The medical fraternity has been on the news for all the wrong reasons since the news of the sadistic escapades of Mugo wa Wairimu, a quack masquerading as a gynecologist, hit the media. After a chilling video clip in which the predator is seen raping a sedated woman in his clinic was aired on Citizen TV, many other scary stories of Kenyans who have suffered in the hands of medical quacks, even qualified medics, have been surfacing fast and furious.
A case that caught my attention and wrath is one that I read on social media whereby a woman had a miscarriage and the husband took her to a respectable clinic run by a “qualified” gynecologist. The doctor advised them that she needed a procedure, medically known as evacuation, whereby the dead foetus is flushed out in order to avoid an infection of the uterus. He then went ahead to perform the evacuation, which is considered a minor surgery, and the woman was discharged from hospital the same day. Little did they know that the foetus never came out! Instead, it was slowly rotting in the woman’s womb, a fact that put her life in grave danger! They discovered this when the vaginal bleeding never stopped and they had to seek a second opinion.
The worst part of the story is, when the husband confronted the rogue doctor, he quickly discovered that among the many wrongs you can commit before a doctor is to try and lecture him about your rights. The doctor told him in no uncertain terms that he was lucky the wife wasn’t dead. “We perform surgeries on people who end up dead on the operating table every other day. That is why we have mortuaries!” the doctor arrogantly told the stunned man.Up to date, the couple is yet to get any redress, in spite of reporting the case to all relevant authorities.
The story reminded me of an incident in 2013, when I came face to face with the raw arrogance of an overrated doctor. Though mine was not as bad as the ordeal of the couple whose story I just told above, it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. My legs were getting weak and somebody advised me to see a neurosurgeon since it could be a nerve problem. That is how I ended up in the office of one of the country’s top neurosurgeons at the Doctors’ Plaza of KNH. However, I didn’t know that he was one of the top dogs in his field by then, till I saw him in the media several months later, having successfully removed a terrorist bullet lodged in the head of a baby. When I gave him my story, he advised me to get a full back MRI and other abdominal scans from a specific medical imaging center (Why do they always have to send you to specific places?).
It took me another week to raise the money needed for the scans. I went ahead and got the MRI scans that he had asked for, which not only left me Ksh.48,000 poorer but also very dizzy and exhausted. If you have no idea how an MRI scan is done, they tell you to strip naked and slip into an hospital gown, then you lie on some stretcher facing upwards and they shove you into something that looks like a gigantic laundry machine. Just like the machine, the MRI machine also makes dizzying noises. It is so scary. They leave you in there for about 30 minutes and when you finally think that you are dead, they pull you out. After getting the scans, I had to wait till Monday since it was on a Friday and the neurosurgeon was only available in KNH doctors plaza for half a day, on Mondays and Fridays.
Neurosurgeons must be some of the busiest human beings. For a man who operated in four big hospitals, you just had to understand. If he was not opening up a patient’s head in Aga Khan Hospital, then he was carefully picking at the open spinal cord of a sedated patient, on an operating table, in Nairobi hospital’s main theater. But if you couldn’t find him in Nairobi Hospital, then maybe he was busy patching up someone’s head in MP Shah hospital, after splitting it open.
On Monday I showed up at the waiting room of his office, in the doctors’ plaza at KNH. As usual, I paid my Ksh.3, 000 consultation fees and joined the queue of people who were waiting to see the doctor. It was only 8.30 a.m. but I could count at least 9 people who had to see him before me. My wandering mind couldn’t help but wonder after a quick math confirmed that, if all the people in the room had already paid 3k to the secretary, then the doctor had already made a cool 30k by mid-morning when he finally saw me, and he could still see more patients! Now, that is a whole month’s salary for a high school science teacher! How unfair can life get?
At about 10.00 a.m., I stepped into his office, an envelope the size of a small table in my hands and a broad sheepish smile on my face (I guess there are no bigger envelopes in the market than those used to carry MRI scans). I handed him the MRI scans in the envelope after saying hi, and took an empty seat in front of his desk. He held them up against a bright light and peered at each of them for a few seconds then said, “We have found out what has been troubling you. You have a tumor at the tail-end of your spinal cord.”
He then explained my condition in a very casual way that left me with more questions than answers. I would have loved to know the details of exactly what the effects of having that tumor at the end of my spinal-cord were and what options I had; what dangers I could face if it were to be removed surgically; whether the tumor was malignant or benign and stuff. I needed details, right? Every small detail that could shed light on my predicament was important to me since the bad news had hit me like a thunderbolt. But it seemed the good doctor had no time for “unnecessary questions from desperate patients!
He was reluctant to answer my questions and his demeanor seemed to shout, “You see, these things are too complicated for an ordinary folk like you to understand!” He seemed impatient and in hurry to dismiss me so that he could see the next patient. Remember an important man like him must be damn busy to waste so much time on one nondescript patient! All he told me was that I needed not to worry because he could remove the tumor either in Aga Khan or MP Shah Hospital where he was a consulting doctor. I only needed to be ready with about 650, 000 down payment, for the surgery to commence then we could discuss other expenses later. He then folded his arms indicating that he was done with me.I badly wanted to bang his table so loudly and tell him, “Man, look here! I am sick not stupid. What I have is a silly tumor sitting at the tail-end of my spinal-cord, not air and fluff between my ears and I am perfectly capable of fully understanding a detailed account of my situation!“ but I realized that the shock of learning the bad news had sapped all energy out of me and I was in no shape for arguments. So I resignedly walked out more confused than when I came in.
you see, when you receive news that you have a tumor anywhere in the neighborhood of your Central Nervous system, the news hit you like a tsunami. You first go into denial and hope that you will somehow wake up and find out that it was just a bad dream. When this doesn’t work, you start talking to the tumor, trying to cut a deal. Whenever you have a silent moment with the tumor, you might find yourself asking it, “Mr. tumor, of all the places in my body, you just decided to sit at the tail-end of my spinal cord. Why? How am I going to walk in order to continue feeding you?” When the tumor doesn’t respond, you might start sobbing unconsciously, until you remember that you are a man.Were we not told that men are not supposed to shed tears, we were growing up? Tears belong to babies and women. At such moments, all you need is a doctor who will reassure you that all will be well.
I could later come face to face with the pinnacle of the doctor’s arrogance when I went back to to ask for a doctor’s note that could help me raise money to enable me have the surgery done abroad; I obviously couldn’t raise the one million needed within such a short notice and one of the ways my family planned to raise money was through Safaricom’s pay-bill number, whereby well wishers could send their donations to a specific medical fund account, from their phones’ Mpesa accounts. I was actually visiting his office for the umpteenth time and each time I saw him, I had to pay Ksh.3, 000 consultation fees. I guess he did not like the idea that I was planning to seek medication abroad. He might have wanted to personally perform the spinal surgery.
When he learnt what I wanted, he did not mince his words. He categorically told me that he did not do such letters. He also made it clear that he only dealt with people who either had enough money or had a viable medical cover. He did not forget to remind me that he was not ready to let people use his important name to raise money! Finally, he told me that I could get that letter from the general section of the hospital. But there was a slight problem; he was the only doctor who I had been seeing for a while and he fully understood my case. All I needed was a confirmation that I needed surgery, not a prominent doctor’s name! Going to the general section of the hospital meant starting a whole new process with all those long queues! I refused to move an inch out of his office. I decided that after all I did not part with my 3k at his secretary’s desk to get such arrogant treatment.
I tried to explain to him like you could to a standard one kid. “Look here daktari, what I need is not a whole file (he of course had my file because he had handled my case for a while), all I need is just a confirmation that I have this condition, and none knows my condition better than you do. Period.” He only seemed to get more impatient. I just sat there staring at him and saying nothing. Funny as it seems, with all the anger that was almost blinding my eyes, I realized for the first time that the man seated before me had a striking resemblance with with Miguna Miguna! I silently wondered whether he was his twin brother, but then, the doctor’s name suggested that he came from a different a different ethnic extraction.
When he realized that I was not about to bulge, he pulled out a notepad and said with finality, “I can only do you a note showing our diagnosis of your condition!” I felt like screaming right close to his ears. Just one good scream that could pop his eardrums out and awaken the dead: “But that is just what I needed Mr. Miguna Miguna.” However, I was so pissed off to even scream. I had this strong urge of holding him by the balls and dragging him out of his office, all the way to the gates of KNH but I managed to resist it. He was about the same size as Miguna Miguna and I knew I couldn’t be any match to him.
Fast forward, I finally managed to fly to the state of Karnataka, Southern India, where my surgery was performed successfully. The doctors were very kind, humble and committed; a complete contrast from my experience back home. The main neurosurgeon in the team that operated on me personally bandaged me and wrote a report on my progress on a daily basis. Barely two weeks after the surgery, the wound from the incision had completely disappeared. I sometimes wondered whether my doctor back home could have accorded me such a tender care! I kept wondering why some African doctors become so arrogant and aloof! And by the way, anybody knows why most of these male doctors talk in a deep, vibrating bass voice? I have always suspected that they all swallow woofers as part of their training in medical school, and if the thing happens to sit well in the chest, then one can produce that Jeff Koinange-like deep bass. But my KNH doctor’s voice was also the same as that of Miguna Miguna (Not deep)
I am sure we have many good doctors in Kenya who treat their patients kindly, with dignity. However, the recent spate of quack doctors taking advantage of their patients and some rogue doctors behaving badly has really tainted the image of the noble profession. One thing I am very sure about is that behind those deep voices and assured demeanor, hides some deep secrets that the doctors take right into their graves.
There is no doubt that sometimes things go awfully wrong in the theaters, due to human negligence, and nobody beyond those theater walls gets to hear any of them. Some medical experiments on patients, especially trial medicines or procedures, end up so disastrously but nobody outside the profession gets wind of it. How many innocent souls might have suffered such a fate? Might this be the reason why some doctors feel like they are in partnership with God in the act of giving or taking of human life?