, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – Edith Muthoni Kariuki is a second year student taking a Diploma in Nursing at the Mater Hospitals School of Nursing.
In 1994 when she was in class four, Muthoni was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease.
“I was getting breathless, I had swollen feet, I could not do anything for myself and my parents had to carry me around even in the house,” Muthoni remembers.
She says before the condition was diagnosed, she was on TB medication for a whole year because it had been assumed she had the highly contagious disease due to constant coughing.
But when finally the right diagnosis was made, she required Sh400,000 to undergo surgery.
“I am from an average family with four siblings so it was impossible for my parents to raise that money and I had already given up hope in life,” she says.
It was not until four years later in 1998 when the Mater Heart Run came to her rescue and she had her first heart surgery at the Mater hospital.
“In 2006, the same problem started again – sore throats, breathlessness, and swollen feet and when the same problem was diagnosed again, it was a big blow to the family. We didn’t know who to turn to because we had already turned to Mater hospital the first time,” she says.
“Mater hospital agreed to take me in again and had the second surgery the same year and now I am okay, I do everything for myself, I am even a football goal keeper, life is now normal for me,” Muthoni says excitedly.
Although she had performed well in her KCSE and admitted at Maseno University for a tourism course, Muthoni insisted on taking nursing because she wanted to assist sick persons.
Muthoni is among the 3,000 beneficiaries of open heart surgery from the Mater hospital in the last 15 years.
The hospital conducts the annual Mater Heart Run aimed at raising funds to assist children with heart defects undergo the needed treatment.
Mater hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr John Muriithi says this year’s heart run is targeting Sh25 million locally to help about 150 children from disadvantaged backgrounds with heart and cardiac ailments.
Dr Muriithi says the hospital also raises funds from other international donors because it costs about Sh500, 000 for a single open heart surgery.
“The bigger initiative is aimed at educating mothers, families and communities that it is important to treat sore throats for children especially between the ages of 0 and 5 years completely because if that is done then we are probably preventing another 10,000 heart diseases per year,” he says.
“So instead of just treating 200 or 300 children, we are also able to prevent thousands of others from developing heart disease,” Dr Muriithi says.
Capital FM is among the key sponsors of the event who and Chairman Chris Kirubi gave a contribution of Sh5 million for the run.
“I would like to appeal to every corporate who can manage- you know a corporate is not an empty shell, a corporate has a heart to join this programme so that we can protect the hearts of our young people who are born with unfortunate situations of having holes in their hearts and other ailments,” says Mr Kirubi.
Last year’s event raised Sh19 million which benefited 128 children from needy backgrounds.
Other sponsors include Safaricom and Citizen Television.