I wasn’t reckless with life, just sick

Ivy was only 17 when she started developing tiny black spots that would appear all over her body and disappear after applying ointments, only for the spots to reappear soon after.

She spent hours searching on the internet to find what was ailing her. On social media, she asked for solutions and got several recommendations; none of which worked. The more she visited doctors and got more medication, the harder she was convinced that there was something more serious than the diagnosis doctors were giving.

By the time she was joining Mount Kenya University, she had gotten used to rubbing ointments all over her body, hoping that the mysterious disease would someday disappear.

Then another symptom showed; her periods became abnormally heavy. She would bleed for two weeks straight and would refuse to leave the house.

“In school, I had to wait until my classmates walked out of the lecture halls before I could leave because who knows what could be seen if I stood up. Hospitals were not giving me a solution to my strange illness,” she says.

One day, while queuing at the university cafeteria, she suddenly felt dizzy. The ground beneath her was spinning, and before she knew it, she tumbled on the floor.

As she was being rushed to the school health unit, she heard people around her whispering that she had probably had an abortion. The bleeding, reclusion and her loss of appetite was woven into a narrative that projected her as a promiscuous campus student who had consulted a backstreet abortionist.

“In my state, I was taken to several hospitals but doctors refused to admit me, fearing that I was a victim of a botched abortion. By the time a hospital accepted to admit me, my platelet count was extremely low,” she says.

Further tests revealed that her body was eating up her platelets making her susceptible to bleeding. Doctors gave a diagnosis of Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a disorder that can lead to excessive bruising and easy bleeding. She was put on a year-long medication after getting blood transfusion.

Bloody milk

Even after the diagnosis, she had a hard time explaining what ailed her. Some of her classmates still spoke behind her back, convinced that her random heavy bleeding was due to an abortion.  

She had a baby in 2017, and suffered a relapse when her son was just a month old.

“My legs and face swelled up. I was admitted to hospital and my cousin would bring my son to the hospital once a day for breastfeeding. One morning while a nurse was helping me pump milk, we realised the milk was bloody. I had to stop breastfeeding immediately,” she says.

Things worsened. She got a transfusion of four pints of blood and developed diarrhoea and nose bleeding that lasted several days. She was immediately rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital where she was put on medication for 21 days. Luckily, her platelets count rose. She still goes to clinic for regular checkup.  

“Even though I’m under medication, sometimes during my periods I bleed excessively and I’m forced to miss work. There was a day I missed work for four days because I bled when I stood up inside the matatu. Blood was spilling all over. I can’t even engage in sports activities out of fear. I am grateful my son does not have this condition,” she says.

It’s now five years since Mukami learnt that she had ITP and is managing the condition through medication. She has also started a support group to create awareness..