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Relief as county rolls out palliative care, stipend

The burden of taking care of a sick kin is one too heavy for anyone to bear.

Regardless of one’s financial capabilities, it weighs down on the caregiver and when fatigue sets in, it is ugly and visible.

The frustration in cases where the ailment is terminal, can only best be told by those who have battled it.

The family of Rachel Wangui, in Kaimbaga location, Ol Kalau Constituency, Nyandarua County who is suffering rectal cancer knows this too well.

Long journeys in search of treatment for her rectal cancer, had brought them back home, with pain and more poverty to stare at, as they hoped for Wangui’s healing.

“We are on the verge of giving up, we have sold all we had and all we get from menial jobs, has to be spent on her medication and specialized food supplements that are way beyond our reach,” cried Simon Kimani, Wangui’s son.

The installation of a Palliative Care unit at J M Memorial Hospital in Ol Kalau town, has come as a relief to Wangui and others who have to depend on home-based care, to manage cancer and other terminal illnesses.

“Patients diagnosed with cancer, renal failure and other terminal illnesses are taken in for treatment before they enroll for Palliative care.

“We make home visits for the bed ridden, free of charge, ensuring they get food, fluids, drugs and other supplies such as diapers, whenever they are in stock.

“We take care of their pain as we have all drugs including Morphine that will help alleviate their pain,” says Lucy Kinuthia, a nurse in charge of the palliative care unit.

Kinuthia, tells of a painful journey as her team walks the patients to their final bow.

“Home based care requires resources and there is a need to pool resources to accommodate more in homes. Dispensaries come in handy especially for patients who cannot feed and require continuous administration of trips,” adds Kinuthia.

Lucy Kinuthia a nurse at the Palliative Care Unit at J M Kariuki Memorial hospital attends to Rachel Wangui, during a home visit to Kaimbaga location, Ol Kalau constituency. Photo by Anne Sabuni

Through the County Social Services Programme, the county has also relieved the caregivers of the burden of taking care of the terminally ill, with the introduction of a Sh 2, 000 monthly stipend to those registering under the palliative unit.

“Patients meet in groups, learn how to manage their various conditions while receiving counselling from our team of specialists.

“We give out specialized food supplements in addition to the funds to alleviate the burden,” notes Social Services Executive Committee member, Anne Githigia.

Githigia, who hopes that more patients will register at the care unit, says the registration of the patients at the facility will also go a long way in giving the county proper data that will inform plans for setting up a cancer centre in the county.

Families of persons already enrolled for the programme, testified of the recovery milestones that have been made, calling on the government to direct more efforts towards cancer treatment.

“We first benefitted from NHIF registration last year, with a boost of Sh 6, 000. Three weeks ago, 77 of us got a COVID support of Sh 2, 000 each,”

“Palliative care coupled with counselling has relieved us of the burden of caring for our mother Rachael Wanjohi, who is now bed ridden as a result of Ovarian Cancer. The funds have come in handy when we need to buy her food, drugs and ferry her to the hospital,” noted Simon Wanjohi.

Paul Migwi, a nutritionist at JM Kariuki Memorial Hospital regretted that the County’s stunted population as a result of poor nutrition, had compromised on their immunity, making them susceptible to opportunistic infections.

“We advise our patients to increase their intake of different fruits and vegetables as a way of boosting their immunity as cancer patients are more prone to other opportunistic ailments,” added Migwi.

By Anne Sabuni

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