Munira Premji

9 days.  3 type of drugs.  8 different nurses.  5 collapsed veins.  20+ pokes.

This past week has been a tough one for my Mum.   Since our Emergency Room rush on Sunday night, it has been a roller coaster ride of high temperatures, low blood pressure, antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals and a daringly low hemoglobin of 59.

When the hospital becomes your home, when you are surrounded by beeping machines and the unpleasant aromas of animated neighbours (I’d rather not delve into these details!), it is easy to get discouraged.  But there is immense value in taking a step back.

A makeshift wheelchair outside the emergency room of a rural district hospital in Kenya.

If we take a few million steps back to East Africa and think about the health care system, it certainly puts life into perspective.  A few weeks ago, I facilitated a workshop with nurses in a rural district in Kenya to understand the challenges they face. For many, it takes over an hour to reach the dispensary by foot and when they arrive, they are greeted by a long queue of community members who arose at the crack of dawn to seek medical attention.  Their quality of care is often limited by frequent drug stock-outs and poor equipment.  They cite staff shortage as one of their major issues – with one or two nurses at the most managing the clinical, administrative and financial components of the facilities by themselves.  These nurses are constantly constrained by time, by money, by equipment, by cultural practices.  The words not enough and lack of were spoken much too often.  And in a rural community, not enough and lack of equate to the loss of livelihoods, the loss of economic prosperity and often, the loss of life.

The last 9 days have been rough.  I have watched my Mum’s temperature and blood pressure fluctuate constantly. As tough as it has been, I cannot help but imagine, if my Mum were being treated in one of the health facilities I frequented in rural East Africa, there would have been no nurse available to monitor her vitals every hour and administer the medications she needed to get better – the shortage of nurses (38 nurses to a 100,000 population) would have made this impossible.   For the last 9 days, I have sung to my Mum as technicians drew her blood to check her white blood cell and neutrophil counts for the day.  As hard as it is to see my Mum cry, I cannot help but imagine if we were in rural East Africa, it would take days to get the results of simple blood tests like these – as only 25% of facilities have laboratory services.  For the last 9 days, I triple-checked the antibodies listed on blood being transfused to my Mum when her hemoglobin dropped suddenly.  But if we were in a rural East African district, the likelihood of blood in stock for an emergency transfusion is highly questionable; and a well-matched blood cross-checked for 3 different antibodies – that would have been impossible to find.
This past week was a tough one, but it could have been a lot worse.  And as I watch my Mum sit on our backyard deck today, minus IVs, enjoying the sunshine, so happy to be home, I feel a sense of gratitude and hope that all will be well.



  • Julie , June 1, 2012

    This blog has become my favourite source for life lessons. It’s the email I always read first. You are a wise teacher Sabrina xo.

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , June 1, 2012

      Thanks, Julie, but I’m not wise at all. I’ve just had the privilege of seeing what life can be like beyond our North American bubble. Mum’s promised us a trip back to East Africa when she’s better…you must come too! -Sabrina

      • Julie , June 3, 2012

        Would love to!

  • Anonymous , June 1, 2012

    Dear Sabrina,

    I wish I can erase all your worries, leaving behind only the goodness, during this time spent in the company of your bestest friend in the whole expanding universe. Just that vibrant movie star-red-carpet-special smile on her face shows what a difference those arms of yours around her makes! A little part of Munira resides in everyone who knew her. My Munira in me tears in happiness, knowing that you are there for her. If I may, please accept my sincerest and most humbled gratitude for being her bestest friend in the whole expanding universe! Because I’ve heard her say many times that YOU’RE her bestest friend in the whole expanding universe!
    All my strength and love to you both, Deva

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , June 1, 2012

      Deva, you are such a gem. I’m sorry we couldn’t be there to celebrate your last day at Sanofi. I think another sushi date is in order after June 25th! -Sabrina

  • Anar Khatau , May 31, 2012

    Mother and daughter look beautiful in the picture. Mom has been on my mind and in my prayers. I pray to Mowla to give mom the best recovery! Take Care- Anar Khatau

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , June 1, 2012

      Thanks for all your support Anar, and for the phone call. I passed on your kind words to my Mum. -Sabrina

  • Anonymous , May 31, 2012

    As Sabrina mentions, perspective and life in Kenya, our upbringing from East Africa from the society we lived in, always trained to, look down and you will appreciate what you have, we thought our parents didnt want to provide us with the best, but I think that in itself has enabled us to withstand the materialistic pressures and appreciate what we have rather than complain all the time.

    “empty pockets teach you millions of things but full pockets spoils you in million ways” “

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012


    I am not adding to the chorus because of the circumstances; I am adding my thoughts because of what your mother means (no tense needed) to the many she touched. In summary, your mum trained our staff how to be “better” at dealing with business, better at dealing with conflict, better at dealing with life.

    She is a gem (you know), and she was invaluable to VFC Inc. in its day. More importantly, she has truly LIVED by the words she spoke to many of us so many moons ago about life…

    With that said, may the lake’s water be still, may her canoe coast calmly without waves and may the moon be at her shoulder as we await the beauty of the sunrise and of promises brand new.

    With love (glad you are home Munira!),

    Shaun, Tessana, baby-Hayden & baby-Haileigh

    • Premji Family , May 30, 2012

      Dearest Tessana and Shaun – This is Munira. I just saw your post and am SO happy to hear from you! I can’t believe you have 2 kids – and I love their names! Thank you so much for your very generous comments – you give me way too much credit and I am very touched by what you have said. I also love your beautiful metaphor and can feel the promises brand new ahead. With much love, Munira

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Sabrina, thank you so much for the update, and for sharing your reflections. I am counting off the days until this difficult chemo treatment comes to an end. All my love to your Mom, and your family. – Patti

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Inshallah everything will work out, it is so wonderful to have people like you and your mum and dad around as you dont believe, it gives us so much courage to face life at our end
    Mukhianimaa, we love you and you are always in our Mushkila asan tasbi, every time we recite , wherever we are, I am sure prayer swill be heard, i heard somewhere that the force of prayers is like mountain moving where you cant notice how it moved ,but yes it moved…
    (does that make sense?)

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      The power of prayer cannot be underestimated. I am certain that has been the best medicine for my Mum during this journey. -Sabrina

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Sabrina I am so glad your mom is back home!

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Sabrina I feel joy and gratitude knowing that our dear Munira has such an amazing family by her side. You are a blessing. Holding you all with love, BJ

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      It is a joy to be with my Mum — it’s time with my bestest friend in the whole expanding universe! -Sabrina

  • vicki cotter , May 30, 2012

    I don’t comment very often, but want you to know I hold Munira and all of you in my heart and in my prayers, with love. vicki

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      Thanks very much for all of your support and prayers, Vicki. -Sabrina

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Ahh, the power of perspective. I hope the worst of it has passed. Give your mom a giant hug from me Sabrina.

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Ditto … lovely picture of you both smiling. I am so sorry for all the pokes she’s having to endure, having all of you around her must be a source of strength. Hang in there, May Mowla Bless you all. Lots of love xoxo

  • Nailla Devraj , May 30, 2012

    Good post Sabrina. You definitely nailed it. I am so sorry that mum is having to have all those pokes to find veins. Has anyone said anything about a port a cath? That would save her veins and all the trauma. I just feel for her. My love to you all.
    Nailla devraj

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      We were flirting with the idea of a pic line, but because of the risk of infection with the line and how susceptible Mum is to infections, we decided against it. Only 2 more chemo-worth of pokes to go! – Sabrina

  • Yasmin Valani on behalf of Willowdale Jamati leadership , May 30, 2012

    Really really glad that Munira Mukhiani is safely home and recovering for her next treatment. We pray for Mowla to bless her with a long healthy life and speedy recovery.
    Reading Sabrina’s account of the health services in rural East Africa makes us appreciate the incredible level iof health services we are fortunate to access on short notice. We , Canadians are indeed privileged! We hope and pray that Mukhiani Munira gets the very best of medical attention and that she recovers soon. These life challenges (personal or other’s) remind us how frail life really is and the importance of friends, family, faith and giving. Sabrina, Shayne, Mukhisaheb Nagib, Naaz and aunty; continue the amazing job of taking care of Munira Mukhiani and keep her in good spirits to help her win this challenge. May Mowla bless you all with good health and lots of happiness…..Ameen
    Willowdale Jamati leadership

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      You are absolutely right, Mukhianima. Experiences like this really show us what’s important in life. Thanks very much for your prayers. -Sabrina

  • Karim Dayani , May 30, 2012

    Hello Sabrina, very well written as always, glad to hear that she is back home and doing much better. By the way, you both look so pretty in this picture but sorry to say that your Mom beats you by far, ha ha. Take care

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      Haha I agree with you completely! You should see my Mum rocking her blonde wig — I have to up my style just to keep up with her! -Sabrina

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Our Prayers are with you. We pray that Mowla Gives you more courage to go through and come out with flying Colours.

  • Anonymous , May 30, 2012

    Keep it up girl! You are doing wonderfully well with your positive atitude. Get well soon!

    • Sabrina Natasha Premji , May 30, 2012

      She is such a positive attitude superstar! Go Mommy! -Sabrina

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