At age 3, I was admitted to the local hospital and after staying
for almost a month without anybody having any idea of why I was
having problems, someone finally requested a glucose test and I was
diagnosed with diabetes. To many people this was strange. In the
village I come from, people thought diabetes was a disease for the
elderly. Some people also said those with diabetes do not
live long-I even remember someone telling me that I wouldn't live
to see my 18th birthday.
Every morning I would cry because of the insulin shots I got
from my parents as part of my daily routine. I frequently
tried to run away because of the needles and pain of these
injections (thin insulin needles weren't available at the
time). Little did I know that I needed these insulin
injections in order to live.
Growing up with diabetes was not easy- taking insulin every
morning, eating a different diet from my siblings, and having
everyone look down at me and referring to me as a sick one. All
these brought sorrow to me. Sometimes I would ask my parents "why
me?" "When will I get well?"
My school life started well, but it did not continue well
because of the many challenges diabetes brought. I had stunted
growth and a big belly. My classmates would laugh and make fun of
me, largely because I could not explain why I was so different.
I never really understood what I was ailing from; all I knew
was that I was sick.
At the age of 10, my dad was advised to take me to Moi Teaching
and Referral Hospital to attend the educational clinics. It was
there that I met a nurse named Jane Gitahi (Diabetic Educator) who
taught me about the disease and the many unanswered questions I've
had over the years. She educated me and the other patients on what
diabetes does to your body, how to manage it, how to store and
administer insulin, and the appropriate diet to follow. We booked
for the next clinic visit, but I went home and immediately started
applying the strategies she had taught me. My parents started
doing everything that we had been taught, and in the next clinic
visit I looked much better. Jane never stopped caring for me and
consistently took her time to educate me and made sure I learned
more about diabetes. She advised my parents to get me a glucometer
so that I could do my blood sugars at home. MTRH also hired peer
diabetes educators who advised me to attend trainings on diabetes
and follow all the steps needed to improve my diabetes. These
trainings really helped me and after completing them I became very
comfortable with taking care of myself away from home and from my
The time came for me to join high school and I was eager to go
to boarding school where I knew I would get a better
education. My parents were very hesitant to allow me to leave
home but eventually allowed me to go after seeing how far I had
come in managing my own diabetes. I did not have many
problems because I had learned about diabetes and how to manage it.
I was getting insulin from the hospital every time I went for
checkups and I never missed insulin. I successfully completed high
school and was able to gain admission to university.
I faced several challenges during my university training.
Sometimes lectures could come at a time when I needed to eat or I
needed to take my insulin. I also had trouble eating with the
stress of school and therefore I had problems managing my diabetes;
but quickly realized my eating habits were prevented me from
getting my blood sugars under control.
The medical care that I was getting from the personnel at Moi
Teaching and Referral Hospital and the many partners that supported
this clinic gave me hope of living my life with diabetes. After
benefitting from this clinic, I was excited about the opportunity
to join this team and help other patients the way they helped me. I
worked in the home glucose monitoring program for 2 years and after
my graduation I got another job with the AMPATH-Kenya Program to
serve as their lead Business Manager and coordinate their many
projects including diabetes related programs. Through my employment
with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, I have also been able to
see how the Lilly insulin product donation has improved my life and
the hundreds of other patients who are now able to better control
* Though Mary's name is a psuedonym, her story is real.