TRIPLE TRAGEDY

Woman lost husband, daughter and now has Sh5.5m hospital bill

Christine has been battling problem after problem for more than 10 years

In Summary

• Eight months after Christine married the love of her life Erick Wandugo in a colourful wedding, they were involved in an accident. Erick died in the accident.

• Her unborn child miraculously survived with a normal heart rate. But Christine was left with multiple fractures. She was in a coma for three days and when she woke up, she had lost her memory.

Erick and Christine during their wedding in May 2009
Erick and Christine during their wedding in May 2009
Image: COURTESY

When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions, a Shakespeare saying goes.

Day after another, Christine Gitaka has been facing one of the battalions.

Eight months after Christine married the love of her life Erick Wandugo in a colourful wedding, they were involved in an accident. Erick died in the accident.

Christine was four months pregnant. 

Her unborn child miraculously survived with a normal heart rate. But Christine was left with multiple fractures. She was in a coma for three days and when she woke up, she had lost her memory.

Christine met Erick at Makerere University in Uganda where they were both studying.  After dating for almost two years, they tied the knot on May 2, 2009, at St Mark's Anglican Church in Westlands, Nairobi.

“After the wedding we went back to Kampala where my husband had secured a job. We were very happy. We were so much in love and never had any disagreements. It was pure bliss,” she narrated.

Just seven weeks after the wedding, Christine's father died.

On Christmas Eve of 2009, at around midnight, Christine and Erick were headed home after attending a party with their Kenyan friends who were in Uganda.

“Erick was driving. He rammed into a stalled lorry that had no lights or warning indicators. We were driving through a residential area and had not expected to find any stalled vehicles,” she recalled.

The last thing she recalls is seeing her husband take his final breath before she became unconscious.

“I was in a coma for three days. The fourth day, I woke in ICU at International Hospital Kampala, Uganda. I had fractures everywhere except my spine and had lost my memory,” she narrated.

"The hospital fixed metal plates on my legs, though they had lost sense and I could not feel anything." 

Christine was then airlifted to Aga Khan Hospital in Kenya. It was discovered that she had two broken ribs, a fracture on the left side of her head, both legs and the left arm. She also had a broken jaw and chin.

At the hospital bed, Christine’s in-laws brought back memories of her loss when they asked what she wanted written in the eulogy. She was yet to come to terms with the death of her husband.

She could not attend her husband's burial as she was still very weak and could neither sit nor walk without support.

"Thank you for the love you gave me. I promise to take good care of our child," she wrote in her tribute.

"I still have the note," she said in tears.

"I was discharged after a month under a homecare nurse as the hospital bill was rising beyond the family’s capability."

Four months later, Christine delivered a baby girl without any labour struggles. Doctors had warned that due to the blood thinning drugs she was on, they would not perform a caesarean section on her.

She said when she held the baby in her hands she was happy and sad at the same time. She already had a name for her baby, Erica Muthoni.

“I was happy that Erick had left behind little Erica, but I was deeply dejected that he would never get to see her,” she told the Star.

About a year after she left hospital, Christine went to follow up on the case in Uganda. It was there that she was told how she was rescued from the scene.

“There were some Swedish children who saw the accident and went to inform their elder sister who happened to be a medic. She rushed to the scene but could not pull me out as my legs were stuck in the wreckage.” 

“She called an ambulance and gave me water to drink and that is what saved my life. Her name is Maryanne and she came to visit me daily until she returned to Sweden, I was told.” 

Christine also learnt that it took the fire brigade more than an hour-and-half to pull her from the wreckage.

During the rescue mission her leg was terribly hurt and she had to move around either in a wheelchair or crutches.

 Erick’s elder sister, Esther Wanjiru, took them in. She would take Christine for physiotherapy, checkups and postnatal clinics.

However, when they took Erica for clinic when she was four months, the doctor realised that little Erica was not hitting her milestones as she should.

“She was referred to a paediatric neurologist. A CT scan indicated that her brain had not developed as it should have and she was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.” 

Erica also developed epilepsy. During the accident, Christine had bled excessively limiting the oxygen level that reached the unborn baby's brain.

"She would have frequent convulsions, excessive vomiting and fevers," Christine said.

In 2019, Erica underwent surgery to help stop the vomiting, but after eight months, the condition returned.

"From then, we were in and out of the hospital. I lost count. She had gotten a lot better by January 2021 when I started reacting terribly to a medication I was taking," she said.

In January, Christine developed a painful blister on her foot. The next day, she had red rashes all over her body that got worse every hour.

“I was admitted in the high dependency unit for eight days before I was taken to the ICU as the condition worsened. In three days, my skin had turned black,” she said.

She was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/ TEN), a very severe reaction to some drugs. The condition put her in hospital for three months and a nursing home for three weeks.

"I was in excruciating pain that no painkiller could placate. The doctors opted to put me in an induced coma for six weeks," she said.

While she was in the ICU on February 25, Erica died.

"My family only informed me about her death after three weeks because of my condition. Wanjiru, however, waited 33 days when I could walk with support to ensure I attended Erica's burial," she said.

Christine is now appealing for help to settle her medical bills. She accrued Sh5.5 million at Aga Khan Hospital. The family has managed to raise Sh2 million.

She also needs approximately half a million for eye surgery which was affected by the SJS/TEN.

Her Pay Bill number: 8042381 

Account: Christine Hannah Medical Fund

Phone number 0723808610- Hannah Gitaka

Christine Gitaka and daughter Erica Muthoni
Christine Gitaka and daughter Erica Muthoni
Christine Gitaka after she developing Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
Christine Gitaka after she developing Stevens-Johnson Syndrome