He was a sickly child growing up. His mother had a rough time with him. She did the best she could to keep the boy alive, going from one hospital to another. He eventually got better but not without a fight and perhaps because of this difficult part of his upbringing, that the man he is today was birthed.
Gilbert had always been fascinated by doctors, perhaps because he was in and out of hospital too many times. He would envision himself donned in a doctor’s white coat with a stethoscope around his neck. He found doctors to be the coolest people on earth. He had read Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands” while in primary school and he knew that’s what he wanted to become too, a doctor.
He desired to impact lives and for him, being a doctor was that one thing that made his heart beat. After high school, he was lucky to get an opportunity to go study abroad. However, things didn’t quite go as he had hoped and instead, he went to Moi University, Eldoret.
Gilbert was studying Computer Science at Chepkoilel campus (now university of Eldoret) but after the first semester, he knew he was not cut out for it. Probably the first biggest risk he ever took in his life was to defer his university studies at the time to embark on a mission of enrolling for medical studies. Being a double intake year, university admission slots were filled up in excess, worse even for medical schools, and the luxury of switching from one institution to another was almost impossible.
It was one whole year of Gilbert daring his chances, risking, waiting and hoping to redeem his dream career. After a long and tedious inter-university transfer process, he was offered an admission to study Physical Therapy at Moi University School of Medicine.
“That was a beautiful exchange and I like to make myself believe that physical therapy found me. I had always been passionate about attending to the sick, but didn’t know how. Becoming a medical practitioner was all I thought I needed in order to touch the lives of people. I didn’t know much about rehabilitation medicine. It was during my studies that I realised I was actually made for it.”
Gilbert pointed his passion for Physical Therapy as an empowerment tool or gift to help others because of his first-hand experience with the burden of care for disabling illness from his own family and other people he knew closely.
“It’s amazing how we take our lemons and turn them into lemonades”, I said to Gilbert as he narrated his journey. We sat outside his balcony chatting as he awaited to go for an afternoon session with one of his patients.
“Life doesn’t always give us what we want, but if we look hard enough, it gives us what we need.”
“As a physical therapist, you must be physically fit yourself?”
“Hahaha… yes. Imagine handling a patient who is twice your size? Zoezi lazima (exercising is a must)”
Gilbert attends to about three or four patients a day. This means he sets a schedule for each patient. Once he gets to a patient’s home, he puts on his scrubs, wears gloves and a mask. He then spends one and a half hours or just an hour with each patient.
Gilbert leads HealthyLife & Rehab, a team of healthcare practitioners that provides services in lifestyle health and rehabilitation. They have a mission to empower and equip people for effective living and optimum function in the community through promoting good health seeking behavior and providing supportive services to those experiencing illness and disabling conditions.
“I mainly attend to home-bound patients with long term and disabling illnesses or injuries such as a stroke, spinal injury, among others.”
“Is our health sector doing enough?”
“In our setting, rehab care is not given priority in mainstream hospitals. Without customised healthcare services, individuals with these needs are left with huge disease burdens to bear for the rest of their lives. That’s the reason I go to where patients are, their homes, to offer them continued access to such care as much and as convenient as possible. You know, effective rehabilitation demands collaborative intervention from all relevant parties. As I engage my patients, I also involve their family members in the rehabilitation process. I constantly monitor patients’ progress, sharing reports with the family, and other involved care givers for appropriate interventions towards maximum recovery.”
I had never given customised health care much thought until now as I listened to Gilbert. Think about it, home-based care is much better for a patient who has suffered say, spinal injury or stroke. When a guy like Gilbert visits them at the comfort of their homes, it saves them time and even money compared to hospital visits to get the same rehabilitation care service. Besides, how many patients can afford what hospitals charge for rehab?
The challenges bedevilling our current healthcare sector are far from over and guys like Gilbert are playing their role in closing the gaps. He had worked in various hospitals, but it didn’t take long before he realised just how vital home-based rehabilitation care was.
One day, a patient who had undergone hip surgery, requested him to make arrangements to visit him at his home after he was discharged. It was after that encounter that he decided to meet a need in the healthcare sector that was somewhat “green.” One recommendation after another allowed him to attend to patients from different parts.
“More than 50% of all hospital admissions today, are related to lifestyle issues. This creates a huge burden on family members especially those that have to care for long term cases which rehabilitation seeks to address. Rehabilitation doesn’t necessarily stop at the hospital”, Gilbert said.
“Your hands, they must be of love”, I chuckled as I stood up ready to make my way out.
“Thank you for pointing that out. These God-given hands are blessed. Hands of love. As I attend to patients, they will be sure to make a difference. I am happy with the success stories I have had through these hands so far.”
“So which patient are you visiting this afternoon?”
“I will be visiting a stroke patient. She has made tremendous progress since the first time we started her rehabilitation process. She couldn’t walk. Right now, she’s walking with minimal support. Soon, she will be back on her feet.”
“Hands of love or like Ben Carson, gifted hands”, he chuckled as he walked me to the door then went back to get ready for his afternoon appointment.