35 year old Emaculate Ongala was diagnosed with kidney disease three and a half years ago, a condition that she lives with to date. Her ill health has progressed to a level where both her kidneys have now completely failed and she has come to terms with her situation. From my little knowledge and my interactions with a few nephrologists, I know that Chronic Kidney Disease(CKD) has no cure but with treatment and a change of one’s lifestyle, many patients’ health have tremendously improved.
It’s estimated that more than four million Kenyans have chronic kidney disease and out of this number 10,000 people have gotten to end-stage renal disease hence require dialysis just like Emaculate who happens to be among the lucky 10 percent of Kenyans who are able to access dialysis.
Risk Factors To Look Out For
Studies show that people living with diabetes and high blood pressure are at a very high risk of getting kidney disease. This is true because when Emaculate was pregnant for her third born, she developed high blood pressure. Her whole body was swollen and her health was at risk to a point where the doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy because if she chose to keep it then she was putting her life, and the life of her unborn child in danger.
Unfortunately Emaculate’s husband was not supportive and did not want to hear anything to do with the abortion. He instead threatened her and told her to pack and leave should she ever consider the abortion. She chose to save her marriage and kept the pregnancy despite all the complications and risks that were associated with it.
There are also other risk factors that predisposes people to chronic kidney disease such as obesity, heart disease, smoking, one’s family history(of family members with kidney disease),older age and the tendency of over the counter medications that can destroy one’s kidneys amongst other factors.
Four months into her pregnancy, Emaculate’s condition worsened and she had to be admitted in hospital where she stayed for five more months until she gave birth to a healthy baby. Sadly, Emaculate was so weak she was put on oxygen and her baby taken to the nursery where she would occasionally go to breastfeed him and return to the ward where she was being monitored.
Dialysis Saved My Life
Emaculate has moved from one hospital to the other seeking treatment and cure for her kidney without luck. At some point she was taken back to the village in Homa Bay by her grandmother and they put her on traditional herbs with a hope that she would get better but it made the situation worse and she almost lost her life.
This was her life changing moment when one relative suggested that they take her to hospital and have her put on dialysis. Dialysis has kept Emaculate going, without it then her life would have taken a different route, maybe she wouldn’t be alive to share her story.
Emaculate faithfully goes for her dialysis sessions every Monday and every Thursday, for four hours per session. Emaculate cannot survive without dialysis because it is what has been relieving her of the chronic kidney disease symptoms and stopping it from becoming worse.
Universal Health Care Coverage
As I sat with Emaculate at her house in Kabiria Satellite, I asked her why she hadn’t considered doing a kidney transplant and she told me that she could not afford the cost.
“There are days that I sit here wondering how I would get fare to take me to hospital for my dialysis because it is mandatory for me to go. I rely on people’s goodwill and my neighbours are even tired of my constant borrowing. I have no source of income, my ex-husband left us rotting in the hospital the time I had been admitted and I have two daughters and a grandchild to take care of and if it wasn’t for the government’s support through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) which pays for my dialysis sessions then I would surely not have made it this far.”
NHIF Blow to Renal Patients
However, last Friday’s announcement by NHIF to reduce the costs they incur for every renal patient from Kshs. 9,500 to Kshs.6000 will be a total let down and blow to renal patients and their caregivers. I wonder what will happen to the likes of Emaculate!
There are so many people out there like Emaculate who battle with different health conditions but the cost of healthcare in this country is dehumanizing and it leaves them more miserable.
What if different key players in the health sector joined forces to ensure that Universal Healthcare Coverage accommodates the Emaculates of this country? Are there interventions being done by the Kenya Renal Association (KRA) and other stakeholders to meet the rising cases of Kidney Transplant and dialysis services by ensuring that these services are affordable for patients without having to put a strain in their pockets?
As I pondered on what question I was going to ask Emaculate next, she mentioned that she had gotten two donors who were willing to give her a kidney, a good Samaritan and her first born daughter, but she could not raise the amount of money required for them to go to hospital and get tested if their kidneys were matching! I looked through different healthcare facilities to check on the cost for a kidney transplant in Kenya and the amounts were ridiculous for a common mwananchi to afford. How and where would someone who cannot even afford $2 for her fare to hospital get approximately Ksh1.6 million a kidney transplant?
In the end, I asked Emaculate what her plans were in regards to her health and she told me, ” I have accepted my condition and I will not lose hope but I will instead keep fighting because I know I am not dying any time soon. Someday, my health is going to get better and the story will be different.”
I totally agree with her because there are many patients like Emaculate who have lived well on dialysis for even 30 years but only because they followed their doctor’s advice on how to take care of themselves and stay healthy on dialysis.