By Derike Ingabire


My story began when I was four years of age, the age at which I last saw my biological mother. I was then raised by my grandmother, an old but very cheerful woman. We stayed in the Kakuma refugee camp. in my world she was my hero, my everything. my life revolved around her. neighbors in the Kakuma refugee camp would call me ‘granny’s wallet’ because just like her and the wallet, we would never depart from each other, intense threats from my father’s family about wanting to take me away from my grandmother got intense and that forced us to move to Nairobi for fear of our safety being compromised.

The year was 2019 , granny as i called her got sick. common knowledge had us thinking it was just a bug but when she fell unconscious three days later, urgent medical attention was needed. She was 67 years old by then and I was in my third year of pursuing a bachelors in social work. To say I was worried and anxious was an understatement.

We did not have any money to take her to the hospital. We approached UNHCR and they helped us. They took
her in for treatment at a hospital called Mbagathi National Hospital. After conducting check ups, the doctors told us that she is diabetic. In that hospital, they had a rule that no visitor was supposed to sleep there. You’d only go during the day then leave in the evening. They had nurses who took care of the patients. So we went and visited her in the morning. The situation she was in made tears pour down my checks. She was in a bad condition.

We fed her or we tried convincing her to eat for the better part of the visiting period and stayed with her showing her love and support and indeed we loved her so much. We left in the evening. The next day when we came we were told that she got a head injury. They said that at night, she tried to get up to get some water for drinking. That’s where she fell down on the floor from the bed and hit her head. I was too emotional to ask many of the many questions that were running through my mind. I thought there were nurses on duty who were always ready to assist patients. How does a sick, old woman get off a hospital bed without assistance? I had heard so many stories about the terrible state of the hospitals, I just never thought my grandmother would be a victim. as if the fall was not alarming enough the nurses told us that it was nothing to worry about, ‘it’s nothing serious’ they told us.

I was not convinced by what the nurses said and I was unsettled. my sixth sense was telling me that more was coming. Was I ready to face ‘the more that was coming’?

The next day the doctors called us and told us the situation was worsening. The head injury she sustained from the fall had developed into something critical. Yes, it was the same fall that they had told us not to worry about. had it not been for the continuous nose bleeding that she was experiencing they wouldn’t have bothered to send her for a head scan. They found out that blood is not flowing to the brain. There had been a blockage caused by the injury. So they demanded 500$ for surgery. We were so shocked and asked ourselves where we would get such kind of money. We went back to UNHCR with all the medical reports but they said they did not have the budget for that.

We tried to organize fundraising from friends and neighbors but the only amount we could raise was $150. Day by day my grandmother’s condition was getting worse. Unfortunately the doctors in the entire country conducted demonstrations over salary issues by the government. All the doctors from the public health facilities. This means that all the public health facilities had to be closed. We were forced to take her back home regardless of her worsening condition.
We felt betrayed and unloved either by friends or UNHCR. At home, the only thing that kept us sane was prayer. We were praying every day and night. By the end of June, she became paralyzed ,could not hear, talk, or feel anything. That’s what the situation came down to. The hospitals were still closed. No money to take her to a private hospital. We were crying whenever we could look at her.
Tears were just dropping from her eyes. We felt like there are many things she would love to tell us but wasn’t in a position to. Being in a position whereby i could not help my grandmother get the medical assistance she required broke me. I had to act strong in her presence. I often wonder if I put up a good performance ? I hope she never saw what I was going through. I made sure she would never see me cry.

Friday 29th of June at 5am (EAT) my mother, with whom I had finally managed to reconnect with woke us up.’She is not moving’ mother said and looked down with tears in her eyes. In that instance I realized that grandmother had crossed over to the other side. My hero had slept peacefully like the woman that she was.

I still regret it to this day, always telling myself I could have done more. The system let me down! I carry so much anger and hatred in my heart every single day.

All I wanted was for my grandmother to seek medical attention, was that too much to ask for ?


8 December, 2022