The grief, double pain of losing one’s mother to Covid-19

I cannot wait for my quarantine days to be over so that I can mourn my mother. I will start wailing at the door.”

These were the painful words of Brenda Akinyi, 42, whose mother Ursula Buluma, a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee, passed on at the Mombasa Hospital on April 2 and was buried the same day at Mbaraki cemetery.

Ms Buluma was the Coast region’s first Covid-19 fatality.

From her isolation bed at the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Ms Akinyi, who is eldest daughter of the Buluma family, said her mother’s death was as a result of “carelessness and negligence” by the hospital’s management.

“I’m yet to grieve. I didn’t see her body, nor attend her burial,” she said, adding: “My mother has been having health complications which she has lived with for years so when she called me on Wednesday March 25, to go to her house in Jomvu to take her to hospital, I did not find it strange because it was not the first time I was doing it.”

They went to Bandari Clinic, which is usually the first stop for KPA employees, where her mother was diagnosed with pneumonia and referred to Mombasa Hospital.

The KPA ambulance took them to hospital, “where my mother was first taken to the emergency section and put on oxygen,” Ms Akinyi says.

“However, she was removed from the intensive care unit and taken for what the hospital staff told me was screening the same day,” she said from her Rahimtulla isolation ward at CPGH.

She was later told that her mother would have to be taken to an isolation ward as they suspected that she had Covid-19.

She visited her mother on Friday and Saturday at the isolation ward, staying next to her on both days and chatting as usual. But when she returned on Sunday March 29, she was asked to stay away because her mother had tested positive.

Isolation centre “I was devastated. I also demanded to know why my mother was not put on pneumonia treatment at Mombasa Hospital as was directed by doctors from Bandari Clinic but nobody gave me an answer.”

According Ms Akinyi, doctors visited her home on Monday March 30, did some tests and left. They returned on Tuesday March 31, to pick her up.

She was first taken to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) isolation centre in Mombasa before being moved to the Coast General Hospital on Tuesday April 1.

“I’ve been in quarantine for 10 days today and have not exhibited any symptoms. I’ve been in touch with my children back home, and none of them has exhibited any signs [of Covid-19], which leaves me very confused as to why exactly I’m here,” Ms Akinyi said.

“I’ve not been given any results from the tests they did before they took me to KMTC and thereafter in this isolation ward.

Forced quarantine

It’s very frustrating because I’m not aware of my condition. Am I on forced quarantine or under treatment?” she wondered.

Ms Akinyi’s children are under quarantine at the KMTC, Mombasa campus but given the poor condition of the facilities, the family transferred them to the Mombasa Beach Hotel, one of the quarantine centres at the coast.

According to her, life in isolation is tough because she is cut off physically from the rest of the world, depending on her mobile phone and internet connectivity to keep abreast of what is going on in the country and beyond.

“I’m in a self-contained room staring at the walls the whole day, without anyone to talk to or even a chance to bask in the sun,” she said.

Ms Akinyi said she wakes up every morning as early as 4am to browse the internet and check on friends on social media until 7am when her breakfast is served by hospital staff.

At 10am, she’s served with tea, at noon lunch, and four hours later, an evening cup of tea is wheeled into her room, before her dinner closes the daily meal routine at 7pm.

“They’ve made sure we have our meals on time. That is all we get here, mostly because one is rarely visited by a medical doctor,” Ms Akinyi said, adding that the medics talk to her on phone mainly to ask if she is exhibiting any symptoms.

“On the first day, I was given drugs to take for four days. I did not know what they were for but took them anyway. I have completed the dosage,” she says.

Fresh samples Ms Akinyi said fresh samples were taken from her on Tuesday April 7, but she is yet to get feedback, adding to the frustrations regarding the status of her test results.

“It is the nurses who keep briefing me on what is happening around because I’ve never seen any reason to step outside my isolation ward,” she said.

She revealed that she was very upset when she was informed of the death of Mr Mark Mbua, a former chairman of the Mombasa Golf Club, whom she learnt had been in the room next to hers in the ward.

The Late Mark Mbua

“I keep counting the number of days left because I cannot wait leave this place and return to my normal life. I want to mourn my mother, but only after I finish fighting this battle,” she said.

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