Early this year, Sammy Cheboi from Bugar in Keiyo North Sub County started experiencing excessive sweat at night, drinking a lot of water and frequent short calls. He visited Bugar health centre but was told since it was during the dry season what he was experiencing was normal.
In February he decided to seek further medical attention at the Iten county Referal hospital. “This visit was quite important for me because that was when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after a simple blood test,” he said.
“I was shocked to be told I was diabetic because there is nobody in my family who has the condition,” he said.
But he said after accepting his condition and strictly following the medical and nutritional advice, he has been able to manage his condition to a point where his visits to the hospital have since reduced from weekly to once every three weeks.
“I am here to attest to the fact that being diagnosed with diabetes is not a life sentence but it is a condition that can be managed,” Cheboi said.
He added that while the disease is expensive for those who pay cash, members of the National Hospital Insurance Fund have their bills paid by the fund thus lessening their burden of coping with the disease.
However, while some like Cheboi can comfortably manage the disease, others may not be so lucky as there are those who still have high sugar levels despite being on management as Dr. Sylvia Mibey a diabetic expert narrated to KNA.
According to Dr. Mibey, Iten Referral hospital receives a total of 400 patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes every month. In order to cope with the high demand, they have set out two days that is Monday when they attend to type I diabetes that is children born with the disease while on Thursday they attend to type 2 diabetes.
“There are those patients who cannot make it on the appointed day as they cannot afford transport and also cannot afford to buy enough drugs for the period they will be away which affects the management of the disease,” she said.
She added that others stop following the instructions given in the hospital and instead resort to herbal drugs and when the latter fail they come back to the hospital with high sugar levels which can be fatal.
“We are therefore advising our patients to strictly take prescribed drugs as advised and also adhere to the right diet as drugs go hand in hand with diet,” she advised.
Dr. Mibey continued to say that most of the patients they receive are those suffering from diabetes type 2 which is a lifestyle disease and therefore called on residents to go back to traditional foods which are easily available and also engage in exercises to reduce excess body weight.
The medic however added that the government had greatly assisted in the management of the disease saying they can now undertake dialysis at the hospital after they received machines from the Medical equipment scheme.
She continued to say that the county government has also ensured that there are enough drugs especially insulin which is key in the treatment of diabetes.
Mark Kipsang, the secretary general of the union of clinical officers Elgeyo Marakwet branch has however called on both the national and county governments to sponsor more medics to specialise in the treatment of the disease saying there were only two experts in the county who are both based at the county hospital.
Kipsang says with the county having a population of approximately 500,000 people according to the recent census report, two people are a drop in the ocean in the management of the disease.
“If we have many medics they can be deployed to the sub county hospitals and other health facilities and save residents the agony of travelling all the way to Iten for treatment,” he said.
He is also calling on the government to lower the costs of the treatment of diabetes saying due to high poverty levels, there are some people who cannot even afford to pay the Sh.500 monthly dues to NHIF.
The unionist said as part of their corporate social responsibility, clinical officers in the county are planning to carry out outreach activities in all the four sub counties where they will offer free tests for diabetes and other diseases.
Noting that diabetes like other non communicable diseases does not present pain in its early stages, the medic said it is important that residents visit their nearest health facilities so that they can be tested.
Therefore, as the world celebrates world diabetes day on November 14, it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure they eat and live healthy and also test their sugar levels as part of their contribution to the health agenda which is among the main four agendas in the country.
By Alice Wanjiru