My dad disowned me before I was born, Purity Nkatha tells of her struggle with Lupus

Purity Nkatha 34, a student at Kenya Medical Training College - Nyeri campus who is suffering from Lupus condition during the interview on September 7, 2023. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

When Purity Nkatha's mother fell pregnant with her 34 years ago, her father disowned the pregnancy in what now Nkatha believes set her on a path of fate.

Her mother later found a man who accepted them both. But after living together for six years the step-dad changed, and suddenly became violent towards Nkatha. He started beating her for no apparent reason, and refused to pay her school fees.

Her overtures to call the step-dad ‘father’ were met with kicks and blows and sometimes in 2007, he chased her away from his home and threatened to kill her if she returned.

“My mother’s best friend, a staunch Christian offered to rescue me from the hands of ruthlessness and violence and took me to Malindi where she spent most of her time,” Nkatha narrates to The Standard.

In Malindi, the ‘wellwisher’ who had offered to sponsor Nkatha’s education had other plans. She tried to force her into prostitution. Her hopes for an education were dashed.

“When I refused her plans, she threw me out in the middle of the night. I was hopeless and disillusioned,” Nkatha said.

She later got a hotel job where she was paid Sh200 daily and she supported her mother and eight siblings. By this time, her mother had been kicked out by the step-dad

In 2012, a message popped into her Facebook inbox from a stranger, who made advances to her and requested whether she could join him in Lamu County.

“This came as a coincidence since I had heard of the Lapsset project in Lamu and had developed an interest in trying my luck in the project. I accepted the offer and after one year I was pregnant,” Nkatha added.

All along, she had always wanted to go back to school but when her dream was so near, something came up and reality struck that it was too far. This was because her fiancé had agreed to cater for her education, but the pregnancy delayed her plans.

Her hopes of going back to school received a major boost after Irene Kendi, an activist, offered to help.

She joined Magumoni Girls High School in Tharaka in 2019 and left her husband to look after their four-year-old daughter. In September of the same year, she fell ill. Things took a different turn.

“I developed fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate, signs I had never had for 21 years,” she said. She went to hospital and was misdiagnosed with Tonsillitis and an operation conducted to remove tonsils.

After admission for half a week, she did not recover and was discharged sicklier than she was.

She was taken to Karen Hospital where she was diagnosed with Lupus condition. "This broke my heart completely," she said.

“KCSE examination was due in two weeks and I had received the worst news ever but I put up a spirited fight and scored B-,” she said.

Her husband was proud of her as she joined Kenya Medical Training Institute (KMTC) in Nyeri. “He is God-send and a miracle to me, despite our financial challenges as a result of huge medical bills, he has dismissed friends and acquaintances who feel he has overspent on me and has continued supporting me in furthering my education and special diet lifestyle,” she says.

To manage her condition, the Nursing and Community Health student must adhere to a strictly guided diet, use sunscreen for skin protection from UV lights, and supplements with Vitamin D.

“For every clinic, I need about Sh15,000 when I’m not undergoing any test while my diet requires about Sh30,000 per month and this goes without paying rent for the hostel and the school fees but I’m pushing because I believe I will have a happy ending,” she said.

To manage the disease, Nkatha has to avoid starch, milk, garlic, and wheat among other foods while she has been advised to feed on white meat, proteins, fruits, and magnesium.

“Despite the instructions, I have been forced to skip clinics and to fail to adhere to the diet due to budget constraints so that I can complete my studies,” she said.

Dr Caroline Irungu, the rheumatologist who attends Nkatha, says Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect any organ in the body and its management seeks to reduce disease activity and organ damage.

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