Sometimes an event in life will precipitate an action plan. For me, that is exactly what happened when Matanya’s Hope traveled to Kijabe Hospital two days ago. We came for Winnie and Christine. We departed two days later, mission accomplished and enriched beyond measure.
He was being carried up the steep mountainous walkway. A carpet of concrete created the pathway beneath his feet. His daughter and grandson each respectively looped their arms through his, helping him to use whatever futile energy may have been left in his bony legs.
They called Christine’s name and we were ushered into the hallway where she would begin the next process of her “waiting” journey. Seated in a very basic wheelchair immediately in front of us was mzee (our old man). His head flopped from side to side – fairly routinely – just like a baby might flop its head when trying to look up. He looked exhausted – and it was obvious he was overcome by an unwell kind of weakness.
Tianka and I exchanged empathetic glances and concurred that we wished we had the neck pillow to give him for support. Then I had an idea.
I went to the nurse and asked for a towel or blanket. We can use that to drape around his neck and help support his head. The nurse looked but could not find a single item for us to use. She offered to allow mzee to lay on the exam table in a vacant room. I looked around.
She offered. But I think that meant “I move him”. In the USA, this would be highly frowned upon and even worthy of a potential law suit – but I did not see another way. Tianka and I agreed and carefully turned the wheelchair towards the room.
Movement was slow. Mzee’ one leg rested comfortably on the leg rest while the other leg dangled freely – not by plan – but because there was no leg rest to be had for the other side. I lifted the free leg and cradled it into my arm – while squatting to make the level comfortable for him – and just like that, Tianka pushed the chair and I squat-walked to the room.
After adjusting the head rest and with help from mzee’ son, we lifted our new friend onto the table and allowed the exhausted man to lay back and rest. That small exertion was almost too much for him.
He closed his eyes. His son tenderly held his hand. And then came the most amazing – most heartfelt – toothless “thank you” from our dear man. He spoke to us with love. Gosh, we really helped him, I thought. Hearing him warmed me emotionally to the core.
We stood by his side. “Baridi” he said. (Cold). With no blankets on site, his daughter laid her shawl over him and I took my fleece jacket and lay it over mzee’s chest. I just wanted him to get better.
Mzee used what little energy he had to weakly – half eye – glance at his grandson – and again at us. His dry tongue was coated with a film from dehydration. “I am grateful” he managed. Oooh! “No…..we need to do more. I don’t want you to suffer”, I almost cried to myself.
I could not bare the tell tale signs of mzee’s dehydration. “When did he have water?” I asked his daughter; “He is so dry.” “He hasn’t taken anything” she replied. The nurse helped us find a thermos of hot water and we poured mzee a cup. We added a little water from our supply of room temperature Dasani – just to cool it down enough for him to consume comfortably – and then (perhaps wrongfully) I took the spoon intended for hot chocolate and brought it to mzee so we could spoon feed him the water.
He sipped eagerly. His lips sucked in around his gums as he filled himself with life giving fluids. “Pole” (slowly) we encouraged him.
Mzee finished the whole cup. As he did, I was called into the room with Christine. The doctor was ready for her.
When I came out, I learned mzee had been transferred to the ward where he would undergo further treatment. The jacket he returned to Tianka was all that remained. In fact, I am wearing it right now.
I pray for this man.
I pray for his comfort and for his recovery. He touched my soul.
To Mzee with love.