On 14 December 2011, KEHPCA was fortunate to be a guest at Nyeri Hospice’s 2011 open day. Established since 1995, Nyeri Hospice provides essential care and support to patients with life limiting illness in the Mount Kenya region of central Kenya. Through the open day, hospice CEO Saraphina Gichohi and the hospice team were keen to introduce the hospices services to a wide section of the local community, and bring together hospice volunteers and patients for a supportive and enjoyable day.
After driving up from Nairobi, we arrived in Nyeri just as activities were beginning. Two of the hospices volunteers welcomed us, and took us through to a treatment room which had been transformed into an exhibition explaining the process of hospice care – right from the moment a patient first walks through the hospice door.
Nurse Esther set the scene, talking us through a chart showing how Nyeri Hospice’s patient numbers had grown from 50 patients in 1995, to over 250 in 2011. She described the different local areas that the hospice covers, and the remoteness of some of the rural communities, highlighting that Nyeri Hospice has been instrumental in overseeing the recent establishment of three rural hospices in Murang’a, Laikipia and Nyahururu. After we’d had the opportunity to ask questions, we were taken to the next part of the display.
Nurse Esther then explained the process of registering as a patient at the hospice. The various forms were available for us to read and on display was some of the equipment which a new patient might typically require. This included walking aids, wheelchairs, and commodes, and we were informed that all the equipment was available for hire by new patients.
Hospice Nurse Lydia explained a display of treatment items which many patients require, including pressure hosiery to ease swollen limbs, TENS machines for relief of aches and pains, and a syringe driver for administering pain relieving medication. We were encouraged to handle all the items and ask questions. Many visitors hadn’t seen a TENS machine before so there was lots of interest in how it worked.
A table of colostomy bags was on display; the team highlighted that with support from the Aga Khan Hospital in 2011, the hospice is now able to provide low cost and high quality bags for patients, as opposed to very basic bags that had been available before. This has made a big difference to many of the patients’ quality of life, and CEO Saraphina explained that a new colostomy bag support group has been set up for patients to meet each Wednesday.
We were walked through a table of comfort items, and finally a range of medications which were on display. Nurse Eunice taught visitors about the range of analgesics the hospice is able to provide, and at what stage of illness each is appropriate. Morphine was displayed as a key medication to treat patients with severe pain, and the importance of Nyeri Hospice being able to provide morphine in the region was very clear.
After a short break, hospice social worker Johnson discussed with visitors the typical case issues he deals with at the hospice, including orphans, family inheritance disputes, housing problems, and the key agencies that he liaises with, including local government departments and other NGOs.
We were then taken on a tour of the hospice building and to view the Nyeri Hospice film made with the support of Safaricom.
After a fantastic and comprehensive tour, we had the opportunity to meet some of the hospice volunteers, including Samuel Ngunyi, who travels 2 ½ hours every month to support day care sessions. Samuel told us ‘I volunteer so I can help the needy who are unable to sustain themselves, so they can live a happy life and live a little longer, and to give them hope of living without much pain. God might bless me when I help his creation. I also volunteer to help create awareness of diseases like HIV. I also train others to want to help others.’ We also met Jim, who at the age of 91 is an inspiration, as he has been volunteering at Nyeri Hospice for many years, fixing the wheelchairs loaned to patients every fortnight.
All visitors were provided with lunch and an opportunity to meet some of the current patients. We met Joshua Thirteen a patient of the hospice for over 10 years; Joshua was a strong advocate for hospice care, and explained ‘When I’ve been coming here, my pain, it went away. No need to worry. Everything was good. Not thinking I am ill. I am alright!’.
Peter Njuki, whose mother had been a patient at hospice before she sadly passed away also told us “Before we had not known that there is care of patients at a Hospice, so we were taking care of our mother with cancer at home ourselves. We had to visit Nyeri Provincial Hospital at one time, and they told us that we could be visiting the Hospice. We particularly needed to buy colostomy bags, and learned these are subsidized at Nyeri Hospice. It really helped, as the prices at the chemist in town were high. The hospice also made visits for our mother to counsel her, which made a very big difference.”
The Open Day was a great success for Nyeri Hospice, with over 80 attendees, and the team hope that it might inspire other Kenyan hospices to hold similar events in their local communities. The day proved that for terminally ill patients in the Nyeri region, Nyeri Hospice most definitely personifies its motto: ‘comfort is there, and is there always’.