Kenya, August 2010, our first trip during the Migration season. Many a wild beasts to be seen & weather, just right for the visit, cold ,yet , the sun bright,spreading just enough warmth.
The trip begins with an amalgamation of every aspect of a good trip. Being pampered by my cousin & his wife, cafe's , restaurants & exploring Kenya, as one would with a local.
It's difficult to pinpoint when Trouble began. A slow but steady decline in my health began primarily with my aversion to food. Anything that I ate , tried to eat , either tasted funny or the aroma , completely put me off almost all types of cuisines. For someone who is a complete foodie , this was heart wrenching to neither be able to eat nor be around the most aromatic dishes! Therefore , I survived mainly on curd rice. I felt like a ballon almost always & Coke with lemon juice & sprinkle of black salt became my favourite drink ! The pleasure of a Burp was soul satisfying !
This did not deter me from the week long trip that was lined up. Physically incapable of taking the 5-7 hours road trip to Masai Mara , I fly both ways, while the family takes on the road journey. Inspite of my condition taking a constant plunge , I manage to survive trips to Lake Nakuru , Sweetwaters, Serena Mountain lodge. Other complications are cropping - swelling on my feet , low Fever, Cold inspite of the weather being quite moderate, every morsel I eat , I want to throw up. An occasional Foot Massage at the Spa was a temporary relief.
Extremely weak, is how I head back to Nairobi. Medications are not helping. We speak with my cousins friend , Dr Mohapatra, who is a physician, suspects Malaria ( since we have taken Yellow fever vaccine & both are spread by an infected mosquito ) when the symptoms are mentioned & wants to do a blood test . He sends a technician home ,who cannot draw out any blood. Next day , I wake up with stomach cramps & am taken to Dr Mohapatra's clinic. His assistant tries to draw , it's multiple punctures again , which , Dr Mahapatra suspects , might be due to an extreme case of Dehydration. After much difficulty , blood is drawn out & sent for testing. In the mean while , he gives me some medication & asks me to drink plenty of liquids to hydrate myself. He sends me home , suggesting , I am taken to the hospital to administer Saline drip ( a counter for Dehydration) , in case there is no improvement.
However, by evening, things go from bad to worse, the cramps are killing me. I am carried to the Agha Khan University Hospital , an immediate admission, blood test carried out, Saline Drip is initiated. The haemoglobin has reached a high of a little more than 20 gms. It's a classic case of extreme Dehydration & due to that, Creatinine, Urea & all other parameters have gone erratic. Being a kidney transplant patient , consulting nephrologist, Dr Twahir Ahmed is briefed, who ensures the transplanted kidney is not affected , Saline drips is on for 3 days, untill all parameter's get to normal & any calamity due to dehydration is averted.
This would have been a simple end to a critical issue. However, Dr Mohapatra , does an additional manual testing , since Malaria is not detected in the reports ( clinic & hospital ) & wants to take no chances.Reports of this test puts him on an alert. He discovers Malaria stain( which according to him is an old one & not one acquired on this trip) , which wasn't as grave, as uncovering, that I had the HepC virus ! Dr Mohapatra apprise's Dr Twahir on these development , both surprised that we are completely clueless about this virus & HepC test has never been a part of any blood test. The closest association of any form of Hepatitis for us was Jaundice.There is a possibility of some symptoms like vomitting ,etc, were due to the HepC Virus. Not wanting to alarm us, we are given the fundamental facts & treatment. Since Dr Twahir is acquainted with Dr Gandhi, he writes a personal note , regarding the Malaria stain & HepC , with his recommendation.Three days later , I am discharged & soon after ,we return to Bombay, with Dr Mohapatra's clear advice, on a thorough check up & treatment for both. My first trip to Kenya has become an iconic one!
It's not even a day , since my return to Bombay & I am hit by the chills , fever. Since Malaria test is done when the patient has fever, I am taken to the hospital & as a safety measure admitted. The Malaria virus has resurfaced & I am put on medications. Dr Gandhi is informed & he is given the letter written by Dr Twahir. Simply put, all hell breaks loose. I am referred to, Dr Samir Shah , the consulting Hepatologist & I am subject to every conceivable & available test pertaining to HepC, before & after discharge at BCH ( Breach Candy Hospital) & Jaslok Hospital. After a detailed study of reports , Prognosis of the virus being inactive ( was it some medication that had been given to me at Agha Khan hospital, Nairobi or was it the body managing on its own , we still do not know) , puts everyone at ease to some extent & major , when my Mama , Dr Atul K Mohanty ( Mom's brother , who himself is a Pathologist ) , gives this simple explanation - " There is an uninvited guest in the body , living there , not interfering in anyways - leave the guest , don't remind the guest of its presence which might create upheaval ! ". And we did just that. The virus is very much a part of Me, a Dormant Guest who hasn't made its presence felt in so many years & I trust , it will Never !
Trouble began, a week after our arrival. My cousin from London was to arrive. With time in hand before heading for the airport , we spent the day , driving around & visiting a few places , which included a few Cafe stopovers for some locally brewed coffee. The weather being very pleasant , cool breeze - I wasn't thirsty & the day went past with me drinking only Coffee & just a few sips of Water. Water is the Nectar & I should have had enough Water through the day , irrespective that I wasn't thirsty & the fact that , I was drinking excessive coffee! This, in most probability, was the beginning of Dehydration.
It's a family trip to China the following year of July 2011. Two weeks of total family & visits to the main cities & attractions, is marred withing a few days , by fever & chills. Initially I tell no one about it , just have Crocin ( paracetamol ) & enjoy the elements. However, it's becoming difficult to keep it hidden, I am also starting to feel Tired more easily & my Enthusiasm levels are fluctuating . Fearful that I might not be Hydrating enough since it is cold , I make sure there is enough liquid intake. Some ups & downs , however , it's been a wonderful 2 weeks. Back to Bombay , fever still persists & once again , admitted to BCH. Blood tests & once again Malaria is detected. With all attention moving to HepC in 2010, although I was discharged once the fever was under control, the Malaria stain/ virus , had not been tackled. This time around , the treatment eradicated every stain of the virus. Since then , Grace working double time, Malaria has not shown up & I do take precautions to ward of mosquitoes - no surprises wanted !
~No matter, the weather is cool , chilly & one is not thirsty - you are on a Holiday or at Home - you still need to HYDRATE , drink enough liquid .
~Liquids means primarily Water . Coffee , Aerated drinks , Tea , Alcohol , do not come under the category of Liquid & just in case you indulge once in a while in these , compensate by a double intake of water!
~Insufficient liquids intake is as concerning as is Excessive liquid intake. Be Aware - a Delicate balance needs to be maintained.
~If you have been hit by the Malaria virus , make sure every stain is removed , with the right treatment.
~ Precaution , since I know I have dormant HepC virus , which can surface anytime,physical fitness is a must & diet is not only about Kidney but Liver as well , basically be disciplned enough with eating & drinking to protect both !
His knowledge on Medicine is extensive - which helped him diagnose my issues !
* Most questions regarding HepC answered in this link -
* Mandatory screening of donated blood for Hepatitis C virus was introduced as late as 2002 under the National Blood Policy. Blood banks now screen for Hepatitis C along with Hepatitis B, HIV, Syphillis and Malaria. But many had already been infected before the policy came into being, main culprit being , Blood transfusion ( just like me ). Most patients who have had a blood transfusion before 2002, are likely to have a Dormant HepC virus. It's common , remains undetected & causes absolutely No Harm. However, there is a chance that the virus will affect the liver & one might end up with a liver transplant.
* It's a challenge for the doctors to maintain a transplanted kidney & at the same time to treat a Liver ailment, the treatments being quite contrasted. An active HepC virus, is a grievious complication for any CKD patient. However , with medical science progressive extensively , medications ,treatments & liver transplant , HepC is being tackled.
* The normal range for hemoglobin is: For men, 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter. For women, 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter.
* Yellow fever virus is spread by the bite of an infected female mousquito. And a vaccine is mandatory for some countries - Kenya being one of them.
Pillars at Kenya
* Pannaga ( Cousin) & his wife , Rinnie - strength of family at Kenya - the backbones.
* Sabrina ( Cousin) , in her A levels, has decided to pursue Medicine since she was a kid, got her first experience on what it's like to be faced with & handle medical emergencies.
* Vicky & his wife, Dipti - friend of Pannaga , his unconditional support can never be measured.
"Faith does not mean trusting God to stop the Storm. it means , trusting him to strengthen us, as we walk through the Storm! "
~ Prayers are an integral part , as are some Humour , Laughter & Smile , through the crisis.
~ an Abhishek at a temple in Hyderabad , by Dad & Shubhada Amma
~ Mom manages for 3 days in the hospital under most uncomfortable & difficult situation.