By Ngeh Nadege
“In 2013, I clocked 34, and suddenly, what generally seemed easy or simple for everyone became a tough task for me. My kidneys failed. The doctor explained that I was born with abnormal kidneys and that this contributed significantly to their failure,” Brenda Njiwaji.
I watched my life crumble before me. I was devastated and frightened. In disbelief and utter denial, I vehemently refused to start the only available treatment – dialysis. The effect of this impulsive decision was immediate. I had a blackout and found myself, six days after on a hospital bed. Tears, conveying a myriad of feelings, ran down my cheeks and after replaying everything which happened in the previous weeks. It dawned on me that my life will never be the same again. I had dreams. I wanted to be a motivational speaker, a reputable journalist, a role model and much more, but all these came tumbling before my very eyes, I couldn’t put the pieces together. I had to choose between adhering to the recommended treatment, or die.
Mundane routines like drinking water or urinating have become a miracle for me. I rely on haemodialysis (a medical procedure in which a machine and a dialyzer, also called an “artificial kidney”, removes excess fluid and waste products from the blood), several days in a week, to remove waste from my body in order for my system to function optimally.
At the onset, each time I heard the word dialysis, what ran through my ears was: “die” and “cease”. As soon as I accepted this inevitable twist in my stars, the issue of how to pay for dialysis and other related treatments arose. Frequent blood transfusions, dialysis sessions at 5.000 XAF ($9.2) per session, every four days, together with other medicines and expenses, amount to over 150.000 XAF ($273.1) monthly. I am unable to work as I used to because, I always feel drained from all the medical procedures, and it is a miracle that I have been able to meet up with my bills so far, though not without the constant wonder of where my next bill will come from. I can’t thank God enough for the unending support from my well-wishers.
I have tried to adapt to my new routines like drinking very little water, using little salt. I can’t satisfy my cravings for the foods or snacks I love to eat. I have to be very picky to stay healthy. I also have to restrict travels. The toughest part of this journey has been to let go of my aspirations and dreams, and the joy of becoming a mother one day.
The journey in the dialysis room is a separate story. Sometimes, it’s either the consumables (materials used for dialysis) aren’t available, or there are only a few functional dialysis machines, or both. On several occasions, I have travelled to other regions with Haemodialysis Treatment Centres to continue care but often, these centres are already saturated and cannot accept any more patients. When I’m lucky, I will be given less than the optimal number and duration of dialysis sessions.
Insecurity, and restrictions in movement especially on some days (ghost town days on which everyone is warned to stay indoors) or protracted periods (lockdowns: ghost town lasting several days to weeks) caused by the socio-political crisis plaguing the North West and South West regions making it difficult to access Haemodialysis Centres and as such, sessions are missed. Sometimes, it is difficult to know when the next session will take place.
One cannot cope on this journey for a long time without a strong support system. I thank God for my family and friends. They were very supportive especially at the initial stage, but over time, things changed. Some gradually felt tired and withdrew rendering life very difficult for me. It’s like my incessant need for assistance had worn their patience thin. No matter how I try, I can’t do without some form of assistance but God has used lots of people to bless me. He is my strength!
Kidney failure has taught me to be patient, not to take things for granted, to treasure what I have and above all, to depend more on God, and less on man.
Eight years down the road, I am still hanging in there, hoping to write a better story.