Idaho faith: Thank God for America and its riches, benefits


It has been a practice of mine to order a hamburger, french fries and Dr. Pepper while waiting for my flight to Idaho soon after I go through customs at any of the international airports in the U.S. And completely oblivious of my thought process, I utter the words, “Thank God for America.”

On May 24, those words had an unimaginable meaning. My father had died on May 16, and we laid him to rest on May 21. He had been admitted to the hospital on May 12. From the moment he was admitted until the day I left Kenya, I was subjected to heartbreaking experiences that should have taken one’s lifetime to experience.

For a patient to be touched by a health care specialist, the patient had to provide the health care specialist with gloves. Luckily, a friend of mine knew the requirements and carried the gloves my stepmother was using to take care of dad. I soon realized that patients’ families also had to bring saline solution.

As my dad was being taken care of, I noticed a few patients writhing in pain, apparently getting no attention. That prompted a basic question: “Why is no one attending to them?” The answer was quick. Their families have not brought gloves, saline and whatever else was needed.

Even for medications, families have to purchase them from pharmacists and bring them to the hospital for their loved ones to be treated. I wasn’t strong enough to purchase those basic necessities for my dad only. I bought some extras to share. Gloves and saline cost less than $1, but millions of Kenyans still can’t afford them.

A day after my dad was admitted, I visited him at about 9 a.m. and found my younger siblings changing his adult diaper. I stepped out to wait until I could go back and be with him. I knew being with him is all I could do now. He wasn’t talking. I heard a voice of a woman consciously drawing my attention to her direction, the women’s ward. It was a familiar face. It was a mother of several girls who are sponsored by Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope.

She was involved in a motorcycle accident that left four riders (her included) in critical condition. She was the first to come out of a coma but still didn’t know how the accident happened. After learning why I was there, she hit me hard with the news that all patients, even those suffering from diabetes, had not had breakfast and were not likely to get it from the hospital.

I visited the hospital manager’s office and learned that they had not received funding for anything from the county government. Support staff were on strike and health care specialists could not start seeing patients unless their working areas were cleaned. There was no fuel for the generator, thus risking the lives of patients on life-support systems that depend on reliable electricity.

What depressed me were memories of my youth. I was admitted to that same hospital. There was everything patients needed, medicine included. Corruption was not rampant, and lives were saved.

There was an experience that started as a sweet one before it became bitter. After my father’s passing, it occurred to me that he wore a winter shirt I had taken to him in his last days of life. He was also covered with a blanket I took to him. But then I realized all those patients wore their own street clothing.

Normally, hospitals provide gowns to their inpatients. I found out that the washer and dryer had broken down years ago without replacement. An industrial washer that can save thousands of lives is $60,000 — an amount beyond the imaginations of people whose major dream is the next meal.

In America, hospitals have full supplies and health care providers are obligated to treat you first and bill you later. The hospital environment is safe. The generators work. This is not the case in developing countries.

I turned my attention back to my delicious, albeit unhealthy hamburger meal, paused, and then thanked God for it and for America.

The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.

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