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15 Years Of Taking Type 1 Diabetes By Its Horns.

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15 Years Of Taking Type 1 Diabetes By Its Horns.

15 Years Of Taking Type 1 Diabetes By Its Horns.

15 years ago, Tabitha Teko was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes only after several hospital visits. Now a grown-up, she still remembers vividly how difficult it was to accept the situation.

“After I realized that I had type 1 diabetes, I was scared. I thought my life was over. As a matter of fact, I became withdrawn and lost hope. My dreams were shattered and for once, I thought of committing suicide. I was devastated”, narrates Tabitha.

“After a series of counseling and meeting up with people living with the same type of diabetes, I learned that it wasn’t a life sentence, but rather just a part of life”, She adds.

“It all started Just a few days before my 15th birthday. I noticed that  I had an unquenchable thirst that had sprung out of nowhere. I remember drinking 2 liters of water non-stop, far beyond anything that would be considered normal”, she continues.

Since she had eaten lots of Chapatis during the day, she had no reason for alarm.

‘To me, I thought the Chapatis my mom had given me earlier in the day made me feel thirsty. But after around a week or so of excessive thirst and disturbed sleep as a result of the never-ending bathroom trips, I decided to visit a doctor”, says Tabitha.

“She was losing weight. Always hungry,” recalls Jackline, Tabitha’s mother, before her daughter got the diagnosis.

“She was constantly exhausted and would even faint. I took her to the hospital several times. We didn’t know what was wrong.”

It was at   Moi teaching and referral hospital Eldoret where they discovered that she has type 1 diabetes.

15 Years Of Taking Type 1 Diabetes By Its Horns.

“We were directed in a doctor’s examination room where I was to be weighed and later sent to the laboratory for my blood samples to be tested. After my finger was pricked and my blood glucose tested, the doctor found out that it was 23 mmol/L and I had lost nearly 2 stone”, she explains.

“The GP was certain it was type 1 diabetes. I could not believe that this disease known to the ‘elderly’ was now here with me, and I would live with it for the rest of my life. I mean I was sick! Type 1 diabetic!”, she exclaimed.

Tabitha was scared. The news was disheartening.

“Being thrown into a world of lifetime diabetes management wasn’t something I had ever imagined and certainly wasn’t something I knew much about”, says Tabitha.

“30 years down the line. Still going strong. I have had support from my diabetic doctor who also turned out to be my closest friend and counselor. She introduced me to an online type 1 community where I would learn all I could about the condition” she continues.

Tabitha admits that the wealth of information and shared experiences provided by other people living with type 1 diabetes around the world was very reassuring.

She read about people with this disease from all walks of life which include politicians, renowned celebrities from movies/singers whom she admires a lot, lawyers, and doctors, among others. This gave her hope to fight for another day. Her mother is her greatest pillar of strength and cheerleader.

“Now with type 1, the importance of fitness took on a whole new meaning. Seeing first-hand the effect exercise had on my blood sugars and insulin intake every day was eye-opening. I found that exercise improved my insulin sensitivity, and I was able to improve my blood glucose management”, she adds.

Diabetes has been on the rise in Kenya due to demographic and social changes including urbanization, an aging population, and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles, according to a 2015 survey, which also found that 88% of people do not know their diabetes status.

“This is of great concern because it has costly public health implications for any country,” says Dr. Juliet Nabyonga, acting WHO Representative in Kenya. “We are supporting the country to improve diabetes prevention and care.”

In 2018, Kenya’s Ministry of Health partnered with the Diabetes Management and Information Centre and other organizations to develop national guidelines for the treatment of type 1 and 2 diabetes and a standardized curriculum to train health workers on diabetes management.

The curriculum has been used to set up satellite centers in more than 30 facilities across 20 counties where children can go for diagnosis and treatment.

Kenya’s vision 2030 is to improve the health sector through the provision of equitable, affordable, and quality health care to all its citizens.

Currently, Kenya manages diabetes on 3 primary units of care, that is the district level, district hospitals, county, and referral hospitals. Treatment in major hospitals includes administering insulin, dietary recommendation, and physical exercise. Diabetes education is also provided in some hospitals.

According to Dr. Patience Adika, from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), While access to quality healthcare remains a challenge to most patients, there are challenges faced by diabetic management which include consumables for diabetes care.

“Hospitals lack important equipment like lancets, syringes, and glucometers among others. This forces the doctors to add the expenses to the patients, which most of them are not able to afford, leading them to postpone the doctors’ prescription”, Says Dr. Adika

“County hospitals provide insulin at subsidized prices, sometimes the drugs get out of stock causing patients to source the drugs from private hospitals which is more expensive”, adds Dr. Adika

“As Diabetic management department, we call upon the government and all stakeholders to come up with ways of managing both type 1 and 2 diabetes by ensuring we have adequate medicine and required equipment in our hospitals, from district level all the way to referral hospitals”, concludes Dr.Adika.

Mercy Tyra Murengu
A multi-award-winning journalist accredited by the Media Council of Kenya.

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