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Delicate balance of living with lifestyle diseases

Kate Ndigwa takes life one day at a time.She has spent most of her life managing diabetes.She later developed high blood pressure and kidney failure and is now wheelchair bound

Sandra Wekesa @PeopleDailyKE

Kate Ndigwa has been living with diabetes for the past 31 years. Despite the long years of dealing with the disease, she admits that sometimes it can be too overwhelming, given the expenses she has to incur to buy insulin.

“My journey with diabetes began at five years old. At that time I really didn’t know what it meant to be diabetic. With symptoms such as frequent urination, and dehydration my mum insisted that I needed to go for tests.

As fate would have it, I was diagnosed with diabetes at a tender age. My mum, who was a nurse, had to give me injections three times a day. The worst bit of it was controlling the intake of sugary thing, I really found it difficult for I was a child and not eating sweets was major issue for me at the time,” says Kate.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Kenya has been reported as one of the countries in the sub-Saharan Africa with the highest non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevalence estimated at 20.3 per cent.

Evidence shows that young people aged 10-24 have high vulnerability to the risk factors including tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and harmful use of alcohol. Although the government has put in place policy frameworks and measures to address NCD risk behaviour among young people, these policies often remain inadequate.

For Kate,  who went to Consolata High School in Machakos, developing hypertension in 2012, four years after giving birth to her child, only complicated her life further. She says living with a non-communicable disease requires strength.

“I really didn’t know how I was going to manage the two diseases, I felt like I could give up but I still hard to keep fighting. At 34 years  with diabetes and hypertension wasn’t how I expected to live, but I just had to,” admits Kate.

The 36-year-old mother of one  says it was the worst time of her life for she didn’t know how to go about managing the diseases. Two years later she was diagnosed with kidney failure. She reveals that the only way this could have happened is failure to manage hypertension. Going for dialysis twice a week became part and parcel of her life. 

Unfortunately the situation worsened last year when she fell in the bathroom and broke her tibia. She had to undergo a surgery or spend the rest of her life on the wheelchair.

“Surviving on friends and a wheelchair was the worst part of my life. The worst bit of it is nothing could be done because my kidneys had failed, which meant there is no way the surgery could have been done without dialysis,” says Kate. She is still trying to raise money for the surgery.

James Nduati, public health trainer, explains that there are various types of diabetes and all of them vary with how EACH presents itself. Other than that, it is a chronic condition characterised by high glucose levels in the body. According to Nduati, diabetes predisposing factors can be due to lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, use of different types of medication and stress.

The only way to know if one has diabetes is when a person urinating more often than normal, is dehydrated, has blurry vision, and has bruises that are slow to heal, has weight loss and extreme fatigue.

In as much as it is really hard to get renal failure from diabetes, he claims that the moment you are on medication your immune system weakens, which results in higher chances of getting other diseases as the case was with Ndigwa. He further explains that many people who get renal failure more often have weak bones that is why most of them can’t undergo surgeries.

“The main reason it was really hard for her to undergo the procedure is due to her weak bones, if for an instance she was taking enough calcium supplements then her surgery could have been done in the most possible way. The other problem is they seem to be quite expensive,” says Nduati.

  

  

  

      

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