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Dr. Lugaliki: The Young and Brave Medical Warrior Who Risked It All For Her Patients

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UPDATE; July 12, 2020, 11.02pm: Dr. Doreen Adisa Lugaliki, the first Kenyan doctor to succumb to COVID-19 will be laid to rest on Monday morning July 13 in a small village within Ndalu, Tongaren constituency, as tweeted by NASA CEO Norman Magaya.

“Tomorrow Dr. Doreen Adisa Lugaliki will be laid to rest early morning in a small village within Ndalu, Tongaren constituency. She hailed from the smallest clan among the maragoli where the number of doctors is countable and all known by name” he wrote.

Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki’s last update on her Facebook page was her usual poses in lovely dresses on April 11. Then, on Thursday July 9, she was no more.

Her life was snuffed out by the ravaging coronavirus that as of Saturday July 11 has claimed the lives of over 500,000 people worldwide.

The doctor, in her late 30s, succumbed to the new coronavirus disease barely 48 hours after she was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital early Friday July 10.

“We have today for the first time lost a medical doctor to the coronavirus disease. I’m deeply saddened by this particularly because she contracted the virus while working to save the lives of others who had contracted the virus,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe confirmed on Friday July 10, 2020.

Adding, “It is always painful when life is lost and even more painful when it is a frontline worker and more so when it comes in the line of duty. On behalf of the government I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and on behalf of the fellow healthcare workers who are within my ministry and county governments I also say pole sana,”

The next posts after that were her colleagues typing “rest in peace, my friend” and her patients recalling the last moments they had with her.

Dr Elizabeth Wala of AMREF wrote: “My heart is shattered. Go well, my friend.”

Another medic, gynaecologist Nelly Bosire, wrote that she would hide under a rock until “Dr Adisa Lugaliki wakes up and says it was a bad joke”.

KTN’s Dr. Mercy Korir was the first to break the saddening news via her Twitter account, which sent social media alongside the medical fraternity and sorority into mourning.

“We have lost one of our own as a doctors’ fraternity to #Covid_19. A young doctor with so much to offer.” she wrote.

Dr Lugaliki became the first medical doctor to die from Covid19 and the third healthcare worker after two other nurses on Saturday July 11 succumbed to the virus, bringing the total to three.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) confirming that she had contracted the disease in the line of work at a private facility – the Nairobi South Hospital.

“KMPDU mourns the death of Dr. Doreen Adisa Lugaliki who passed on due to COVID-19 contracted at the work place. We reiterate & remind GOK & ALL Private health facilities that the Welfare,Occupational Safety & Health of front line workers is a non-negotiable Minimum!!” KMPDU said in a statement.

The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) reiterated the need for medical practitioners to be accorded a safe working environment.

“We mourn the loss of our young Vibrant Dr. Lugaliki to the dreaded COVID-19. Our prayers and condolences to her family. We reiterate the call for protection of health workers,” KMA said.

She was admitted at Aga Khan Hospital after developing breathing complications. Doctors said she did not have other symptoms but nevertheless died after two days at the facility.

Messages of condolence continued to pour in on social media from Kenyans following her demise. Dr Lugaliki was known fondly to her friends as “Kadoreen”.

The death of Dr Lugaliki cements the fear in the medical fraternity about their safety as they attend to patients. Some 363 healthcare workers tested positive for the virus, which has since infected 9,726 people after 278 more people tested positive on Saturday July 11.

The disease has also killed 184 people in Kenya so far, after the demise of three more patients on Saturday.

According to Dr Mercy Korir, she observed that, Dr Lugaliki’s death cannot be a mere statistic for the Health CS Mr Mutahi Kagwe to run through to inquisitive journalists. In her life, dedication to duty, love for her three children and care for others was the very essence and meaning of life.

Committed to her patients and family in equal measure and deeply devoted to her country, she could make a study on balance of life.

Her family, colleagues and friends were undoubtedly heartbroken. She was eulogised as a dedicated and hardworking obstetrician and gynaecologist in Nairobi who was literally on her feet attending to expectant mothers up until her untimely death.

On one of her social media accounts, she spoke about her work and dedication as an obstetrician and gynaecologist: “My aim is to promote optimal wellness for women and I share a sense of duty and enthusiasm towards our goal to keep a professional atmosphere.”

Ann Kihara, one of her close friends and senior colleague, remembers her as a vibrant, bubbly, very intelligent intellectual who was always in high spirits and considered patients first.

“I heard about it this morning and it broke my heart, I feel the pain,” she told the Standard on Saturday.

She recalled how Lugaliki loved and adored her children. Having taken full charge and responsibility of them, she is said to have had everything in her life rotating around them.

“We have lost a young upcoming colleague, friend and mother and a contributor to this nation, as a selfless doctor,” Kihara mourned.

She laid emphasis on protective gear for doctors because one would not know the status of the patients that they would be seeing, whether they are symptomatic or not.

“If you can’t protect us, save us from the burden of these bills,” she said due to the fact that should a medic fall ill, they have to meet their bills like any other person, yet in her opinion, healthcare workers falling ill from Covid-19 should not be subjected to hospital bills.

Dr Simon Kigondu, the National Secretary of the Kenya Medical Association, asked for the public to allow the family to mourn their daughter and mother in private, even as the medical community comes to terms with the loss.

The Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society described her as “a young, brilliant, extremely hard-working obstetrician and gynaecologist who cared for her patients with unmatched dedication and zeal.”

The society also reiterated it would forever hold her in high honour.

In April, healthcare workers asked for protective gear, as well as insurance and “hazard pay” to protect themselves should they die in the line of duty. The workers had lamented about lack of protective equipment.

In response, President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed that part of the Sh5 billion that came from Treasury should be used to create a “welfare package” to cushion healthcare workers against any negative consequences of the virus. He said he recognised “the critical importance of health, mental and emotional needs of our frontline medical doctors, nurses and other medical professionals”.

Dr Lugaliki will be buried early next week in Bungoma county.

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