For Elizabeth Mueni Mwatha, life has never been the same since she lost her beloved husband Jacob Mwatha on February 15 last year.
She has not only had to endure with the pain of losing a soulmate, but also fight the monster of kidney failure, which is increasingly becoming too common in Kenya.
The pain and agony of moving from hospital to hospital undergoing dialysis has been too much to bear.
It has not only drained the family’s savings, but also made her university-going daughter, Dinah Mwatha, put her education on hold as the little money the family earns is channelled to her medication.
The doctors have recommended that she undergoes an urgent kidney transplant in India after she was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure early this year, hence the need for a transplant. For now, she is surviving on dialysis, which is a traumatising, painful and exhausting exercise.
When she visited Nation Centre for an interview a few weeks ago in the company of her daughter Dianah, who has been nursing her, a faint Mueni cut a forlorn figure.
Hers is tale of a soul fighting for dear life, but the Sh5 million needed to facilitate the transplant in India is way beyond the reach of the family.
At the time of the interview the family had launched an online fundraiser, but the response had been underwhelming, raising a paltry Sh43,500.
“It all began in late 2013, when the doctor said that I had high urea content in my blood and that it could affect the kidney,” explained Mueni. “Back then, I did not know that it would come to this. Initially, I was reluctant to undergo dialysis but I had to accept it; it has now become part of my life.”
Initially, they had planned to have her undergo the dialysis at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), the country’s largest referral hospital, but were informed that the dialysis equipment there were few and the queue was long.
A dialysis session at KNH cost Sh5,000, but since they had no choice, they settled for Coptic Hospital, where the bills have been unkind to them. A single dialysis session at Coptic goes for Sh6,600, and she needs to go for dialysis twice a week, meaning she needs at least Sh13,200 weekly for medical costs.
“Life has been difficult, but I thank God,” she says. “My husband’s death, coupled with this disease, have drained everything, but I’m optimistic that I will raise enough funds to enable me to travel to India for the transplant.”
Dialysis involves filtering impurities from the blood when a patient’s faltering kidneys can no longer do so.
Originally a temporary stopgap for those awaiting transplants, it has become the standard treatment for advanced kidney failure. Fewer than 10 per cent of patients opt for peritoneal dialysis, which can be done at home.
In the US, most undergo hemodialysis at a centre where machines clean the blood and correct chemical imbalances.
Unquestionably, dialysis has helped save lives, but the picture for older patients is less rosy.
About 40 per cent of patients over age 75 with end-stage renal disease, or advanced kidney failure, die within a year, and only 19 per cent survive beyond four years.
A primary reason is that older patients generally suffer from other chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
A kidney transplant is all that Ms Mueni is banking on to save her life, and, like many others, she is looking forward to make the medical pilgrimmage to India if (or when) the money comes.
Want to help?
Send donations to Elizabeth Mueni’s medical kitty via mobile money transfer service M-Pesa, Paybill number 891300, Account Number 3888, or via Airtel Money: Business Name: M CHANGA,Ref No: 3888. No levies charged. The family can be reached on 0715-428-350 or 0729-829-302