To many people the St Theresa’s Kiirua Mission Hospital is a home away from home, so they say.
Here, locals say, patients get treated for various ailments, but with a “touch of love”.
Unlike the conventional hospitals where patients encounter various degrees of stress because of the service it is much different at Kirua Mission, run by the Little Sisters of St Theresa.
One of the people who is effusive in her praise of the hospital is Carol Mukiri, the mother of the conjoined twins born at the hospital on the night of September 4, 2014.
It is extremely rare for a woman to give birth to conjoined twins.
The probability of having conjoined twins is put at 1 in 189, 000 births!
The birth of the twins who were joined at the spine and abdomen, at the hospital, attracted a lot of attention at the local, national, regional and international level.
At their home in Tutua, Buuri, when the heavily pregnant Ms Mukiri and her mother noticed she was on the verge of delivery, the latter prepared to ferry her to a different hospital but Mukiri would have none of it.
“I insisted that I wanted to be brought to Kiirua Mission hospital. The medical team and sisters took very good care of me and delivered my babies safely, even though it was a difficult birth,” said Mukiri, 30.
The result of her insistence to be taken to St Theresa’s was the birth of Blessing Kathure and Favour Karimi, the famous conjoined twins separated in a historic operation overseen by a team of 58 medical experts, including the best surgeons in the country.
“Kiirua hospital will forever be in my heart, in our hearts. It was the first time we have seen conjoined twins in Meru. It is only by the Grace of God, through the sisters the twins were safely delivered and evacuated to Kenyatta National Hospital,” said Jacinta Gatwiri, a Kiirua resident.
Blessing and Favour, and their happy mother, returned to the hospital on September 4, where the sisters hosted their fourth birthday.
The twins first birthday was fittingly held at the hospital, where they were delivered by a team of committed nurses four years ago.
The two cheerful girls cut their first birthday party witnessed by hospital staff and guests, including children who were undergoing treatment at the hospital.
And looking at the happy girls mingling with the team that brought them into the world and patients from the children’s ward.
Peter M’Gaiti, a nurse working in the theatre, was among those who responded when he learned from colleagues that Carol Mukiri, the mother, was about to deliver conjoined babies.
“Due to the difficulty the mother was experiencing when she went into labor, caesarean was considered but the idea was soon trashed when it emerged it would be another difficulty altogether.
“We were prepared to go to theatre, but one of the babies was partly out, so operating was ruled out due to the danger it would pose to them including the mother. So we just had to encourage the mother to continue pushing,” revealed Gaiti in a packed hall where the party was held.
Sr Agnes Mukulu, an anaesthetist, who was present during that miraculous delivery, told guests that included hospital CEO Agnes Nkatha and deputy Moris Kaumbuthu, that she was ‘surprised’ by what she saw when Ms Mukiri went to labour.
“I am happy to be part of this story, because I was moved by what I saw. God is great. They were born on a Friday but we evacuated them to Kenyatta National Hospital on Sunday, after informing KNH we needed their help,” Ms Mukulu said, adding that two nurses accompanied the three in an ambulance in the drive to Nairobi.
Nurse Florah Wanja remembered the challenges they had when the two were delivered.
“Our worry was how do we nurse them, how do we place them in the new born unit. We had a lot of discussions before we sought the help from KNH. We even contributed towards that,” said Mukulu.
She and other nurses who had been moved by the birth continued to visit the twins and the mother at KNH where a historic operation was done to separate them, at the lower back, but they were also sharing more abdomen organs.
A team of 58 separated the pair in a 23 hour procedure that started on November 1, 2016 and ended on November 2, after more than two years of monitoring, in an operation said to be the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The hospital’s CEO Agnes Nkatha who also visited the mother and twins at KNH due to the attachment that had developed among them, said after she saw the babies, she took photos and sent them to medical experts in Kenya and the Catholic Church headquarters in Italy, as they sought advice on what to do.
So attached had they become that they had decided to employ Carol for her to be able to earn an income and raise the twins after their release from hospital.
“But before we could do it the KNH gave her a job. But our commitment to them still remains,”said Nkatha, who pleaded with mothers not to think abandoning their babies when the delivery does not go according to their wishes.
“We run a children’s home. We have rescued babies from cemeteries, forest, toilets and other places. If Carol had decided to do other things we would not be celebrating today!” Nkatha said.