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Angels..

Updated: 3 days ago




Kate and I arrived for the interview at the same time. But I ran ahead of her so that I would look like I got there first. When she finally caught up with me, I was seated by the pool facing the direction she was coming from. The moment I saw her, the first thought that came to my mind was, ‘stunning!’ Her stomach was like the flat floor, her skin smooth.

“You definitely don’t look like a mother of four,” I said to her as I stood to greet her. She laughed. The kind of laugh that tells you there is more to me than meets the eye.

She later asked me, “Sue do you believe that God actually plans out our lives?” I nodded, “I do.” But it was more a verbal agreement than a conviction; until she told me her story.

****

The year was 2008 and Dr. Kate had been posted to Kericho for her internship after completing medical school. Then Kenya started burning. Because things were so volatile in the country, there was a reshuffle in the posting orders. That is how she landed in Bungoma county.


The violence, occasioned by the just concluded general election, marred what would have otherwise been an enjoyable road trip. There were countless road blocks and every so often, you could see tires burning and smoke rising in the horizon. A journey that should have taken six to seven hours, took almost 24 hours. She ended up arriving in the evening.


Bungoma town was a one street town with more motorbikes than people on the road. It had sparse buildings that had been discoloured by time, weather and pollution. ‘What did people do for fun in this town?’ she wondered when she got there and decided she would not stay beyond a year.

Her first rotation at the hospital was in the department of obstetrics and gynecology. The following morning, she walked into the ward and found her immediate supervisor waiting for her.

“Hi, I am Dr Sam Otido. The medical officer in this department.” He was clad in black from head to toe which was odd because the sun felt like a flame brought too close.


“Dr Kate Mackenzie.” she said to him.

Being in medical school, is like crawling belly down on a minefield. Every day, you are on a quest to survive and once in a while you get blown up. This is what Kate expected internship to be. But it was quite the opposite. Dr Otido showed her and her fellow interns a different way. He patiently took them through patient management and skills acquisition and never harassed them for not knowing what to do.


At night, when Kate got stuck in theatre and needed his help, he was fast on his feet to give a second opinion or a helping hand.


Being in the obsgyn department meant most days and nights were spent in the confines of the hospital. And by extension with colleagues in the same ward. They would work together and play together. One time, Dr Otido asked Kate out for lunch. As they got to talking she mentioned to him that she was looking for a house.

“I can help you. I know of a few places you can look.”

“Really? That would be kind of you.” So they spent time house hunting and in the process got to know each other.

In no time she had gotten an apartment and paid for it.

Two weeks into internship, Kate started looking forward to going to work. “I started to feel a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ when Dr Otido would arrive for the rounds. I would present the patients to him feeling like an adolescent with his gaze on me.” She would find herself gaping at his soft features and when he spoke, his words sounded like they were wrapped in oil.

One day, he didn’t show up for work; which was unusual for him. So she called him up.

“Hi Dr Otido. Are you coming to work today?”

“Unfortunately not. I am unwell.”

“ What’s up? Can I come and see you?”

“Erm.. sure.” He sent directions to his place.

She went with a friend and found him puking his guts out. They did what they could to make him comfortable and left.


The following day, Kate went back — alone. Despite his illness, he was very accommodating. They sat up talking until the sky turned dark.

“You know, it’s late. We have an extra room. You can stay the night.” She did. And never left. She ended up moving in with him and his housemate in their three bedroom house while the apartment she had paid for ended up in the delete file section.

The maturing friendship between Otido and Kate was both surprising in its swiftness and intensity. The downside of living in a small town meant everyone knew everybody’s business and some did not approve. “But he was the kind of man I could turn myself inside out for and show my wounds and it would be ok.” So after a week when he asked her to be his girlfriend, she did not hesitate to say yes.

Their relationship grew like a tree with roots that sunk deep. After work, they would talk until the sky turned grey, then black and still there would so much to say. It was like drinking glass after glass of water and still emerging thirsty. One evening, nine months later, Kate was making dinner. When she went to call him from his room, she found a DVD playing where she was the lead actor. On the screen were a series of pictures of her from the first time they met. He took a picture of her and had been taking many others when she wasn’t looking. He then made a slide show captioned with messages of what he liked about her. She was so mesmerized, she didn’t notice him go down on one knee.

They got engaged.


One and a half years later, while still in Bungoma, she got pregnant.



Being a first time mom was not easy for Kate. Breastfeeding did not come automatically the way she expected it to. Her nipples cracked, her milk let down was poor and for a thin slice of time, she got the baby blues. But Otido was present from the very beginning. Each time Wayne needed a diaper change, he would do it. Even at night when he woke up, he would pick him up, change him, then hand him over for his feed. “There is no time the baby would wake up and Otido would remain asleep. We did all night shifts together.”

When Wayne turned two months, Otido got accepted for a Masters program in Paediatrics and because they did not want to be apart, they decided to leave Bungoma for the city. Kate left first and stayed with his parents for a while before he was able to join them.

“People speak of nasty or indifferent in laws. I don’t identify.” Kate said.

At night, if the baby so much as made a sound, they would be by her side in a flash. For the two months she lived with them, she was pampered like a queen. “I never lifted a finger even for a day. They cloaked us in so much love, it was hard to leave to our own place.”

When Wayne turned 6 months, Kate noticed something was amiss. “I used to use baby centre to know what milestones he should have achieved and noticed there was a mismatch. When I would breastfeed him, he never looked at me. If I looked at him, he would look away. If I am honest, I noticed it the first time when he was three months but did not think too much about it.”

According to baby centre he was supposed to be able to wave goodbye or notice her presence when she came home from work. But there was none of that. When they called him, he would not respond to his name. Even if he had attained all his physical milestones Kate was disturbed by his lack of social interaction.

When he turned 11 months they took him to a psychologist for an assessment. She assessed him for a week and told them he had traits of autism but could not be diagnosed as autistic until he was three! So she advised them to put him on a special diet.

“The moment the psychologist mentioned the word autism I stayed up all night reading anything I could find on the condition. Any scientific article, news journal, name it. It was like going down a rabbit hole — a really dark one.”

Even after that he behaved like a child sitting in an empty room. He would have repetitive behaviour where he would arrange objects in a certain way over and over again. He also liked to flap his hands. So when he was one year and one month they consulted a Neurologist.

“He reassured us that nothing was really wrong. That boys were sometimes slower in development and he advised that we change his diet and enroll him in school to interact with other children.” So they began to treat his mannerisms like a phase since no one wanted to diagnose him as autistic and neither did they.

Unknown to them, these were the beginning of birth pangs. At night, Wayne couldn’t sleep. He would scream the house down and run around like his hair was on fire. By this time Kate had also started a Masters program in Pathology.

“We would each get home after crazy days at work to do a rotational shift in the house. This entailed holding him down while putting a certain cartoon to calm him, in the hope that he would sleep. He would go out for two to three hours and then wake up screaming again. Next shift. Otido, the nanny and I all took turns throughout the night.”

Sometimes the screaming would be so bad, the neighbours would come knocking, “Excuse me, is your child ok? We have noticed he has been screaming for several nights in a row. Maybe he is unwell?”

The next night, it would be a different neighbour, “Please take that child to hospital.”

And another and another, until we told them we were both medics and he was a child with special needs. They stopped coming. He didn’t stop screaming.

The sleepless nights took such a great toll on them, Kate began to detest the program she had joined. “I am not sure if it is because of the program itself or the stressful situation at home but one day I couldn’t take it anymore so I quit.” Otido on the other hand was a walking zombie. He would be having group discussions and would fall asleep mid sentence. But even amidst all this, he never failed once and completed his Masters within the stipulated time. Then he was posted to Embu county.

Someone told them about about a lady somewhere in Dagoretti who deals with special needs children. They sought her out but found that she was so overwhelmed. She had so many children under her care who had all forms of special needs: Dyslexia, Autism, Cerebral palsy name it. Still, they decided to give it a chance. She introduced activities to help Wayne relax like massages, swinging, wrapping him in a sheet and swinging him for sensory integration. Because autistic children get sensory overload.

“I had to drive Wayne and my nanny to therapy, in Dagoretti, thrice a week in the mornings — and it was a long drive. One day a cop pulled me over.”

“Madam umeangalia tires zako of late? Zimeisha.” He asked her to step out of the vehicle and for the first time ever since Wayne was born, she broke down in public. Previously, Kate used to process her emotions offstage. “I would sit in my backyard, potted like a plant, and muffle my cries.” Coming home from work to an unresponsive child would cause her untold grief. So that morning, she came apart at the seams. The cop just poked at her globular nightmare not knowing that she would unleash a colossal torrent. “I cried so hard and so long he ended up consoling me and took my number to check on me.”

As if things were not bad enough, Wayne became violent. He started to bite them and worse still slap himself. He would hit himself so hard, he would get angry scars on his cheeks. Any attempt to restrain him failed. One Friday when Otido came home from Embu as he usually did, they were having dinner when the slapping began.

“I had told Otido about it on the phone but this was the first time he was seeing it. Imagine watching your child hit himself over and over until he turns scarlet.” Otido tried to restrain him but he would fight to get away and do it all over again. A thick blanket of despair descended on them and for the first time since Kate met Otido she watched his insides empty out by his tears.

“We can’t go on like this,” I said to him amidst cries. “He will hurt himself badly.”

“What if we get him a helmet?” His face was slick with the moisture of tears.

“But how will our child live with a helmet?”

They talked late into the night, trying on different options — none fit.

The school option was also not working. He had been to several schools that could not handle him because he could not be contained. Once, Otido visited his school randomly and found him outside in the loo. “We were at our wits end. At home, he was unable to keep his clothes on. It’s as if cotton would touch his skin and overload his senses so he was almost always naked.” Sometimes when he was quiet in his room, they would go and find he had pooped and smeared the poop on his sheets, the walls and himself.

“Once I went to check on him in his room and the smell hit me at the door. It went straight from my nose to my stomach.” He would do this day and night and we all took turns cleaning him up. Even Otido would come from Embu bone tired, roll up his sleeves and get into it. And never once did he complain.

They got him out of school and tried to get therapists to come to the house but nothing changed. He was still slapping himself, waking up at night.

The days became so suffocative and repetitive that were it not for the immense support Kate and Otido received from their larger family, they would have lost it. “I can’t begin to describe the amount of love I received from Otido’s sisters. One of them would call me everyday without fail. Sometimes she would come to my house, get me out of bed and just whip up a meal for me. Once, another of his sisters accompanied us to Karura with our kids and her son. When all the other kids were riding their bikes, she took Wayne, placed him on a bike and pushed him around for 5 km. She doesn’t know this but I walked slightly ahead of her to hide the hot tears that swarmed my eyes.”

There were many more incidents they had with Wayne. Like the time he accidentally got organophosphate poisoning and ended up in ICU and Otido put pedal to the metal all the way from Embu to be with them. “I had a hard clot of fear inside me thinking he might die but on the other hand a thought would pop up in my mind — what if he did?” That was how fatigued she had become. She was a collection of fragments held in a fragile clasp. Yet when she went out into the world, she covered her despair in a well made up face, an extrovert smile and a well dressed body.

The tide turned when they met a teacher from a special school who told them Wayne needed a school that specialised in autistic children. They didn’t know any. In the meantime she asked them to change his diet. “She took a piece of paper and broke down his food, meal by meal, ingredient by ingredient. She went as far as telling us how to prepare his meals. We were drowning men, clutching at straws. We would do anything at this point. So we started the new diet plan immediately.”

After sometime, he stopped the violent behaviour — just as suddenly as he had started. He was no longer biting or slapping himself. The night stripping and pooping stopped.

In time this same teacher, decided to branch off and start a school that catered to purely autistic children — St Abigail Learning and Development Centre. We enrolled Wayne there and that is when our lives made a U turn...



 

  • Folks this is the end of part 1. I will do part 2 next Tuesday. This story can’t be rushed.


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4 則留言


dela crucifix
dela crucifix
2021年3月25日

This is why I don't watch series. Can I get a vvip sneak preview. I'll pay for it rather than wait a while 7days. Be human @medroomeyes

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Gillian Kadenyi
Gillian Kadenyi
2021年3月24日

Beautiful story of love, courage and dedication to one another.

I can't wait for Tuesday to know how this ends...

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Wambui Kyama
Wambui Kyama
2021年3月23日

I’m here for it and oh so hopeful...

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patricia.oketch
patricia.oketch
2021年3月23日

It is worth h waiting for parking two.

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