Fare Thee Well My Friend

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Caroline Wairimu Wanjihia (August 5, 1954 – February 26, 2017)

Sunday February 26, 2017 was a day I will never forget. As is normally the case on most Sunday afternoons after church, I was lounging in my garden with my family.

Then a text message came through – “Auntie where are you, can I call?” ‘At home and sure you can call,’ was my quick response. It took an hour for the call to come through and the news was devastating  – Caroline Wanjihia is dead!

“What, how, when, are you sure…?” were the many questions I asked amidst confusion and great sadness.

Caroline Wanjihia is amongst a group of friends I call ‘old friends’ – friends I met many years ago either in school, university, workplace or under other circumstances, and developed a very close bond, which has held to this day. Although we may not see each other often, we are real genuine friends who stand by each other.

Caroline and I got married the same year (1979) and soon our paths crossed. We became close family friends and this bond was to be cemented further by the arrival of our children – her two daughters and one son, and my two sons and one daughter, who are almost of the same age. We brought them up together, supporting each other in all challenges that come with raising a young family.

We holidayed together, celebrated our children’s birthdays together, and watched over each other’s children when one was away.

Indeed, Caroline’s home was one of the very few I would let my children have a sleepover because I knew they were in safe hands.

And when the children grew, we walked those who are married through that journey together. I was her daughter’s (Nyawera) ‘mother’ at her wedding and she played a crucial role at both my sons’ weddings.

Caroline and I shared great moments together. The laughter and jokes at ‘viso’ cookouts in St. Andrews Turi where our children went to school; at the eight sisters group, also known as the ‘eating group’, where we met regularly to just eat, laugh and have a good time; during the many celebratory parties to mark milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries or other achievements.

I have many thoughtful gifts from Caroline – a jewellery box that stands on my dresser will daily remind me of my departed friend.

In this life, we get to know people in different ways. I knew Caroline as a beautiful woman; smart in every sense of the word; brilliant lawyer; fun-loving; committed to service (Rotary Club can attest to this); hard working; highly ambitious; fully committed to her children; one who valued family and friends; a woman who didn’t have the word failure in her vocabulary; a go-getter – when her eyes were cast on something, nothing would stop her.

Caroline always amazed me by the many ventures she undertook – only a woman with her guts would take such risks. She worked hard to achieve her dreams and her goals – she achieved many and those she didn’t now don’t matter.

But one thing I can say she achieved with high marks is raising up three great children – Nyawera Kibuka, Chihia Wanjihia and Nonnie Burbidge. In them and their children will forever live Caroline’s legacy.

My friend Caroline died suddenly as she was preparing to go for shopping. She collapsed in her house and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Cause of death – respiratory failure caused by a pulmonary thromboembolism.

Pulmonary embolism (PE), as described in Wikipendia, is a blockage of an artery to the lungs by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream. Symptoms of PE may include shortness of breath, chest pain particularly upon breathing in, and coughing up of blood.

Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg may also be present such as a red, warm, swollen and painful leg. About 90 per cent of embolisms are from the leg deep vein thrombosis (DVTs) or pelvic vein thrombosis. DVTs and pelvic vein thrombosis are at risk of dislodging and migrating to the lung circulation.

Together, DVT and PE are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE). About 15 per cent of all sudden deaths are attributed to PE.

The risk of blood clots is increased by cancer, prolonged bed rest, smoking, certain genetic conditions, pregnancy, obesity, oestrogen-containing hormonal contraception, and after some types of surgery.

Efforts to prevent PE include beginning to move as soon as possible after surgery, doing lower leg exercises during long periods of sitting, using pressure stockings when on long haul flights or when confined to a bed for long periods of time, and the use of blood thinner after some types of surgery.

If you notice pain or swelling in your leg or pain in the groin region, see a doctor immediately, as these are some of the noticeable signs of a blood clot.

As I try to move on without my friend, my only regret is that I never got to say goodbye. And I tried. On the Wednesday before her death, I drove to her house because I was missing her. She was not there and her phone was off.

I waited for some time then left, knowing I would see her that coming Saturday as she had planned an ‘itega’ for her four lovely grandchildren. But the function was cancelled two days before.

In everything we give thanks to God. I know Caroline is in a better place where the toils and tribulations of this life are over for her. God bless her family.

Published April 2017…

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