It started with a persistent tooth ache that would keep Geoffrey Ng’etich, 53, reeling in pain the whole day. His wife Irene Ng’etich says they decided to visit a dispensary in Kericho for treatment.
They were given strong pain killers and a referral to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret as the dispensary lacked equipment to diagnose the root cause of Ng’etich’s tooth ache and the growth on his jaw. It is in Eldoret that they got a cancer diagnosis. He had low grade sarcoma and was advised to start treatment immediately.
“We had the NHIF card but it only catered for a small fraction of the bill. He could not start chemotherapy, so we brought him home,” says Irene.
Through the help of friends, the small scale farmer made a medical funds appeal on social media. A poster of his ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture was posted to show social media users the extent of the illness and what it means to lack money for treatment.
“The pain is driving him crazy. He shivers when the tooth aches. The tumour has spread to his nose. He struggles to breath. His ears are blocking. He does not sleep; he wails and there is nothing we can do. We hope people on social mediawill see it and help us raise the money,” says Irene.
She says with each passing day, she shudders at what could be happening in her husband’s body, as the cancerous cells grow.
Their family is among Kenyans who resort to social media to seek funds for treatment.
Faith Nkirote, a single mother of two boys, has a heart-wrenching story on what happens when healthcare becomes inaccessible.
Her baby Jeremy was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was seven weeks. The painful grunts and mild convulsions he had since he was born was found to be a result of cancer that was ravishing his tiny body. He was put on medicationand went into remission after several months of treatment.
Last year, just before Jeremy’s fifth birthday, doctors noticed swollen lymph nodes under his skin. The cancer was recurring and they needed to act fast to destroy the cells.
“I need Sh3.5 million for a bone marrow transplant. NHIF only caters for Sh500,000 so I have to look for the rest,” says Nkirote.
She has put up a medical funds appeal on social media. Every day she hopes she will raise the money that will enable her travel with her son to India. “All I have left is hope,” she says.The cases highlight the struggles families go through when they get a diagnosis that requires several hospital visits or surgery. Diana Njeri, a social worker in Mathare North says in slums, they have come up with networks that save money for medical emergencies. “We realised we can no longer rely on government to provide healthcare. So the ‘chamas’ here are for emergencies such as sickness. When the disease is chronic, there are people who just give up,” she says.
A search on Facebook and Twitter reveals the reality of how thousands of Kenyans turn to social media to raise money for treatment.
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