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Renal unit in Makueni, a reprieve for patients with kidney disease

In 2015, Benjamin Ndaka, a retired public health officer, was diagnosed with kidney disease. The diagnosis came as a big shock both for him and his family.

Although Ndaka had lived with diabetes for close to 30 years and later developed hypertension, a kidney disease was a huge challenge to his health.

He believes the prolonged diabetes coupled with high blood pressure led to the disease.

Before the diagnosis the retired clinician says his belly started protruding, he passed less urine and his legs became swollen.

“When you have kidney disease the belly is never proportional, it protrudes out, and waist conference reduces. The signs are glaring and one will notice a difference from any normal person,” explains Ndaka.

With no renal unit in the entire lower eastern region, Ndaka who hails from Kambi Mawe village in Kathonzweni sub county was forced to travel to Nairobi twice a week for dialysis.

‘‘The costs were very high. Each session of dialysis cost Sh9, 500 excluding drugs and consultation fee. Travel and accommodation costs were also expensive,” he says.

At that time, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) did not cover dialysis services and Ndaka was forced to dig deeper in his pocket to cater for the medical expenses.

However, when a renal unit was established at the Makueni County Referral Hospital (MCRH) in 2018, he breathed a sigh of relief and became the first patient to be admitted at the centre.

‘‘It was a new dawn for me. I became patient 001 cutting costs for transport and accommodation,’’ says Ndaka.

He visits the centre Tuesdays and Fridays, for dialysis and only spends Sh100 for transport as all other medical costs are covered by NHIF.

When the press caught up with him at the renal unit, on Tuesday during one of the dialysis sessions, he was upbeat and grateful for the facility.

‘‘The facility is very near to us, the costs are very minimal, ’’adds Ndaka.

For Erasmus Muteti, the disease has drained his finances and wishes more renal units could be established at the grass root level.

Muteti from Makindu spends close to Sh2, 000 per week for transport whenever he visits the centre for his dialysis sessions.

“I was diagnosed in 2019. How I wish the services were available at the grass root levels to reduce some burdens,” said Muteti

Muteti and Ndaka are among 18 patients in the county that receive dialysis services at the renal unit.

According to Dr Mohammed Gongo, a nephrologist at the renal unit, most patients with end stage kidney disease are men and advises them to see a doctor if they exhibit signs related to the disease.

Dr.Gongo however notes that most people with kidney disease might not show any symptoms but could develop underlying causes of kidney failure.

“Kidney disease alone does not cause a distended belly but people with kidney problems will have complications such as obesity or fluid accumulation or gaseous distention. However an abdominal utra-sound is necessary to determine the problem,” he says.

The nephrologist notes that people above 50 years particularly with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are at a higher risk of getting the disease.

‘‘The disease is linked to NCDs and as people grow they start using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pains which causes further injuries to kidneys,” he explains.

Dr.Gongo however expresses his concern that out of the 18 patients receiving treatment at the facility 14 are from Makindu sub county.

“75 percent of our patients come from the same region which is worrying. The area is very hot. If people don’t access enough drinking water it might cause the disease, however there is a need for scientific research to determine the real cause,” notes Christine Nduku, a nurse at the unit.

Dr. Patrick Kibwana, the County Health Chief Officer notes that the number of patients with kidney disease has been on the increase and says the county government is keen on the nutrition aspect to curb the disease.

Kibwana says the devolved unit will create awareness on the need for residents to feed on a balanced diet to prevent the rise of such diseases.

The CO also discloses that plans are underway to expand the renal unit at the referral hospital.

‘‘The cost of running new renal facilities at the sub-county hospitals is very high,” he says.

As Kenya joins the world to mark the World Kidney day tomorrow, patients with Kidney disease in Makueni have a reason to smile, thanks to the renal unit.

by Roselyne Kavoo

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