What happened to John Gakuya between his admission to the Samburu County Referral Hospital four months ago and the discovery of his charred remains last week remains a mystery.
Gakuya’s burnt up body was found within the hospital’ compound, ending the search for him but beginning another agonising journey for his family who are still at a loss over what may have happened.
“I do not sleep at night and when I do, memories of my husband flash in my head,” his distraught widow, Hellen Naasu Gakuya said in tears.
She knows that her husband is dead and that his body is interred at the Maralal cemetery, some 200 metres from his home, but she just cannot bring herself to accept the circumstances of his demise, given the mystery surrounding it.
On the night of October 15, 2020, Mr Gakuya, 47, complained of headaches and was rushed to hospital and admitted. Doctors said he had cerebral malaria.
“He complained of headaches early in the evening and the condition persisted at night and we sought treatment at the hospital,” Ms Naasu recounted.
Gakuya was treated at the male ward for eight days, but how he vanished is still a mystery.
“I prepared lunch for him and went to the hospital at 2pm. My husband was not on his bed. I stayed there waiting for him for about 10 minutes but he never showed up,” Ms Naasu says.
On enquiring about his whereabouts with the nurse on duty, Ms Naasu was shocked to learn that nobody knew where her husband had gone. And, since his disappearance, the hospital’s management never bothered to investigate. They asked Ms Naasu to report the incident to the police.
“I reported the matter,” she says, adding that she was forced to neglect all her normal duties to look for him. On January 18, a groundsman detected a foul stench emanating from the furthest corner of compound.
A search led to the discovery of Gakuya’s decomposing body. The patient had reportedly been missing since October 22, 2020.
The worker, who did not want to be named, told the Nation.
“I was clearing the compound. I could not put my finger on where the bad smell was coming from. I tried to ignore it but it persisted,” he said.
He continued: “I later discovered a skeleton near the fence”.
He alerted the security guards who took the skeleton to the hospital’s mortuary.
“I was called at around 3pm to the hospital and directed to go the mortuary to identify the skeletal remains. It was a horrifying experience,” Ms Naasu says.
The body had gone unnoticed for three months, even though it lay about 70 metres from the staff quarters. There is still some confusion as to how he got out of the ward, evaded security and got to the fence.
“I don’t understand how he got out of the ward because somebody would have noticed him trying to escape. The hospital also claims not to know,” she said.
The hospital’s management expressed shock at the turn of events, saying, they were concerned by this “gruesome discovery”.
However, nobody wanted to go on record on the issue.
The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Robert Nato, declined to comment saying he was on leave at that time.
“That is a sensitive issue that we are investigating. We are looking for facts. I am currently working on a report on the issue which I will hand over to the county executive committee member in charge of health on Wednesday (yesterday),” Dr Nato said.
He urged patients and other members of the community to remain calm in light of the discovery.
“Intensive investigations are underway to determine whether the decomposed corpse of the man is that of a patient who disappeared. That will take some time to establish,” Dr Nato added.
Dr Nato further referred journalists to Health executive Stephen Lekupe, saying the county official was in a better position to comment on the investigation.
When asked if the man’s death was linked to cerebral malaria, he said there was no reason to believe so, but urged patience until a post-mortem exam could establish the cause of death.
The Nation reached out to Dr Lekupe for comment, but he neither answered our calls nor responded to out text messages.