What you need to know:
- Brillian was ready to do anything to fulfil her dream of having her baby in her arms.
- Her longing for a family of her own started when she was informed that her mother died when she was only a year old.
Brillian Wangui grew up in a house filled with love and laughter. Being the youngest, she was showered with affection by her mum, sisters and older brother.
Although they lived in a humble home in the outskirts of Nakuru town, she was content to bask in the warmth of sweet family moments.
One day, when she was around 10, her family disclosed a truth they had shielded her from during her blissful childhood years.
“I remember my family sitting me down and gently narrating how my mum had passed on when I was just one. It turns out that the mum I had known all my life was my grandmother and my sister was my aunt.”
This came as a surprise to her, but it wasn’t shocking. It didn’t change how she felt about her grandmother, whom she calls mum to date.
“I hear stories of orphans being mistreated by relatives. My grandmother loves me like her own biological child. I was dotted on like most lastborn children, and this has not changed.”
However, Brillian couldn’t help wonder how it would have been like to be raised by her biological mother. The more she thought about it, the more she warmed up to the idea of one day having her children.
“I think I began thinking about my future family at a much younger age than is normal. As I grew up, I hoped God would help me bear children and live long enough to raise them. Perhaps it is because I never got to know my late mum.”
After completing her studies, Brillian got a job at a local trade centre as an M-Pesa shop attendant. The plan was to earn some money to support her family as well as prepare for the future.
However, things don’t always go as planned because life has its fair share of troubles that rock the boat every once in a while.
“I would leave home at the break of dawn and head to the shop located at a centre called Ponda Mali. Most days, I came back late at night and had to take a boda-boda back home. Unknown to me, these rides exposed me to cold that became the beginning of my health woes.”
It wasn’t long before Brillian began experiencing respiratory problems. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Her conditioned would sometimes worsen in the middle of the night, forcing her family to rush her to the hospital for emergency treatment.
Still, this didn’t put her down, and as soon as she was healthy again, she would resume work.
Brillian’s dream of having a family of her own was very much alive despite facing several health scares. She had met a young man from her neighbourhood, and their friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship.
Last year, she discovered fantastic news: she was pregnant!
Her dream of having a family was finally becoming a reality. Little did she know the pain fate had in store for her.
“I had a miscarriage early in the pregnancy that left me shattered. My health was failing, and now the one thing that brought me joy was no more. I fell pregnant again and lost the baby. This happened three times. I felt hurt, broken and robbed.”
Although the weight of grief for her lost children was unsurmountable, it did not cause her to give up. She rose above her pain and once more believed that she was going to be a mum. And in March this year, she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.
“I delivered my baby through caesarean section. The joy in my heart was like nothing I have felt before. He gave me a reason to keep going, and a week after the birth, I went back to work.”
Things didn’t quite work out with her boyfriend, and so they parted ways. All was going well until later that month when she contracted pneumonia. She breastfed her baby for one month while praying the disease could go away.
Sadly, her condition deteriorated and left her too weak to breastfeed her son.
“I remember attending antennal clinics and musing and thinking of how wonderful it would be to breastfeed my child. To just hold my baby and bond intimately. Now here I was expressing breast milk in a cup for my grandmother to feed the baby. It wasn’t just feeding, I missed out on immunisation clinics and seeing him grow. However, I am eternally grateful to God for my family, who have practically raised my son. They have taken excellent care of him.”
For Brillian, it was the little joys of seeing her baby’s mouth suckling her breast and throwing tiny kicks after being well fed that caused her heart to ache. As a young mum and a first-timer, this was an experience she had waited for with bated breath, but it was not to be.
In August, Brillian decided to seek further treatment at Tenwek Hospital after noticing that her health was not improving despite taking her medication dutifully.
A CT scan revealed she was suffering from a heart condition, and one of her lungs had a scar. She was admitted immediately and spent close to two months receiving intensive care treatment and monitoring.
Discovered the problem
“I was glad they discovered the problem and began treatment. But there was a pain that even the best surgeons in the world couldn’t fix and that was being separated from my baby. Towards the end of September, I was discharged after it was established. I was well on the path to recovery.”
However, she left the hospital with a new norm. She was required to be plugged into a portable ventilator round the clock.
“When my oxygen level is low, I can’t even step outside to bask in the sun. I have to stay plugged into the ventilator. Honestly, it is emotionally and physically draining, but if this is what it takes to be away from the hospital, then it is worth all the trouble.”
Brillian says she has gotten used to the noise made by the machine and considers it a soundtrack to her journey of healing.
“The healthcare team taught me how to use the machine at home, and I’m comfortable as I know how to fix the oximeter on my fingers to measure oxygen concentration in my body. When the gauge is above 90, I remove it and save the oxygen.”
Frequent power blackouts in the slums is another challenge that is slowing her quick recovery, but she has learnt to cope with it.
“Sometimes power blackouts strike without any notice, and other times the oxygen cylinders are out of stock. I have learnt to survive by the grace of God.”
It has been one month since Brillian left the hospital. She is anxious about the oncoming months given she can’t work at her current state, and the meagre savings she had are already depleted.
“The financial burden of my illness has been very strenuous on my family — drugs to treat the heart condition cost about Sh10,000 per month. We spend further Sh2,500 per day to refill the oxygen. We couldn’t afford to purchase the oxygen concentrator, so we hire it at Sh3,000 per month.
“For that one month, I managed with half the dose of required drugs. You see, there are other needs of this family, and my grandmother’s business of selling tea can’t take care of everything.”
Brillian emphasises their close-knit family bond is what has kept them going amid all the challenges. Her grandmother, aunt and the rest of the family members take turns to take care of the baby, giving her ample time to rest.
Once she has regained some energy, she spends endless hours beside her baby’s bed watching him. This simple routine gives her the will to keep believing she will get better.
“Watching the baby jump around the bed is healing me. Of course, it can get frustrating when he wants me to play with him or feed him then my oxygen takes a nosedive, and I have to rest. But we have our moments, and those are what I live for.”
At 22, Brillian has fought many battles with remarkable resilience that bears testimony to her staunch faith in a better tomorrow.
She dreams one day she will become a successful woman and support her family just as they have helped her.
“They have taken care of me tirelessly and nurtured by the child to become the healthy boy he is today. I know I will not be sick forever. This is a passing storm. When the breakthrough comes, I will not forget all those who are standing by me during these dark times.”
Despite everything she has endured, Brillian is hopeful one day she will raise her own family. For now, her prayer is to get well so she can fend for her child and help out her grandmother.
“There are many things I wish I could do for my son, such as taking him for walks. I cannot do that for now. I want to be the best mother I can be to my child. I want to see him grow.”