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I touched death, coronavirus survivor recounts her ordeal



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Elizabeth, 49, knows she is lucky to be alive. After falling seriously ill with Covid-19, she was admitted to hospital last month. This is her story, which she chose to tell partly to thank the hospital staff who treated her.

The first hint I had that something wasn’t right was on a Friday. I felt tired than normal and by the time I went to bed I was exhausted.

On Monday, I started getting pains in my legs, which became excruciating. I thought it was a trapped nerve and took some paracetamol but the doctors later told me the virus had gone directly into my muscles. I had a cough but it wasn’t persistent, which people think is always the sign. I was bed-bound for over a week but one day when got out and went to the local petrol station to get some provisions, that was when it hit me.

I got back home feeling freezing cold and shivering. At one point I had four hot water bottles on the sofa and two blankets and I just could not get warm. Then the fever set in.

It felt like my body was on fire, and I was getting splitting headaches. I couldn’t eat anything, I was vomiting and absolutely wringing wet with sweat, and then my breathing started to get more difficult.

I’m asthmatic and that really worried me, but I still thought I could ride this out at home. Within a few more days I was slipping in and out of consciousness and I have vague recollections of my 15-year old son telling me he had called 111 (the NHS non-emergency helpline) for me. The paramedics arrived and I remember hearing on radio the ambulance driver outside saying: “She’s doing very poorly, we need to bring her in.” He put an oxygen mask on me and carried me out to the vehicle.

Off load patients

When we arrived at hospital, we were in a queue of ambulances just waiting to off-load patients at A&E. I was lying there for about three hours until it was our turn. They put me in a wheelchair and I remember them saying they had no cubicles, they were full to capacity.

I sat there with my eyes closed listening to everything—people rushing around, phones ringing, general commotion.

The nurse said: “I have to swab you for Covid-19.” He stuck the swab stick so far down the back of my throat that I was retching, and then just as I was recovering, he said: “Now I have to do it up your nostrils.” That was followed by a raft of blood tests and a chest X-Ray.

I felt pummelled. All I could think was “What the hell’s going on?” I felt like passing out. I remember another nurse coming over and telling me: “Just to let you know, your X-Ray results have come back, you’ve got

pneumonia in the lungs and you’ll have to be on oxygen 24/7.”

At one point, I felt the most almighty pain in my chest, like I was being compressed with slabs of concrete. They told me it was the pneumonia attacking my lungs and they gave me a shot of morphine. That was followed by terrible stabbing pains in my stomach, as bad as labour contractions. By the time the pains subsided, I was almost delirious.

There were only four beds in my bay, and everyone in there had tested positive for Covid-19 and had an underlying health issue. I don’t remember much of the first few days, just nurses coming in and out all the time, and cleaners coming in to disinfect everything. I was watching the nurses— they were all working a minimum of 12 hour shifts.

One night, I saw a man in what was meant to be our all-female ward. I rang the bell and the nurse came and explained he was the son of the woman in the bed opposite mine and that she was an “end-oflife” patient. I felt dreadfully sad for them but at the same time was thinking: “So I’ve got somebody who’s about six feet from me who’s basically waiting to die and I’m going to hear it.”

That was when I started hallucinating. I was getting flashbacks of conversations I had had in my life and people I’d met. At one point I thought: “Am I alive or dead? Do these flashbacks mean I’m transitioning to death? Is this what people mean when they talk about your life passing before you when you die?” Then all of a sudden—it was the early hours—I heard a male nurse outside the door say: “She’s gone.” The poor woman opposite me had died.

I waited for them to come in and remove her body, but nothing happened. That lady’s body was there for what seemed like hours before they eventually came in. They were cleaning it and then they wrapped it in plastic-like packaging. Then I heard them put her in a body bag, zip it up and say: “On the count of three… one… two… three.” The noise of that body coming into contact with a metal trolley – that’s a sound you don’t forget.

Someone started cleaning where the woman had been and sprayed lemon scent to try to freshen up the smell. By daytime I was just looking at an empty bed. The day before, I’d been looking at somebody and now the bed was empty. That thought really affected me.

I started watching the woman in the bed diagonal to me. She slipped

into a coma, and I watched her daughter come and say desperately: “Mum, it’s me! Mum, it’s me!”, and it was pitiful because the woman was already “gone”. The woman next to me was getting better and she commented that we were in a bay where 50 per cent had died and 50 per cent had lived and that we were on the lucky side of the room.

I had fought to stay alive. After being almost ready to give up at the start, I had told myself: “No, I’ve got to carry on, I’m not going yet. I’m 49, I’m not ready to die, not just for me but for my children and my family and friends.” It was April 8 and I remember seeing the full moon and thinking to myself that this was the start of a new lunar cycle and I’m going to take this as a sign I’m on the road to recovery. Unfortunately the comatose woman died after two days and again I heard the same process. The plastic, the zipping, the trolley and the cleaning.

What saved my life perhaps was one male nurse who said to me: “If the doctors say you’re medically fit to go home, go! Don’t make the mistake of staying in hospital because you feel a bit weak. Believe me, I’ve seen it on this ward – every patient who’s been told by doctors ‘you can go home’ and have argued saying they don’t feel 100 per cent and just want one more night in hospital, every one of them has contracted a secondary illness, because this is a high-risk Covid ward.”

That same day, they tested my blood oxygen saturation levels and I scraped by. The doctor said: “You’ve just made it. I’m happy to discharge you”. I was so excited — I was going home. It was freezing outside. I only had a hospital gown and flip flops on, but I could feel the air on my face and I was elated. I don’t know the name of the female ambulance driver but she was an angel, she had started her shift at 06:00, and she was picking me up at 00:20 – she’d done an 18-hour day.

This is what these people are doing. It’s not just the nurses and doctors. It’s the people who are driving the ambulances. It’s the paramedic crews. It’s the woman at the desk doing the administration work. It’s the man coming in cleaning up after a dead body. It’s the porter taking it down to the morgue.

I’m bed-bound for the next few weeks and the doctors said it could take three to six months to get over the pneumonia. Since leaving hospital, my mother has been my lifeline, leaving me food parcels on my doorstep. I touched death and I’m very lucky to be alive. What I’m now looking forward to is appreciating nature. You realise material things don’t matter.



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Go Green na Optiven



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It is the responsibility of everyone to tender and care for the planet for better and healthier future generations.
We call upon you to join any of these categories:
1. Those who are more environmentally friendly
2. Those who are ecologically responsible in both their decision making and lifestyles
3. Those who protect environment
4. Those who protect and sustain the natural resources in their area of business
5. Those who help to conserve resources like water, air and vegetation
6. Those who produce eco-friendly products, thus preventing pollution of our air, water and land
7. Those who can prove that they have been using Green Energy/clean energy such as solar power or if using conventional energy; they are using eco-friendly bulbs and that save energy.
How can each play a role this is a highlight of just but a few but you can  put your   role that  you are doing  to promote the  green agenda
1. Builders/Engineers/Architects/Interiors designers
i. Use of solar energy/ Use of solar panels
ii. Use of Energy saving bulbs, florescent tubes
iii. Use of organic paints, light friendly windows
iv. Use of Eco-friendly toilets
v. Harvesting of rain water from roof tops, use roofs that are Eco-friendly, ensure that water does not go to waste
vi. Proof of reduction of water bills as a result of going green
vii. Water recycling technologies like Bio digester
viii. Those whose provide green buildings, Eco-friendly homes
2. Farming, gardening, landscaping experts
i. Use of drip or sprinkler on not flooding water while gardening or farming
ii. Use of organic pesticides
iii. Use of organic manure
iv. Those who increase forests cover
3. Health businesses, Schools, Hospitals
i. Those providing natural skin care products & not petroleum or synthetic ingredients on the products
ii. Those offering advice on going green, creating awareness of going green
iii. Those who teach children on being a friend of the earth
iv. Those who buy from ethical farmers who are known to produce organic products
4. Transport industry, drivers, delivery companies and logistics firms/organizations
i. Those who reduce carbon emissions directly or indirectly
ii. Any Awareness of climate change
iii. Any knowledge of carbon emissions and how to reduce?
5. Property Owners within Optiven Projects
i. Planting of trees in their plots
ii. Adoption of water recycling technology
iii. Establishment of Green Spaces
iv. Proper waste disposal
6. SMEs
i. Those who recycle waste
ii. Those manufacturing from the recycled materials
iii. Those who take proper care of electronic wastes
iv. Tech companies that have a green policy on disposal of electric waste
v. SMEs that can prove awareness of global warming
7. Families
i. Those who adopt any of the going green initiative say family tree planting, planting a tree during birthday instead of having a birthday cake or doing both
ii. With children who are aware of climate change and also alive to ways of preventing in preventing it
iii. Families that are involved in separation of different form of waste and or engaged in any form of recycling
8. Hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment joins
i. Provision of organic food to customers
ii. Support of local farmers who do organic farming
iii. Awareness of climate change and its risks to humanity
9. Decision makers- checking the green component in your venture
i. Any policy decisions on going green
ii. Awareness on global warming
iii. Any knowledge of implementation of United Nations Development Goals
10. Children: If you are a child who is school going or otherwise and you have started being sensitive to the planet by doing conservation activities
11. Others: If you  believe that you are a friend of the planet, let us know
#GoingGreen=Healthy Families
George Wachiuri
Optiven Foundation

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VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students



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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū

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‘Kikambala hotel bombing in 2002 changed our lives’



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The scars on Mercy Neema Mwagambo’s body are a stark reminder of what happened at Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala 18 years ago.

On November 28, 2002, a two-pronged terrorist attack hit an Israeli-owned hotel but missed a plane belonging to Arkia Airlines.

A vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the hotel on the Kilifi-Mombasa highway and blew up, killing 17 people and injuring 80 others.

Every year today, Neema and 13 victims of the attack and their families converge at the deserted hotel to pray for the souls of their departed relatives.

However, today could be the last annual ritual as the owner has put the hotel for sale.

Annual ritual

For Neema and other victims, it’s not clear if the prospective buyer would allow them to continue with this annual ritual.

It is an attack that left villages of Musumarini in Kilifi County destitute, negatively affected Israelis’ investments at the Coast and damaged the tourism sector.

“I am trying to sell this property even at a throwaway price,” said Yehuda Sulami, an Israeli, on phone from Tel Aviv, although he did not reveal the price.

Sulami claims that after the attack, there were efforts to push him out of business.

The former special forces officer said he had no money to compensate victims of the attack.

“I’ve faced an avalanche of litigation on compensation. There was no insurance cover on terrorism,” said Sulami.

It is the first time has spoken publicly on the matter.

He said while he sympathised with those who lost their loved ones or suffered injuries, he lost his lifetime investment and close friends and “there was no one to comfort me.”

Among the 17 who perished were 14 Kenyans and three Israelis. The deserted hotel is arguably the only remaining mark of Israel investment in Coast.

Prior to the attack, over 100,000 tourists from Israel had made Mombasa and Kenyan Coast their second home away from home.

“Arkia Airline used to bring in between 250-270 guests per flight. It had operated Mombasa route for close to seven years before the attempted missile attack,” said Sulami.

After the attack, the airline stopped flying the route and Israel investments at the Coast started dwindling.

Sulami claimed that what followed was a number of litigation and attempts to force them to close down the hotel.

“We became the target yet the Kenyan government had promised to assist the affected persons,” said Sulami, without providing any evidence of the alleged persecution.

The victims of the attack narrated to the Saturday Standard on how they were neglected by the Government and the owner of the hotel.

For instance, Neema cannot walk as her legs were seriously injured. She was working at the front office at the hotel.

On that fateful day, she was helping a guest check in as her colleagues were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.

“Had I remained inside the hotel at my work station, may be I would not have been injured this way,” said Neema.

November is a peak season for the tourism sector in Coast. On that day, as a group of 230 guests were leaving the hotel, another 250 tourists were checking in. All the guests were Israelis.

“I reported early for duty on that fateful day and was looking forward to a rather busy day since we had huge check in and check out for guests,” she said in an interview.

At the gate, a troupe of Girima dancers were doing their jig to bid goodbye to outgoing guests and welcome the incoming ones.

Most of the incoming tourists had already been ushered in to the waiting lounge at the reception but a small group had joined the traditional dancers.

“What followed was a huge bang followed by fire all over the Makuti-thatched hotel,” Neema said, adding that she found herself on the ground.

Neema could not walk so she crawled to the swimming pool. She had suffered serious burns allover her body and decided to jump into the swimming pool to cool herself.

“I was taken to hospital in Mombasa and later airlifted by a military aircraft to Israel for specialised treatment at Jerusalem Hospital. I spent four weeks receiving treatment for my broken legs and burnt face and back,” she said.

The Kikambala bombing incident also robbed the family of Mufidha Mohamed of its breadwinner, Wildred Oyaro Owuor, who used to operate a taxi business at the hotel.

“My husband suffered a ruptured stomach. He died 21 days after he was admitted at Pandya Hospital,” Mufidha says. She was breastfeeding Zaki, their last born now 18 years, when the attack happened.

She said with the death of her husband, she was left as the sole breadwinner to fend for her five children.

“It has not been easy for us all. I have tried to venture into business with very little success,” she said.

Today Mufidha, her children and a few other survivors will converge at the blast site to hold prayers and commemorate those who died.

“Today we shall go to the hotel which has now closed down to hold prayers. It is a ritual I’ll do until I meet him in the next life,” says Mufidha.

Dr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, says the events of the fateful day have had a long impact on Kenyan tourism.

Travel advisories

Dr Ikwaye says it is after the Kikambala bombing that key foreign tourists source markets started issuing travel advisories against Mombasa and the Coast region.

“This was the start of a very bad beginning for Kenyan tourism,” Ikwaye said.

He explained the Kikambala bombing marked the first time the industry experienced serious external shocks and has never fully recovered.

“Neighbouring nations too and the world experienced our pain years after we had suffered and today terrorism has been recognised as a threat not just synonmous with Kenya, but the world over,” he said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said it is unfortunate that no compensation was made to those who suffered the brunt of the terror attack.

“Both the national and county governments should be compelled to assist surviving families. This will not take away completely the suffering they have endured but will offer some sort of comfort to those affected,” said Justice (rtd) Madzayo.


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