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Kenyan mother, daughter stranded in Coronavirus-battered India

A Kenyan woman and her daughter are stuck slap-bang in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis in India, where they had gone for specialised surgery.

A combination of unexpected circumstances have condemned the duo to a hospital ward, where the bill has reached Sh850,000, and counting.

Ms Marydiah Mwilu flew her 11-year-old child to Mumbai on March 20 for surgery at the Madurai Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology after recommendations from an expert at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

The surgery was successful and the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) approved Sh500,000, which catered for the treatment. They were to return home on April 15, but things went south in India very fast, leading to a lockdown in Mumbai.

The pandemic is sweeping through the country at a pace that has staggered scientists. Daily case numbers have exploded since early March.

India set a new global record for a rise in daily cases yesterday, while deaths also jumped by an all-time high.

Successful surgery

“We are glad the surgery was successful. I had already booked return tickets for April 16 because we were to be here until April 15. The surge in Covid-19 cases disrupted our plans. With the lockdown here, and the ever rising cases in Mumbai, nothing is moving,” said Ms Mwilu, 45.

With the bill running at Sh10,000 per day, the hospital has allegedly stopped feeding them.

“The most frustrating thing is that the hospital is charging us per day. We don’t know what will happen if this goes on much longer. They have made it clear that they want their money. We have been instructed not to leave our cubical in the ward because of the bill and Covid-19 cases,” said Ms Mwilu, who hails from Kitui County.

Her daughter’s condition started in 2017, when Ms Mwilu noticed she was very weak.

“My daughter has been having heart complications since 2017. When she fell ill, I suspected malaria and bought her medication, but there was no improvement. In 2018, we took her to Kijabe Mission Hospital for an examination,” said Ms Mwilu.

After a series of tests, doctors discovered that she had a lot of fluid around her heart. They prescribed some drugs then referred her to another specialist in Nairobi.

Appeal to government

Further tests revealed the child had a hole in her heart. She remained on medication under the observation of experts until last year when her health deteriorated.

“We went to KNH, a doctor was so kind to us. She recommended a mitral valve replacement surgery and even made arrangements for us to fly to India,” said Ms Mwilu.

“We raised Sh600,000 in a harambee which we used for processing documents, Covid-19 tests and air tickets to come to India,” she added.

According to Michigan Medicine, a patient is placed on a heart-lung machine after which blood is circulated outside of the body and oxygen is added to it so as to protect the heart muscle from damage during surgery. The damaged mitral valve is then removed and replaced with an artificial one.

Ms Mwilu’s eldest daughter, Lilian Kavutha, is struggling between manual jobs to send cash to her mother.

“I hustle to keep them going with the little I make. My dad lost his job when Covid-19 struck the country last year. He is the one taking care of my other siblings back home,” Ms Kavutha, 20, told the Nation.

She pleaded with the government to help fly home her mother and sister.