Dr Fred Koskei has a strong audible voice and one would not tell he cannot move the rest of his body unaided. His voice oozes confidence and a promise for a better tomorrow. His memory too is razer-sharp and he remembers with clarity every date and detail as he narrates his story. Dr Koskei was admitted at the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital in January this year and was confined to his bed for six months after sustaining a spinal injury that left him immobilised from the neck down. This has left him totally unable to do anything for himself and he relies heavily on others to help him even with the most basic of things that most people in good health take for granted. “I cannot brush my teeth or feed myself. I also struggle to hold my phone when I have to answer or respond to text messages as my grip is quite weak,” he explains.
This has not always been the case for the medical practitioner who has been treating patients for the last 17 years. “I graduated in 2003 from the University of Nairobi and have worked in various hospitals within Nairobi including Gertrude’s Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, Mater Hospital and Aga Khan,” narrates Dr Koskei. Life took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a motor-bike accident on 9th October, 2020. “I was admitted at TopHill Hospital in Eldoret for three and a half months,” he says. During that period, Dr Koskei underwent his first surgery where the doctors fixed a neck implant. It was also a challenging time for the doctor who had not come to terms with the aftermath of the accident, which had left him with a spinal injury and he had lost any sensation and functionality from the upper chest going down all the way to his entire lower body. At the time of the accident, Dr Koskei, 43, was working at Litein Mission Hospital in Kericho, where he had been practising since January 2016.
Lying in that hospital bed with little mobility left him nursing severe bedsores. He was in touch with his doctor colleagues, including Dr Theophillus Wangata, a former class-mate in medical school who kept encouraging him along the journey. Dr Wangata, the Senior Medical Consultant at Viva Serenity was of the opinion that Dr Koskei should seek specialised treatment abroad for stem-cell therapy. But he could not travel immediately as the bedsores were already too advanced. Dr Koskei left TopHill Hospital, Eldoret for Nairobi on 9th January this year and was committed to a home-care programme to treat his wounds. Unfortunately, due to their already advanced nature, it was necessary for him to be re-admitted to hospital. Meanwhile, the doctors discovered the neck implant has been displaced and needed to be redone. The corrective neck surgery was done at the Kenyatta National Hospital on March 24th, 2021.
About a month later on April 30th, plastic surgery, which was done at the National Spinal Injury Referral was deemed necessary for the bed sores to heal as dressing them was not helping in the healing process. It was a relief for Dr Koskei though it meant him being confined to bed for the entire month of May to allow healing.
His stay at the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital since his admission on the 26th January this year, was marked with ups and downs but it was made easier by the friendly environment, he notes. He was confined to a hospital bed and needed assistance to get off the bed into his wheelchair whenever he needed to get out for some fresh air or to bask in the sun. He was on a catheter and adult diapers to relieve himself. His days at the hospital began quite early at 5am when the support staff came to the wards to give them their daily bed baths before being served with an early morning snack at 6am. The patients were served with their breakfast about two hours later and by around 8.30am, the physiotherapists came in for their therapy sessions, which were done from the comfort of their beds. Afterwards, they would be wheeled out to enjoy the sun as they awaited lunch to be served. After lunch one would go out for more sunshine before dinner time and then the same cycle would repeat itself the following day. Such was his life and it left him emotionally drained.
Dr Koskei remembers slipping into severe depression and could barely sleep or eat for the first two months after the accident. He also shut out the world and even changed his phone number to avoid those he knew. “I was in a bad emotional space. I could no longer work and could not, therefore, pay the bills or take care of my family. I now depended on others 100 percent,” he narrates. He remembers toying with the idea of asking his colleagues to administer euthanasia on him to end the pain he was going through. “The stress I was going through was made worse by the fact that I knew that what I was going through was taking a toll on my loved ones,” he says. He is currently on anti-depressants and drugs to modulate his nerves. His sleeping pattern is erratic and he still has trouble initiating sleep.
Over the last nine months, Dr Koskei has been healing emotionally and is much stronger. He is hopeful that stem-cell therapy, an expensive procedure that requires to be done in India will help to establish his original nervous system. “If only I can regain the use of both my hands,” he reminisces. At the moment, finances are his biggest hurdle as the family has already exhausted their funds during his long stay in hospital.
For most of the month of June, Dr Koskei was on a rehabilitation programme, which was targetted at training the patient to be the most independent version of himself. “The main objective is to help in bed transfers. It’s supposed to make it easier for me to move from the bed to the wheelchair and back again to the bed unaided. It should also help me re-learn some of the basics like brushing my teeth. However, I’m yet to attain the independence needed,” explains Dr Koskei.
About three weeks before he was discharged from the hospital, he had an urinary tract infection (UTI) as a result of the continuous use of a catheter. The infection left him on intravenous (IV drip) fluids as he could not eat for a while. The anti-biotics were also administered intravenously.
He got discharged from the National Spinal Injury Referral on 4th August, 2021, and is recuperating at home in Bomet as he strategises on the next move – Medical Tourism. “I’m trying to settle in but it is tough,” says Dr Koskei. He hopes his trip to India can be sooner rather than later as that is what he hopes will give him back the use of his limbs. But until that medical miracle happens, he is still confined to the bed and will need help in bathing, feeding, combing his hair and moving from his bed to the wheelchair when he wants to move around or catch some sunshine.