ON December 23, 2020, a dark cloud hovered over the Mukome homestead in Tsonzo area of Mutasa District as the family lost their grandmother and one of the province’s celebrated and renowned midwives, Mbuya Esther Mukome.
Mbuya Mukome passed on at a Mutare hospital at the age of 92 and left behind six children, 18 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
Among the prominent people whose umbilical codes she cut are Defence and War Veterans Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and war veteran and former Mutasa South legislator, Cde Irene Zindi.
In an earlier coverage featured in The Manica Post in July 2018, she spoke fondly about her profession as a nurse.
It is a profession she loved with the intensity of Florence Nightingale.
Nightingale was a British nurse, statistician, and social reformer who was the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.
One of Nightingale’s famous quotes: “For the sick, it is important to have the best”, resonates well with the late Mbuya Mukome’s contributions to the health sector.
Mourners who attended Mbuya Mukome’s burial on Sunday (December 28) spoke glowingly of her service to the community especially expecting mothers.
Mbuya Esther Mukome, born Sagonda, was one of the first few girls who ventured into the medical profession as a nurse.
During her 25-year stint as a nurse, she cut many umbilical cords and among them were those of renowned personalities.
“I was accepted in the forth intake at Bonda Mission Hospital and we were only six girls. But, only four graduated. The other two were expelled after falling pregnant while training,” she then reminisced with glittering eyes and a triumphant spirit during the 2018 interview.
In 1946, she started training in general nursing and midwifery under a strict Dr Taylor and she graduated in 1948 and worked at St Augustine’s Mission Hospital for two years before moving to Mutare in 1951.
But not before she tied the knot with the love of her life, Mr Lucian Mukome, a teacher on December 9, 1950.
“My husband shared rented accommodation with Minister Muchinguri- Kashiri’s father, John. They were still bachelors and he later married Oppah’s mother, Rose. I was the midwife when Oppah was delivered. As for Irene Zindi, I was also the midwife and we shared the water tap in Chineta, Sakubva with her parents.”
After leaving the mission hospital, Mbuya Mukome in 1951 was employed at the Mutare Venereal Diseases Hospital popularly known as Nazareth those days.
She left in Sept 1955 to study district nursing, an opportunity that had arisen in the Umtali Municipality. That time the municipality introduced a home deliveries system for black women because the then Umtali General Hospital could not cater for the increased numbers of pregnant mothers after the expansion and completion of the locations in Sakubva.
“When I was still at the Nazareth, I had learned how to use the home delivery kit. It was a scheme where the expectant mother paid the kit and I got paid for delivering the baby. It was a very rewarding scheme,” Mbuya Mukome said.
On why she chose nursing, she said the profession suited her personality and wanted to join the profession that was people orientated. “It was appealing to me and my parents and uncle supported my choice.
“Nurses who trained and practised during our days were real Florence Nightingales and were passionate about their profession,” the retired nurse said regretting the attitude of most of today’s crop.
“We were trained to be kind to patients and not to scold women who are in labour and patients in pain. Today’s nurses work constantly watching their watches and will tell a patient they cannot help because their time is up. We never refused to help patients because time is up but we worked until all the work supposed to be done was completed,” she said regrettably.
“The nurses of my era were loving because we were taught that a patient recovers faster if she is cared for with love.”
She added that it was sad that today’s medical staff value money more than the well being of patients. She said even doctors are rushing to do Caesarean deliveries just for money and not because it is necessary.
Mbuya Mukome said she has received the raw treatment during hospitalisation by some nurses who did not know she is a veteran nurse .
“Those who later knew I was once a nurse changed their attitude,” she said.
In 1974, Mbuya Mukome hung up her nursing gloves to concentrate on running the family businesses in Katiyo. It was at the height of the liberation struggle and according to her, she was back to nursing again secretly treating comrades who were wounded and had other medical ailments.
“I can say I fought the war. I treated the freedom fighters and they came and took supplies from the general dealer in Katiyo. We did a lot for the comrades and they told us our immense contribution would be rewarded and that our name was on the party list in Mozambique. I was never rewarded nor acknowledged but it doesn’t matter now,” Mbuya Mukome said.