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Martin Gitonga going through a dialysis session in Nairobi hospital/FELIX MAGARA


Silent killers plague Martin at only 34

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Martin Gitonga going through a dialysis session in Nairobi hospital/FELIX MAGARA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 – Martin Gitonga’s life has been on a wild roller coaster since August this year when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a fancy word used by doctors to describe an enlarged heart.

His kidneys have also failed and he has to rely on three sessions of dialysis per week to clean his body system.

He is only 34-years-old.

“It is very difficult for me and my family because I used to live a normal life and then suddenly moved from working kidneys to being confined to a machine. It is very difficult to explain but the first time was traumatic,” he says.

“It is very hard watching him go through it and not getting the answers he needs. The disease has a downing effect because it impacts on quality of life. Your life is pretty much taken up by dialysis,” his 32-year-old wife Daphine Gitonga tells me.

Martin always liked his food fast, oily, and salty and weighed a strong 116 kilograms before his diagnosis.

And like a thief in the night, high blood pressure crept in, sometimes reaching highs of 162/100.

But Martin had no idea that he was buying a one way ticket to an early grave.

“High blood pressure is what drives the underlying structural damage to the kidneys so that they do not function as well as they are supposed to,” says Charles Kariuki, an Interventional Cardiologist in charge of Martin’s case.

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“The chemicals that they are supposed to be removing from the system accumulate and they cause further harm which may include heart damage when calcium is deposited to the heart,” he explains.

“The heart will then begin to compensate for some of the structural changes; it can thicken its muscle or it can dilate leading to further kidney damage,” he adds.

Martin’s lack of knowledge was like driving on a flat tyre.

Maybe things would be different if he kept off sodium, lead a low-cholesterol, high-fibre diet, took more natural juices and antioxidants like strawberries, drank a lot of water and also consumed proper proteins like fish, chicken and salmon.

High cholesterol levels deposit fats in blood vessels choking them and starving major body organs.

“You could have a parent with a 10-year-old child going into a fast food outlet to buy them pizza, fries and oily chicken while she says she cannot eat them because of the doctor’s orders. But then that child should adopt the same diet as their parents to prevent these diseases in the future,” argues Kariuki.

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