Dear Your Excellency, The Governor,
I start this letter by stripping myself of all titles to my name, because I want to speak to you Mr. Governor as Dennis Itumbi, Citizen number 22219988.
When I was growing up, like most of those reading this letter and a majority of those who voted for you, we only knew one hospital –The General Hospital.
Our parents could not afford any other, I lost my only sister because like I was told at the time she had been born with a big heart – I remember asking Mum how that was a bad thing, I thought we all needed a big heart. Later I was to learn she died because she was born with a rare heart condition and by the time it was discovered it was too late to save her. We buried her before she could pronounce her own name.
Many people are nursing that kind of pain across our nation even today. It is estimated that 40,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed every year and 27,000 of these end up being fatal due to an inadequate healthcare system. Those are statistics. When you put names on those statistics you draw a broken heart of people in almost all homes in Kenya.
As you argue about being consulted, I pick a few stories to remind you what you are doing as you debate from the comfort of the red carpet, branded podiums and array of press cameras and microphones that make you stars of endless scars.
Robert Aseda, wrote this on Mother’s day, “I have seen my mother struggle with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.” “ I have seen strength in her eyes even though once a strong farmer, she could not properly walk alone. I saw her uprooted from her home in Oyugis in Homa Bay County and forced to seek residence in Nairobi to be close to Kenyatta National Hospital, the only hospital that offered hope in those trying moments.”
“ She would later join a queue over one hundred and fifty others also seeking to leave their pains at the two machines which should be serving just fifty in a day.” “Even in her sickness, she would be glad that at least she got a chance, as others will have to wait till 2016 in order to get radiotherapy sessions. “
“The disease will not be waiting with them.” “She would feel searing pain and lose weight but she would survive and burgeon to good health. Others would not be lucky though.” “They will lose weight, lose their hairs, perhaps a breast or a leg and succumb after accumulating millions in debt. This is why am taking the battle against cancer personally, just as you should. .”
Faith not her real name wrote me an inbox early this year, “ Dennis I do not want you to do anything, but I want you to just write to me every evening when you can, I am dying because I cannot afford to go abroad and I am so far away on the queue for the machine at Kenyatta, I may not make it past June this year, but at least I have a chance to speak to you everyday, share my pain and my tears even if I do not know you personally. Is it too hard to hire all machines in Private hospitals and place them in public hospitals once a month for some of us to survive? For some of us to feel how it feels to be married? To love and to bring up a child; For us to chase our dreams? Must we live to die? …..(Faith died in May 2015, just when Team Uhuru had gotten a flight and footed her treatment costs to India)
Then there is Josephine Wambui who writes to me almost on a daily basis, read for example, “Good morning, one thing that I find strange thing women who have had a mastectomy suffer from serious stigma “ “I found that out when I shaved my hair in public to raise money for prosthetic breasts.” “ As I got a clean shave other people volunteered and *feeling proud* I was filmed by BBC. Other women joined in and it was quite an event. We raised enough to give 50 women a new lease.”
“One girl caught dropped her sweater put in her new breast and danced so hard that I just had to weep. I was not aware the not having a breast is really an issue.”
Then there is Irene, a brilliant and beautiful woman who has had to quit her job as a marketing mastermind, to nurse the pains of cancer. Initially it was easy she could afford today she says she even shies off from begging, she has remained focused and has chosen to inspire people. In her journey of inspiration she has registered her own consultancy firm, to educate and advocate, to encourage others in her own way.
I must add here that if you have a marketing plan, or you want to address the Cancer issue more directly you should consider signing business with her and be sure you will have banked money with a personalized marketing and communication campaign. Her story is an archive of what is wrong with our healthcare. Like she says, “When God initiates change in your life, He doesn’t usually give you all the details. Don’t let that keep you from the journey. He gives you just enough direction to get you started and just enough uncertainty to keep you seeking. Change feels strange but being stuck feels worse..” Why must we make Cancer patients feel as if they are stuck as we debate over their access to healthcare?
Jimmy Sankare has an even more heartrending story; it tears me into pieces with anger every time I read it. I drove to his home in Kajiado and sat at his bed, where he told me he was spending his last days on earth. “ I sold a cow after another,” he told me. I had to travel to Nairobi several times so that I could get treated. My kids dropped out of school, my wife got high blood pressure. With time there was no more money and now I await the call of God. I knew there was nothing I would do, but I write a letter to KNH saying he should be admitted and that I was willing to commit a certain sum of my salary to have him treated, but the Stomach cancer had advanced so rapidly it was impossible to treat him.
I can share hundreds of other stories and am sure even in the comments below many other stories will emerge. That is why I write you Mr. Governor. I write to you because I know if you got sick today you would easily head to the best hospitals in the world we have seen you or your fellow Governors do that in the last two years. We do not have the same privilege.
We are dying because the only treatment we know, the General Hospital cannot detect early what we suffer from and when they do, they cannot effectively treat us. Look, for most of us citizens we pay taxes like you do and we are surprised that someone is offering a solution within one year and you are resisting it.
As our Mothers, Fathers, brothers, sisters die, we only pray that you would understand that we can argue and differ on many other things but not on one that prolongs the life of our loved ones.
To paraphrase someone, Without access to continuing health care their multiple treatable pre-existing conditions worsened and threatened their very existence. I am happy that they will again have access to continuing care, preventive assessment and lives freer from physical pain and unwarranted anxiety because of the Equipment Health shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the privileged among us—it’s a right we all should enjoy. Doesn’t article 43 of our constitution say that?
In the words of Brad Pitt, “Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right for life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold.”
I agree with the view that, “It is hard to talk about a middle ground for something that is a fundamental right.” In the County there are many hospitals, please equip the many that National Government is not equipping rather than argue about the ones being fitted.
By the way Mr. Governor, what are we arguing about? What is the exchange about? Look kindly allow the equipment and then tell us what you are saying, we will still listen and if someone took advantage of our situation in the name of Transforming Treatment be sure we the taxpayers will deal with them.
For now though, we are not listening, we are aching, we are in endless harambees, we are spending too much and our people still die – a problem doctors tell us can be solved by early detection and managed with the type of equipment being proposed. It is easy for you.
Imagine if I am in an accident between Meru and Embu, I would have no access to an ICU – you do not get it because for you, it would be an easy chopper ride to the best facilities in Nairobi, for me I would die on the way. Now we are being told that equipment will be on our doorstep and you are resisting?
I saw the transformation in Machakos and I hope you were there as that old man narrated his story to the President. He said he had sold his car and land to live in Kibera so that he would access treatment at KNH and that had taken a toll on his family. The Old man was very happy that now the equipment was available at his county and he would spend less.
Your Excellency, Mr. Governor, Drop the opposition to the equipment, I will not threaten not to vote for you in 2017, but take it from me that I promise you. There are irreducible minimums you cannot address the press from my graveside for instance.
Every argument you make against the equipment is a new wound on my hope. Is a fresh reminder to every household that has had to sacrifice their lifetime savings to treat cancer, it is an insult on our collective soul as a nation. Let the equipment be fixed in our hospitals. Some of these things are personal as much as they are policy.
Irene, the Marketing Mastermind, captures the frustration among Cancer patients on her FB wall very well, “I don’t know why, Lord, but You have chosen to let me live with chronic pain. I have tried everything; nothing works. Is this my destiny for the rest of my life?
I’ve talked to You about it; I’ve pleaded and prayed, but my pain remains. I remember longingly the pain-free days of my youth -they seem gone forever. I pray for sleep, for at least I gain a temporary respite.
You must have a plan, Lord. I will admit that I can’t figure it out, but somehow my pain is being worked into Your plans. I need help. I fear my stamina is eroding. Help me wait cheerfully, confidently, and faithfully. Help me honor and worship and praise You even when I hurt.
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:6,7).
Lord, I wait and watch for You. None of my troubles are too great for You. Come to my relief. I take great comfort in Your unfailing love. I eagerly await the full redemption I know is coming. Work all things together for my good. Refresh my spirit and my weary body. Please come now.
IN BOLD LETTERS I UNDERLINE, to fellow Citizens, “Let us be Outraged, let us be Loud and let us be Bold.