Five years ago, Beatrice Awange, 40, found herself swallowing 42 tablets daily to manage lupus, a disease she didn't even know much about prior to her diagnosis. She shares her experience with KURIA WANJIRU.
The only time other time I had ever been hospitalised in my life was when I gave birth to my two children through caesarian sections. But since five years ago, hospitals have become familiar places.
In December 2011, sudden pains assailed my joints. They hurt so much that I wasn't able to make merry with my family members on Christmas day. My mum saw how much pain I was in and recommended that I see an orthopedist. He carried out some tests. They all came out negative for arthritis and recommended a steroid medication meant for aches.
The medication worked for a while but the pain came back with a vengeance two weeks later. I became so weak because every part of my frame was in pain. Eating, walking and going about my usual routine made me ache all over. In 2012, I was rushed to the private wing of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where I was admitted and immediately started undergoing another round of tests.
When the tests turned out negative, the physician recommended a rheumatologist. He carried out an Antinuclear Antibody (ANA) test. I tested positive for lupus, a lifelong condition that affects connective tissue. The only time I had ever heard of lupus is when media personality Lorna Irungu was diagnosed with the disease.
By the time I was leaving the hospital, the bill was over Sh200, 000. However, I was relieved because I now knew what was ailing me.
The last five years have been tough. Medication has become a part of my life. When I was diagnosed in 2012, I would take 46 tablets a day. I had even become anaemic because I had a bleeding ulcer, which thankfully was discovered early enough through an endoscopy.
I have had moments of respite and flare ups. In February 2016, I suddenly began vomiting and developed stomach aches. I thought I had food poisoning. I called my physician. He instructed me to go to a hospital. They carried out some tests my doctor had ordered to be done. He then informed me that I had experienced a heart attack! I was shocked because I had walked into the hospital. I ended up being admitted into the High Dependency Unit (HDU) for over a week.
Another flare-up erupted was in June. I had pneumonia. Antibiotics were administered and after a week I was discharged. But when I got to the gate to my home, I collapsed! The next day I was admitted in hospital again.
The doctor ordered some scans and we learned that the fall had ruptured my spleen. It had to be surgically removed! The operation was not immediately done since I was on blood-thinning medication.
After being intravenously fed for five days, the splenectomy was carried out. My spleen, it turns out, had collected over two litres of blood from the abdominal sac. I had to go undergo another transfusion.
My family, friends and colleagues from work have been my rock through it all. I have become a member of The Lupus Foundation of Kenya and a 114-member conquer lupus whatsapp group that discusses topics related to the disease.
I'm glad that of my close relations; six sisters, mother and children, no one else has been assailed by such an ailment. Although I'll live with it forever, I have learnt to cope by having an open mind, eating well, exercising and to religiously taking my medications.