Catastrophic bills haunt her in her grave
Twelve thousand dollars could buy a new 14-seater bus. It could construct a decent three bedrooms house in any part of rural Kenya. It could buy a plot in the outskirts of Nairobi. But to David Wachira, it’s the value of a hospital bill left by his late daughter Joyce, which, with no intervention he will continue to pay for the next 66 years!
Joyce the last born and the only daughter of Wachira died at a young age of 12 from MDRTB. Joyce had led a normal life until 2017 when she started falling ill. It all started with general malaise. Lack of appetite, loss of weight, night sweats and general body weakness. As usual the parents thought it was a normal flu for which they sought local remedy which included over the counter medication. Instead, the illness got worse. They took her to a private clinic near their home. A few tests here and there but they could not identify the illness. They were referred to another hospital in ….a private hospital not so far from there home. Other tests were recommended. One of the tests costed USD 80 which they parents could not afford. They had neither NHIF cover not any medical cover. They paid all the expenses from the savings from their meager earnings. The tests had to delay as they sought help from neighbors and friends. The test was conducted but still the disease was diagnosed. She was later to be referred to Rhodes, a public TB clinic in Nairobi. This is where she was finally to be diagnosed with drug resistant TB.
The news of the diagnosis elicited mixed reactions from the parents. They were happy that finally the disease had been diagnosed but sad that the disease would take long to treat and was cost them their savings. She was started on treatment but later required admission for proper management.
Detained for failure to raise the hospital fees
Joyce was hospitalized for five months in the Kenyatta National Hospital isolation from July to November 2017. She could not leave the hospital before her parents paid the whooping accumulated hospital bill of USD 12,000! She was detained in the hospital for three months. The hospital released her but not before the father, a casual construction worker signed a commitment with the hospital that he would paying USD 15 per month until he cleared the USD 12,000. This will take the poor father 66 years to clear the bill!
Collapsed lung and the oxygen concentrator
By the time she was discharged from hospital, Joyce’s lungs were so damaged that her breathing was dependent on an oxygen concentrator that cost the family USD 1100. The money was raised through a fundraiser from friends and family. The bulky machine is powered by electricity which meant young and playful Joyce could not join her friends who she had missed so much during the time she was admitted in hospital.
Power outages and the generator powered breathing
Joyce ‘s family lives in a semi-slum area with unstable power supply. Heavy rains experienced in the country worsened the power situation. This forced the family to invest in a backup generator at the cost of USD 65 in case power failed. The family had to fuel the generator to a tune of USD 10 per night.
And we lost Joyce
On the fateful Sunday night of 15th April that Joyce breathed her last, there were frequent and prolonged power outages. The family connected the Oxygen machine to the generator which failed to
work despite several frantic attempts to revive it. The machine failed Joyce. She was rushed to Kenya National Hospital to try and revive her failed breathing. She died on the way to hospital. We lost Joyce.
Message of condolences from TB advocates
Dear Joyce, as you rest in peace, we hope you will find grace to forgive us. Forgive us for failing you. For failing to deliver on the commitment to reduce to zero TB related catastrophic costs. We failed to stop another TB related death. We failed to get you a mobile Oxygen concentrator, we failed to facilitate you play with your peers, go to school and achieve your dreams. As you lie in peace, you still owe Kenyatta National Hospital USD 12, 000. Never mind Global fund supported all the expenses related to your illness, but you still owe them even in death. The bills follow you to your grave. Fare thee well, Joyce Wangechi.
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