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Kidney failure, treatment and high cost of drugs in Kenya


John Githunguri still remembers the day he received the shock of his life. The 32-year-old was diagnosed with a kidney failure at Kenyatta National Hospital – the largest referral facility in the country.

Kidney disease, like some sickness, can be inherited from family members who had the disease: Photo / Courtesy

Visiting many clinics – after he developed symptoms such as general body weakness, loss of appetite, muscles pull – Githunguri disappointingly says that many health facilities gave wrong drugs emanating from poor diagnosis.

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“When I discovered that I got kidney disease it was one of the worst news I have ever had. It just started with weakness, getting very tired, muscle pull, lack of appetite. I went to Kenyatta National Hospital and discovered I had kidney failure. Some of the clinic I went to said that I was suffering from typhoid, malaria, and amoeba”, he remembers with saddening memory.

The drugs for these common ailments, he says, never helped him. Ultimately, he went through kidney transplant, the donator being his brother. Kidney drugs, he notes, are very expensive. A person has two choices – to go for dialysis or take drugs.

The little salary he received wasn’t enough for the medication and on this backdrop, he opted to seek aid in social media. The kidney patient posted his predicament in Twitter handles,

“My name is john Githunguri. 32 years old and I am looking for a job. I have a diploma in Public Relations and over 6 years’ experience in public service. I am looking for a job to help me in buying my kidney post-transplant drugs. Any leads will be highly appreciated”.

He says it reached a point where buying drugs became a luxury and instead of suffering in the dialysis bed alone, he let the agony off the chest by publicly requesting assistant.

According to Dr. Srinivasa Murthy, Kidney Specialist, Kidney disease, like some sickness, can be inherited from family members who had the disease. Lifestyle diseases such as pressure, high blood pressure and diabetes – after 35 years – if neglected and not properly treated contribute to the kidney failure.

Dr. Srinivasa adds that primary healthcare providers should be very alert for kidney symptoms because some health service providers mistakenly give wrong medication which in turn complicates the matter endangering lives. 90 percent of the symptoms, he adds, aren’t direct.

“Kidney ailment is common all over the world and Kidney disease doesn’t mean failure, a problem will be there. Just like obesity, blood pressure and diabetes, kidney sickness is a lifestyle disease which is expanding across the globe”, says Dr. Srinivasa Murthy, adding that proper and healthy lifestyle will help much.

Drugs bought over the counter like diclofenac at some point risk a person to develop kidney failure. On this basis, the kidney specialist says that pharmacist must be regulated so that they don’t give drugs that are dangerous to people.

With endless toothache, John could frequent the use of diclofenac painkiller, a matter he fully regret till today. Health complications associated with the painkiller is far and wide worse.

We all know of people who, with slight headache, rush to pharmacies to purchase painkiller – over-the-counter drugs – a situation Murphy discourages.

“Simple complains needs to be addressed but every simple headache and tummy pain, you don’t need run to a doctor”.

The cost of kidney disease treatment and maintenance is quietly expensive and on an average a person spends Kshs 27,000 for drugs and clinic ($270). The doctor has to regularly check progress.

Donators of kidney, the specialists says shouldn’t feel afraid and that the function of the remaining kidney is enough to sustain the body. Fortunately, the remaining kidney, in a period of months or a year, the size increases and this compensates for donated kidney.

The donator, however, should be careful and consider regular visit to the physician to check blood pressure and other conditions once in a year.

The bottom line is to constantly engage a doctor for any underlying medical issue that may contribute to kidney failure. In case failure happens, kidney transplant is a good option and for best matches or related organs, the general cost is commonly down.

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