Why we need a total overhaul of the NHIF -#Dialysis4Lillian
It’s 2 o’clock when we arrive at Makongeni Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands. I have never been in this part of Nairobi – no, I am not one of those “cool kids,” it’s just that I am from Kisumu and the few people I know in Nairobi live on the other sides of town – that is if Rongai counts as well.
My tour guide is from Kisumu as well – my friend Nyadida Bernard. We made the 8 hour journey to the big city to see his sister Lillian Apiyo who has not been feeling well for a couple of months now. He knows his way around here because he visited Lillian during his schooling days – she paid his fees.
A huge grin welcomes us to her two roomed house. Even with the visible strain she is still very hospitable, she offers to make us tea. Where I come from you do not refuse tea when it’s offered to you – not even at 2 PM.
It’s been raining, so the tea isn’t really such a bad idea.
As we take the tea, I get straight into it – Bernard had told me her sister had a medical issue and she needed us to help mobilizing people on social media to contribute towards her treatment.
Any blogger or person with a little influence on social media will tell you that they receive tens of such requests, it’s at times very overwhelming for them because often there is very little they can do other than send in their personal contribution – nobody would like to be the one always asking people to contribute for something.
The magnitude of these medical appeals just shows how big a problem public health financing is in our country. I decided to make this journey to Nairobi with Bernard to see Lillian because I was on my way to Mombasa for some business and I thought coming over for a few minutes to see if this is a story I could tell would not hurt anyone.
She looks at me with a smile as Bernard explains to her why we are there and who I am. The smile even grows bigger when she realizes that I am a writer and that I could help tell her story. At this point I haven’t even promised to tell her story, but looking at her hopeful eyes how can I not tell her story?
Soon the smile gives way to a drop or two of tears. Lillian was working as a supervisor at a small metal fabricating company in Makongeni before this illness rendered her jobless.
It started as chest pains and fever and she was on and off hospital being treated for typhoid and chest pains until she became very sick in October and was hospitalized at the Kenyatta National Hospital. The doctors diagnosed her with Kidney failure.
The smiles disappear at this point, she stops looking at me. She turns her eyes towards the far corner of her sitting room roof; away from me. I get the feeling that she does not want me to see her tears so I look at my little notebook as I wait for her to continue telling her story.
Lillian had a twin sister called Mercy Adongo who died exactly 10 years ago. Mercy was diagnosed with kidney failure too. She needed dialysis which is a very expensive treatment for people with kidney problems but because her family could not afford it, she passed away soon after.
I am deeply touched by Lillian’s story and I am convinced that even though I am not sure of how to tell this story or the impact that whatever story I write will have, I have to try. Lillian’s life literally depends on me doing my bit and letting people who are touched by it help.
As I sit through the rest of my journey to Mombasa, I can’t help but think of the thousands of Kenyans who do not have blogger friends or know influential people in the media but have to deal with situations such as Lillian’s where they are the only bread winners of their families but are unable to go to work because of illness and cannot afford medication.
I am angry, angry that we have a medical scheme that does not really cater for the needy in our society. In Kenya being poor can be literally translated as a death sentence.
Yes, once in a while we come out for each other – remember us raising Ksh. 6 million for Jadudi? Yes, that was because Biko Zulu was able to write a good story about his situation and Zawadi Nyong’o with her followers worked the twitter magic. How many stories will Biko write though, how many hashtags will we trend to provide our people with something our constitution describes as a basic right?
— Strength of a Woman (@HOLAAfrica) August 13, 2015
Mercy died aged 27, she did not have the chance Lillian has today of appealing to your generosity on social media. Lillian has gone through 10 sessions of dialysis already; her doctors say she has 20 more sessions to go before they can know the next cause of action. Being single and out of work, she has used up all she had saved in her treatment, she needs us to push her to the next mile.
We can save Lillian’s life with whatever little we have by contributing to her medical fund using the numbers given in the image bellow – even Ksh. 100 can make a huge difference.
Even as we contribute towards this cause, let us remember though that there are hundreds if not thousands of Kenyans like Lillian who need medical interventions but do not have people to speak on their behalf. There is just so much social funding we can do to help such cases – there is actually never any guarantee they will be successful.
We have to put pressure on the ministry of health to overhaul the NHIF and restructure it in a way that ensures that even the poor among us have access to basic medical care, which is the only way to guarantee that people like Lillian have a chance to live their lives fully.
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