Millions of health care workers across the globe selflessly dedicate their time and energies towards ensuring that we access our basic right to health. Many a times, we forget that they often put their own health at risk while treating patients and are also very susceptible to illnesses especially those that are highly infectious.
In 2010, Nurse Naomi Wanjiru joined Engineer District Hospital’s Tuberculosis (TB) Clinic within the facility’s comprehensive care centre (CCC). A typical day at work involved attending to an average of 20-22 TB patients in a space shared with the CCC pharmacy.
Six months into employment, Naomi developed back pain that persisted despite her taking pain relief medication. She consulted a doctor and had x-rays and an MRI scan done that revealed that she had TB of the spine. At this point, Naomi could barely support herself and was eventually confined to complete bed rest.
Spinal TB is one of the most dangerous forms of skeletal TB. Early diagnosis and management of spinal TB has special importance in preventing serious complications like paralysis.
Naomi was put on anti-TB medication for eight months and underwent physiotherapy. Gradually, her condition improved and after a year away from work, she reported back to active duty but had to wear a corset and use crutches to support her back and aid her movement.
Though still in pain, Naomi was dedicated as ever to serve her patients and worked four days a week getting one day off as she continued to recover.
Early 2013, after three years of crutches, discomfort and pain, she consulted a doctor visiting from India and he recommended another MRI scan that revealed that the TB had affected her four vertebral columns. He further informed her that she required surgery to remove the affected columns replacing them with metal plates to support her back.
Naomi’s family and close friends organised a fundraiser to meet the cost of the surgery, Kshs 1.2 million (approximately US$ 13,800) required for a trip to India.
A Sigh of Relief
In May 2013, Naomi underwent successful surgery and returned to her work station, selfless and committed as ever to offer her services to the local community.
A month into her return, Naomi came to learn that with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), CHS was going to repair the CCC enhancing the ventilation and creating spatial separation for all functions at the CCC. This support would ensure that Naomi and her co-workers were adequately protected from infection as they attend to patients.
The newly repaired CCC was completed and officially handed over to the hospital’s management on Wednesday, November 20 2013. Naomi and her colleagues at the CCC are already making use of this new space to offer better services in a proper setting in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for effective infection prevention control.
The facility has also enhanced other measures to curb infection including effective triaging, early treatment and investigation for those suspected to be unwell among others.
Although she occasionally has to wear a corset, Naomi is quite pleased with her journey to recovery and the support she has received and continues to receive from her co-workers and the hospital management team.
She further acknowledges CHS’s support saying, “CHS has done great things for us, from supporting us with the treatment of patients to educating us on community engagement and involvement including support for home visits for patients who cannot make it to the facility to access treatment.”