STORIES OF HOPE

Giving back after long Covid ordeal

Wanja Mwaura tires quickly and gasps a lot but is doing charity work

In Summary

• Philanthropist was in isolation for two months after contracting the disease at work

• The vagaries of Covid infection have not stopped her from serving her community

Philanthropist Wanja Mwaura
Philanthropist Wanja Mwaura
Image: COURTESY

Philanthropist Wanja Mwaura was left with debilitating health problems after surviving Covid-19 last year.

She can no longer walk for long and she frequently visits the hospital for checkups.

Wanja was in isolation for close to two months after she contracted the disease while doing charity work.

She interacts with different people daily through her foundation, Brother's Keeper, which she started after leaving the nursing profession.

Speaking to the Star, Wanja vividly recalled the day she felt some headache and was rushed to hospital.

Little did she know it was the start of a long Covid experience.

"Even today, I cannot walk for long, and I experience breathing problems," she said.

"You are never the same after a Covid-19 attack, and I suffer from chest issues. I still feel it hit me. I am in and out of hospital."

She said doctors told her she needs to give herself time for her lungs to regenerate.

When the number of new coronavirus cases continued to surge, so was her anxiety and being in isolation for two months, Wanja said every day was a miracle.

Her prayer was for God to help her just breathe and not to let her die.

"It was very uncomfortable. The fever could not allow you to sleep," she said.

"The disease was psychological and the moment you know you have it, you start experiencing the symptoms."

Wanja Mwaura when she had Covid-19 last year
Wanja Mwaura when she had Covid-19 last year
Image: courtesy

The mother of two said her greatest worry was her children as nobody wanted to take care of them.

Wanja runs the Brother's Keeper foundation, where she helps the less fortunate in society.

On Mashujaa Day last year, Wanja was recognised by the Head of State for her efforts to make the lives of fellow Kenyans better.

BATTLING THE VIRUS

"I got Covid-19 in my line of duty. It was when hospitals were full," she said.

She was taking a Covid patient to hospital and since the case was an emergency, Wanja forgot to wear her mask.

"On the fifth day, I started experiencing mild symptoms, like headaches and so on. I went for a CT scan and I learned I had a Covid severity score 2. The doctors said I had Covid before and I did not realise I had it."

Wanja only remembers having a fever regularly before the test.

"Covid weighed me down. I was stable and being a nurse by profession, I could manage myself. I could wear my concentrator by myself and even go to clinics."

She said she had the fear of sleeping and never waking up again. Also, managing the fever was the worst.

Isolation was also a nightmare. Nobody could come to your room. "My mum came to take care of my children. The stigma that came with the disease was ridiculous."

Wanja found social media a safe way to socialise and stay connected with friends and family to keep her mind well.

"Mentally I was not stable. Just going through the comments from my fans helped me. Covid-19 survivors reaching out and offering you encouragement messages."

She said her pockets were drained to the point she had to seek help from her online friends to manage the bills.

"Hiring an oxygen concentrator was around 20k in a week. The treatment was also very expensive and rare to find."

A patient with Wanja Mwaura as she does charity work
A patient with Wanja Mwaura as she does charity work
Image: courtesy

CREATING AWARENESS

Wanja has been creating awareness about the disease by talking to Covid patients.

Despite being knocked down by the disease, she is keen to serve the community.

Wanja said she did nursing to help people and change the narrative about nurses. For people to experience the caring part of nurses.

"My dad had a very special calling of taking care of the less fortunate in society. Especially the orphans," she said.

"He had a nursery school for orphans and never charged them. He would pay their school fees. I was raised in an environment where giving was part of my life and not an option."

After he died, Wanja took over the passion by helping her schoolmates with sanitary pads.

She practised her nursing career for a few years and then quit her job. "Life was not easy after my dad died. I was a single mum and whatever I was earning was not enough and so I left for Saudi Arabia to work for the royal family as a caregiver."

When she returned, she did not secure herself a job and started doing homecare jobs as well as starting her foundation.

She dealt with survivors of rape, domestic violence and other health problems.

"All cases are different but the breaker is when you lose the people you are helping."

She finds consolation in knowing she gave them the best to come out better than she found them.

"As a nation, we are out of the Covid-19 wound, but I think the world would be a better place if we keep on checking on our brothers and sisters. When you talk to someone about a problem, it is half solved."

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Elizabeth Ngigi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.