Abbygail Mwanduka’s Battle with Migraines

javagraduation-007About a month ago I had an attack while crossing the streets, I had to stop right there in the middle of oncoming traffic. It’s bad. You cannot move. You are not afraid of anything else, as the headache becomes everything. I almost did not come today, because I had a crisis last night, but my mother prayed for me all night. Recently the headaches have been frequent and intense, since I have no way of procuring treatment and medication without medical cover. I require approximately Kshs 10,000/ every time I visit the doctor to cover consultation and medication. My current source of income cannot support that.

I first had a seizure in 2003 while in primary school in Mtitu Wandei. I thank God that my father had a medical cover for us, so I was treated at either Pandya or Aga Khan Mombasa, I cannot really recall which. My mother would ensure that I had my medication and things remained relatively stable. When I joined High School, I would have a seizure maybe once or twice annually. However, things went terribly wrong when my O-Level results were released. I had failed. I was devastated and my father was very angry and disappointed. I am my parents’ first female child and they naturally want to see me doing well. My results had found me recovering from an appendicitis surgery. My mother suggested I go back to school to try again to better my results. I was admitted, this time at a school in Machakos, in form three with a fresh surgical wound. Subsequently, I spent approximately one and a half of those two additional years in high school, away being attended to medically in Mombasa. My final exams also found me out and I was brought in from hospital to do my examinations.

I failed again. Dad was livid. My medical alone had cost them approximately 5 million in my High School days. I attempted suicide by taking all my Migraine medication. I slipped into a comma that lasted a week. I was diagnosed as being in Psychological trauma, stress. My father and I went through a week of counselling at Mombasa Hospital. He mostly avoided me before and after this time, addressing me through my mother.

My mum suggested that I take a certificate course in IT. I joined the Kenya Polytechnic and moved to Nairobi to live with my Aunt in Kariobangi. I would sometimes faint in the house while with her. After my certificate course, which I now passed, my parents took me to Catholic University of East Africa to pursue a Diploma in IT. My dad was much friendlier. My self-esteem which had been really low, was boosted by his approval and my marks. During the six months that I was at the University, I only sought medical attention twice, for unrelated conditions. I did very well in my examinations.

I needed to go in for an evaluation at Aga Khan Hospital in Parklands. Up till this time, I had not had a particular doctor I was seeing. It was here that I met Dr. Sylvia Mbugua. It was she that finally diagnosed me with Migraines. She recommended an MRI and noticed the number of seizures that I had experienced. She also noted my mental distress. She managed me well. She recommended a tripartite medication that took into consideration and cancelled out the negative side effects, including possible barrenness, that could have resulted with me just taking one form of medication. She also warned me against taking Betapin which for me had the effects of making me high, in the way alcohol would and another drug Rizatriptan that induced suicidal thoughts. She recommended lifestyle changes in terms of diet and exercise which included drinking a lot of water. I could not drink especially wine, and not smoke. Manipulation of my hair into various styles affects me so I keep it short. Since I am no longer a student, and my current employer is new and does not offer medical cover I have been without medication between April and September. I now live alone with my sister in Nairobi, and enjoy my work. I hope that I can be able to go back to school, mainly so I can again have access to my father’s medical insurance which covers me as long as I am a student. I also pray that I can find Dr. Sylvia again so that she can continue to walk with me through this. She left Aga Khan hospital. I now mostly try to manage the Migraine attacks through my lifestyle.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

photos and words by: NaMeD Afrika Studios

First published in The Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine – September 25, 2016

My Battle with Multiple Slipped Discs

By Vip Ogola

IMG_9650.JPGPetite, Sicily Wangari Mugo walks comfortably into her living room. It is difficult to imagine her ever being unwell. She is straddling the last of her three children, 15 month old Shammah Waiguru on her hip. She hugs us and then sits. Her house manager Sarah comes in for Waiguru and we get right into the interview. “When Sharon, my second child was born through C-Section, my husband had to travel internationally after two weeks. My house manager at that time left suddenly. I am a perfectionist, so I got up, and kept my house in perfect order. I didn’t feel it then, but this marked the beginning of my journey.”

Her journey with multiple slipped discs began in July 2012 when she was first diagnosed of the condition. “I had back pains that would come and go. I also felt tired all the time and numb sometimes. But I thought it had something to do with women’s issues, having had surgery thrice, once to extract fibroids, and twice to have my daughters. I did not take it seriously, even when they referred me to Dr. Gakuo. I was busy. And a woman.” Wangari has been a Financial Advisor with PanAfrican Life for ten years. She is passionate about her job which involves visiting clients and giving insurance advice “I love my job and my supportive employer. I would target ten meetings a day, and make it through.”

Some conditions cannot simply be ignored away.  One October morning Wangari got up to get ready for two crucial meetings. “I struggled out of bed trying to ignore the pain. I went to the bathroom but when I bent over to pick up the soap, it was too painful to try. I screamed without meaning to, and my husband heard but I made as if I was okay. This morning’s meetings were too important to me. I struggled through dressing up and even drove to pick up my colleague near City Carbannas for the meeting on Mombasa road. But I could not pretend anymore, I was weak and in pain and I left, allowing my colleague to go on with the meeting. I knew I just had to go to hospital, via my meeting with Muthoni.” Muthoni, her friend, had been recently widowed, and needed advice on how to follow up with her husband’s insurance issues.

“I could not let Muthoni down. She needed people around her, and I did not want her to think I was using illness as an excuse for not being there for her.” She noticed her legs numbing as she drove. Her lower back was aflame. She parked at a Petrol Station near Bellevue and sat waiting for this wave of discomfort to subside. She was unable to reach her husband who was at a work meeting. None of her friends was close enough to reach her. Remembering Muthoni, she prayed she would not disappoint her and set out again. At the City Council parking opposite Barclays Plaza her distress drew the attention of an elderly man. He helped her out of the car, and out of the parking area. “I was glad I had not worn my usual high heels.” She convinced him that she was strong enough to cross the road, and took the lift to the second floor of her office building. She made it, courageously, through her long lunch hour meeting with Muthoni. Two male colleagues walked in on her anguish and rushed her to Menelik Hospital on Ngong Road. She was admitted on arrival.  “By this time my vision was blurred and I slipped into unconsciousness at some point. I appreciated that the hospital prioritized my health not payment.”

“My colleague contacted my husband and waited until he arrived. I was admitted for 14 days that time. I underwent the second of three MRIs in this journey, and several other tests. They stretched me out on the bed, with things that looked like stones, which pulled my legs. I was told that the idea was to stretch out my vertebrae so that the flesh that was lodged between my discs would be released. It was extremely uncomfortable. I did not leave my bed, even to go to the bathroom for seven days” Her trauma increased on her second day when an elderly woman was wheeled in from surgery, for a spinal condition similar to hers. The woman regaled her with tales of her journey, the necessity for surgery and the amount of medication she was on. Wangari laughs. “We put ourselves through more that we are going through when we allow our minds to dwell on the worst case scenario. I was terrified. I decided the following morning to make positive declarations over my life. I prayed. I reminded God, like King Hezekiah in the Bible, of my life, how I had served Him and helped those who needed my help. And I began to feel better. It got so that when I was released from the stretching thing on my bed, I would now serve her, doing things like serving her medication.”

Upon discharge, she still had to go for follow up for about a week, and as her outpatient insurance was exhausted, to pay cash. About Kenya Shillings two thousand per session. This involved massage, continuous traction and buying medication. She was soon able to go back to work, sometimes. Her husband would send a driver to get her there and bring her home, but there were days she had to take the matatu. The medications were very strong and many times she passed her destination and had to be dropped off on her way back. She can no longer wear high heeled shoes for more than a few minutes, go to work and hold down the fort as she used to. Her employer and her clients have been supportive. She cannot hold or play with her really young children as she is discouraged from carrying anything heavier than two kilos. “I often had relapses when I carried my children. They now understand, one is in Standard 2 and the other in Pre-unit. It’s just this one…” she says smiling at the baby on her lap. “But God has given me grace.” She loves hosting, but now allows guests to serve themselves.

Her pregnancy with Shammah was nothing short of a miracle. She had to go off her strong medication for the entire duration and although the pain was severe, it never got her admitted. In fact, she only succumbed after his six month “and it wasn’t as serious as the other ones. I fell in the bath tub and relapsed. My house manager stayed with him while I was admitted and had the task of introducing him to solids. This is when I discovered Dr. Ruto of Kenyatta National Hospital Doctors Plaza. He is a gifted Physiotherapist and affordable too. I wish I had known him from the beginning.” She has also received dedicated support from her neighbour Dr. Stella Bosire of Avenue Hospital, Embakasi as well as her Gynacoelogist Dr. Yamal of Medi Plaza in Parklands.

“I am so grateful to God, to my parents, my in-laws, and church members at House of Grace Embakasi led by Pastors Dodzweit and Mary Achera for their support through this journey. I have made it this far because of their love and support. My husband Mugo Kariuki, has been priceless. He has prayed for me, declared God’s Word into my life, and taken on the roles, regarding the children so I could recover.”

vipslit@yahoo.ca    Dr. Stella Bosire on Herniated disk with Radiculopathy

Photography by: Nash of NaMeD Afrika Studios

First published in the Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine on Sunday, August 28, 2016

http://sde.co.ke/article/2000214258/i-shouldn-t-be-alive-my-battle-with-multiple-slipped-discs

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