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A mother’s endless quest for her ailing daughter’s cure

It all started with a persistent cough that would not go away. Miswaleh Mlalanze’s motherly instinct told her that something was not right with her five-year-old daughter, Haimanah Wairimu.

When the cough wouldn’t go away she took her daughter to hospital where she was given a cough syrup. However, the medicine did little to cure the dry cough.

Throughout her daughter’s insistent dry coughs, Miswaleh also noticed something else on Haimanah’s neck – a lymph node.

“Three years ago I noticed my daughter’s health was not normal. She had lost appetite and she had this funny cough which the doctors diagnosed as a dry cough. I gave her the cough syrups which had been prescribed for her but still it didn’t stop. Sometimes the cough stopped for a while then returned,” Miswaleh recounts.

“It is also during this time that I noticed the lymph node on her neck. I took her to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and after a series of tests I was told it did not have any cancer cells in it. The doctors said it was just a cyst and there was no need to remove it,” she says.

But the hospital advised her that if she still wanted the lymph node removed she should wait for her daughter to reach the age of 10 years for the surgery to be done.

With the doctor’s assurance that all was well, things went back to normal for Miswaleh and her daughter. Unbeknownst to her, the monster had cleverly hidden itself well to enable it to grow and reveal its ugly claws in the not so distant future.

Haimanah being an energetic and jovial girl, Miswaleh saw no reason not to send her back to school, since she kept saying that she was missing her friends and teachers in school.

Haimanah finished kindergarten and graduated paving way for her entry to the next level. Throughout this time, she never showed any signs of being sick. Her only challenge seemed to be climbing stairs.

Her mother recalls a day when Haimanah came back home from school looking sad and moody. When asked what the problem was she said that she didn’t like her new class because it was on first floor which left her out of breath climbing up.


“Last year in June is when things took a turn for the worse. I noticed Haimanah’s body growth was happening on reverse. Instead of growing in body mass she was becoming thinner and weaker to the point her brother – who was five years while she was seven years – looked much older than her,” the mother narrates.

Miswaleh took her daughter to a private hospital where the doctor told her that Haimanah had a blood infection, although they could not ascertain exactly where the infection was coming from.

After more tests, Haimanah was diagnosed with pneumonia and they immediately started treating pneumonia. However, her health did not improve.

This baffled doctors who, in an attempt to find out what was ailing Haimanah, requested for an x-ray.

“We did the x-ray and brought the results back to the doctor who said Haimanah’s lungs were not looking good. In his professional view, my daughter was suffering from tuberculosis,” she recalls.

Miswaleh then started administering TB medication on her daughter. However, one week down the line her daughter’s condition worsened.

She went back to the doctor and explained Haimanah’s condition, but the doctor asked her wait for two more weeks before she could start seeing any positive changes.

After the two weeks elapsed, they run more tests on her cough sputum and found that it was devoid of TB.

“After going through the process of treating Haimanah of illnesses she didn’t have, the doctor told me that he had no idea what was ailing my daughter. I have never felt such anguish to see my daughter suffering and there is nothing I can do about it,” the distraught mother says.

That did not stop her from seeking answers. She then went to Coptic Hospital where when the doctor informed her that her daughter was having difficulty breathing since her lungs were not getting sufficient oxygen.


While at the hospital, Haimanah started vomiting uncontrollably. When she stopped, she was out of breath to the point of her veins turned navy blue, an indication of insufficient supply of oxygen.

Since then Haimanah has been breathing with the support of an oxygen mask attached to a tank. Doctors at Coptic Hospital ran more tests on her again started treating her for Pneumonia.

“She used to have an unusually high fever but after some time it went down to normal. She went back to her usual cheerful character, the only problem being that she was not able to breath without the assistance of the oxygen mask,” the mother says.

The doctors tried weaning her off but it did not work. Miswaleh then asked for a referral and she was told to take her daughter to Kenyatta National Hospital.

At Kenyatta National Hospital more tests were done on Haimanah. On the first week they tested for TB and the results came out negative. During her five-month stay at the hospital no medicine was administered to her with the medics saying all her body organs were in good health.

The doctors at KNH then decided to do a Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology FNAC, on the lump to see if it was cancerous.

The results came back after three weeks indicating that there were some signs of cancer.

“I asked the doctors to conduct another biopsy on the neck but they said they would proceed to do it on the lungs.”

The results indicated that the cancer had spread from Haimanah’s neck to her lungs.


“With this came the challenge of how medicine was going to be administered to her, because thyroid cancer is very rare on children and the dosage is usually very high. The other challenge was money because the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) does not cover cancer treatment. Meaning that I needed to find cash for my daughter’s treatment,” Miswaleh says.

This forced her to sell some of her property, including her car and a piece of land, to raise the funds to buy medicine required for treatment of the thyroid cancer.

Haimanah bravely fought through her treatment and came out strong, although still dependent on the oxygen mask.

“We were discharged from the hospital and went back home. I later sought the help of a doctor from India who was visiting Kenya in February this year. After examining Haimanah he said that she has stage two thyroid cancer and if quick action is taken then she can be cured.

“However, the doctor warned me that six months down the line she would not be able to breath even with the aid of the oxygen mask, because her lungs would have collapsed. He advised me to take my daughter to India to start the treatment which costs Sh5 million,” the mother says.

In total she has already spent Sh1.2 million.

At night Haimanah sleeps with the oxygen mask which has practically been attached to her.

“It has become difficult for me to watch her slowly dying because I now cannot afford to come up with Sh5 million needed for the treatment. That’s why I am asking for help because I cannot give up and I cannot watch her die,” the distraught mother says.

Editor’s note: Contributions can be sent through the Paybill number 678722 – Account name: Wairimu