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These are just setbacks, I’ll overcome

Young Richard Otieno would like to be a doctor when he grows up.

However, for him to realise his dream, he needs to overcome his immediate challenges; get a new kidney and have a hole in his heart sealed.

It seems like an impossible feat for the 13-year-old who lives with his parents, Francis Owino and Doreen Achieng in Makongeni estate. 

His parents earn a combined monthly income of Sh17, 000, which barely meets the family’s needs. 

His parents do not know how they will get Sh1.2 million for his heart operation, but the first born in a family of three is optimistic of not only living through his ordeal but also attaining his life-long dream of being a doctor. 

Otieno suffers from a rare condition in which his heart and kidney have problems. 

“The condition became pronounced in 2010. Then, whenever it got cold, he could wake up with his eyes and underbelly swollen. He could also not pass urine properly,” said his mother.

She said that when Otieno was born, he looked healthy, except for an abnormally bulged stomach. 

But, like the doctor Otieno would like to be, no one in his family knows his condition better than himself. 

“When it started in 2010, I was taken to Mbagathi District Hospital where I was told that I had a kidney failure,” Otieno said, adding that then, his body would get inflamed and he would have difficulty urinating.

“It was not until they put me on medication that I started to urinate normally,” he said. 

Popping pills

Since his visit to Mbagathi Hospital, Otieno has been popping pills which doctors have warned that they might have adverse effects on his health when used for a prolonged period.

The solution, they said, lay in a kidney transplant. 

“One day I asked a doctor who was treating me what would have to be done so that I could stop taking medicines. He told me that I needed a kidney transplant because the one I had was not working well,” said Otieno.

Two years after his visit to Mbagathi Hospital, Otieno was referred to KNH where he was diagnosed with yet another problem: his heart had a hole. The double-tragedy saw him spend two months at the hospital. 

When he discharged, he went  straight to school to sit his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams in which he scored of 270 marks out of the possible 500. His parents are ready to donate to him one of their kidneys, if need be. 

However, as far as his education is concerned, there is a ray of hope. Good Neighbours, an international humanitarian and development organisation, has offered to give Sh10,000 as part of Otieno’s first term fees at Makongeni Secondary School.

And although the disease has left his body frail and his growth almost stunted, it has not dimmed his spirits. 

His optimism is well captured in his decision to start a small business of selling peanuts near their home. Otieno is determined to live: “I am sure that money will be found and I will get a new kidney. When that happens I will be happy and grateful to God,” he said.