Kenya Yetu profiles the people we take for granted – those doing ordinary jobs that make a difference to others. In the first of our series Carole Keingati talks to midwife and nurse Sarah Wakibi
Calming nerves, cleaning spills, making beds… It might not sound like a dream job, but for Sarah Wakibi, who has been caring for patients over the last 12 years, it is nothing less than a passion.
“If you’re just looking for a job, any job, don’t go for nursing. It’s a calling,” she says. “You need attributes such as patience, strength and tenderness because you are regularly faced with panic and crisis.”
A nurse and midwife at Sims Women’s Clinic and at the Mother and Child Hospital, Sarah is up at 5.30am to get her four-year-old son Trevis ready for school and to make it to work by nine. She remains on her feet for most of the day. “I snack a lot, especially on fruit,” she tells me, as her day can end as late as 8 or 10pm depending on the situation at work.
Where does one get the patience? “Your heart,” she tells me, without a beat. “And you have to be in control of your emotions. Never show a patient that you are scared or frightened of their condition even though maybe you are.”
Sarah recalls how back at the Thika Medical Training Centre she’d get really uncomfortable and frightened by the sicker patients, especially at the burns unit. She feels stronger now and better at controlling her feelings, but it is still not easy.
“I find it challenging with terminal patients, watching their emotions change from shock, anger and fear to eventually accepting death.” Nurses offer counselling as part of their daily work and Sarah finds that faith is important. “You have to believe there is a reason for everything. Assure them that they are not alone, that it’s not a mistake, that God knows about it.”
Other than the terminally ill, the only loss in life she has encountered has been a baby dying due to fetal distress during delivery. “That was hard,” she admits. “But the joy of seeing a child you delivered grown and happy and calling you ‘Auntie’ is such a reward”.
Does she consider herself a hero? “Yes,” she says. She tells me that even as kids freeze up when they see her, fearing that they will be dungwad (injected), her own son included, a nurse’s role in society is crucial.
“When a patient returns to say thank you, I remember how far they have come, and the difference our care has made.”