Retired policeman’s painful and costly search for kidney transplant
HEALTH & SCIENCEBy JOY WANJA MURAYA | Sat,Jan 17 2015 00:00:00 EATBy JOY WANJA MURAYA | Sat,Jan 17 2015 00:00:00 EAT
Kenya: His five month-stay in India since September last year has been tough especially after failing to receive the expected kidney treatment following a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Former Assistant Administration Police Commandant, Eastern Province, James Meme, 61, and his wife Catherine narrate to The Standard on Saturday their medical sojourn in India.
Mr Meme was first featured in The Standard on Saturday in August last year as one of 8,000 Kenyans whose lives fully depend on dialysis due to chronic kidney failure necessitating a kidney transplant locally or in other countries with India being a preferred destination. He was diagnosed with kidney failure in April last year at KNH and had been undergoing dialysis twice weekly.
In September last year, after a fundraising at his Thika home, Meme left for India but the family is now considering a return to Kenya soon after their pockets ran dry from the battery of tests and treatment for prostate cancer. The Memes’ share their experience from India with our writer JOY WANJA MURAYA.
We arrived here on September 18, last year after a five-hour flight to India and our hosts at Apollo Hospital where we will be having the kidney transplant done, had arranged accommodation in one of the patient hostels within the hospital community. We left our four children, Ann, Brenda, Derrick and Njeri under the care of a young relative, Carol, with a promise to be back when daddy is healthy and more jovial.
We live in a one-bedroom apartment at Jasola estate, which is a series of blocks housing international patients with a kitchenette and gas provided at a cost of 1,300 Indian Rupees a day (about Sh1,900 )
With these costs, the three of us, my daughter Ruth Kendi who is the donor, my wife and I buy food at a nearby shopping centre.
Transport to the health facility is provided by Apollo hospital, a distance of about 15 minutes via a shuttle pre-arranged for international patients whenever they have scheduled appointments with doctors.
On September 19, 2014 we honoured our appointment with the admitting doctor, Dr Vijaya Raj Kumari, a senior consultant specialist in transplant surgery who welcomed us and laid down the basic tests that should be done to ensure the new kidney works optimally.
We presented results from earlier pre-transplant tests done in Nairobi and with the additional ones, we were assured that they were a pre-requisite for both the donor and recipient, each with their specific tests.
For the next one month, my husband was taken through a myriad of close to 26 tests investigating the status of his kidneys, heart, antibody and antigen levels and potassium and sodium tests and the waiting time from one test to the other made our hearts weary.
But we anticipated that all this would come to an end and my husband’s suffering would cease with the scheduling of the kidney transplant.
But this was never to be.
On September 22, 2014, we were asked to conduct an Electro-Cardio Gram also known as ECG which measures and records the electrical activity of the heart in exquisite detail not to forget that chest x-rays were also included as part of the comprehensive pre-transplant tests.
As the tests continued increasing by the day, we became more discouraged as we were sent from one specialist to another dealing with the heart and other organs and after visiting the urologist on September 30 for an antigen test, it showed that his Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were abnormally high.
PSA is a substance produced by the prostate gland and if in high levels may indicate an abnormality of the prostate like cancer or an enlarged organ. Before departure for India, we had deposited Sh1.2 million in the hospital bank account after we were informed the amount would sufficiently cover the pre-operative tests and the kidney transplant.
A month later when the number of tests continued increasing, we knew something was wrong and it wasn’t long before the bombshell was dropped that my husband has prostate cancer.
I don’t know why this wasn’t diagnosed from earlier tests conducted in Nairobi. I was heartbroken and the only shoulder I could lean on was that of my daughter, Kendi.
But we remind each other daily that we must remain strong for mzee who is the anchor of our family so we encourage him every minute that we will seek treatment first for the cancer and will stand by his side throughout.
Before the treatment for prostate cancer could begin, he came down with an infection and was hospitalised for five days, costing a further Sh126,000.
There is a nearby park within our residential area but he does not have the strength to walk about everyday thus we stay indoors watching television and reliving our youthful days.
His spirit has also been affected and thus we have little time to enjoy the sunshine though the temperatures have been dropping to below 10 degrees in the last few weeks.
Our spirits sank lower but we also found solace in fellow East Africans and Kenyans here in India, especially Tanzanians seeking medical treatment.
We have become like a small family and with the new diagnosis, the patients from the East African Community empathised with us because we had been comparing our medical journeys and encouraging each other that we would be treated and return home healthier and more productive.
That Tanzanians have their hospital bills and accommodation funded by their government calls for a dialogue with our government to look at how to assist ill Kenyans seeking medical treatment abroad.
If only the National Health Insurance Fund could hear the plea of Kenyans who have over the years been faithful members and dutifully contributed to the medical scheme during their productive years and presently even in illness.
In the last three weeks we have learnt that social support from friends and family alike is critical not only financially but also psychologically. We are at the mercies of these doctors who tell us to continue performing tests and our minds have now shifted from kidney failure to treatment of prostate cancer.
One of the most popular tests ordered here is plasma protein tests which are blood tests that detect the amount of proteins in the blood done as part of a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) during a physical exam to determine a patient’s overall health. Plasma tests is a further Sh90,000 dent in our pockets and I drown in tears every evening in our small apartment calling out to God to hear our prayers during these tough times in this foreign land.
Meme underwent robotic prostate surgery in December at a cost of Sh1.1 million and he was placed on observation for recovery before scheduling a kidney transplant based on later tests of his PSA levels.
We have been communicating with friends and family in Thika informing them on the progress of our treatment but at times it feels like a bother when we keep asking for more money.
In the last eight weeks, they sent us contributions from an impromptu harambee and so far we have spent Sh2.5 million. We intend to leave India for Kenya next week to seek an additional Sh1 million to foot the kidney surgery doctors here in India expect to perform in April after Meme’s full recovery of the prostate.
The matching tests done on our daughter Kendi, 31, the donor, shows she is a perfect match and in good health and ready to give dad a new lease of life. We also want to come home because we have missed our families and being in a foreign land provides no solace, especially in the last two weeks when everybody was present to celebrate Christmas and New Year in our absence.
We continue with dialysis here at Apollo hospitals twice a week at a cost of Sh7,500 per session which is costly than the Sh5,000 KNH charges, where half of the amount would be funded by NHIF. We are optimistic that 2015 is the year mzee will bounce back to good health despite all the challenges we have experienced in the last 12 months. I cannot wait to come home to a familiar environment but I am sad I did not receive treatment for kidney failure. I am at crossroads why all these medical judgements are falling on me at this time of my retirement, but I am grateful that my wife Catherine, daughter Kendi and other family members, friends and colleagues have stood by me.
I will be back on my feet; Asante for the prayers and support.
The Standard on Saturday will bring you a series on Meme’s treatment.
Contributions to assist the Memes can be sent to PayBill number 802200; Account Name:James Meme Medical Fund
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