Four failed kidneys, but I haven't given up

Mary Eve Wanjiku
A little known fact about kidney transplant is that doctors do not remove the affected kidney, they just add the new one in. Thirty three-year-old Mary Eve Wanjiku has had two kidney transplants which means she actually has four kidneys. However they have all failed. She narrates to Jacqueline Mahugu the agony she has undergone for 10 years.

I have added four kilogrammes in three days. This is not from eating too much, but because I‘ve lost the ability to pee. It has been hundreds of days since I could pee, actually. It is my biggest desire to be able to urinate like I once used to. Yes, I do get pressed but I think it‘s mental because even an ultrasound shows that there is nothing in my bladder. I can sit on the toilet but nothing will come out.

Water is life for everyone else, but for a kidney patient, more than 500ml in two days can mean death. That includes water in tea and in food.

Unlike normal people, my body retains every drop of fluid I take. The by-products have to be manually removed from my body by a machine, twice a week. If it is not drained, it could go to the lungs and that would be fatal.

SEE ALSO :I was better off before kidney transplant

Also, I can‘t eat most foods. A banana would kill me within an hour because of the potassium in it. So would potatoes, meaning a plate of fries is essentially a death sentence. I have to use a special way to cook food. For example, I have to boil greens, then drain the water in order to cook them.

Because my own kidneys and the additional ones have failed, I am is due for a third transplant, which doctors have deemed high risk.

It has been painful, tiresome and at times filled with tears. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine where I would be if I was healthy like everyone else. It has been ten years of fighting for my health. I had just graduated from the Kenya Polytechnic, and was ready to take on the world with the Catering and Management course I had studied.

I first got ill in March 2008, but results from a nearby clinic were not conclusive. I had symptoms like fatigue and puffiness in my face. Then in September of the same year, I got very ill. This time it was worse.

I underwent a series of tests and the nephrology team at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) discovered that both of my kidneys had failed. I was diagnosed with End Stage Kidney Disease.

I was placed on dialysis, twice a week for 18 months. In 2010, I had my first successful transplant at KNH when a kidney was donated by my aunt.

Can’t breathe

However, four years later, the donated kidney failed. This time, before I could have another transplant, I needed to undergo a process known as plasmapheresis, which is a process where blood is filtered and harmful antibodies removed. I had too many antibodies, so they had to be removed so that my body would not reject the second kidney. My mother donated the kidney. The procedure was successfully done in India.

In 2016, I fell ill again and was diagnosed with a potentially lethal form of tuberculosis known as Miliary tuberculosis (TB). This kind of TB spreads beyond the lungs and affects every part of the body. I was placed on a course of anti-TB treatment for a year, but it took a toll on my kidneys and in 2017, the second kidney failed. I was diagnosed with Chronic Glomerulosclerosis which is usually caused by infection or use of drugs. It describes scarring of the kidneys‘ tiny blood vessels, which are known as the glomeruli, and are the parts of the kidney that filter urine from the blood. Once scarred, they cannot be repaired, and it eventually leads to kidney failure.

Another kidney failure meant getting back on dialysis twice a week. I have to spend four days a week in hospital, because the day before dialysis is meant for preparation, picking dialysis equipment, which include tubes and a dialyser (artificial kidney) and to be cleared by NHIF for the procedure. On the day of dialysis, which is usually Wednesday and Saturday, my day starts at 4am and by 5am I am at KNH. The process takes four hours. The procedure not only drains the excess fluid but also energy from my body. By the end of it, I am usually exhausted and sometimes can barely walk. Once in a while, the procedure has to be discontinued because of the toll it takes on my body.

I will continue with dialysis until the day I raise enough money, Sh5 million, for a third kidney transplant in India, which I hope will be my last. The kidney will be donated by my brother, and this time, they will remove one of the other kidneys and replace it. After that, I will be on immunosuppresants and anti-rejection medicines for the rest of my life. They will cost Sh50,000 per month.

Although the money seems much, my desire to live is greater than the amount required.

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Kidney transplantKidney failure