Attend a health-based meeting these days in Kenya and definitely, there will be discussions on palliative care. Palliative care awareness in Kenya is escalating evidenced by the many medical staff going for various trainings on palliative care and more patients embracing the same in various treatment facilities.
Palliative care is the medical care that improves quality of life for both the patient and the family by providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a life-threatening illness. In Kenya, this care had been unpopular since it has been associated with the end of life. Another reason for its unpopularity is it lacking in most medical training curriculums.
11th to 13th April 2018 was a three days palliative care advocacy training by Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) with the support of Africa Palliative Care Association (APCA). The 8 participants involved were 3 representatives from Iten, 3 from Vihiga and 2 from Isiolo County Hospitals. It was an intense training that tackled various topics which were; Meaning of palliative care, the meaning of advocacy, it’s opportunities and barriers, Laws and policies of palliative care, National and County budget-making processes, developing advocacy messages and use of media in palliative care advocacy.
Monica Buluma an Esophagus cancer survivor amplified patients’ voices by narrating her struggle with the disease. Being in her early twenties it took time for doctors to get the right diagnosis. Mostly they dismissed it as acid reflux and when they finally discovered that she had cancer of the esophagus, breaking the bad news to her was in such an insensitive manner that ended up weakening her in every way. When it came to medical bills, Monica owes her everyday gratitude to friends because she could not manage any work and worse still her husband lost his job in the process of helping her get medical attention.
However, as Monica shares her story she is full of cheer and gratitude. Being a wife and a mother of one, Monica says, “As an Esophagus cancer survivor, I am living my second life and there can be no other privilege better than this”. Monica owes her appreciations to palliative care providers who right from the beginning facilitated connections to reliable health facilities and who continued to offer support in her treatment till the present. Inspired by her diverse struggles and the support she has gotten through various well-wishers, Monica devotes her life to advocate for quality treatment and care for patients with life-threatening illnesses.
The three days training was quite fruitful whereby the participants through intense consultations with each other and the facilitators were able to develop implementation plans which were to take effect as soon as they returned to their respective health facilities. “In the next training, we look forward to sharing success stories of vibrant palliative care services in our respective County Hospitals”, said Paul Asige from Vihiga. A patient’s journey is everybody’s journey and with this, in mind, all seemed re-energized to advocate for quality palliative care services in their counties with the support of KEHPCA.