True test of a mother’s love in time of Covid-19

Ms Ann Kimiki with her son Andy Mureithi in hospital. PHOTO | POOL

What you need to know:

  • Ms Kimiki's one-year-two-month-old son, Andrew Mureithi, had not only tested positive but was also battling a spinal genetic disorder.
  • For the last one year, Ms Kimiki has fought courageously to save her son’s life.
  • In a country running out of ventilators, hopes for her son were resting on a good supply of oxygen as she awaited an ICU hospital bed at KNH.

For Ms Ann Kimiki, 31, the testing of her baby for Covid-19 was also a litmus test for her.

Ms Kimiki's one-year-two-month-old son, Andrew Mureithi (Andy), had not only tested positive but was also battling a spinal genetic disorder.

“I was shattered, but had to stand strong,” she says.

For the last one year, Ms Kimiki has fought courageously to save her son’s life. He has been in and out of hospitals.

Andy was only two weeks old when he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a condition that robbed him of his physical strength and affected the little boy's motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. Soon, it took away his ability to walk, eat or breathe.

Andy’s genetic condition, whose symptoms resembles those of Covid-19, threw the young family into disillusionment as they battled to overcome it.

Breathing problems

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Ms Kimiki did not at any moment suspect that her child could contract the virus.

His breathing problems kept worsening and, on June 19, Ms Kimiki decided to take him for a Covid-19 test “out of curiosity”.

“My son was tested on June 21 and on June 22, they told me Andy was Covid-19 positive. From 22 June to July 21, I was put into quarantine with my baby because the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds at the Kenyatta National Hospital were full. I had also tested positive,” she says, adding: “Luckily, I was asymptomatic.”

In a country running out of ventilators, hopes for her son were resting on a good supply of oxygen as she awaited an ICU hospital bed at KNH.

"My son needs a ventilator full time to help him breathe because just like Covid-19, the spinal genetic disorder has affected his breathing system," she says.

Doctors said Covid-19 had affected 90 per cent of the infant's body organs.

The case illustrates how expensive it is to treat Covid-19 in a public facility. For the 23 days that Ms Kimiki stayed at KNH, she accumulated a Sh1,079,030 hospital bill.

Treating coronavirus

While the government has been insisting that treating coronavirus is free in all public hospitals, Ms Kimiki's invoice from KNH include consumables such as bed charges and medicine that costs Sh552,000, health information charges Sh700, a laboratory fee of Sh10,000, medicine service fee Sh501,400, nutrition fee Sh1, 200, nursing medicine Sh5,500, pharmacy fee Sh1,050 and theatre consumables Sh7,130.

Initially, her son had been admitted to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital’s Paediatric Critical Care Unit for over 200 days and where she ran a hospital bill of Sh28 million. While much of it was offset by her medical insurance, she still has a pending bill of Sh7 million.

She had thought that she could take her son to a cheaper public facility, but the surge of Covid-19 patients in ICUs not only complicated her search, but also left her demoralised.

“We opted to take our son to the Thika Level Five Hospital after we noticed that the bill was becoming unbearable. In Thika, we were informed that they have a shortage of ventilators because of the high number of Covid-19 patients and keeping my son there, whose genetic condition requires full time oxygen and ventilators, would not be sustainable,” Ms Kimiki recalls.

Bill of Sh18,528

For less than a day, she was slapped with a bill of Sh18,528 and transferred to Beleview Hospital South C, and later KNH, where the baby is still admitted to the ICU battling spinal muscular atrophy.

“I was discharged from KNH after being declared Covid-19 free. My son has now been declared negative, but is still in hospital because of his genetic condition. But I was told the Sh1 million bill should be paid during the discharge,” she says.

In a country where there are no ventilators to cope with the increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients, Andy's doctors have proposed that the child requires 24 hours ventilator given his genetic condition.

“If we could get one at home the better,” says Ms Kimiki.

Every day, Ms Kimiki goes to the KNH to keep watch over her son. Most nurses now know her and of her struggle to protect her son. It’s the ultimate test of a mother's love at the time of coronavirus.

[email protected]