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Living between despair and hope

By | November 6th 2010

By Alex Kiprotich

All was not well. She looked at her parents and all she could see was despair. She knew her life was hanging in the balance but there was a glimmer of hope.

After seeing her parents struggle with finances to cater for her medical expenses after she was diagnosed with kidney failure. However, it was the money needed for the transplant, Sh800,000 that proved a hard nut to crack.

And as she lay in the hospital bed, she realised her skin was slowly changing from chocolate complexion to grey. She panicked and hatched a plan to get help.

Daisy Jemutai undergoes dialysis at Kenyatta National Hospital. [PHOTOS: Vincent Mabatuk/STANDARD]

Her father Juma Zuberi, mother Betty Chepkemoi and brother Kibet. [PHOTOS: Vincent Mabatuk/STANDARD]

In her child’s mind and naivety, she knew one person who she believed had all the money and if only she could get an opportunity to meet him, her tribulations would be sorted out. That was the then President Moi.

Moi assisted

Daisy Jemutai convinced her aunt one Sunday that she wanted to attend a church service at Kabarak chapel where Moi attended church.

"We allowed her to accompany her aunt to Kabarak," says her father Juma Zuberi.

Jemutai says she sat at the edge of the seat near the passage way and when the service was over and Moi was leaving, she reached to him and told him of her medical condition.

"When he was just passing where I was seated, I called out ‘babu niko na shida’ (Grandfather, I have a problem)," she recalled.

The former president organised for her kidney transplant at Kenyatta National Hospital. That was in 1996 and all was well until last year.

After feeling an unusual pain Jemutai went to hospital for a routine check-up. Routine it was supposed to be but the doctor dropped a bombshell. The kidney her mother, Betty Chepkemoi, had given her had developed complications.

Jemutai is back to where she was 14 years ago after the donated organ completely failed last year. She now has to undergo a second transplant.

The 27-year old who now spends most of her time at KNH’s renal unit where she attends sessions for dialysis was on a scholarship in US but had to put hold her studies to come back home after she started becoming sick.

When I met Jemutai at KNH while waiting for her turn to undergo dialysis, she struggled with her words but managed a smile every now and then.

"It is hell-like especially when you know it is no longer your own pain but for others too," she says.

After the first transplant, she joined Moi Girls, Nairobi, and later Utalii College. Then, she had spent a year in hospital.

"After the transplant in 1996, I resumed normal life until two years ago when I started feeling sick while I was in US," she says.

She says she did not think her kidney had failed and for long she persevered the pain she was going through till she could not withstand it anymore.

"I knew it would be difficult for my parents and siblings if my kidney had failed again," she said, staring at her father.

"She called me one evening to tell me she was really sick and wanted to come back home," said her mother at their home in Mogotio.

Looking for donor

She added: "The way she talked, I knew she was in real pain and when she told me she did not want the family to incur more expenses in transporting her body, I nearly collapsed."

Zuberi says immediately Jemutai arrived from US, they took her for medical check up and the news of a kidney failure again drove the family, which has now been sucked dry by the costly procedure to keep her daughter alive, into an abyss.

He says immediately they looked for a second donor to save his daughter’s life.

"It took us almost four months going from one relative to another looking for a right donor," he says.

Zuberi, a retired civil servant, says each week, the family is expected to pay Sh10,000 for two dialysis sessions.

Chepkemoi says the family has been affected financially, psychologically and mentally. "There is nothing we think of these days but how Jemutai will be tomorrow," she says. "It is a painful situation. The girl is sick and we do not have money to save her life."

Jemutai says she is hopeful she will be out of the situation one day. "I know my friends and fellow youth are busy building their lives while I am here in hospital but I am hopeful that someone will come to my aid and I will pursue my dreams."

Her parents urge the Government to start a fund for kidney patients.

"Kidney problem is terrible. It needs money for the patient to survive. I wish the Government would consider setting aside funds to assist those affected," says Zuberi.

Brother Defers academics

Given this gloomy picture, one might expect misery and despair to pervade the family but in the midst of her medical condition, the closeness they share and the hope for a better tomorrow shines through.

Her brother Kibet was pursuing higher education at Strathmore University but deferred his studies to co-ordinate fundraisings for her sister. "I had to defer my studies because of my sister. It was a choice between her living and my studies in which case her life takes priority," he says.

Chepkemoi says her daughter’s disease has taught her how not to take life for granted. "At times I just cry thinking of my daughter but I am optimistic God will find a solution to our problems," she says.

Zuberi is now appealing for well-wishers to help raise funds for her daughter’s transplant.


About Dialysis

Dialysis is a procedure that substitutes the normal duties of the kidneys, which involve regulating water balance and getting rid of excess toxins and by-products of metabolism.

Jemutai’s family have identified a viable and willing donor but Sh1.5 million is needed for the surgical procedure.

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