Covid-19 test

A medical officer takes a sample for Covid-19 testing at the laboratory of Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu County. 


| Brian Ongoro | AFP

Nyanza, Western families reel from surge in Covid-19 infections

What you need to know:

  • Reports indicate that public hospitals in the regions are overstretched due to rising admissions of patients.
  • Relatives interviewed by the Nation said they could no longer interact freely with neighbours because of stigma associated with the pandemic.

The surge in Covid-19 infections in Nyanza and Western counties has left a trail of suffering as affected families struggle to come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones.

The families are going through tough times after spending available resources on medical services to save the lives of relatives, with reports indicating public hospitals in the regions are overstretched due to rising admissions of patients.

Relatives interviewed by the Nation said they could no longer interact freely with neighbours because of the stigma associated with the pandemic.

In Kakamega County, Derick Mwabakha, from Malimili village, lost his mother Judith Kaiga Anzimbu on June 20.

Ms Anzimbu was the headteacher at Bukusi Primary School in Kakamega South sub-county.
Before her death, the family had lost Lawrence Mabia in December last year to Covid-19.

Mr Mabia was the father-in-law of Mrs Anzimbu. She was buried on June 26 after succumbing to the Covid-19 at Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret.

Her husband Mark Anzimbi is bed-ridden after he contracted the coronavirus at the same time his wife was taken ill.

Their son said the pain of losing his mother and nursing his father was taking a toll on him. He said he was distraught by what had happened and it had not crossed his mind that Covid-19 would rob him of a mother.

“When my mother was taken ill, she was complaining of fatigue and pain all over her body. We took her to a private facility at the Khayega market but her condition did not improve,” Mr Mwabakha said. 

“When her condition deteriorated, we took her to Shibwe hospital and later to Iguhu Sub-County Hospital, where she was tested for Covid-19 and the results were positive.”

Just about the same time his father started complaining of fatigue and aches all over his body, he took a Covid-19 test at Iguhu Sub-County Hospital and the results were positive.

The couple were admitted at Mediheal Hospital for treatment and were put on oxygen support after they started developing breathing problems.

When the Nation visited the home, family members were seated under the shed of a tree while observing social distance guidelines as they spoke in hushed tones.

“Some of our neighbours do not want to visit us, fearing they could be infected with Covid-19. All we are doing now is to ensure we strictly follow Covid-19 protocols and stay safe,” said Peter Anzimbu.

The family said the death of Mrs Anzimbu and Mr Mabia have sent a powerful message to villagers about the dangers of Covid-19, which is silently ravaging rural communities.

In neighbouring Vihiga County, it has been a year of stress and agony for the family of Oscar Jumba, a young engineer who succumbed to Covid-19 complications on July 4, 2020.

He died at the young age of 37, leaving behind a wife and one child. They are yet to fully recover.

His first cousin, Abdalla Chogo, said the family had held six prayer sessions and get-togethers at their Womulalu home in Vihiga County to try to heal from the shocking incident.

Mr Chogo said the feeling, coupled with stigma, has hampered speedy recovery.

“The death shocked us. He was part of the family. We felt isolated by the community,” Mr Chogo said.

He noted that the hurried burial, amid meagre resources, exacerbated their pain and stress, sending some of them into depression.

“We have been organising meetings as a family and involving the church to help us heal. The pandemic hit us hard,” he said.

Grace Aduor looks strong on the outside. But deep in her heart she is crushing with many questions surrounding the death of her parents.

The 21-year-old student at Maseno University was the first to be admitted at St Consolata Hospital in Kajulu village, Kisumu East sub-county.

Days later, her mother Mary Onyango was admitted in the same hospital. Her dad Isaac Onyango followed suit. They were all in the hospital. 

Mother and daughter were discharged but the dad was still under observation.

“I remember it was on a Sunday. In fact, she asked me to make her tea while going to the washroom. Unfortunately, she collapsed in the latrine. She died on the way to the hospital,” Ms Aduor recalled.

Just three days after her mother’s death, her father’s condition worsened and he died in his hospital bed.

“At St Consolata Hospital the doctors said my parents had malaria but their sudden death was questionable. I really wish I knew what killed my parents,” she said.

She has since taken the Covid-19 test and it was negative.

Life has turned upside down for the student, who is studying for a degree in special and inclusive education.

“Losing two parents in a span of one week is very traumatic. The way people talk outside here really hurts. They just don’t know what I go through,” she said.

Ms Aduor has become a parent and caregiver for her adopted sister.

On June 3, Mary Obondo left her home in Nyamage village, Uriri sub-county, for a routine medical checkup in Nairobi, where her children were living.

Owing to her advanced age, Mrs Obondo would constantly suffer from old-age complications. 

Her son, Oscar Olima, a university teacher in the United States, arranged for frequent medical checkups in Nairobi.

His mother, he said, was okay and had no signs of being unwell or in any kind of distress.

It was while she was in Nairobi that the woman developed a severe headache and pain.

“She called that evening and told me she wasn’t feeling okay, so the people who were taking care of her took her back to hospital, where she undertook malaria tests which turned out positive,” Mr Olima told the Nation in an interview.

She was treated and later discharged.

But her condition worsened the following day, pushing her into intensive medical care.

“She called and told me that she wasn’t feeling well. Unfortunately, I had also undergone a surgical operation in Texas, US, and was on anaesthesia so I did not respond immediately,” Mr Olima recalled.

On June 4, Mrs Obondo’s condition deteriorated further, prompting her caregivers to rush her to Nairobi Metropolitan Hospital, the nearest facility.

Unfortunately, the hospital was packed to capacity and she could not be admitted. She was transferred to Mama Lucy Hospital, which was also full and did not have a bed for her.

“They then took her to Kenyatta National Hospital, where she passed on while receiving treatment at the emergency room. She died within three days,” Mr Olima said.

Back in Nyamage village, Mzee Elias Omondi Obondo, the family’s patriarch, was equally struggling with partial paralysis after receiving the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier in May.

The 76-year-old, his eldest son said, had also been ailing and was in and out of hospitals. He succumbed to the infection shortly after his wife’s death.

“At first, he complained that his foot had become numb and when he received news of the death of my mother, his condition got worse,” Mr Olima said.

Mzee Obondo was rushed to Kisumu for specialised treatment after doctors in Migori recommended he undergo an intensive medical checkup.

“I left the US for home and by the time I arrived in Kisumu, he was not only unwell but still paralysed.

A week later, Mzee Obondo succumbed to the ailment while undergoing treatment in Kisumu.

“It was a double tragedy for the family as we were still reeling from the shock of my mother’s death. We became jittery and sought a Covid-19 test,” Mr Olima recalled.

Samples collected during his postmortem exam tested positive for Covid-19. It was then that reality dawned on the family that the elderly couple might have been exposed to the deadly virus.

The clinical report, Mr Olima said, suggested a nervous failure caused by a blood clot, which doctors linked to the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccination.

“Initially, the rapid antigen and the PCR tests were negative but the postmortem reports indicated that he was Covid-19-positive in spite of the fact that he received the Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.

“He struggled to get the second dose of the jab, which was hard to come by owing to the scarcity experienced in the country.”

Following their parents’ deaths within a week of each other, the family has been questioning the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the virus while urging the government to make the second dose available.

“As a family we feel that probably the timelines of the repeat dose could have been better managed to enhance its efficacy in terms of availability and access,” Mr Olima said. 

“With the pathetic state of roads in most villages, it is difficult to access medication.”

Reported by Benson Amadala, Derick Luvega, Ian Byron and Elizabeth Ojina