! By the time I wrote all those great compositions and scored high marks in English (I am not just doing the “when I was in school” this is real…ask my teachers) I had never experienced really momentous days. Usually it was fictional and a creative mind I did have! Since I enjoyed reading novels at an early age, I could write many fictional stories and enjoy the moment of being in that story.

As years go by, real life experiences become more momentum and there are many more days “I shall never forget.” Today I woke up thinking about of a real life occurrence that happened about one year ago. It was a Thursday morning on August 21, 2014 and I had just gone back to Yei in South Sudan after my R and R break 2 days before. Somehow I was feeling low and not upbeat as I usually did after a break. I therefore snoozed off the alarm until I could do it no longer and had to wake up and warm water for bathing. I put the kettle to boil water for bathing but due to time I decided to go get the water before it boiled. I was to later be grateful for this minor impromptu decision. I had put the kettle in the sitting room so I first opened the main door. This was something I sometimes did to allow Betty my cleaner to access the house when she came in the morning. I then picked the warm water and to date I do not know exactly recall what transpired after that. What I remember is that I had knocked the kettle against the table, water spilt and I slid and fell.   I saw my ankle twist at a weird angle and pushed it back. I did not feel any pain immediately. I was in shock. I knew I was in trouble.

The houses in the compound where I was living were far apart so even if someone screamed at the top of their voice nobody would hear. My mind therefore blocked any pain and went into action. I pushed myself on the floor up to the bedroom where my phone was. I reached out and dialed the number of Christine. She has been my friend for many years so when fate saw us in the same place we opted to live in the same compound. She did not pick and I dialed another number of my immediate neighbor and Kenyan friend I met in South Sudan. Gillian picked immediately and I told her to come. By then I was in panic and it was evident in my voice so she threw away her phone as she rushed. Pain had started but blocked by many thoughts going and thinking what next? Where do I get medical help?

Gillian rushed in and luckily I had opened the door so within seconds she was next to me “gosh what happened?”  I quickly warned her not to slip in the water. Since that moment and for many months after that I had a phobia for wet floors. She came confused as to how to help. I could not allow her to touch the ankle that was starting to swell and she wanted to get warm water to massage. Somehow I knew that the injury was serious and so I told her I needed to get to hospital. She rushed out and called Christine from her house, and within a short time they two ladies were trying to plan way forward and get transport. Both of them called their organization drivers and I also called the driver who was to pick me around 8am to hasten. We were all trying to act without panic, rather they were acting, and I could not act. In about 10 minutes we had 3 drivers and three cars and I, still on the floor and needed to get into a car. It was not easy. The real pain commenced then. It was a hurdle trying to move me to the car and by the time we reached the hospital the pain was so intense that I kept asking my friends, “is this dream”. While this sounds cliché, that moment remains one of the very few moments that I have felt I am having a bad dream. I had never felt such intense pain in my life. How could this happen? I was in shock and in pain. By now the leg was so swollen and I wished for a dose of pain killers.  On reaching the hospital, there was no doctor, or nurse and somehow having had no in patient clients the night before, the hospital was closed.

I could not believe it. How was I going to survive this pain?

A long journey had just begun. I did not have any idea what the journey was going to be like, and as a therapeutic process to myself, I will be sharing more on this experience that. I learnt many lessons, but I am not sure I can summarize them, or mention the many people that made such a difference during those moments.