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I need continuous blood transfusion to live

Health & Science

Tabitha Muthoni, 35, depends on blood transfusion. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

When she was 12 years old, Tabitha Muthoni was admitted at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital with dizziness and general body weakness.

On further examination, she was diagnosed with anaemia and started on blood transfusion.

Muthoni was later diagnosed with ulcerative colitis-(inflammation in digestive system) but little did she know it would be a blood transfusion journey for the rest of her life.

 “At 12, I was too young to understand what blood transfusion was. I thought it was a one-day treatment due to my low blood levels,” Muthoni told Health & Science.

She got to know she was suffering a serious ailment after a doctor told her she would never give birth, recalls the mother of three from White House Estate on the outskirts of Nakuru town.

Dr Samson Obure, a senior physician in Nakuru, explains that ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon that can cause bleeding. It is a life-long disease with genetic predisposition and commonly affects those aged 11 to 50 years.  

“The disease presents in both men and women, whose features include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and loose blood-stained stool, and they tend to be anaemic,” explains Dr Obure, also a lecturer at Egerton University.


Ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon that can cause bleeding. It is a life-long disease. [Courtesy]

Because of digestion and absorption, patients may also lose weight, and require transfusion as they suffer anemia attributed to regular bleeding.

“If anaemic,” he adds, “patients are likely to lack energy and in severe cases, can die due to organ failure including heart failure.”

Muthoni’s first transfusion attracted more donors but later withdrew after realizing the blood was needed continuously and others “questioned ‘why the blood was being drained’, saying I was under demonic attacks, and that demons were ‘sucking’ the blood leaving me weaker and weaker.”

The transfusion journey has not been easy as Muthoni requires the rare, blood group (0- ).

Though one doctor told her she would never give birth, she did. But her admission in 2012 at the AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital was a high-risk pregnancy due to bleeding.

She received 27 units of blood. Her first born was prematurely delivered at five months and needed transfusion as well.

“Giving birth was a surprise to me, as the doctor’s words remained fresh in mind,” says Muthoni who stayed at the hospital for four months.

Blood can be the difference between life and death. Muthoni recalls being admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital where hundreds of patients needed blood transfusion “but could not be operated on due to lack of blood, while others breathed their last at emergency, as blood ran out of their veins.”

Muthoni says demand for blood was so high she often allowed other patients in critical conditions to bypass her despite needing at least seven units of blood every month to live.

Dr Obure says treatment of ulcerative colitis depends on complications like anaemia that require transfusion and chronic inflammation which has a thin chance of becoming cancerous. It can also cause stoma.

But the saving grace is that patients are given blood builders and pain relievers while the “latest biological drugs have potential cures for diseases that require endless follow-up,” said Dr Obure.

Muthoni’s need for constant blood transfusion saw her quit employment in 2018. A trained business administrator, she would work during the day and report for blood transfusion at night as her employer hardly gave her leave days.

Muthoni cannot donate blood, but mobilizes people to donate via social media platforms and in community meetings. She is also preparing her 11-year-old son to be part of blood donation drives after turning 16.

The transfusion journey and managing her condition has been eased by a strong family support system that includes her husband who was once attacked by thugs while she was admitted in critical condition.


Donated blood at an MoH collection point along Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi. January 6, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

But the thugs only found blood meant to save her life and they freed him unconditionally.

Muthoni prides in good health- walking with an HB (haemoglobin) of 1.8 is a miracle, she says considering it is the lowest in a patient with lower gastrointestinal bleeding.

“I thank God for the gift of life. Whenever I see my boys play on my laps, I drop a tear of joy,” says Muthoni. “I also offer a world of prayer to people who donate blood. These are people who make us live.”

According to Kiprono Chepkok, head partnership and County Support Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS), the country has a high demand for blood due to rising cancer cases and C-Section deliveries.

Patients suffering from cancer of the cervix also require platelets to stop bleeding, including those undergoing chemotherapy.

 “People have been reluctant to donate blood because they lack trust in how blood is handled. With the vein to vein technology, blood shall be monitored from the donor, to the person receiving it,” said Chepkok.

With the technology, a donor will be able to know who has been transfused with his blood and at which hospital.

Piloting of the technology was done at Mama Lucy Hospital in Nairobi and Chogoria Mission Hospital in Tharaka Nithi County.

Further, blood drive services have been boosted with the installation of apheresis, which gives a donor an opportunity to select the type of blood component they wish to donate, for example plasma, frozen plasma, platelets and red blood cells.

Blood services were greatly affected after the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s (Pepfar) support came to an end in 2019.

However, there has been increased budgetary allocation by the Treasury from Sh200 million to Sh700 million, in addition to Sh1 billion from the World Bank as grant to enhance blood trasnfusion services.

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