Tale of 14-year-old Kenyan boy stuck in Indian hospital clinging to hope

When The Standard team visited him at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in November 2014, Joshua Chirchir, 14, was ready for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination despite having been hospitalised for seven months.

Chirchir was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure in May, 2014, and booked for dialysis at the hospital as he awaited a kidney transplant in India.

“I came to hospital in May and never went back to school. My eyes turned black at some point and I could not read well. But I believe God will help me pass because I have been revising my notes,” Chirchir told us at that time.

He also told us his dream was to become a pilot, but he had first to get funds to enable him undergo a kidney transplant in India.

His hopes of returning to a normal life got a boost when Deputy President William Ruto visited the boy and his father, David Birgen, at MTRH and donated some money to cater for his treatment.

Multiple infections

And armed with Sh1.7 million donated by friends and well-wishers, Mr Ruto among them, Chirchir, now 15, his brother Victor and their father took a flight to Columbia Asia Hospital in India on January 20 this year for the operation.

But unknown to his family, Chirchir had developed multiple lung complications and would not undergo the operation before making a full recovery from the newly diagnosed infections.

“It is six months now, my son has fainted four times and been put in the Intensive Care Unit since our arrival but the doctors have really been of great assistance. He may look healthy now, but he undergoes four dialysis sessions every week that cost around Sh15,000 each as he waits for the transplant,” said Birgen on telephone from India.

Birgen, who is the kidney donor for his son, says of the Sh1.7 million they had, Sh1.2 million was transferred directly to Columbia Asia Hospital and the remainder was to cater for travel and accommodation expenses.

“We have spent over Sh400,000 on food and accommodation since we came here. The medical bills for the lung infections and tuberculosis have drained the money initially meant for the surgery and right now we have less than Sh400,000. The operation will cost Sh.1.5 million,” Birgen said, as he appealed for help from well-wishers.

According to Birgen, they spend approximately Sh900 per day on food and Sh15,000 rent per month on rent.

Victor, who will be the caregiver once the surgery is done, said since their arrival in India six months ago, two other Kenyan patients have been treated at facility and discharged. He said they are now afraid they may end up being stranded in India as their money is fast running out.

Vinayak Naresh, a senior manager at International Patients Department in India, told The Standard Chirchir was cleared on May 25 by a doctors’ committee to undergo the transplant, but the procedure has been delayed due to lack of funds.

“The boy is healthy and has his big dreams, but he needs the surgery to resume his normal life,” he said.

Rose Tangut, who is the director of Rosen Tours and Travel Company that specialises in medical tourism, said they had encountered numerous cases that had been referred to the facility for transplants, but could not undergo the procedures immediately after being diagnosed with other infections.

“Patient management in India is thorough and some people arrive here from Kenya for transplants only to be diagnosed with other complications. Usually, the infections have to be treated first and this makes the medical costs to shoot up, not to mention the other expenses they incur during their stay,” she said.

She added, “In a previous similar case, a patient we booked for India after a referral from MTRH was diagnosed with syphilis and and this made the treatment period to be extended from three to five months.”

No funds

The medical tourism coordinator said they receive an average of 10 patients every month seeking kidney transplant in India, but only a few are able to raise the required Sh1.2 million. He added that it is not uncommon for patients to die while waiting for their families to mobilise funds for their operation.

“Chirchir’s family paid Sh300,000 for return tickets for the three and they still have to spend money on accommodation and upkeep,” added Tangut.

Although Chirchir, who was a pupil at Kapsenda Primary School in Kericho County, sat the KCPE examination while admitted at MTRH last year, he did not get his results.

Never one to lose hope, he enrolled for the examination again and hopes to sit the tests again this year. But that is if he is treated and discharged on time.

His father, said his son, the fourth born in the family, is an ambitious and hardworking child.