KEEPING FAITH IN THE JOURNEY – Director,s News June
On the eve of the end of the holy month of Ramadan and as the Muslims are longing for the new moon to be sighted off `Mombasa, I find myself longing for the sun to set each day at Ruben Centre, not that is the end of things there in this post birthing unit operating Ruben Centre.Given the amazing number of things happening each day, it seems the sun is faltering on its journey across the sky thus creating the illusion of much longer day.
It was not supposed to be like this as foretold by our advocates for this life-giving unit. Mothers will come in, and in a few hours have their babies and the next day be fit and rearing to go home was the narrative. Any way it could be said based on this week, some one with a sense of humour, has suddenly rewritten the script.
My new task each morning arriving to work is to step out of the car and walk five metres up the stairs to the birthing unit and do a head count. Two days ago I found a brand new very stressed baby being put into the rescusitaire. His mother had arrived at the Centre during the night after fleeing a local chemist, euphemism for corrugated sheet room, where traditional midwives deliver babies. Her experience in the chemist caused her stress and she was refusing to settle and cooperate with nurses.
Finally she was restrained and given some calming medication and her baby was delivered. However the stressed baby had pooped itself and would need to be transferred to a hospital and be given antibiotics. The nearby government clinic with the promised ambulance was called but staff was informed it had a puncture and was not going anywhere. Fortunately the rescusitaire did its job for three hours until another ambulance turned up.
In the meantime a first time mother from Limuru (wealthy part of Nairobi) gave birth without too much fuss. I asked her how she had found out about this Ruben Clinic and she mentioned a friend of her husband suggested it because of the facilities and care offered. ‘ Did you experience good care? ‘ I asked. ‘ Sana, (very much so) ‘ she replied.
A few hours later I heard a commotion and looking out my office door saw a group of women parading an agitated woman along towards the birthing unit. She was shouting.” I am not pregnant, this stomach is just worms,”
Nursing staff had to restrain her and quickly ascertaining she was well into labor, phoned several large government hospitals around the city to have her admitted. Each of them refused, saying they didn’t have any psychiatric support teams and were afraid of taking on this woman. Eventually Mama Lucy hospital agreed to accept the woman, but no ambulance could be traced. I recalled again the hope and excitement that had accompanied the announcement of a gift of an ambulance by the Nairobi County health minister on the opening day of the birthing unit. Afraid to wait too long, a couple of nurses accompanied her in our work car.
Later we heard she delivered a baby, but totally refused to feed it or own it and so we were asked to find any relatives to go there and help the situation.And so it continued. A mother turned up bleeding and very quickly nurses decided they needed to refer her to hospital. After two hours and still no ambulance, they delivered a very premature baby of 27 weeks according to our ultra sound test.
Skilled nursing, greatly assisted by our latest volunteer Alison Slattery from Australia, got the baby breathing and into the rescusitaire. The nostrils were too small to take the ends of the oxygen tubes, so they delivered the oxygen through the mouth.
An ambulance was sought and it took over two hours to come and what a piece of junk it was. No siren or flashing lights, no oxygen, and filthy inside. Staff cleaned it up, loaded an oxygen cylinder into it and finally mother and a nurse. They managed to arrive at Kenyatta hospital and the wee baby was giving her all. However the next day we sadly heard the baby had died in the early hours of the day. (Probably when the nurse on duty woke up such is the poor record at this large public hospital.)
Of course these things are just distractions for me, and as the afternoon went on two unusual visitors came to my office . The first was the Chairman of the Community Development Fund (CDF) a government initiative, and he was trying to convince me to open up the Centre at night so he could set up a TV for the youth who might want to watch the world cup. I refused on the grounds of security and requested him to do something for the youth, that is a bit more far reaching that this one-month distraction. He left frustrated but not before he offered a $30.00 bribe to our radio manager to change my decision.
As I showed him the door, I noticed this other big ‘bwana’ (self declared important man) waiting for me. He was representing the owner of the five acres of land next door and he had authority to negotiate the sale of this land. I knew straight away the presence of our new friend and M P Esther Passaris, (officially opened the birthing unit), and who had then met with the Minister of Lands on our behalf to push for that land to be given to the Centre was clearly causing this ripple effect. I mumbled things like, I would meet with the Board and he left.
Meanwhile we got news that a government donated ambulance was on its way and would be arriving around 2.00pm. Of course it was pure Trump like fake news.
The sun did eventually set but only to give way to darkness with its own drama. Around 2.00am a woman was driven to the Centre gates on a motorbike. The rider and woman screamed to our guards to open up only to be told, ‘Sorry no motor bikes inside.” I had initiated this decree because of the danger they pose to our three thousand kids and many other people using the Centre. Of course at that hour of the night there was no one at the Centre, but our guard failing to function from the neck up just stuck to the law. She finally slipped off the bike and quickly delivered a baby there and then outside the gate. Finally our nurses came and with a stretcher assisted her to the birthing unit. (what a shame?)
So on arriving yesterday I got this story and so later I met with the woman and apologized profusely for the nonsense that had happened and she graciously accepted it all, preferring to just delight in her new baby. I asked for a photo and promised her to frame it and give it to her so she can tell her daughter one day the real story of her birth.
So after my apology I joined in the school’s celebration of the Africa Child. It is an Organization of African Unity (OAU) initiated memorial, inspired by the slaughter of Soweto South African school children in 1976 by the apartheid government. On June 16 every year, governments, NGOs, international organizations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children Africa. For 2018 the theme was “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.
Ruben Centre anticipated the day because the 16th was a Saturday and the children participated in fun activities in the field and then there was some focused on the theme drama and entertainment for them, followed by an enhanced lunch with some potatoes and vegetables added to their beans and maize. After the children left for home, the whole Ruben Centre staff gathered in the hall.
It is the only day in the calendar year that all staff are gathered together. And we make a big deal of the occasion to enhance our vision and mission in the tradition of Edmund Rice while also honoring the staff who have excelled in their work during the previous year. All departments get a say in who among them is truly living the vision and mission of Ruben and after departments select one of their own, then prior to the big day these staff members are interviewed by the leadership team.
However just as the event was getting under way I got a phone call to say our ambulance and gift of the Nairobi City County would arrive by 4.00pm this time. Why not I thought, given the occasion we are celebrating.
It certainly is a great opportunity for the administration to thank these staff and encourage them to own their great work and achievements. Finally a Teacher of The Year and also an Employee Of The Year are selected. All those recommended are honoured and get a chance to speak to the other one hundred and forty staff about their efforts to live the vision and mission. Finally the recipients of the two big awards were announced and certificates, photos and some financial reward were offered. The Employee of the `year receives a five percent pay rise.
Now before presenting the last awards the Director spoke about the year and the staff and this year he drew attention to the fact that Edmund Rice (First Christian Brother Ireland 1802) was inspired to help and educate children and all programs at Ruben primarily focus on children. Going on he mentioned that this African child focus is certainly true of Ruben’s newest program (birthing Unit) initiated only three weeks ago, so the Centre is certainly living up to that tradition. He then congratulated the Birthing unit coordinator and asked how old is the newest member to the Ruben family, to which she replied, `’ Ten minutes as I have just to a message from the nurse on duty.” Everyone clapped and cheered.
All staff left knowing Ruben is truly alive and growing however the sun was to set with out that ambulance. Truly fake news!
Now today I was in the birthing unit and there were four mothers in labor, with one there and then having just added to Kenya’s population. The nurse (same as yesterday) said, `’Today was better as I had two assistants, not like yesterday when everyone else ran to the celebrations. I stayed around into the evening, enjoying the Eid al fitr Muslim holiday and waiting for the sun to set and imagining an ambulance arriving . Of course it didn’t materialize..
However while waiting, I used the time to reflect on the day and to also see what scripture had to say and I was struck by the imagery from the day’s Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah meeting with king Ahab whom had rejected God and as they met it says,
The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab in his chariot all the way to Jezreel.
Having given up waiting for my ambulance, I left but now inspired to not give up on the dream of a great birthing unit. Emboldened I decided I would take up my cloak and run and keep ahead of the chariot loaded with laboring mothers hurling along behind me. The fight must go on man of little faith.
Later that night I opened my email and there was a message from Aidan, an Australian student doctor who last year volunteered in the clinic. His news was he has reached $A24, 000 for the ambulance and then another from the treasurer of the recent 500 Supporters luncheon at the MCG Melbourne, and he reports lots of donations for the ambulance are coming in.
The Power of the Elijah’s Lord, I said to myself while tucking up even further my cloak and all the while muttering with new found faith , ‘ I MUST AND WILL GET MY OWN BLOODY AMBULANCE.’