Ordinarily, an injection would inspire fear in a child, but not so for 54-year-old Gladys Josephine Nyaiyonga who watched nurses injecting patients ( during immunisations and when visiting clinics) as a child and got inspired to join the nursing profession.
She longed to be able to make people feel better just like the nurses did.
Little did she know that her fascination with injections world would lead her to a three-decade-long career in nursing.
But getting and staying there was not easy.
During her first clinical rotation in her first year, she was placed in a male surgical ward where she was the only student nurse. Sluicing was left for her alone.
Every morning after receiving report from the night staff, she would get into the sluice room where she sluiced linen. She did this for one month.
This routine required her to deliver the linens to the laundry by 10 am and collect new ones for the day’s use.
“This made almost despair because I spent most of my time doing that rather than learning,” she says.
“When I chose to be a nurse, I imagined that I would only be a midwife and someone injecting patients but the reality dawned on me that there is more to being a nurse. I was an advocate to the patient, a teacher, counsellor, cleaner, accountant, midwife and a health service provider.” The roles nearly overwhelmed her.
She remembers with nostalgia some of her best moments in the nursing profession.
“In 1992,I saved a mother that was admitted with a retained placenta. I performed a manual removal, something that was rare then.
“There was a case in December 2013 when a mother in labour was admitted to hospital and because it was New Year’s Eve, everyone had gone out for celebrations but I happened to remain behind.
The mother has an impending rapture of the uterus at 2am and no ambulance was available. Luckily, I had contacts of a clinical officer based at the neighbouring Kericho County.
When I called, he immediately sent an ambulance and the mother’s uterus raptured at the Kericho hospital maternity room. We did an emergency C-section and the mother’s life was saved plus the baby’s.”
Gladys smiles warmly as she reminisces, adding that such experiences gave her hope.
In 2008, during Kenya's post-election violence, she was living Tamu, Muhoroni Constituency where she had worked for 12 years.
“The post-election violence wasn’t a bother because the community provided me with security though I was a foreigner. I had lived with them for many years up to a point they viewed me as one of them,” she says.
That same year, Gladys joined Kisumu Medical Training College to pursue a course as a Kenya Registered Community Health Nurse.
Initially, she had trained in enrolled community health nursing. After her education, she was posted to Chemelil Health Centre again.
Here something would happen that would take her back to Tamu.
“When I went to Chemelil, there was no drugs and maternity services at the facility. We would prescribe drugs to patients and send them to buy outside the facility, this discouraged them especially as it meant digging deeper into their pockets,” Gladys says.
They sought a solution.
“We sat down as a committee and wrote a letter to the ministry requesting for drugs. Drugs came. We had drugs in plenty even nowhere to store them. By now, the facility was offering maternity services.”
The ministry decided to post her back to her old work station, Tamu after a short stint at Chemelil Health Centre.
“I was told to go back to Tamu because the facility was deteriorating,” she remembers with nostalgia. She went back to her "home".
Of 31 years of her career, she has spent 12 years at one work station, Tamu Health Centre. Here she found a second home.
“I just felt as if I was at home. When I came here, communication was a problem. Majority of the patients expressed themselves in Dholuo. This forced me to get a colleague who is conversant with the language to interpret it to Kiswahili.”
Undeterred, she decided to learn the language by picking simple words, such as "Nang’o" which loosely translates to ‘how are you?’ and other. With time, she could speak fluently in Dholuo, something that impressed her patients.
With time, she wowed the community with her selfless service to them. She was everyone’s best nurse at the facility, people referred to her as ‘Nyakisii’, owing to her community, Kisii.
She doesn’t regret working there for a long time.
“My children missed this place when I shortly relocated to Kisii after the 2007 poll skirmishes because this place had become a home to them. My two youngest children grew up here,” she proudly says.
She has spent a huge chunk of her life in a foreign land, Kisumu. She reveals her family bought land here even though she is from Kisii.
Many times, she would go the extra mile to show her other side; a mother. At one time, a mother brought her son to the heath facility and realising the child needed health emergency, she had to part with her money to enable the child access health care service at a more equipped hospital.
For 31 years, this has become a daily routine and she is not about to stop.
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