On the question of being allowed to remove the remains of Edward Wanzala
by Mohamed Jiwa at 7:30pm 20th December, 2013
I went with Mike Wambwere to the complaints department at the hospital and the kind person there referred me to the Credit Control department where we met Mr Alois. Mr Alois has assured me that the hospital does not have a policy of detaining the remains of those who have passed away. He has asked us to give him the results of the harambee (fund-raiser) and seems agreeable to a payment plan. He is not going to demand the whole amount as stipulated on the bill. He would, however, like to be presented with a payment plan and the results of our harambee for the expenses incurred towards laying Edward to rest.
Waiting to start the fund-raising at 5.45pm I saw a picture, shown to me by Mama Raveena, of Edward. It is an exquisite photograph of a man totally dedicated to his purpose in life. I intend to take a picture of the lovely family (tomorrow) and then publish the photographs.
(I could not stay for the fund-raiser to begin owing to prior commitments.)
Photo of Edward Photo of Edward's family
Anyone Advise How to Release the Late Edward Wanjala and his Family before ChristmasTrue Story in Nairobi of a Swimming Instructor
His body is being held in the hospital for Kenya Sh 1.1 million
by Mohamed Jiwa at 3:30pm 20th December, 2013
We seem to be held up by a hospital securely holding the mahiti (body awaiting last rites) of a husband and a father who died recently from a brain haemorrhage, against a bill of KES.1.1million (USD 13,000). It's nearly Christmas and our lives have suddenly changed. And we just want to take him home and bury him.
It is already 19th December, 2013 and there are 6 days to go (I drafted this yesterday so read one day before). The hospital is holding his body until an arrangement has been agreed upon to pay the bill. The family and I met with friends of Edward at his home at the Aga Khan Primary School where he worked as a swimming coach. They are all his students. He has taught countless children to swim, gently and cleverly, and he could teach an adult to swim in four days, with ease: He was the best coach I have ever met, the kindest and most generous, a conscientious man, a GENTLEMAN. Edward was a teacher in the true sense and there are too few of these.
Edward lived only to the age of 40. People are dying on this planet at the rate of 107 per minute (nearly two [1.78 to be exact] per second). If most of us are members of the 99% (the marginalised - who do not participate in national sabotage by corruption and partisanship -and the poor) then most of these deaths are probably affected by untoward incidents of one sort or another, especially in the dustbins we call our cities which politicians, mostly egregiously inflated and programmed to fail, are unable to rise to the challenge in helping to clean our spaces and inject them with life support.
Could this sort of contempt of ethics be affecting our hospitals, too? Perhaps there are many ordinary people who have died and whose families have been cut off from them to the extent that they are unable to find a closure by performing the rites and rituals that attend such eventualities. This is true in the case of Edward's family. The hospital seems coolly to have declined to release his mahiti until an arrangement has been made to clear the bill. This put all of us in a panic.
Hospitals know that they make their profits from the obscenely rich who do not contribute to society where contributions are urgently needed, when they should also take on the role of acting as mediators between such obscenities and the needs of the poor who have equal right to access. People don't want to get involved with situations like Edward's for reasons beyond the scope of this story.
This may just be another death in many but why should it be more special? Together with Francis, Alex and Michael and others, I would like to stress that the hospital should, to act appropriately in all respects, release Edward's mahiti, sympathetically be guided by the Hippocratic Oath and mirror the family's anxious need to have the Mrehemu (the one mercifully granted rest) taken for burial before Christmas so that the family can confidently move into the grieving process, to get over their loss, move on and rebuild their lives in the memory of their beloved who must also move on.
Mrs Edward and her family receives the guests who come to condole in a small space behind the field at the school with grace and dignity, ensuring that she cushions all of us from the gravity of the moment with quiet strength and composure that is just amazing.
Tomorrow (ie today at 5pm) there will be a fund-raising drive that will hopefully be attended by the management, teachers and parents of the school, and friends, the people whom he taught to swim and feel at ease in the water. The school is closed so I am hoping that the teachers and the students will address the questions we are facing supportively, when the school starts. Will we collect the 1.1 million? What do you think?
Here is an incomplete report on what may have happened to this great swimming coach, as received by oral testimony from his widow and others:
Edward was taken to the hospital (Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi) and moved directly to the ICU. He may have, from a report I received today, possibly been assessed as clinically dead on arrival; for, that may have happened at the moment he had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage on December 12th. Is this true and could the hospital confirm and help to fill in the blanks?
The object, I am told, was to raise his heart beat from 52 to about 75 before they could proceed with draining the brain. It had started going up slowly, though not at the same rate as the charges were mounting and not high enough to safely perform a procedure. He was already on a life support. The school's insurance company had paid their obligation (KES.200,000/-, about USD.2,500.-). There were now the questions of holding him on life-support and the monetary cost of offering further treatment.
When I called Mama Raveena (Mrs Edward) on the 17th to find out how he was she told me that he had died the day before.
Naturally I was stunned. But he was only 40 years of age. I had started to make friends with him and I was looking forward to having Saida learn competitive swimming under his auspices and care. He had taught Saida, her mother, sister Nelly to swim within the span of three or four lessons. He knew exactly where to challenge them and where to limit them. On sunny or chilly days it was a pleasure to swim in that pool at Aga Khan Primary School. He was diligent and everyone in the pool was laughing and larking about, bumping into one another. The atmosphere was much jollier than any pool in the vicinity and his approach was casual, friendly and confident.
But Edward was suffering. I wish I had known. I wish he had known (didn't he know?) that he had very high blood pressure. My mum: "High blood pressure is a devilish trickster. We should all check our pressure regularly." Men are dying younger and younger from cardio-vascular related diseases because of extreme stress (being pushed into fighting against poverty and indigence by the ultra-rich who control our worlds). I have personally experienced this sort of stress where one is constantly on the edge of being relieved of one's rightful possessions, spaces and memories by a process that is making us poor while the economy grows. I am on medication, myself.
Edward was complaining of backaches. I had invited him to my studio to learn a few yoga moves and he came two Sundays in a row. He said that he had found relief through yoga. So when I heard that he had fallen ill I was in a spin.
But now he's gone. The family stays at the Aga Khan Primary School workers' quarters. Mama Raveena (who is my daughter's friend) will have to move out at some point though I expect the school will give her time to get herself organised, first. Where will she go and how will she manage the four children? She doesn't work.
Photo of Edward Photo of Edward's family
I have to try to find a way to get access to the Aga Khan University Hospital administration for advice on several questions:
- Can they assign a qualified person to us, someone with humanity, to explain to us what actually happened and why they are demanding such a sum?
- Can we know who the doctor was?
- What is in the medical report? What was the prognosis and the line of action that they proposed to take and why?
- Was the family informed of the patient's state of health and of the implications of continuing the treatment the way it was projected?
- What were his chances of survival?
- Cause of death?
- Why did he have high blood pressure?
- Was he never checked and warned about the risks of his high blood pressure?
- What could have prevented him from obtaining the correct information about his health if he was already on some sort of insurance?
- Was he on life support? From what moment?
- Was he taken off the life support machine?
- Why do they hold the body? Is it as a 'collateral' against the amount being owed when the person who owes them the money is dead?
- Is this morally correct and what does the constitution have to say about it?
- Can we come to an arrangement about the release of the body so that he can be taken home before Christmas?
- Should the family not be supported by the hospital and the Aga Khan institutions and advice about how to go about preventing this blockage of a natural course of events that follow a death?
- What other advice can they give us?
What are the ethical guidelines that govern cases like this?
I am hoping that people who come across this article will contribute to the fund of having the body released, taken home to Western Province and buried as soon as possible. Can you contribute something - anything? If so, then the details of Mama Raveena's account are below. If you are going to make Western Union or similar payment please note her name and ID number, or if it will be a bank transfer here are the details of the bank account, too:
MPESA TELEPHONE NUMBER IS 0700103662 in the name of Conceptar (Mrs Edward)
Bank and International Wire Transfer Details
Conceptar Nabwire Oucho
Coop Bank, P O Box 38764-00600, Nairobi, Kenya
Sitima Plaza Branch, Nairobi Kenya
Western Union and similar: Conceptar Nabwire Oucho Kenya ID number: 25650053
Keep the payments coming as Mrs Edward will have to pay the bills, move, set up home once again, possibly in the village, and yet ensure that the children keep going to good (boarding) schools. Note that if she buys cows and produces milk for sale then she will probably have a gross income of about KES.7500 p month (all less expenses that can climb fast). Each cow can support one person at the lowest level of life only. She needs an income from about six cows to make it, and each cow will cost about 50,000.- (USD.600).
I guess (correct me where I am wrong) she will need to collect altogether:
Schedule of Estimated Cost of Rebuilding a Small Family in the Countryside
Fees six mths 4 kids*
Is it possible to collect the funds by sending out information/ publicity via Twitter and the blog? I don't know. I will report our progress back. Please use the COMMENTS facility on this blog to advise, comment and send condolences, if you like, and spread this around.
I shall update this blog post regularly. I am working on the questions of intention to repay the hospital (within the context/ need to question the bill and the reasons why a particular course of action was taken), transparency and accountability.
If you contribute something to any of the above payment points please send a note to me (as a self-appointed accountant) so that we can keep a track of the amounts that we have collected and report them back to you together with the budget as it becomes more accurate. Meanwhile, I have requested the family (led by Michael Wambwere, Edward's cousin) to advise me on how to maintain transparency and accountability because it is not easy to do this through the bank account and the Mpesa account until we have the approvals necessary.
Most importantly, if there is anyone who can advise us on how to negotiate with the hospital (if the hospital itself cannot take the role of counselor because it is an institution of healing and wholeness, ideally speaking) please contact me through my Twitter account @kirimba: Healing and wholeness would naturally and obviously include the wholeness of the patient, the family, the community and the public, in a manner that mirrors the anxiety of the people affected at this time.
Photo of Edward Photo of Edward's family
Edward Shikuku Wanzala (1973-2013), Swimming Instructor with the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi. Survived by Conceptar and four children (Meshack, Fernando, Raveena and Praise) relatives, friends, and hundreds of students who loved and felt secure with him in the water.
G Mohamed Jiwa
19th/ 20th December 2013
(to be continued)
Drafted 10:46 AM 12/19/2013
Third edit 2:32 PM 12/20/2013
Fourth Edit 8:12pm 20th Dec 2013
Edit 9:50am 22nd December, 2013
Update 1 at 7:20pm 20th December 2013