What you need to know:
- The 190-page book offers a detailed, non-fictional account of his encounters with his patients as a surgeon.
- The author, who is a doctor, delves into societal themes weaving through the topics in a subtle and unnerving manner.
Russian playwright and short-story writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov once said: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
This assertion by Mr Chekhov must have been ringing in the mind of Dr Aruyaru Stanley Mwenda when he decided to pen his debut book, Chronicles of a Village Surgeon.
In the book, Mr Mwenda, is not simply telling us that the moon is shining but through the novel he has offered the reader a sneak peek into the life of a medical doctor.
The 190-page book offers a detailed, non-fictional account of his encounters with his patients as a surgeon.
Through his eyes, the reader is able to relive the day-to-day occurrences in a hospital setting.
The medic, who wears many hats as a general and laparoscopic surgeon, a healthcare advocate, a public speaker and a health commentator, delves into societal themes weaving through the topics in a subtle and unnerving manner.
Divided into 28 chapters, the book offers insight into different themes including alternative medicine, gender-based violence, beliefs in curses and witchcraft as well as human organ theft in foreign hospitals.
The book opens with a humorous story of how an unlikely body part, a pot belly, came to the rescue of a man who had been shot in the abdomen.
The patient had his humongous pot belly to thank for having kept the bullet away from his vital organs.
But as what really captures attention is how cancer is ravaging Kenyans with almost half of Dr Mwenda’s patients having been admitted to hospital suffering from one form of cancer or the other.
The book is littered with cases of cancer, from breast cancer, colon, stomach cancer and cancer of the rectum, with most patients being diagnosed at a late stage when nothing can be done.
Chapter 17 aptly titled, Hail the Emperor of all Maladies, is about a patient by the name Solomon, not his real name, who had cancer of the food pipe.
His case laid bare how most Kenyans miss on early diagnosis of cancer due to a not-so-functioning healthcare system in the country.
Solomon hopped from one health facility to the other yet his cancer was not detected early enough to offer him a chance at more years on earth.
The award-winning healthcare manager tells the story of a cancer patient who had to go to India hoping to cure the malady due to exorbitant fees charged by private hospitals where advanced treatment can be received.
The patient by the name John, not his real name, was suffering from bowel cancer and after going through treatment in Kenya he opted for India.
In that Chapter 18, however, organ trade going on in foreign hospitals where patients are sold hope of better healthcare is brought to the fore.
An old man went to India for kidney transplant but instead of getting the good health he craved, he carried death back home.
The kidney was harvested from his donor but was never transplanted. He flew back to the country with great hope of continuing with his life but died within weeks.
Belief in witchcraft
It took an autopsy on his body to reveal the sad state of affairs. The old man had no new kidney beneath the surgical scar. However, the donor had his kidney chopped off.
In chapter three, the doctor brings to the fore the clash between science and traditional beliefs.
A patient, a Mr BK, has been admitted with Fournier’s gangrene, a flesh-eating disease that arises from an infection in the anus or the urethra that attacks the private parts from the genitals to the crotch up the lower belly skin.
Instead of the patient, in his 60’s, believing that his disease has scientific background, his belief in witchcraft and curses makes him believe his strange disease have been caused by a curse he incurred after wronging an individual, from Ichiaro clan, a Meru sub-clan.
Even after medical intervention, he had to ferry his perceived “curser” to the hospital to ask for forgiveness in order lift the curse that he had befallen him.
Land problems in Kenya that have resulted in many deaths are captured in chapter five, where a contested piece of land almost leads to the death of a man after being attacked by his blood sister and his father, leaving him with life-threatening injuries with his legs having to be amputated to save his life.
The elephant in the room is addressed in chapter 14 where mental health problems leads to a 10-year-old boy, from a single parent set up, trying to commit suicide by dousing himself in paraffin.