Kenyan family shares treatment experience at Yashoda hospital
By Lilian Kaivilu
To many families in Kenya and elsewhere, seeking treatment can be a difficult task. Financial constraints, the stress of acquiring the necessary travel documents and the anxiety on whether the trip outside the country will bear any fruit are some of the fears for many people.
Every year, 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad for treatment. Out of these, 7.8 percent have cardiovascular complications. Dr Dorcas Musera Gakunju’s family had to seek treatment for their father Bernard Nyaga, 81, who had cardiac complications. The family had never sought treatment outside the country and had to start a long process that she says was a journey of faith. “But God answered all our prayers,” says a jovial Musera.
Bernard Nyaga’s illness started in May 2019 when he began to experience breathlessness and fatigue. After seeing different health professionals back home, he came to Nairobi for further treatment where he visited a cardiologist in a Nairobi Hospital. Here, Nyaga was diagnosed with severe aortic valve stenosis and he was actually going to severe heart failure. As a result, he was admitted for stabilization. He stayed in the hospital for a week after which the cardiologist recommended a replacement of the aortic valve.
Instead of undergoing an open-heart surgery, the doctor felt that Mr Nyaga would benefit more from a less invasive procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVI). This is a medical procedure whereby instead of having an open chest for heart surgery, the valve is taken through the femoral artery.
Through all this process, Dr Musera confesses, her faith was tested, and she had to believe God all the way for so many things. We had to start from the passport, travel arrangements and accommodation.
With several recommendations for hospitals in India, the family embarked on a search for the best options, considering cost and availability. Yashoda hospital topped their list and the family settled for that. “I had a spreadsheet of the hospital, their doctors and the costs. Yashoda replied and though their cost was not very different from others, God just guided us there,” says Dr Musera.
Her father joined the more than 20,000 patients who undergo cardiac procedures every year at Yashoda hospital, a private health facility located in Hyderabad in Telangana State in India, performs at least 20,000 cardiac procedures every year.
Prior meeting with hospital representative gave us more confidence
About three days after contacting the hospital, they replied. At that time, the family was in the process of obtaining travel documents as well as raising money for treatment. Before leaving the country, Joshua Thomas, Yashoda Hospital’s General Manager, International Patient Service visited the family to prepare them for the trip ahead. “Joshua was the first person who wrote to me. Before we travelled, he met my husband, sister and I and told us what to expect. He gave us the assurance that all would be well,” Dr Musera says, adding that this meeting gave the family more confidence regarding the hospital.
When traveling, there are always concerns such as airport pick-ups, communication and accommodation among others. But the Yashoda hospital organized for airport pickups and dropped Musera’s family to the guest house. “I also liked the fact that they did not waste time. We arrived at the hotel at about 8am on August 22, 2019 and by the time I accessed internet, Joshua had already contacted me saying he was sending the driver to come take us to the hospital. By around noon the same day, my dad had seen a doctor,” she says.
Her father underwent the valve replacement and stenting of his coronary arteries on August 3, 2019, a process that lasted more than three hours. At this point, the doctors discovered he had coronary heart disease where his coronary arteries were blocked.
The hospital, according to her, gave priority to their international patients. Patients are also given a relationship officer who guides the patient and the family in case of any questions. “There is also another person to reach out to in matters accommodation and transport. Unlike other hospitals elsewhere, Yashoda also allowed the patient’s attendant, who was my mother, to sleep on a couch in the patient’s hospital room.”
Although the family had received a Sh4.5 million quotation in Kenya, the procedure is equally pricey world over. “In India, the price ranged from $45,000 to $52,000. Our decision to go to India was because I was going to a place where they often carry out these procedures. Also, the advice from the cardiologist convinced me that seeking treatment in India was a good decision,” says Dr Musera.
According to her, the medical team at Yashoda Hospital was very prompt in their decisions and their teamwork was evident throughout her father’s treatment. The team included an anesthetist, a cardio thoracic surgeon, intervention cardiologist, a kidney doctor and a chest physician. “They would all make real time decisions, of course reporting to the primary doctor who was the intervention cardiologist. I liked that teamwork. It was seamless.” Movement within the hospital, she says, was also very convenient, facilitated by uniformed wheelchair assistants.
After three and half weeks, the family left India back to Kenya. The valve replacement was a success. The doctors at Yashoda did some echo cardiogram before Mr Nyaga left. He stayed in Nairobi for another two weeks before he saw his local cardiologist. “On his second visit to the doctor here in Nairobi, 3 months post-operative he actually climbed to second floor of a building. Today he drives himself.”