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How Dr Mogusu’s death broke down his ‘tough African man’ father

By Steve Otieno December 9th, 2020 5 min read

Tugging impatiently at the muzzle of his oxygen mask from his hospital bed, he had confided in his sister that he would enrol his prized dog, Missy, in the next edition of Nairobi’s animal show competition early next year.

He could not wait to get well and move on with his life. But this would, sadly, never happen. At the prime age of 28, Dr Stephen Mogusu breathed his last at the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital (KUTRH) on Monday evening.

Other than his love for dogs, he nursed grand plans of opening a big hospital after completing his studies for a master’s in Canada.

He wanted to ultimately be a cardiologist.

Born in Iranda Village, Kisii County in 1992, as a young boy he always dreamed of being a doctor.

This, according to his elder sister, Ms Doreen Mogusu, was fuelled by his sickly childhood and his mother’s then diabetic condition.

Scoring straight As at Lenana School in 2010 earned him a spot as a regular student at the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine, which he joined in September 2012.

Work and study

“He was such a sharp mind and fun to be around. During school or working time, he did just that — work and study, but when it was time to have fun, he was the most jovial person around,” Doreen told the Nation at the KUTRH Memorial Funeral Home Tuesday.

Doreen and her elder sister, Ms Nancy Mogusu, and two other relatives, had gone to the hospital to negotiate how they would clear their brother’s three-day hospital bill.

Prior to his Covid-19 illness, the young doctor worked at Machakos Level 5 Hospital.

He was among the lucky few medics who were hired by the government in July under the Universal Health Care initiative to bolster the health sector.

The family was very happy as it had not been easy for him to get a job.

After his one-year internship at Kisii Referral Hospital in late 2019, he came back to Nairobi and landed a job at a private clinic in Kajiado.

It was not a permanent job and, to boost his earnings, he would do locums at the Komarock Modern Healthcare Hospital.

A month after getting the government job at the Machakos Level 5 Hospital, he moved to Utawala in August with his family.

“When he got his first job in Kajiado, he invited me to stay with him at Mwalimu Kisaju Park Apartments. I have my own place in BuruBuru but I would carry my one-year-old daughter and go over stay with him for a while. He really loved my daughter. He regarded her as his daughter too,” Nancy told the Nation.

With things looking up on the career front, the young medic “was now beginning to plan his life with his young family,” Nancy added.

Proud of his achievements

“Being the only son in a family of five daughters, we were very proud of him and his achievements. He had worked hard to get to where he was. He really loved my four-year-old son who would call him doctor uncle whenever he visited,” Doreen said.

“Steve,” as he was fondly known in the family, was the fifth-born.

His graduation in 2018 was among the happiest memories the family harbours.

Dr Mogusu contracted Covid-19 three-and-a-half weeks ago. He self-isolated at home and was on home-based care.

His wife, Jacky, also a doctor, took care of him and their five-month-old baby boy.

When Dr Mogusu’s condition deteriorated, with shortness of breath reaching worrying levels, his wife called an ambulance to rush him to Komarock Modern Healthcare Hospital.

Shortly after the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the doctor was moved straight to the high dependency unit, where he was for a full two weeks. He was on and off oxygen.

‘Save yourselves’

Whenever he was off the oxygen mask, he would gather strength to chat with his friends and family, but not for long.

Among the most chilling messages he left was one he sent last week to his colleagues before his transfer to KUTRH on Saturday, after his workmates at the Machakos Level 5 Hospital intervened on his behalf to secure a spot in the modern facility.

The message read: “My dear colleagues, let me take this opportunity to admonish you today to get your pay or get out while you can with your health or life intact. I have had the Covid-19 ARDS for five days tonight and I will say not even a full pocket can replenish what has been lost on high oxygen flows all manner of masks and begging for one more gasp of fresh air.

“Usually I would write and write but today I just want to say save your miserable selves from those institutions, you will live to earn again. I am not in any way inviting arguments or response to my post, I am too weak to type anymore. Save yourselves,” he concluded.

On Monday evening, exactly three days after being admitted to the KUTRH, the young doctor died.

Father cried

“Our father, a tough African man, has never cried before, but Steve’s death melted his heart. He cried like a child. Mother is too grief-stricken, she has been crying since she heard the news of his death,” Nancy said.

“No other doctor should die this way. No other family should lose their son this way. I believe if he had the right personal protective equipment (PPE), he would never have contracted the disease in the first place. Had he been insured, I am sure he could have gone to a better hospital. He would not have died. Whereas the doctors are working tirelessly to save lives, the government is working tirelessly to frustrate them,” she added.

For Doreen, priority should be given to saving lives, not just the lives of doctors, but every Kenyan.

No to politics

The two sisters cautioned politicians against using their brother’s death to push their selfish interests.

This came after Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua posted on Twitter that although the doctor worked in Machakos, the national government was his employer and that all doctors working under his county government were well taken care of and insisted  that medical centres in Machakos had enough PPE.

The county boss said he had contacted the family and condoled with them.

“Unless he talked to a member of another family, we have not heard anything from any Mutua, leave alone the governor. Only friends, family and his colleagues have reached out to us. This matter should not be politicised,” she said.

In his two weeks at the Komarock Modern Hospital, the doctor had accrued a medical bill of Sh1.3 million, which the hospital has waived.

They termed as lies social media posts that the family had been given varying amounts in hospital bills to settle. The only hospital bill, it was clarified, which the family was yet to receive, arises from the doctor’s stay at the KUTRH.

“We have seen doctors working round the clock to save our brother and we are really grateful for what they have done. Doctors are doing a good job. We thank Komarock Modern Hospital for waiving our medical bill,” Ms Nancy Mogusu said.

The family will embark on burial plans once they clear their bills at the KUTRH. They said some KMPDU officials had contacted them and promised to get a commitment letter that the Ministry of Health would clear the bills.

They were yet to get the commitment letter by press time.