I can’t breathe on my own

Peris Igoki at home in Mundu area of Ciangera sub-location, Embu County
We were leading a relatively comfortable life with my family in Nairobi where my husband Edward and I worked as casual labourers. But 2010 saw my life regress from that of an ambitious, hardworking and energetic wife and mother to a sickly person dependent on others even for simple tasks.

Following a bout of illness, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. I was given the usual medication which I took religiously and I was confident that in a few months’ time, I would regain my health. This was not to be. I seemed not to get well and I visited different hospitals, sometimes getting admitted for several days. This drained us financially and emotionally yet a cure remained elusive. I was unable to get back to my job and due to the high cost of living in the city, we relocated to our rural home in Mundu, Embu County.

Can’t breathe

The real shocker came three years ago when after long suffering marked by chest pains, tiredness and breathlessness, I was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease. The disease weakened and affected my ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into the blood stream. Managing the disease has not been easy. While prior to the diagnosis we had already exhausted our savings and sold assets for various tests and admissions to different hospitals, the new diagnosis demanded even more money to manage.

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Doctors recommended that I had to use an oxygen concentrator since I could not breathe normally. We imported one that cost Sh250, 000. I am supposed to use it at all times, but it is fraught with challenges. The machine has limited oxygen capacity. This necessitated fixing it to an oxygen cylinder which lasts for four days. The cylinder can only be replenished in Thika, a journey of over 200km from my home. Each refilling costs Sh3,600.

The concentrator machine should also be connected to electricity but our rural home is not connected to the grid. The machine’s battery lasts just 30 minutes and has to be recharged in the neighbourhood. I also have to go for weekly clinics at Kenyatta National Hospital. Sometimes the clinics extend to several days and we are forced to hire two taxis since I can’t use a matatu in my condition.

I can hardly cover 20 metres on foot and I have to remain seated most times. Sometimes, the pain is too much. This disease has robbed me of my dignity and I have to be assisted to even go to the bathroom. Even my children have been affected emotionally.

My husband has now taken complete parental role of bringing up our two children. Our oldest is 14 while the youngest is 10. My husband does the housework then works in people’s farms to get money for our upkeep. Still, whatever he gets can barely meet our needs as I require at least Sh60,000 for medication every month . We rely on well-wishers to raise the money while sometimes, I am forced to skip crucial medication. My husband’s brother has been of great help to us, and the extended family has undergone some strain too.

A double whammy

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During a recent visit to the clinic, I was diagnosed with a heart condition too. As a family we believe if we get a specialist he can help us to find full diagnosis to what ails me and even help us find a cure. But we don’t know where to get such a specialist.

I have been going through a lot, but I refuse to give up hope. I pray and hope that a cure will be found and I will be healed one day. I long for the day I’ll be back on my feet attending to my family and contributing to the society.  

tuberculosisKenyatta National HospitaLungsBreathing