While many people want material things and power in life, Emmanuel Gitau, 37, from Mugumo, Kiambu County says he only wants to go for a short call of nature before he breaths his last. “I have to pay to urinate. So I go for dialysis twice a week-Tuesday and Friday-five hours per session,” he says.
Dialysis is the process of removing waste and excess fluids from the body when the kidneys, whose job this is, fail.
A caterer by profession who sells potato crisps to eke a living, Gitau was a teenager when he was first diagnosed with kidney disease.
Before then, he had always been in and out of hospital since his childhood. At the time, it was just a simple fact of his life. Something he could manage with a special diet and his medication.
Unknowingly, the medication was talking a toll on Gitau’s kidneys. By the time doctors realised this, his kidneys were already failing. That was in 2001.
His father and brother donated their kidneys, that failed hours after implant. Only his sister’s worked, but for only seven months before it failed.
“My father later passed away as his kidney kept deteriorating, but we had remained hopeful as he was also on dialysis just like me, He said.
Dialysis prolongs survival, but it also imposes burdens like traveling to a clinic twice a week.
“Dialysis is a life-changing event, it is a very demanding form of treatment. It involves medical issues, spiritual issues, quality of life. It’s a big decision,” he says.
He has been to hospital countless times both in Kenya and India, undergone 14 major operations, from a minor abdominal operation at Kijabe Mission Hospital to three kidney transplants in India.
Now he is living without a kidney and having to contend with permanent dialysis.
Doctors first referred Gitau, then a Form Three student, to Kenyatta National Hospital for further examination and possible dialysis. It turned out to be the first step in what has become an excruciating physical, social and psychological journey.
His family overwhelmed by the sheer cost of keeping Gitau alive, he has on many occasions traveled on his own with excruciating pain from Kenyatta hospital to India for emergency treatment without any caregiver.
His mother, Margaret Wairimu, who has developed a heart disease, says that his son’s sickness has taken a heavy toll on her health.
“My son was tall, almost 6 foot. He was energetic and active, but he now looks like a hunchback half his height. His medication is too expensive, when he misses a dose his body weakens,” says the distraught widow.
Gitau spends Sh10,000 per month on medication. He says doctors have advised him to have three dialysis instead of the normal two since his body has grown weak.
“A dialysis session cost Sh9,500 the National Hospital Insurance Fund caters for my two weekly sessions. I cannot afford the third one as I have to pay cash considering I am overburdened by medication and transport to hospital every week,” he says.
Despite his condition, Gitau is full of energy and hope. He says staying positive and attending daily morning mass at St Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kirigiti is what keeps him going.
“I have been a staunch Catholic and ever since I was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure I have never missed mass,” he says.
The dialysis patient was given three months to live in 2007 by his doctors. Thirteen years later, he is still soldiering on. He says only God knows his fate.
“My faith keeps me going. They only gave me three months to live but ironically the doctor who said this passed on last year yet I am still alive,” he says.
Gitau has now written “My life without kidneys,” a book on his life without kidneys that he sells and hopes that it will not only earn him his daily bread, but also act as an inspiration to Kenyans.
While many people in his condition would wish for something else, Gitau’s only wish a deep-fryer (it costs Sh95,000) that will enable him expand his potato crisp business and raise money to cater for his medication.
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