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TALES OF COURAGE: Guard at night, nurse in the morning

Wednesday February 27 2019

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI 

FRANCIS MUREITHI
By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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As you enter the ultra-modern Margaret Kenyatta Mother baby wing at Nakuru Level 5 hospital, the 250 bed capacity is a beehive of activities.

The pregnant women and those who have given birth at the facility, considered one of the modern facility in Kenya outside Nairobi, are enjoying a truly individual experience that is perhaps making childbirth less painful if not bearable.

One of the nurses attending to expectant mothers and their new born babies and helping them launch a smooth start in their motherhood journey is Geoffrey Wafula.

Wafula, 30, is slowly becoming a type of birth companion who is readily available to encourage and give moral support to women through superb pregnancy care, labour, and during the first stages of motherhood.

Interestingly, pregnant women who have interacted with Wafula’s tender and loving care, leave the hospital with memorable memories but would probably never know that the nurse who was taking care of them is struggling in life to complete his studies.

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI

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“It’s as if he is the safe pair of hands to help expectant mothers to deliver safely. I was happy with the way he handled my first birth at the hospital.

My labour pains lasted for many hours but after birth, but Wafula made sure the delivery was safe,” said Mary, a 24-year-old mother in her second pregnancy at the facility.

“He gave me some advice on support and guidance including tips on suitable and required exercises following birth which I am sure I will make use of them once I leave the hospital,” said another joyful mother who identified herself as Chebet.

GRADUATION IN JUNE 2019

Wafula who is studying nursing hopes to qualify as a Kenya Registered Community Health nurse and is set to graduate in June 2019.

He is currently attached at the New Born Unit attending to tiny babies and their mothers and is one of the trainees that has left a mark in the hospital by his exemplary service to expectant mothers.

“I have so far conducted 30 successful deliveries and my joy is to see the mothers I have managed walk home smiling with their babies. It gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction. I love serving humanity,” he said.

But unaware to many mothers, doctors, fellow nurses and other subordinate staff at this Sh550million hospital, Wafula is not your ordinary nurse trainee who operates from classroom to the hospital.

But what makes Wafula whose journey has greatly been inspired by nurse founder Florence Nightingale special at this hospital?

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI

Geoffrey Wafula works as a night guard at Tower One Building in Nakuru at night and a Kenya Community Health Nurse trainee at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) during the day. PHOTO |FRANCIS MUREITHI

Wafula is studying nursing and is receiving his training at the Kenya medical Training College (KMTC) during the day and at night, he is a watchman.

“I spend eight hours juggling between class and the hospital for my practical lessons and from 6pm I am a watchman at Tower One building in Nakuru town to raise extra coin to pay my school fees at KMTC,” he said.

NO IDEA

And as clients among them doctors and nurses owning private clinic at the Tower One building pass him at the entrance, they have no slightest idea that the man who inspects their luggage and check them thoroughly before allowing them to go through a metal detector is a nurse.

Not even the good doctors notice that on his reporting desk the hard cover text books are nursing books.

Some of the clients even scorn at him for the slow pace he takes before clearing them, perhaps because of fatigue as he rarely get a good sleep and rest.

“Sometime when I look at their behaviour, I wonder just in case of emergency, some of these clients who scorn at me they would be surprised that I would be the first person to respond even before Red Cross and other medics arrive. Sometimes it’s good to respect people you meet because you don’t know the next meeting point,” he said.

He added: “Unfortunately many Kenyans see watchmen as failures in life and school dropouts.”

Wafula is giving nursing his all as he has a passion to care for the sick and alleviating patients suffering particularly pregnant mothers and new born.

“Just knowing you contributed to the safe delivery of a mother who was wheeled into the hospital in great pain and seeing her smiling face after hours of labour pain is deeply satisfying,” says Wafula, adding another gratifying moment is to get the feedback during post-natal clinics that the baby is growing well.

WANTS TO PURSUE A DEGREE

He says his dream is to pursue nursing to the degree level.

“My next stop is School of Nursing at the University of Nairobi,” he says as he cuddles a baby on the laps of her mother.

But even as he looks forward to complete his course, it has not been a walk in the park and this forced him to seek for a watchman job to pay for his school fees.

In fact, he may as well not be able to successful complete the three and half years course as he has a school fees arrears of Sh100,000.

In 2009, he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCPE) and scored a C+ and since he wanted to join the university or study nursing, his poor grades in mathematics and science-related subject let him down.

In 2011 he went back to school and joined Mugunga Secondary school in Lugari, Kakamega County but got C+ of 51 points but this time got a D+ in mathematics.

But he did not lose hope and repeated Form Four for the third time in 2014.

DID NOT LOSE HOPE

“I got a C+ but this time around I had passed mathematics and all related science subjects and I applied for a nursing course and I was called to join KMTC Nakuru in 2016,” he said.

But the journey has not been easy as raising school fees was an uphill task.

“I come from a polygynous family and my father was not keen on education. I applied for a watchman position at Robinson Security guard to pay for my fees but I am overwhelmed,” he said.

He added: “It is not easy to balance between class and watchman duties. It’s very tiresome.”

He said he is forced to carry the books to his place of work to read and complete assignments in the dim light along the corridor.

“I am supposed to be at the wards at 7am in the morning yet I change shift from being a watchman at 6am in the morning. The ward rounds and sometimes class work ends at 4.30pm giving little time to relax and before changing duties to a watchman.”

“The three years I have been a watchman at night and a nurse during the day I have never enjoyed the privileged of a sound sleep,” he said.

But despite all these challenges, Wafula has passed all his examinations and practical tests and is optimistic of a bright future.

“Some of my classmates dropped on the way and from an initial class of 53, only 39 are remaining. Nursing is not a child’s play," he explained.

“I owe the school about Sh100,000 and unless I raise this amount of money my dreams of qualifying as a nurse may as well go up in smoke,” he said in a low tone.

“I have three months to clear the arrears or else I will be locked out of the exam. What I earn as a watchman caters for food and pay rent and other overhead costs, printing and photocopy,” he said.

Nakuru Level Five Medical Superintendent Joseph Mburu was shocked to learn that Wafula is juggling both watchman and studying nursing.

“Medicine courses are tough and for him to study nursing and still do watchman duties is commendable and sacrifice,” said Dr Mburu.

A lecturer at KMTC, Mrs Ruth Muthura, described Wafula as a resilient and hardworking student who has great potential to become a good nurse.

“He is an organised student who despite his challenges has managed to do his work and pass his exam extremely well,” said Mrs Muthura.

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