TALES OF COURAGE: What a lifetime of pain taught me

Wednesday March 18 2020

Brian Gwada has spent half his life fighting for his health. PHOTO| COURTESY


An eye ailment when he was in Class Six in 2007 was the beginning of Brian Gwada’s health problems.  

"I was taken to hospital, given some medicine and we went back home. A few days later, my face started swelling. My mother took me to a hospital in Kisii and the doctor who examined me said I had an eye problem. We then went to an optician in Kisumu town who said my eyes were okay. My mother and I were confused!”


They were referred to Aga Khan Hospital, Kisumu, where the doctors concluded after some tests that his kidneys were failing.

They recommended further tests which were done at Nairobi Hospital. The tests only confirmed that his kidneys were indeed failing and that is why his blood pressure was very high.

His lifestyle had to change.

“I had to give up foods rich in proteins and salt. Meat was forbidden as was other types of foods which include solid fat, salt, bananas and margarine among others.”

Two years later, Brian fell sick again and was rushed to a nearby clinic but the doctors immediately advised his mother to take him to Nairobi Hospital.


“In 2009, the doctor told my mother that both my kidneys had failed and that I had to start dialysis immediately.”

Brian says that at this point he had to be assisted a great deal as the dialysis weakened him physically and emotionally.

He lived with his uncle in Nairobi during this time and is grateful for the care he gave him.

In 2010, Brian’s family learnt that doctors from Barcelona, Spain, were coming to Kenya to commission the first kidney transplant in the country at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and they made an effort to find a suitable donor for him. 

His sister was a match but unfortunately too young to donate her kidney as one is required to be between 18 to 60 years.

Fortunately, his mother was also a match and she accepted to donate her kidney.

“After the transplant, I became darker and hairier. With time, my health began to improve and I was able to pass urine normally. After the kidney transplant, I was given drugs to help stabilise the kidney. These suppressants were supposed to lower my immune system so that the body would not fight the kidney,” Brian says, adding that the dosage is changed according to the state of the kidney.


Brian spent a lot of time out of school but still managed to score a B+ in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.

Fast-forward to 2017, he joined the University of Kabianga for a degree in economics.

As he was enjoying his first long holiday like any other campus student, he was struck by chicken pox which invaded his internal organs, leaving him to the mercy of doctors and God.


“In July 2017, I was attacked by chicken pox. It was the first time. It affected most of my internal organs and the kidney was not spared.

A doctor warned that I had to undergo dialysis once again or I could lose the only kidney that had been transplanted,” he says,

adding that he was kept under dialysis for five days.

His family raised funds for his medical bill from social media as the financial burden had taken a toll on them.

His condition at some point got worse and he had to be rushed to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he received treatment for five days.

“I really can't recall what happened to me there. But when I woke up, my body was all different. I was covered in large pimples which healed and became black spots, my hair was falling off,” he recalls.

“Later, the surgeon came to attend to me and noticed that my left foot was swelling.

The medicine injected through the leg was confirmed not to be flowing hence causing the swelling. The surgeon said that my foot was rotting from the inside and surgery had to be done to remove the toxic puss,” he says.

The surgery on his foot left a big wound and it needed grafting to cover it. Lucky enough, the foot healed but it has remained numb.

“After all this, I went home to recuperate. By God’s grace, in September I had gained strength. When schools reopened, I went back but several things had changed.

My head was almost bald and I had to wear either a cap or a hood. Also, the spots made people stare at me and this made me uncomfortable,” he adds.

“After I was discharged I went back home and was under the care of my dad and younger brother. The company where my father worked ensured there was a medical team constantly checking on my health. The firm also made an undertaking to have him discharged from hospital but to-date the accrued bill is still being paid on a monthly basis via checkoff from my father's salary,” he says.

So what has his battle for health taught him?

“Sickness has taught me the importance of family. I don’t take life for granted and I'm grateful my family has supported me throughout the low moments in my life.”


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